J.W. Holland

If you evolve you never stop learning.

Archive for the month “September, 2016”

4 Painful Ways That Depression Destroyed My Marriage

Today I am happier than I have ever been in my life. That’s not exaggeration or hyperbole; it is the absolute truth. My wife and I communicate with each other about everything, nothing is off limits or held back. While I don’t think a perfect marriage exists, ours is pretty damn good. That wasn’t always the case.

In fact, for a while, I lost all of it.

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Go back a decade, to a few years after we were first married. The honeymoon period was over, and life had begun to truly set in. We had just had our second son, and due to some complications with his birth the bills were adding up. Stresses were building, and trouble was brewing rapidly.

What should have been painfully obvious to me was somehow off my radar.I suppose, I had even developed a way to lie to myself. What should have been painfully obvious to me was somehow off my radar. I knew things weren’t perfect, but I wasn’t at all clued into how bad they were for her. to be honest, I don’t even know if she truly sensed what was coming.

We fought, a lot. Yet like a couple of stray cats, we just kept coming back. Who knows all the reasons but you can guess the main ones; kids, commitment obligations, family, and just good ole appearances. I just assumed that’s how marriage was supposed to work.

You know, live together miserably and then you die.

I am totally serious when I say that. I thought that a happy marriage was something that was only in the movies. I had never seen one. My parents fought constantly then divorced. My grandparents divorced. My aunts and uncles, my brothers, my friends, people at work, people at church. Everyone got divorced or seemed to live absolutely miserable existences. I ended up so jaded, that I ridiculed every marriage I ran across that “appeared” to be happy and normal. “No way!” I would say. “They have to be hiding something.”

Sometimes I was right.

None of that, however, was at the root of why my marriage was falling apart. Society, work pressure, or even money troubles had nothing at all to do with it. Sure they added to the stress and magnified the problem. They even gave an excuse to be more miserable than I already was. They legitimized the fights I started with my wife and made them worse. But they weren’t the problem.

Unchecked, and uncontrolled depression and anxiety were truly at the heart of my marriage’s issues.

Unchecked, and uncontrolled depression and anxiety were truly at the heart of my marriage’s issues. Every thought that went through my mind, everything I heard, or thought I heard and saw, passed through the filter of depression. It could warp the simplest statement or action into something offensive to me. And it was destroying me and my marriage.

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1. It shut down communication- One of the primary defense mechanisms of my depression was to completely shut down. When there was a problem, perceived or otherwise, I would make it known I was upset. Unfortunately, I was the master of doing that without saying a word. I then had the uncanny ability to start an argument, turn it into a raging war, then go silent without resolution. I allowed so much to fester inside of me that when it did erupt, I would say things that simply couldn’t be taken back with “I’m sorry.”

Today I know that when there is an issue that needs to be addressed, I need to clear the air immediately. Don’t let shit roll around in your head. Irrationally making yourself angry until you’re ready for a fight that is not only unnecessary but basically stupid.

2. It made my home a prison- I am naturally an introvert, there is no denying that. My wife, on the other hand, is quite the extrovert. She likes to be around people, experiencing things and enjoying life. Depression made it, so I never wanted to leave the bed, much less the house. In turn, it caused her to be isolated and virtually imprisoned because I wouldn’t participate in outside activities. When I did relent and go, I usually ended up making her miserable by my overreactions and stresses.

After I started seeking treatment for my illness, I have found it much easier to become part of society. I still prefer my recliner to big crowds but I also now enjoy experiencing new and exciting things with my family. The universe isn’t going to get you, meeting new people isn’t the end of the world.

3. I was emotionally blind- One of the biggest thing men seem to miss early in marriage is how much their wives need them to be their emotionally. Women mainly need to know you care and that you will be there for them. Deep down we all need that but for women, it is an absolute core necessity. I just couldn’t give it, and rarely could I accept it from her. I would spend hours scanning the internet, playing games, or mindlessly flipping the remote. All while my wife sat just a few feet away, silently begging me for interaction. Needing conversation, needing closeness, needing me. I was oblivious and simply incapable of giving her what she needed most.

I assumed sex was all that was needed. Now I really understand much more the dynamics of a successful marriage and why simple things mean as much as they do. It’s about respect, caring, and putting the most important things first.

4. It made me forget what was important- When we were moving toward divorce, I became nothing short an angry monster. Understand that we both had fault however from my side all I saw was her transgressions. I forgot that I did love her, I forgot that we had two beautiful children together. I forgot all the reasons I married her in the first place. It just made me hate, not only her but myself as well. The hatred for myself manifested into vengefulness and vitriol.

Depression and anxiety made me impulsive and reckless. I would do and say things without regard to the consequences or ramifications. Mostly without thinking of the impact on the person at the other side. I was abrasive to coworkers, employees, family, my children and mainly to the one person who had truly loved me the most, my wife. No amount of anger or frustration justifies that. Now focussing on the important things makes the peripheral bullshit less noticeable.

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My wife and I divorced, and spent some time away from each other. Fortunately, neither of us ever let go completely. With the realization of our errors, and a commitment to work through them we began to put the pieces back together. We both accepted our mistakes and made amends.

The biggest part of the journey afterward wasn’t the apology but the project of repairing ourselves to be better spouses.

The biggest part of the journey afterward wasn’t the apology but the project of repairing ourselves to be better spouses. For me, that meant confronting my mental health and accepting that it was a problem. It meant treatment and developed coping mechanisms. It had to be about taking my life back from these demons known as depression and anxiety.

In taking back my life, I also took back my family.

 

This article was also published by The Good Men Project

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5 Obstacles to Success and Happiness That I Overcame

For most of my life, I just accepted what came to me. I worked hard and moved through the ranks of my chosen profession. With that plan I did ok. I got several promotions and increased my income modestly over the years. I was a steady, efficient, and capable workhorse.

But I was just, OK.

I saw people around me and on television who were doing things, different things. The type of things I never considered possible for me. They were building businesses, becoming media moguls, traveling around the world. The only thing I was doing was helping others build their dreams and lifestyle. Mainly because I just didn’t see how someone like me could ever be anything other than just a workhorse.

My family, in general, was just that, workhorses. They are a proud bunch that’s for sure but not very entrepreneurial. Most worked the same job their entire lives or at least the same type of jobs and for the most part never left the area of central Alabama we were born. Now I am not saying any of this is bad or wrong; there is certainly something to be said for sticking to your roots. I just knew at an early age it wasn’t for me. Even with that knowledge, I wasn’t doing anything about it.

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I had dreams; everyone does, but my dreams were varied and plentiful. I have never been the type of person that just dreamt of doing one thing and to be done with it. I wanted to do everything!

I always held myself back, I never pushed the envelope or challenged the status quo.

I always held myself back, I never pushed the envelope or challenged the status quo. In fact, I began to mock and degrade those who were trying to do something different. I became a voice of discouragement. Instead of living my dream, jealousy made me want to stop others from living theirs.

That all changed a few years ago, I decided that for my family and me to gain everything we wanted and desired, I had to do things differently. That has lead to taking a new job on the opposite side of the country, taking vacations to places I would never have visited before, and becoming a writer that has been published on some of the biggest websites in the world. I am far from where I want to be, but I am on the path, and I can see what I want within reach.

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Here are the steps I had to take to make these things begin to happen:

I confronted my depression and anxiety- Depression and anxiety will cripple you. By telling you constantly that you’re not capable or even worthy of success. If you are suffering from either or both of these demons, you will struggle to reach any goals until you confront it head on. I found treatment and put myself on the correct mental path to begin accomplishing the goals I had in life.

I stopped being a people pleaser- I grew up only wanting to make other people happy. I always put the needs of others ahead of my own. Again, this isn’t a negative trait in general. The problem was that it began to impact my happiness and well-being. My needs and the needs of my immediate family sometimes suffered due to the fact I was always helping someone else. Generally, these were financial issues, but sometimes it was purely emotional support. I will still help whoever I can whenever I am able, but never again will it be to the detriment of my own tribe.

Bosses, coworkers, business partners, and friends will almost always let you down when you solely rely on them to help promote your talents.

I started selling myself- The one thing I have learned in this process is never to expect that anyone will ever put you ahead of them. Even though I did it myself many times, I found that it was almost never reciprocal. Bosses, coworkers, business partners, and friends will almost always let you down when you solely rely on them to help promote your talents. In business as in life, it truly becomes a dog eat dog world. Sitting back hoping that you’ll be noticed will almost assuredly mean that you will be in the same spot a year from now. You have to take the bull by the horns and push your agenda and your desires for success.

I stopped living others fears- There were many voices, and there still are, that said things like “oh that’s too hard.” or “that isn’t possible.” For most of my life I listened to them, and when I shared a dream, they shot it down. When I finally realized that the advice they were giving was really just their personal fears or even their feelings of regret for not experiencing life to the fullest, I stopped listening. Allowing these life suckers to permeate your thoughts are an instant dream killer. Taking responsibility for your own dreams and goals is the only way they will happen.

I knew the things I wanted to do, and I knew deep down what I was really capable of.

I stopped just dreaming- As I said, I had a lot of dreams. I knew the things I wanted to do, and I knew deep down what I was really capable of. The only thing I ever did with any of this knowledge was to dream about what was possible. I finally decided that dreaming wasn’t enough to be happy. I started putting action to my thoughts. Less than a year of writing my first article for public view for The Good Men Project, I had been published on sites like Babble, The Huffington Post, Fatherly, and The Libertarian Republic. Thousands of people have read my words, and it just took me finally deciding to take action.

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By no means have I reached the goals I have set. Truthfully I don’t want ever to get to a point where I am satisfied. The thing is, now I can see the path clearly, and I know that I do have within myself the ability to reach my dreams. There are a lot of “gurus” out there selling happiness, just remember before dealing with any of them, only you truly have any control over your future.

If there is something you want to do, dream you want to accomplish, or place you want to go. Remember one thing. You can!
 
 
Join and crush a stereotype or two
 

Photo:Getty Images 

My Son’s Simple Answer to This Question Broke My Heart

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As someone who has fought my own depression and anxiety, I never realized how it affected those around me. I also never knew how noticeable it was to those in my life. It wasn’t until I began to get treatment myself that I found out how visible it was in others. What scares the hell out of me is when I recognize signs of it in my kids. No matter how slight they may appear to others, each one is a serious event to me.

The differences make them individuals, and it also has made me develop new parenting skills as each of them crosses into a new stage.

All of my sons are unique, as most children are. Very seldom are any two kids identical in demeanor. The differences make them individuals, and it also has made me develop new parenting skills as each of them crosses into a new stage. Saying that it has not been a challenge filled with frustrations and mistakes would be untrue. They frustrate me, anger me, and drive me crazy. The reward for all that is getting to see these boys grow into men who I have helped prepare for all the world has to offer.

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My middle son is perhaps the most free-spirited of the three. He is almost always happy, and usually content with whatever he has. He takes care of his belongings, unlike his brothers, and is thankful to us for everything we give him. Watching him play by himself is a joy. His imagination is unbelievable, and when he is in those “other worlds” he draws you in with him. There is no object he can’t turn into a toy and no piece of clothing that can become a superhero costume. He is his own person, and that is awesome to me.

He does occasionally have his moments when he is almost entirely shut down. Usually, these times are related to being tired or hungry and are typical of exhaustion or lack of blood sugar. The times when those aren’t the obvious causes are when I become the most concerned.

A few nights ago he just wasn’t himself, and the more time that passed, the more apparent it was becoming. I initially was frustrated with him and his ‘moping.’ The more I watched him, though, I realized it didn’t appear to be an ordinary eight-year-old pouting session. My wife and I both asked him several times what was wrong, all we got was a shrug of the shoulders and a sad face.

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Finally, I looked him right in the eye and asked what was wrong, one more time. I had to know as his father it was my job to know, and he was going to tell me. If it was something stupid, he was going to be in trouble. No matter what it was, I was going to get it out of him. His answer was simply “I don’t know” and he preceded to break down crying.

The words crushed me.

I immediately felt a sense of guilt and shame. Guilt because I feel like it’s something I may have passed on to him, and shame because I didn’t recognize it immediately. That my own son was showing signs of what could be depression and I didn’t initially give him the support he needed, made me feel horrible.

I immediately thought back to all the times in my childhood when something was wrong, and I didn’t know what it was.

I didn’t know what else to do at the time, so I just grabbed him, picked him up and held him tight. He sobbed, and I sank. No matter what triggered this event, it was my job to help him through it. Up until this second, I hadn’t done that. I immediately thought back to all the times in my childhood when something was wrong, and I didn’t know what it was. All those times that I was told to “get my ass off my shoulders.” and quit sulking. All the moments I needed someone just to hug me and tell me it was ok came back, and I was devastated yet again.

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I foul things up with my kids fairly often; this time was different. Here was a scene that I knew all too well, and in fact, I should have been an expert in dealing with this. I completely dropped the ball, and I failed my son. I recovered, but I still have to believe that I had already done the damage. I can’t get that out of my mind.

Moving forward is all I can do at this moment. It is what I have to do for not only my son but myself. I have spent too much time in my life dwelling on things that I should have handled differently. This is my child, and he needs action not regret. He needs support; he needs love, and he needs understanding. If this was just a singular event or a signal of a deeper issue, is something we don’t know yet. In either case, it is my job as a father to address it appropriately.

I want all of my boys to look back on their childhood and be able to say that they had a dad that understood and supported them. A father that was fair and also consistent. An upbringing that was about growing them into adults not just punishing their mistakes. I want them to be able to one day say “my dad understood and cared.”

In short, I want them to have what I never did.

 

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