Angry in Car

I Thought Everyone Knew I was Struggling

When I published my personal story, my fragile ego was biting its nails. Sirens went off the moment I pressed the “Send” button on Part 1. I think a foghorn went off when I published Part 2. Part 3 was a bit easier, but it still felt like I was standing on my lawn in a robe on a breezy day.
It frightened me that my peers here in Tampa, all of whom met me after the storm, would learn about my dark past. I feared it would be awkward at best and alienating at worst. I’d have to throw caution to the wind and believe they wouldn’t judge me or I could at least handle the crooked stares.
But even worse was my fear about those people who knew me during the struggle. With the loading of a blog page their assumptions would finally be confirmed, my ego fretted. I assumed the worst.
That wasn’t the response I got. A number of people from the dark period reached out to me. A few of them knew me when I was living in Kentucky and Tennessee – after the berserk mania but still during the odd anxieties and pulsating depression. Each of them wrote to tell me they had no idea.
So my fragile ego was wrong. Apparently they didn’t shout out “A-ha! I knew it!” This sort of relieved me. But it also scared me.

The Intersection Between Road Rage and Depression

We live in a funny world of communication and aggressive driving is a poignant example. People become so dramatic when traveling at 55 miles per hour outside of shouting distance and with an easy escape route, like an Interstate exit or a turn lane. When someone offends us while driving we raise our hands (or fingers!) in the air and foam at the mouths.
But when we’re offended standing next to someone we normally put on a face of neutrality – flat lips and even eyes. No foaming, no fingers.
Car aggression’s funny because the other drivers can’t hear us, and isn’t that the point of talking? Maybe not.
Depressed people are often driving in cars and yelling at traffic, too. They don’t want anyone to hear them so they won’t be a bother and so people won’t talk trash about them. Like, “Wow, I always thought Matt was a loser but I had no idea!” So I didn’t tell anyone. Not a soul.
I had some issues socializing. Nervous ticks, stammering, stuttering. Dipping out of conversations early. It seemed there was no possible way people didn’t know I was a mental case. I thought that to outsiders I was the poster child of crazy and a point of reference. At many points of desperation I questioned others’ compassion because they weren’t reaching out in my uber-obvious time of need, but according to their reactions it just wasn’t that obvious.

You Don’t Know How It Feels

Depression is a two-way street: People who are in it and people who aren’t. And now that I’ve escaped the disease I often look at the oncoming traffic for anyone who might is foaming at the mouth, i.e., depressed.
That’s what scares me. Apparently it’s harder to recognize than I thought. Maybe because we are all driving too fast or maybe because so many people have tinted windows. But if I was that messed up on the inside and people are telling me they had no idea, then who knows who else is living a day at a time? Who knows who’s holding it together during the day to collapse at home on the couch, face buried in a pillow, sobbing.
Who knows who is tempted to drive their four-door sedan off a cliff.
The fact is that no matter if it is depression, domestic abuse, suffocating debt or chronic sickness, everyone is going through something. Unless we are in that person’s inner circle we won’t know what. We can’t expect ourselves to be their saviors, only Jesus can be that, but we can offer our love and support. And more than anything we can be patient with their shortcomings, because we don’t know how it feels.

This is a call to action. If you are in a world of hurt, tell someone you can trust.
To everyone else: Ready yourselves. Clothe yourselves in patience and compassion.

  • Emily

    This is beautifully written, Matt. Your road rage analogy is also very insightful!

    • Matthew Rennels

      Thanks, Emily! That means a lot. How is your blogging going?