“So wake me up when it’s all over
When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself, and I
Didn’t know I was lost” – Avicii
A few months ago, my 6 year old son had a tantrum that I figured would be one of those stories that I might tell when he got older. Twenty years from now, I would say, “Remember that time you wouldn’t open the dryer door?” I’d tell the story, and we’d all laugh about how ridiculous it was for him to have a tantrum over something so small.
In fact, the tantrum happened just like that. He came to ask me where a particular pair of pants or a shirt was. I said, “It’s probably in the dryer. Just open the dryer door.” What happened next probably won’t shock anyone who has children, although I cannot say I saw it coming at the time.
He refused to open the dryer door.
I mean, he was literally standing in front of the dryer. His hand was a foot away from the handle and he wouldn’t open it. He wanted me to do it for some reason, and when I refused, it escalated to the point where he was screaming and sobbing all while standing next to the dryer door. He ended up on the floor crying hysterically for more than 20 minutes. And, the dryer door was in reach the entire time.
As adults, we read this story and think, “Well, I would never do that. The solution was right in front of him. All he had to was put his hand on the handle and pull. Of course, I would open the dryer door.”
But, we don’t.
We have all been in that situation at least once in our lives. We’ve all refused to open our particular dryer door, and in some cases, we’ve denied the very existence of the handle despite all evidence to the contrary.
Perhaps some of you don’t recognize what your unique load of laundry is yet, but I do. For all of my adult life, I’ve struggled with depression, and until recently, I never opened the dryer door.
I’ve contemplated writing about this a lot in the last several months. In fact, I finally got my blog off the ground so that I could write about my mental journey, even though it was under the guise of lifting weights. Somehow, if you talk about how lifting a barbell makes you crazy, people understand and relate. But, if you mention suffering from depression? Will you really get the same response?
And, then about two weeks ago, a story popped up in my News Feed on Facebook. It was a TED talk by a teenager named Kevin Breel – “Kevin Breel: Confessions of a Depressed Comic.” In the video, he says that saying four simple words, “I suffer from depression,” might change everything – not just for the person saying them but for anyone else who suffers from depression. It’s not like this is a foreign concept to me. The person who has guided me the most, the one who continues to help me every single day as I sort through all of the bullshit in my brain is Nick. And, if you aren’t familiar with his post on The Iron Samurai about dealing with depression – “Managing Depression With Weightlifting? Or, How You Feel Is A Lie” – then you really need to read it now.
Last night, I found myself sitting with Nick in our garage contemplating whether or not I should squat. I was thinking about squatting a fucking barbell, and with one simple but poor choice of words, I was almost in tears, a panic attack was upon me, and every single thing in my life was horrible. If you suffer from depression or anxiety then you know exactly what I mean. One second, everything was fine, and the next second, I had been sucked into an alternate universe where I would never be happy again.
Nick told me to sit up straight, lift my chest and smile. It was a simple, clear order, and it was something that he knew would immediately change the situation for the better.
He told me to open the dryer door.
And, I refused.
I argued with him. I put my head in my hands. I left the garage and went for a walk down the street in the dark.
At no point did I put my hand on the handle of that dryer door.
I continued to sit slumped over in the chair, I argued more, I made excuses. And, then, I am not even sure what Nick said, but it made me laugh a little. I forced myself to sit up straight. I smiled a small smile. He told me to sit up more and lift my chest. I made eye contact with him. I changed my tone of voice, and in a very short period of time, I felt okay.
He said, “It took you 45 minutes to do that.”
The gravity of the situation really set in. How many 45 minute time periods like that have I had in my life? How many panic attacks? How many days of crying, of not wanting to get out of bed, of snapping at family members, of acting selfishly, and of denying obvious truths have there been?
So much of my life has been spent refusing to open that fucking dryer door.
I’m opening it now. I’m not sure where this journey will take me or how much of it I will share. But, at a minimum, I will say “I suffer from depression” in hopes that it will help one more person put their hand on the handle and pull.