Depression: Why most men suffer in silence

I suffered a bout of depression this May. I don’t know if it was clinical. What I know is that it was depression. It was not stress.

Many folks say that they are depressed, when what they really mean is that they are stressed out. There’s a world of a difference between the two. Stress is just, well, stress. One can easily manoeuvre their way out of stress, without outside help. Not so depression. Depression is a deep dark pit which, if left to take its course, can turn into a grave ... and drag down other lives with it.

Know the signs

Even before May, I was feeling despondent. I was constantly down in the dumps. I didn’t know how to tell my wife about it. I had depression, but I did not know how to communicate my dire situation with her.

I think the second or third Sunday of May when I left church when the service was midway, was when I knew my situation was getting out of hand. I’ve never done this before. I’m one of the believers who always wait till we say the grace after the service ends, then we exchange pleasantries with other saints, before I up and leave.

But this Sunday I left even before the preaching started. Besides, it was a “Family Sunday” service, and saints were not seated in the usual facing-the-pulpit style; but the tables and seats were arranged in circles to mimic family settings.

I got up and left, yet I did not have any pressing engagement. I wanted to be alone.

Three days later, I called one of our pastors. It was more than a call. It was an SOS.

Still waiting for help

That Wednesday after I walked out of the church service, I was beset by deathly dark thoughts. I knew I was veering out of control. I knew it. I just knew it. I knew that if I did not get hold of myself, or got someone to help me out, my state of mind would lead me to make decisions that would be catastrophic.

I decided to do what I have never done before. Speak to another man about this mental issue. I decided to be vulnerable.

I called one of our pastors.

“I’m good,” I replied when he asked how I was doing; but a split second later, I blurted out: “Actually, I’m in bad shape. I’m depressed, man? Could you please send me the digits of a Christian counsellor who I can speak to?”

He promised to send me the number, because he was getting it from someone. That was in the morning.

In the evening, he sent me a text message saying he had not forgotten my request.

Fair enough, I thought.

He sent me a text message two weeks later, asking if I spoke with the counsellor whose contacts he had sent me.

“Pastor, you didn’t send me any contact.”

He never replied. Never bothered to find out how I was doing. Never bothered to check back... Because, I’ve realised, when one’s in depression, they need constant companionship. They don’t need to be policed; but to be felt.

This is one of the reasons that men suffer - and die - in silence. They feel that they won’t be believed. They feel that no one cares. They feel like their gender works against them, because they’ll be told that they’re supposed to man up.

Needless to say, I have never returned to church.