Overt vs. Covert Depression

dusk-blue “The first thing the covertly depressed man must do is walk through the fire from which he has run. He must allow the pain to surface.” [i] These two sentences defined my life until recently.

As I’ve said before, I believe that the fates drag those who won’t. I had so much fear of feeling all those feelings that I had run from my whole life. The oddest thing about all that is about 25 years ago I started this path and did lots of cognitive therapy and other alternative methods of healing. I thought I was “through,” all of that stuff. What I have since learned is that I had to keep the depression covert during a time of life where I made some life changing decisions. Hell, the decision to become an attorney, instead of following my bliss, was a way for me to keep the depression covert. No better place to hide than in the church of the rational and logic, and stay out of the realm of the intuitive, the mythological, the soul, the heart!

oklahoma-tornado-wallpaper-2013-220x123“The only way out is through.” [ii] My Ggod decided that I had not gone all the way through the pain that was making me act out; the pain that was making me act not in conformity with my nature. This process was and can be at times a living hell.

gods-lightBecause what I’ve learned in this process is that the world, and in particular those who act like they are whole, won’t accept you for being human, frail, and imperfect. As Brene Brown says, men can’t be vulnerable. Based on that concept I had nowhere to turn. It’s true, because when I would start talking about the pain in meetings, you could see the people turn away from me. I am not complaining about this, I am observing and reporting about it. What I need to remember is those who think they are sane, usually aren’t, and vice versa. I have had to make choices about where I went to get my support. I stopped going to meetings where I was not getting support for my depression.

As I am now in the process of healing and moving forward I have come to the conclusion that it is the errors of omission that are the most harmful. Lack of connection to the parent(s), emotionally, is the wound that has the most effect.

9d9e_1The wound is the unexpressed emotions the mind protects us by keeping us in anxiety, depression.

It’s easy for me to see what happened to me made me depressed. It is those people in my life who didn’t get molested, who didn’t get verbally and physically abused who seem to have the hardest time understanding why they have depression. My dear friend Renee seemed to get a similar kind of abuse that I did. I have a lot of empathy for those who think they’re crazy and don’t know why. Most of them think they were raised “normally.”

jaytaoThen, he may resolve his hidden depression by learning about self care and healthy esteem. [iii] This is the part of my journey where I am now. As I have let my outside world go to do the inner work, I have learned that most people will say they are okay with you wherever you are in life. But what is true, really true for most of them, is they don’t want anything around them that is either “negative,” or not normal. Like anybody knows what normal is!

Joseph CampbellI have fallen from grace in the outside world. I have risen from hell on the inside. Easy trade-off.

123 RV, SA, JW

That is one of my mentors, to the right there. Joseph Campbell. I am reposting this. Someone in a meeting asked me what it meant to have overt vs. covert depression.

[i] Terrence Real I Dont Want to Talk About It. pg. 63 [ii] Fritz Perls[iii] Terrence Real I Dont Want to Talk About It. pg. 63



4 thoughts on “Overt vs. Covert Depression

  1. I think you are feeling our pain as well. The wounded healer. You have a gift James, everytime we speak I feel so much better.Stay strong for all of us.

  2. “Lack of connection to the parent(s), emotionally, is the wound that has the most effect”.

    I find this to be so true. It’s not so much the physical and verbal abuse that was the hardest to cope with. I had to lie to myself for many years to make the egregious emotional negligence bearable. I had to tell myself I didn’t need parents, because if I didn’t believe that, I would have been paralyzed. The upside is that it made me resourceful, but the downside is that there came a time when inner collapse was inevitable.

    It catches up to you. I don’t know about you, but I was this “overachieving type”, until about my mid-thirties when the bottom fell out.

    It also coincided with the pregnancy of my second daughter. I want from being a super responsible employee to a slacker. I quit my good position as a laboratory supervisor before it was found out how little I cared about what I was doing and I was fired.

    My grandfather (who, by the way was a lawyer, as my uncle was and my brother is – and btw, I almost went into law too, but didn’t), my mother and boss all thought I was making this HUGE mistake. My grandfather was not happy, my mother said I was stupid, and my boss thought I’d regret it. So yea, I totally get the “fallen from grace” in the outside world.

    It was the beginning of about 10 years of depression, regression and acting out (including temper tantrums to rival a 2 year old) and acting in.

    I don’t think people talk about that much. I think people expect you to grow up with this pain and never express the rage and horror of the things you’ve experienced as a child/adolescent that affects your adult life in myriad ways. And the emotional neglect is mind-warping sometimes because you don’t have any idea what it is you are missing.

    I don’t advocate staying strong. But I don’t advocate falling apart with no support either.

    I had a longtime friendship/email correspondence with someone who let me rant and rage when I needed to. Who held my virtual hand while I figuratively vomited up some really nasty emotional toxins from both childhood and my marriage that came up, but who, at the same time, didn’t allow me to drag him down with me. He gave me a dose of ‘tough love’ when I needed it and helped me see a wider perspective when that tunnel vision effect took over.

    What I have come to see this as was that he was the father I needed to have who’d let me throw a temper tantrum and then still accept and love me when it burned out of me and encouraged me. I was in therapy at the same time, but it was with the friend that I processed the most emotions with because I felt safer to let the negative stuff out. I was also grateful for his faith in me, even when i had little faith in myself. It took a long, long while before I started to believe him. But I kept working on my healing, stopped the negative self-criticism and sure enough, I started feeling my way to the truth.

    One thing I have discovered, from having studied a great deal about child development on my own (attachment parenting and positive discipline), is that when a child throws a temper tantrum, they need to know that they will not be rejected or punished for having feelings that overwhelm them. They need to know angry feelings are okay. They need to know frustration is okay. They need to know sadness and disappointment are okay. And they need to know they are still acceptable and still lovable, even after bad behavior. They don’t have the tools to channel this overwhelming and confusing energy into anything other than a tantrum. And then when the emotional storm is over, the child is able to learn new strategies, IF the child isn’t punished for having the tantrum in the first place and the parent cares to teach them new strategies.

    What happens when kids who are not allowed to express anger and rage grows up? It gets stuffed into a trunk until at some point, the lid pops off and all that unexpressed pain comes out.

    An adult who has never been allowed to express this stuff as a child/adolescent has a lot of stored rage that needs a safe place to let this out. But where? How? Who’s going to hold that space and provide unconditional love and compassion to a full grown adult? The therapeutic alliance is supposed to provide something like that, but most often, it falls way short. Many therapies don’t teach people how to re-parent themselves with unconditional love and compassion. They don’t teach them how to cope with the parts of us that are crying out to be heard.

    I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friend, something I can never pay back.

    Will I ever struggle again? Probably. But I regained a lot of new tools. It’s my choice now to implement them, or not. Sometimes I had chosen not to implement the tools I had at my disposal, because I felt the need to not cut short emotionally processing the stuff I needed to. I’m not a big fan of spiritual bypassing. Or cognitive bypassing either. I don’t want to figure out how to transcend my pain. I want to know it and let it finish passing through and out of me.

    At any rate, I’m kind of sorry if I talk to much on your blog. I just want to share from my experience. A lot of the things you share resonate with me. In some ways, you kind of remind me of my friend.

    I wish you well on your journey.


  3. Thank you for stopping by my post– had been thinking about you and somehow lost your blog. Have cut WAY back on reading and writing. Can’t keep up. Totally uninspired. Totally anxious, etc. etc. So nice to see you!

  4. Remember there is a difference between being depressed and depression. The symptoms are the same. Being depressed is a psychological/emotional disorder. Depression is due to chemical imbalances in brain that affect mood function and is physiological. I’m stuck with both but having insights as you do is very valuable in management as I know my perceptions are askew in many instances.

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