The title of this post is adapted from a Harlan Ellison short story called “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream”. It’s a minimally edited amalgamation of thoughts I wrote in streams of consciousness at 4AM on June 27 and 3:30 AM on July 2 (with a few minor additions).
This is a very personal post, because it exposes some of my struggles with anxiety and depression. Mental health issues run through both sides of my family, and I’ve dealt with them to on and off for most of my life. I wasn’t diagnosed until 2002 (when I was 25), and I was only treated with counseling and medication briefly. I’ve been in a rough spot lately, and I’ve thought about seeking treatment. The commitments in my life make finding the time for therapy/counseling nigh unto impossible, though, and I’m highly skeptical of psychologists anyway. I doubt any competent doctor would be willing to treat me with medication alone, which would be the ideal solution, IMHO.
Anyhow, I’m sharing this post (and background information) so that dads, particularly stay-at-home dads, going through similar difficulties know they’re not alone. Sometimes just knowing someone else feels your pain can help you get through it. I shared a draft of this post in a Facebook group for dads dealing with mental illness. It was well received, and several people suggested that I share it widely. I thought about posting it anonymously on another blogger’s site, but I decided to post here for the simple selfish reason that I haven’t posted anything here in quite a while. (One thing depression does is rob you of desire for and joy in doing the things you enjoy.)
The following is pretty disjointed, but so are my thoughts. Please be kind.
I’m miserable, and I hate my life. I feel empty inside – directionless, unfulfilled. Something has to change – STAT.
I’m in a vicious cycle: insomnia at night and exhaustion during the day.
I’m cranky and short-tempered with my kids. I have almost no motivation to do anything with them. I’m filled with guilt, shame, and self-loathing.
I spend hours alone at night, frivolously frittering and wasting time. Nothing productive is done; I’m not even selfishly learning new skills. Nor do I have any new hobbies. I don’t create. I only consume.
I am wasted potential and resources, a failed experiment, a bad investment.
I’m deep in college debt. I have no professional ambition. I’m not the kind of husband or father I want to be. I’m a bad stay-at-home dad. I’m a drain on everyone. Everything I do is a burden – church, community, politics, running. My days are filled with procrastination, shirking of duties, and making life needlessly difficult.
I haven’t amounted to anything. I’m not sure I ever will.
I drag my debt around with me like Jacob Marley’s chains. Even if I pay them off, I’ll never be able to afford to send my kids to college. My kids will have a lower standard of living than their parents. I am a failure.
I have one – one! – unpaid job, and I suck at it. I’m a terrible SAHD who’s little more than a babysitter. I feel out of control in my life, so I’m a control freak over their lives. So many normal kid behaviors grate on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard. I’ve wanted to do so much with them over the summer, but I’ve been so tired, so lethargic, so uninspired. My kids deserve better.
Is 38 too young to have a mid-life crisis?
Why do I feel so hopeless? Why does it feel too late to fix things?
I have no time for a shrink (who wouldn’t understand me anyway).
Solutions? Ween myself off caffeine? More frequent exercise? More regular prayer? Stimulating reading?
Will any of it work???
Where did I go wrong? I think I’ve been on this path since I started college. I’ve been drifting along ever since. Is it too late to do/be something/someone different?
Sometimes I want to be left alone, or I feel I deserve to be lonely. Other times I wish someone would hear the screaming in my head.
Like so many other times I’m tormented like this, I want to cry. Oh God, how I badly I want to cry! But I can’t. No tears come. There is no release. There is no relief. I feel happy when times are good, and the rest of the time I feel angry, frustrated, scared, and anxious, but I rarely feel sad. A part of me is broken, and I cannot properly express sadness.
I have no tears, and I must cry.
My faith is wavering. I don’t know what I believe anymore. I’m so lost. Life seems so meaningless and pointless.
I’m scared of life.
Thankfully(?), I’m completely terrified of death. I’m not going to hurt myself. Hooray for nihilism?
I want to run away. Where? I don’t know. Somewhere. Away from my life.
God, I’m miserable.
I apologize to friends and family for whom this post is surprising, frightening, and/or worrying. For better or worse, the problems represented by these thoughts are not new. They’ve always been there, hidden much like the bulk of an iceberg. You have no more (or less) to worry about me than you ever had.