As many people believe, depression appears to have several components and causes, broadly speaking; there are biological, chemical, and environment factors. In the book I am working on, I attempt to address all of these factors in relation to my own situation. I discuss memorable moments in my childhood that I believe are relevant to my early mindset and how my parents shaped much of my character, for better or for worse. Perhaps a chemical propensity to being depressed is also apparent from an early age. My parents undoubtedly loved me as any parents do but unfortunately each had significant issues of their own, as we all do. My dad was an alcoholic and my idealistic, if naive, mother was critical, negative, judgemental, and focused on academic achievement above all else.
Arguably a career as an oil trader or speculative trader of any type would not suit anyone with my mental makeup of perfectionism, tendency towards self-flagellation, and all-or-nothing thinking. My early years were beset with periods of self-loathing and depression but I estimated these to be no more than 20% of the time. I actually loved my career in those days and was able to manage my emotional ups and downs.
Now at the age of 27, half-way through my life, everything changed as I moved to the United States. Within a year, my life was transformed beyond recognition as a series of poor decisions set me up to become married and begin a life in the United States.
I had not understood the massive cultural divide that exists across the Atlantic and I soon found myself in a difficult and flawed marriage immersed in a world of superficiality, materialism, sanctimoniousness, hypocrisy, manufactured joy, and a homogeneous jingoism and narrow-mindedness fed by big-business and government alike.
De Tocqueville’s “Tyranny of the Masses” was alive and well. I did not recognise my life or who I was. It felt as if I was playing a role in a movie for which I was in no way suited. I became extremely depressed and was prescribed anti-depressants which at first did help lift the cloud only to allow me to more clearly see the fact that I was now living a life I did not want. For the next 26 years, I was constantly on medication, switching between one and another for better effect, but I would estimate I was depressed around 80% of the time. I was adept at hiding this from most people. In order not to hurt my wife, I blamed the depression squarely on my work and not on my personal situation, though this increased my internal burden and I even began to believe it myself.
As I struggled through many locational moves with a young family, things became worse in my mind and in terms of circumstances. I essentially threw away my career only to watch in dismay as a betrayal left me unable to regain my old job and my colleagues make hundreds of millions of dollars.
After an inevitable and painful divorce, I re-found my feet and a semblance of my old career but once again a series of bad decisions and bad luck brought me despair and heartache.
I remarried, this time thinking I was deliberate and mindful and knew what I was doing but my wife had other ideas that she did not share with me and so began another difficult tumultuous decade, as well as another marriage that saw me discard my career and ultimately face massive suicidal ideation as I eventually lost almost everything. Throughout these dark decades I saw no way out of my misery and was merely trying to survive and run down the clock.
Now clearly I made many poor, ill-thought decisions, often through weakness and indifference but also naïveté. In hindsight I realise one should never do what is clearly incongruent with one’s character and desires, as I repeatedly and knowingly if reluctantly, did to great cost. Several times I acted out of a desire to avoid conflict while sacrificing my own well-being and over the decades this grew into an unbearable burden of sadness, regret, anger and even resentment. I was not aware until recently of the resentment but understandably and obviously it was there.
As I have stated I have been on medication for depression since 1992. Even though this has helped, when circumstances became so bad they swamped the positive medical effects and severe depression was unavoidable. I have no doubt that biology and upbringing contributed significantly to my propensity for depression but overall, for me, a series of devastating circumstantial life changes coupled with living a life I neither wanted nor recognised in a culture I disliked effectively condemned me to years of despair and almost an untimely demise.
I saw my life as completely over and only a desire to not inflict more pain on my four children kept me going, though the significant life insurance policy I have was pulling me ever closer to the end. I seldom had the energy or desire to go out and do anything other than watch TV. I was unable to have my children stay over with me and I forced myself to take lunch to them almost every day at school just to see them.
I was fortunate to have a couple of good friends who stood by me during this time, while others distanced themselves from me perhaps not knowing what to do or say.
Somehow, as 2017 dawned, I managed to put things a little more into perspective but it has not been easy. I still have 27 years of regret to contend with and I am triggered daily to fall back into thinking of the past. I am still plagued with suicidal ideation but do not intend to act on it though I am increasingly comfortable with the idea. I credit a large part of my tenuous recovery with my having met a wonderful lady here in the Dallas area, the last thing I would need or want, one might argue. However, this lady has renewed my faith in relationships and what is possible when two people are honest and caring. I fell victim, through my own fault, to the prevalence here of an obsessive love of money and youthful beauty that drives so much of this society.
Clearly one has to make choices in life far better than I did, and I have found plenty of life lessons to impart to my four wonderful children.
This blog was written for us by J. P. Ford