The Worst Summer of My Life, Chapter 2: Depression Is A Desert Island

(Click here to read Chapter 1.)


John Donne, unwavering, in 1624: “No man is an island.”

Simon & Garfunkel, undeterred, in 1965: “I am an island.”


Before my ship ran aground last spring, wrecked on the rocks of depression, I would have said that I ardently supported John Donne’s non-islander ethos (although I would have wrongly attributed it to Thomas Merton, who wrote a book of the same name 350 years later).

I’m no rugged individualist. I have always been an ardent believer in being vulnerable, seeking help, and relying on the people in one’s circle of trust for emotional support. I reveal things about myself instinctively, sometimes even to people I don’t know well enough to justify it. I’m a chronic oversharer. I usually err on the side of opening up, because I consider its downside (emotional risk!) to be far outweighed by its upside (making connections!).

But depression, as it turns out, can turn a person inside out.

During the 3 months that I spent in a depressed and deflated oblivion, confiding in anyone (besides Danielle) about my experience was the very last thing I wanted to do. This despite the fact that I am fortunate enough to have a plethora of people in my life who would have listened with love. Trusted friends. Tender-hearted brothers. A spectacularly empathetic mom. I even have next-door neighbors and a few work acquaintances who would have let me unburden myself. Not to mention lots of thoughtful folks in my Facebook peanut gallery.

I am not lacking for warm, willing co-burden-bearers.

But instead of opening up, while my body was shutting down from lack of sleep and lack of exercise, I let my heart shut down too. I buried my inner voice. I burrowed deep into a hole within myself. I burned my emotional edifice to the ground. And the charred remains that remained of its foundation were barely inhabitable.

Here’s one aspect of what that looked like. When I did my 40-minute commute (only once a week since I was mostly working from home), I would often not think a single lucid thought during those 40 minutes. I had no inner monologue. I would sit there in the car, on emotional auto-pilot, thinking and feeling nothing. Feeling nothing but flat, pulverizing dread, that is. At any point during those 40 minutes, I could have called my mom, either of my brothers, my buddy Tony, my oldest friend in the world Dave… pretty much anyone who remotely cares about my well-being. And I could have bent their ear and asked for help.

Instead, I listened to 40 minutes of dire news on the radio and felt numb. A kind of nothingness. I was already sedated by my depression, and I used the news as a further sedative. A tranquilizer that made me feel anything but tranquil.

So why didn’t I seek solace from any of the people (outside my home) who would have been willing and even eager to listen and console me? The answer to that question is complicated. But one part of it has to do with burdening.

I didn’t want to burden anyone else with my trouble. During a good portion of my 3-month funk, my parents were visiting my middle brother in California, an annual trip that everyone involved greatly looks forward to. And I didn’t want to be a downer either for my mom or my brother while they were enjoying each other’s company. But both of them now say (unsurprisingly) that they wish I had confided in them during my mental turmoil.

And of course I should have. Of course they would have been grateful if I had opened up to them about the deep, dark hole I was in. But when you’re depressed, you don’t think logically or act intuitively. You don’t feel an ounce of clarity, which impairs your emotional judgment.

Additionally, I repeatedly convinced myself that maybe I could snap myself out of my funk in another week or two, so I kept putting off revealing that funk to anyone besides Danielle. Months dragged by, and each week felt a little worse than the one before it.

Human beings were not designed to live in physical or emotional isolation. We would not have been given the deep capacity to connect if it wasn’t a vital component of our survival, and our ability to flourish.

It takes a village to raise a child.

It takes a village to end a pandemic.

And it takes a village (at least a small one) to help preserve one’s mental health.

But it only works if each of us is willing to go to someone in our village who cares about us and tell them we are struggling. It only works if we have confidence that we can confide in a confidant. It only works if we choose to trust that our trusted friends are indeed trustworthy.

My friends and family are that, in spades.

They would not desert me.

And I am anything but an island.

So I must never again render myself a castaway.


This is the second in a series of posts about my recent mental health struggles. Thank you so much for reading. Facebook is my primary platform for sharing this blog, so feel free to give me feedback there. (Unless you somehow found my blog independently, in which case… welcome!) I am deeply grateful for your interest, and I hope you find some solidarity in my struggles. It feels good to share them publicly after months of repressing it all. Catharsis is potent medicine, and connection is the cure. May I never again forget that.

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