This is one in a series of posts I’m calling “Snapshots of my Depression.” These are memories of times in my life when my mental illness manifested itself in one way or another.
I wish I could remember the details. I really don’t. All I know is that I was miserable. It was awards night in ninth grade, and I did not want to be there. This photo that was published in the local paper tells the story pretty well:
That’s me second from the right. Look how excited I was to be named “Most Outstanding Boy”! That’s not me being serious or serene. That’s me being grumpy. I remember there were dozens of awards handed out that evening, and I received several of them. You’d think that would make me happy. But I have always had a strange relationship with this sort of recognition.
It’s not that I was shy. While I’m certainly an introvert, I’ve never been particularly shy. And it’s not that I didn’t think I earned academic honors. I knew that I was smart. I knew that I’d achieved excellent grades. And it’s not that I just hated awards. There was a part of me (not visible in this photo) that has always appreciated being recognized. But there has also always been this part that hates it, hates it, hates it.
I still feel that way. Just a few years ago, when I was officially installed as pastor of my current congregation, it was a wonderful day. The congregation put together an excellent celebration dinner, and gave me some very thoughtful and generous gifts.
I deeply appreciated it, and still do. But there was also a piece of me that felt afterwards, “I didn’t deserve any of that.” There was a voice inside me that said, “Look how much faith they have in you. You will very seriously disappoint them.” There was a voice that said, “I wish they hadn’t gone to all this trouble. Then when they find out who I really am, the disappointment would have been less.” Now, I’ve gotten much better at hiding these feelings. I certainly didn’t stand up front that day with a scowl on my face. But trust me…afterward, that scowl was there. Afterward, I was so upset that they gave me so much, that they believed in me so much, that they trusted me so much.
Because that voice kept on telling me, “You will disappoint them. You always give a good audition. You always give a good job interview. You always impress people with your potential. But then you blow it. All you are is potential. Potential that never, ever works out.” And while there is certainly some evidence to show that I do sometimes fail to live up to potential, there is also tons of evidence to show that the opposite is often true as well. My potential does work out a good amount of the time. That voice is a liar. But damn, it is convincing.
And I think maybe that’s what was going on in ninth grade. Maybe I was hearing an early iteration of that same voice, the one that never believes that I fulfill my potential, the one that thinks of me as a sham, a con artist, a poseur. I really don’t remember. I just remember being miserable. Just wishing I wasn’t there. And I remember that photo…wow, that photo just haunts me.
4 thoughts on “Snapshots of My Depression #3: Awards Night”
Thanks for sharing your heart. It’s like there’s a struggle with the fear of failure – the pressure to keep up with people’s expectations.
Maybe you could ask God to help you be free from the anxiety of failing and realise it’s okay to fail.
As soon as your mind gets to grip with the fact that it’s okay to be imperfect and that you’ve nothing to prove to anyone, then you can be free to be you without the torment of thinking that others will reject you for who you really are.
It reminds me of that Julie Miller song called Naked Heart:
Don’t want you to see me like this,
Don’t want you to know how it really is,
I put on this smile ’til you go away,
And hope that my eyes don’t give me away.
And I can pretend that everything is alright;
I’ve gotten really good, I’ve done it all of my life,
I keep you at a distance so you can’t tell,
I’m not doing very well.
If you find out who I really am…
If I show you what I keep in the dark…
Stripped of my defences, can…your love really clothe my naked heart?
I’ve gotten so used to having this pain
Can’t imagine it could ever change,
If I should look at he truth inside
I feel like I might not survive,
So I’ll wrap up this part that doesn’t look good;
I’ll make it look lovely, like I think it should,
But if you only know who I pretend to be,
How will I know if you could really love me?
I wish you all the best in your journey to freedom. You’ve come a long, long way already, because you are sharing how you feel with us and no-one is laughing at you. Have a blessed week.
Thanks for your comment, Sharon. The lyrics you shared are beautiful. They remind me of a song that meant a lot to me back in college: “The Final Cut” by Pink Floyd.
And if I show you my dark side
Will you still hold me tonight?
And if I open my heart to you
And show you my weak side
What would you do?
Would you sell your story to Rolling Stone?
Would you take the children away
And leave me alone?
And smile in reassurance
As you whisper down the phone?
Would you send me packing?
Or would you take me home?
I especially appreciate your mention that I’ve come a long way. It’s interesting…the creation of this blog itself was terrifying to me. I really wanted to start sharing my thoughts in writing, but I was terrified of reaching out, terrified of being rejected, and also terrified of the thought that I might actually affect anyone. But then I did it. I just created the blog, with no plan on what the topic of it would be. But before long, it just kind of snowballed into this way of sharing deeply about my depression. And you are right…nobody is laughing at me. It’s humbling, and still a bit scary, but heartwarming at the same time.
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Thanks for that song Michael – it’s lovely too. I am so glad you took the plunge to write on here. There are so many people who feel the same way and so many who don’t, but have the compassion to read and encourage you. Yes, don’t look at how far you’ve got to go – crawling is fine because you are still moving forward. Let God set the pace, not others. And yes, looking back at how far you’ve come is encouraging for you because you realise you are not where you were two years ago and if you do slip back a little that’s no-one’s business. You are you and you feel how you feel because you are you. Just keep being the wonderful you and ignore the voices that tell you you should be different.
A lot of times we only see our failures but others see the good we do, our accomplishments and they let us know. During a scriptural gifts scoring party I was asked how I felt when others praised the things I do. And I said it made me uncomfortable. I guess I should think it’s kind of like showing others how they can use their gifts. God is working thru me.
I know it’s hard but we shouldn’t listen to that voice telling us we will fail, but listen to God that He is there to hold us up in whatever we do. I can’t believe I’m telling you this because I too am afraid of failure and what others will think of me. But I guess it’s easier to build up others than yourself.
Believe me, when I sit and listen to your sermons or when we are in meetings together I don’t see failures…I see how you love and care for all of us. I see a wonderful teacher and writer. I see a great father. You are doing a great job.
Thank you for sharing with us and try not to be so hard on yourself. 🙂 see you Sunday.