Why I Feel Immense Shame Admitting That I'm Depressed

At what point do I finally get to stop feeling bad about feeling bad?

man taking a selfie courtesy of the author

I grab a quiet moment in the kitchen, with the kids off at school or over at my mom's for a few hours, the fridge wheezing the only sound in the world.

Quiet is so rare these days. I spend a lot of time coveting it, grinding my teeth as I spend what seems like decades trying to get the middle seat belt around my daughter as my youngest son cries in his car seat just for something to do. Then when it does come around — when some version of silence/peace crashes down into my world right away — I don't know what to do with it.


Wanting something so bad — like quiet time — just to resent it once you have is basic human nature. At this point, two weeks from 44 and a year past from divorce and still struggling to make half-sense of my life, satisfaction seems ephemeral.

I've hit a weird wall. I've come to terms with never coming to terms. And in the middle of all this screeching silence, I'm starting to think I might be okay with admitting I'm depressed.

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The word "depression" isn't loaded anymore. There's a lot of money made off that word, just like there's a lot of money to be made off of "mindfulness" and "feminism," and a slew of other words that have been more or less whittled down to nubs by the last decade of information superhighway being laid across our face.


The darker, more serious side of depression has given way to a more generic brand of McSadness. If someone posts something as simple as, "I think I'm depressed" on their Facebook wall, a lot of people roll their eyes and keep on scrolling down deeper into the cyber strata.

Being depressed has lost its edge. Admitting you're depressed? You might as well post another selfie. (I do.) Because they both carry about the same amount of weight anymore and there's always a story behind the story. 

But times have changed and a lot of people are fed up with your basic human desire to connect.

But forget all that. My blues have been riding shotgun for a long time now. And if I'm willing to admit that I'm depressed in hopes of connecting with somebody's words of encouragement or somebody's attempt to reach out, then why does it have to have an air of shame about it, huh?


At what point do I finally get to stop feeling bad about feeling bad?

I stare at my three kids in the streaks of moonlight that come slashing through the blinds some nights, and I trust that the thing that comes over me right then and there — this Skyfall of peace and wonder and joy — is as real and heavy and alive as any of my sadder times.

But the sadder days, the mornings when I feel like I'm stumbling across some kind of grey Nordic dreamscape, running from something that will bring me down in time? Those days are common, too — and they embarrass me.

Why is it hard for me to acknowledge the mystery in my heart? Why would I stoop to the level of nameless melancholia and give it props by admitting that I feel it — even in the very moments when I'm running the kids to the bus stop?


What is the end game when you admit to yourself that you might be sadder than you ought to be? How is a person supposed to even justify saying they don't "deserve" to be so blue?

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These are the stoic times we live in, no? My entire life has been twisted, manipulated, and influenced by so many people who refused to let feelings or love, or emotion get in the way of their heinous plight to remain strong in the face of adversity. And I've done the same thing.

We're supposed to grin and bear it, suffer in silence, move on at all costs and never let our own ridiculous blues ever have more than a split-second of our time or energy. So that's what I've mostly tried to do. But what a waste.


Now I'm sad a lot. Depressed, even. And I only have myself to blame. I held it all in. I tried barreling through it. And now I'm slamming everything in reverse and suddenly the sun's going to come out and the birds are going to land on my shoulder while I whistle "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah"? 

I don't think so. I'm admitting something big in my life and I still can't decide whether I should be ashamed of that or not. How messed up is that? 

Or, wait. Is it possible I'm actually just finally embracing my own superpowers? Isn't addressing something like depression a good thing? Couldn't I even be saving my own life here? Being sad is confusing.

Here's where I'll leave you.


There's shame in admitting that you're depressed, but really, it's the same kind of shame you might feel when you tell someone that you're madly in love with them and they look at you flatly and say, "Listen. That means so much to me to hear that. You're a good person, but I'm sorry. I'm just not in love with you."

There's a shame that comes over you at that moment too, but it's a false shame, a sham, a preprogrammed switch that gets tripped when your heart is afraid to admit it's a heart. Suddenly, we want to take it all back. We want our vulnerability back. We want to stuff it back down into the dark where we kept it for so long.

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We get so ashamed of giving ourselves away. And I think that's the problem I'm dealing with. I might be depressed, or I might not, but either way, I've been skirting the issue for so long because I don't want to be rejected or hurt anymore.


I'm strong, I told myself. I'm good.

I've got this.

I've got this.


What kind of a thing is that to always have to say to yourself? Every day brings black ice/hot sun/laughing kids/your song on the radio right when you have to head inside/ bills you can't pay/dreams you watch die/hope slashing through your veins/the bombs going off in faraway cities and they're headed this way.

Dead raccoons on the shoulder/bird swarms in the twilight/books you need to read/sighing in the shower/a kiss on a stranger's neck/pizza burning the roof of your mouth/mountains/beaches/dogs barking at you in the park/Sunday mornings/an obituary for a friend/Christmas tree shopping/36 ghosts watching you eat your breakfast/holding a child's hand in the parking lot of the Wal-Mart/all the movies/all the viral videos/all the people who are forgetting you even as you read this/and all the people who have no idea that they're about to meet you and that nothing will ever be the same again.

I've got this? Really? How could any of us ever lay such a foolish claim in our time of need? I don't have the slightest idea, man. 

I only know that I'm never going to be done with feeling true sadness. And I'm pretty much done with being ashamed to admit that.


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Serge Bielanko is a writer and musician whose work has been published on Babble, Huffington Post, and Mom. me, and Yahoo.