Truth time. My brother-in-law and I never always saw eye-to-eye. I knew he was angry and bitter about life. He is my sister’s husband and I wasn’t always happy with the way he treated her. There were times when I thought it would be better if my sister left him. It has been hard, because after 20 something years, I love him, but haven’t always liked him. But then, I went through my own struggles with stress, anxiety, and depression. All of a sudden, my brother-in-law was a source of information I needed. We talked for some hours. In the end, it’s not always easy to understand him, but I have grown to see what he speaks of below. I am always hopeful that he will continue to work hard to get better and find peace in his life. I now introduce you to my brother-in-law, Charles. ~Alan Eisenberg
Today is the 56th year anniversary of my birth. Unfortunately, I have not always viewed by birthday as being a happy or joyous occasion. I can honestly say that today is truly a “Happy Birthday” for me and a day that I am celebrating. I can only hope and pray that I will have many more birthdays to celebrate.
Through life experiences (many difficult and unpleasant), I have learned several things over the years which I would like to share. What I have learned is as follows:
- 1. Life isn’t always fair. As much as we would like to believe we live in a fair and just world, it is simply is not the case. One of the hardest things for me to do is accept this. I am closer now to accepting this than I ever have before.
- Live today like it is the last day of your life because tomorrow is not promised.
- Anger can consume you and destroy relationships if you allow it. I have had anger issues my entire life. I am proud to say that I am working very hard on my anger and making significant progress.
- Most people have suffered at least one major depressive episode in their life. Others battle depression their entire life. For many of those who do not have a history of depression/mental illness in their family, they may be fortunate enough to go through life without being depressed. More than likely, they will experience depression at some point. A good example of this is losing a loved one or a job, which may precipitate a major depressive episode. This is referred to situational depression, and even though treatment can be very beneficial, one needs to go through a grieving process to allow them to mourn the loss. After going through the grieving process, their depression will likely significantly improve or completely go away.
For others like myself, depression/mental illness is inherited and bio-chemical. Treatment is essential. I need to take medication and see a psychiatrist. I have also recently began seeing a Cognitive Behavior Therapist (CBT) in order to assist me in changing my negative thoughts and unproductive behaviors. Unfortunately, my condition is not curable and I am subject to multiple bouts of major depression. I have a wonderful psychiatrist, who along with my wife/family has helped my cope with my depression over the years. I am also getting to know my CBT and forming a productive relationship with her. I am proud to say that I am currently in remission. Special thanks to my wife Robyn. You are an incredible person sweetheart. I would also like to express a special thanks my two wonderful kids, Lindsey and Daniel. Without the 3 of you, I don’t know where I would be.
I would like to say one more thing about depression/mental illness. It is a disease that is treatable, (like diabetes for example) and is in no way a weakness or a fault.
- Respect is earned. I have learned that as much as I would like everyone to like and respect me, that will never happen and I have to accept it.
- Do not seek or expect validation from others. When you have a particular belief, you cannot expect others to share your belief. This doesn’t mean they think any less of you.
- Appreciate what you have and do not dwell on what you don’t have.
- Disappointment is part of life. If we always get what we want or what we think we deserve, we would not experience the pain, which is a necessary part of life. Pain is necessary in order for us to be able to grow and work harder to achieve our goals. When we do get rewarded, we feel all the more happy because of the hard work we put in.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. I read a book a while ago with the same title. I believe that it is a must read and will allow you to recognize that most things in life are small stuff.
- Make every effort to laugh every day and make others laugh. Another words do not take life too seriously. Even if you are going through a horrible depression, it is important to try and laugh every day. In my case and during my worst times, I watch a Seinfeld episode (which I have seen at least a 100 times), and it always makes me laugh.
- It’s O.K. to cry. Crying is a natural emotion and you often feel a sense of relief after having a good cry.
- Make every effort on a daily basis to tell your family and/or those important in your life that you love them and appreciate them.
- Help others. Especially those who are less fortunate than you. In my case, the type of work I did (social work) gave me the opportunity to do this on a frequent basis. You will be surprised how rewarding it can be to help others and the sense of fulfillment you get from doing so.
- Being a “right fighter” is not important and often has negative consequences. For example, whenever I feel like I am being attacked on E-MAIL by another person, I feel the need to defend myself, which often results in me attacking the person who sent the E-MAIL. I react without thinking about the consequences. As we are both right fighters, we will continue to go back and forth and the anger we have toward one another will likely continue to escalate. This accomplishes nothing and only makes both of us walk around with anger and resentment toward one another. In reality, if I do not respond to that other person’s e-mail (because we are both right fighters) or bite the bullet and reply with statements to alleviate the situation, our “battle” would likely soon be forgotten and we would not stay angry at one another. One of the things I am currently working on not is being a reactor and thinking things through. I don’t have to be a right fighter any more.
- Expectations can cause a great deal of anger and disappointment. For example, let’s say you interview for a job and know without a doubt that you are the most qualified candidate. You therefore expect to be offered the job. When you are not offered the job and someone less qualified than you gets it, you feel angry and bitter. There are likely reasons beyond your control as to why you did not get the job, even though you were clearly the most qualified candidate. You may choose to say “what’s the use, I am no longer applying for any more jobs.”
Or you may lessen your expectations and continue to apply for jobs. Chances are if you do this, you will eventually get hired and even if you don’t, you have put forth the effort.
- Be proactive in your physical and mental health. Two and a half years ago, I took a routine stress test and was informed that I had an abnormality. The cardiologist did not think I needed immediate medical attention, however, he arranged for me to have a cardiac catheterization 6 days later at Johns Hopkins Hospital. During the procedure, it was discovered that I had a 95% blockage in my left main artery, which is referred to as the “Widow Maker”. Many persons who have the “Widow Maker” who suffer a heart attack, do not survive. I was told during the procedure that I needed to have bypass surgery and was not allowed to leave the hospital until the surgery could be scheduled 3 days later. Thankfully, I survived the surgery. If I were not proactive in my health care, I would likely not be here today. The scary part is I had no symptoms. The stress test save my life.
- Finally: Life can throw you a curve that you never saw coming. This is particularly true in my case. Up until last March, I had worked for 32 years, the last 25.5 years as a social worker with the VA. I had a successful career and envisioned myself retiring at the age of 60-62. Unfortunately, I became the victim of constant bullying and harassment. I tried to fight back and sought assistance from the Union. When push came to shove, the Union abandoned me and I was left on the battlefield by myself. The bullying and harassment went on for almost 3 years and I had little or no choice but to endure it.
Both my emotional and physical health was greatly affected and when both my wife and psychiatrist told me that I needed to leave my job, I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I ended up retiring before I was emotionally prepared. I always thought I would go out on my own terms, as I had earned the right to do so. I envisioned receiving a big party celebrating my retirement and career with the VA.
Having to retire from my job not by my own choice was devastating to me. I carried a great deal of anger and resentment for several months and could not move on with my life. I also went through a bout of major depression and anxiety, which took its toll not only on me, but also on my family.
What I went through was an unexpected loss that I had to grieve. I am proud to say that I have made it through one of the most difficult periods of my life and have moved on. I am now able to enjoy retirement and recognize that things beyond my control caused me to leave my job, through no fault of my own.
I hope what I have shared with you has been helpful and beneficial. It took me 56 years to learn much of it, but better late than never.
I would like to wish each and every one of you good health, happiness and many more birthdays to celebrate.