The "Black Dog," Part I

Men and depression. What a loaded topic. This may be a long entry so brace yourselves.

My husband suffers from depression. He reads this blog and may be embarrassed to some extent since his mother reads it too. But his story (intermingled with mine eventually) is worth sharing because it may help others understand some of the stigma men face. I don’t have the full picture, but I’ll tell you his experience from what I’ve gathered.

My husband, he comments as Bob, slowly began to suffer from depression early in his teen years. As a large boy – as in large, I do mean morbidly obese, unfortunately – he was picked on, teased to no end, and practically tortured. Getting beat up by his brother and cousin didn’t do much to help, either.

Bob, a quiet, shy kid, was able to hide his developing depression well. If he was happy, he had the same sullen face that remained when he was upset or sad. By his senior year of high school, he was the tallest guy in the class, which by that point, people stopped provoking him.

But the hurt and social ridicule remained with him. He went off to college, continuing to be insecure about his weight. He assumed that he wouldn’t make any friends since he didn’t have any after high school. At the end of his sophomore year, he finally opened himself up to friendships with roommates, suitemates, and those who lived within his hall. He’d tried two dates that never worked out. He remained quiet, shy, and girlfriendless. His face remained sullen, garnering the name, “Mr. Happy Face.”

At 21, he graduated from college less overweight than he’d been when he first entered, but inside, he still was the same old “fat” kid. He moved from Pennsylvania to Kentucky to work at job where one of his college buddies was employed. He stayed at the same job for four years, periodically hanging out with his friends (another college buddy was hired at his job), but for the most part, isolating himself. He distracted himself from his depression and loneliness by watching TV and movies endlessly, playing video games, and surfing the Internet among other things. He was alone with nothing but those things occupying his time. No longer a shy boy anymore, he grew into a quiet, shy man.

He talked to his parents weekly, but the conversations were brief:

“How are you doing?”

“Fine.”

“How’s work?”

“Fine.”

“How are your friends?”

“Fine.”

“Everything’s OK?”

“Yeah.”

Bob and I began talking over the Internet in August 2003. I had been posting on a message board since April of 2003, but we never began talking until August 2003. Desperate for a boyfriend, I flirted with every single guy available. (Single as in date-able status.) In August 2003, Bob was the only guy left over that I hadn’t approached. He’d never flirted, never had a girlfriend, and didn’t know how to approach a female. He finally tried his hand at flirting – once – and had me hooked. We began talking via Instant Messenger and private messages through the message board and by the end of September, he was on his way to meet me in New York.

As a perfect gentleman, he did all the things that a girl wants a man to do: buy dinner, pay for everything, call when he says he will, etc.  During the next few months, our relationship began to blossom, but I was forthright. I told him I struggled with depression, had a history of suicide attempts, and landed in a psych hospital once in my life. He said he wanted to move forward in our relationship. We did. But in attempt not to bombard me or put me off, he never told me about his depression.

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