My self-doubt is crippling
One of my biggest struggles with depression and anxiety has been this constant inner voice that speaks endless thoughts of self-doubt.
It often latches onto my insecurities and runs rampant.
You’re a terrible husband, it says, who quit his job in the middle of a global pandemic and left your wife as the sole provider of the family. What kind of man are you?
You’re an even worse father, it tells me, who can’t get out of bed to feed your daughter breakfast, who would rather mope on the couch instead of playing with your daughter outside. Father of the year right here!
You’re a worthless writer, it whispers, whose stories are despicable, ideas are trash, and whose reporting days are done.
If you tell yourself something long enough, you start to believe it.
Worst of all, it’s depleted any decision-making ability I’ve ever had. These days, I spend far too much time mulling all the options. And when I finally settle on a choice, I’m constantly second guessing myself to the point I rely on someone else to make the decision.
It’s all so fucking maddening.
It’s been three months since I quit my job to focus on my mental health, and while my depression and anxiety have lessened, I still struggle to fight off this evil voice.
It’s held me back from starting full-time freelance writing work, which I promised Elissa, my wife, I would do immediately after I quit.
I feel like every time I sit down to research story ideas, make a phone call, or start writing, I’m bombarded with thoughts of “you’re not good enough,” “this story is dumb,” “no one cares,” “no one is going to read it.” It’s enough that on some days—perhaps most days—I shut off my computer and retreat to the couch to doomscroll on my phone, hoping that tomorrow is a different day.
It’s been loud enough that I’ve had little confidence to apply for jobs. And when the jobs I do apply for—the ones I truly care about—never contact me, it serves as more fodder for the voice to say, "See, I told you so."
In my worst days, those thoughts were enough to send me spiraling to a dark place where I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t find the motivation to even open my computer to pretend I was going to work.
I feel fortunate that—for now, at least—those dark days are behind me.
Through three weeks of therapy, I’m learning how to manage that inner voice.
My therapist has taught me a lot about positive affirmation. Basically, combating those bad thoughts with the good. She’s taught me to focus on the positives in my life by starting thoughts with “I can [do this]” and give an example of a time I accomplished something I was proud of, or “I did [do this]” and focus on a time when I achieved something I didn’t think I could.
If I’m being honest, it feels a little (re: a lot) self-serving, perhaps because it is. I hate talking about myself, bragging about my accomplishments, and that's exactly what this is. But at the same time, it’s reassuring and, in a way, eye-opening to cut through all the cluttered bad thoughts and focus on the fact that, yeah, I’ve accomplished some pretty cool shit in my life.
I have a beautiful wife and an amazing daughter who have supported and loved me through my worst times. I’m an award-winning journalist who, despite all the bad thoughts, has turned out some pretty great story ideas. (Writing all this makes me feel weird, but again, focus on the positives.)
Most importantly, that positive thinking has given me the confidence to, at times, push through the onslaught of negative thoughts when I sit down to start working.
I’ve carried that confidence this week when on Tuesday alone I chased leads, made 15 phone calls, and heavily researched a story I’ve been trying to confirm for years.
I’m not saying in three short weeks I’ve been cured, but it’s refreshing to feel like I’m getting some sense of my life back.
After years of struggling with severe depression and anxiety, I decided to open up about my battles, both as therapy for me but to also let other people know that they're not alone. If you're interested in following my journey, please subscribe to my newsletter, My Damn Depression, where I discuss my battles, therapy, and provide resources for others.
Also, if you're dealing with depression and need someone to speak with, I'm available to listen. I'm not a therapist and cannot offer any clinical advice, but in struggling with my own depression I've found such a weight was lifted in speaking to those who have dealt with their own battles. Please, don't hesitate to email me at bymattkeyser[at]gmail[dot]com. I promise to keep your story confidential. If you are, however, dealing with an immediate crisis and are in danger, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255 or seek other professional help.