Today I’m offering something different for you. No commercials. Just me and you talking. I’ve said before on SelfWork that I’ve seen so many people become paralyzed in their decision -making about what course or direction they should follow. Hopefully, through my own story of discovering my own potential, you’ll get a taste of what I’ve learned works – which is to simply “go.” Go in a direction – any direction that puts itself in front of you. At least that’s healthy and productive. Learn from that. And keep going. Sometimes you have to pick yourself up from disappointments. But you learn every time.
And you’ll hear at the end my own exciting announcement of my TEDxBocaRaton talk now being available on YouTube! I’ll hope you can watch!
This is SelfWork, and I’m Dr. Margaret Rutherford. At SelfWork, we’ll discuss psychological and emotional issues common in today’s world and what to do about them. I’m Dr. Margaret and SelfWork is a podcast dedicated to you taking just a few minutes today for your own selfwork.
Hello and welcome to SelfWork. I’m Dr. Margaret Rutherford. I’m so glad you’re here today. I am offering something different for you. No commercials, just me and you talking. I’ve said before on SelfWork that I’ve seen so many people become paralyzed in their decision making about what course or direction they should follow. Hopefully, through my own story that I’ll tell today of self-discovery, you’ll get a taste of what I’ve learned works, which is just simply go, go in a direction, any direction that puts itself in front of you, at least that’s healthy and productive. You learn from that and then you keep going, and I have an announcement to make of something I’m more than honored to tell you is now available.
Potential. It’s one of those words that would come up, especially for my mom when my life wasn’t going so well. “But you have so much potential.,” she’d say to me. At least at that time, it felt like I was being chastised, certainly not supported. But I think I was wrong. I was the one who felt so bad about me that I couldn’t see any potential. So today is a story about me being open to discovering potential in myself, and hopefully my story will make sense for you.
You know me as Dr. Margaret who does this podcast. Maybe you know, I’m the author of Perfectly Hidden Depression. What you may not know is that I never actually wanted to write a book. Never dreamed of hosting a podcast. I’d never had ambitions to be known for something. Well, you know, that’s not quite true. When I was much younger, I thought I’d be a famous opera star, but that wasn’t in the cards for me.
But I’ve come to love being a therapist and a mom and a wife, <laugh>, and my husband would quickly note the order of those things like, oh, I’m last <laugh>. And you know, I was quite happy doing that. I’d found my potential, at least I thought I had.
I began writing online when my son had gone to college because I had time on my hands and my husband was undergoing a medical treatment. So that was really new for me. I’d always liked writing emails and things, but I’d never considered myself an author. But I needed to do something while I was being with my husband and a woman here locally that I knew Jeanette is her first name. She’s basically a coach for inventors and entrepreneurs taught me about online stuff. I didn’t even know what a link was when I began. That was back in 2012.
That’s when I started a blog about empty nest and then pretty quickly started writing about mental health. The writing was fun. So I thought, “Okay, this fills my time.” And hopefully, as I say on the podcast, I was extending the walls of my practice to those who wanted to read what I had to say and maybe learn a little bit more about therapy and mental health treatment. But in 2014, I was sitting and thinking about the people I’d seen who’d walked into my office, not telling me they were depressed, but saying things like, “I’m not sure what’s wrong. I probably don’t even need to be here.” Or some such story. What they all had in common was an inability to express painful emotion. In fact, they might be telling you about something that was even traumatic, but they’d be smiling as if they were telling me what they’d had for lunch.
They were completely detached from their pain, like they had their anger or sadness or shame stuck so far back that it was as if that pain didn’t exist. It was weird to watch, and I had to begin to tune in very closely to what these people were saying and not pay as much attention to how they were saying it. So again, on that afternoon in 2014, I literally grabbed a name from out of the air when I was titling the piece and called it the Perfectly Hidden Depressed Person, are You One? And the post went viral after it appeared on the Huff Post. I received hundreds of emails. “How do you know about this? It’s like, you’re in my head.”. So I got curious, and I looked around at the popular literature and I found Dr. Brene Brown. The Gifts of Imperfection is an incredible work on perfectionism, vulnerability, and shame.
And of course, now she’s world famous and has written scads of truly great books and has a TED Talk that is one of the most watched talks ever. But I also found Terrence Real’s book. “I don’t wanna talk about it” on what he termed Covert Depression, but it was written only for men, and I was finding this in my clients, were both men and women.
Then I turned to the academic research, and there were so many researchers shouting out the dangers of the combination of perfectionism and depression saying that perfectionism alters the presentation of depression and makes it very hard for a therapist or clinician to really see what’s going on. Yet the pain is very real and very active, but it’s active underneath an armor that’s worn as camouflage for those often traumatic memories.
Recently, we were all shocked by the suicidal death of the incredible dancer, entertainer, and producer tWitch. He wrote in a suicide note about something from his past that it had to do with his death by suicide. I don’t know any more than that. But back in 2014, there wasn’t too much about this link between having a perfect seeming life and suicide. It just wasn’t being talked about.
So what was I to do? Well, I’ve told clients through the years, “If you believe something should exist and it doesn’t, then create it.” So that’s what I did with luck, support from many, many important others, very, very hard work by me and the fantastic team I’d built over the years. Five years later, Perfectly Hidden Depression was published. Then the pandemic hit. So no face-to-face interviews, certainly no book tour. So basically I thought, okay, I’ve reached my potential, and that’s the end of this journey.
But there’s one more twist to this story.
Three years ago, right at the beginning of the pandemic, a woman I didn’t know, a stranger, Cindy Metzler, reached out to me on LinkedIn. She said a friend had told her about the death of another friend. We’ll call that friend Jane. Jane was a wife and mother of two, a highly respected and successful person in her community, and she died by suicide on Valentine’s Day using a means that was very planned, and there was no doubt she’d chosen to die. Everyone was absolutely shocked trying to absorb this tremendously confusing loss.
But at the funeral, Jane’s husband walked up to Cindy and her friend and said, “I found this on Jane’s bedside table.” It was my book.
Tears came to my eyes when I heard this story in 2020, and Cindy and I became virtual friends along with her other friend, Tricia and I volunteered a couple of times to speak to groups that Cindy ran about this kind of hidden depression, and that all went very well.
What I didn’t know was that Cindy was and is a co-organizer of the Boca Raton TEDx Talks. Now, if you don’t know what a TED Talk is, TED was begun years ago by a man who believed in giving people a stage to talk about what he termed “ideas worth sharing.” The TED or the t e d part of it is technology, entertainment, and design. All kinds of people auditioned from scientists to students, to artists to creators. And what happened after that? TED became a huge platform for people to share those ideas. Then cities and communities around the world wanted to host their own TED Talks, so they were termed TEDx talks. Now, TEDx follows the same guidelines created by big Ted, like what the stage looks like, how long the talks are. They can’t be more than 20 minutes. And then the famous red dot that the speaker stands on, well, seems like the universe thought I had more potential.
Cindy asked me to submit to her city’s TEDx committee. TEDx spoke a ratton. They didn’t host anything in 2021 due again to the pandemic. But I submitted in 2022 and I didn’t make the cut. So once again, I thought that was that.
I played around with the idea of submitting to other TEDx venues, but somehow I just couldn’t find the energy to do it. I was pretty deflated actually, after submitting and getting turned down. And this journey through the last decade had had its share of disappointments. My book was published, yes, but 39 Count ’em, 39 other publishers had said no. Some I got interviews, which was great, but it was still a no, and there were two reasons. One, no one knew who I was, and two, those publication houses didn’t think people hiding depression would buy a book on hiding depression. <laugh>, you can see the irony.
So when I got turned down those 39 times, each one of those 39 times, I thought, “Okay, this is the end.” I was disappointed, but I was happy to have gotten the chances I had, and sure enough, New Harbinger came along and said, yes. Again, lots of luck and hard work.
But back to the other story, Cindy and I stayed in touch, and this year, 2023, she asked me to submit again. I took a big breath and I did, and my talk was chosen. Then the real work began as I hired a great coach, but we only had nine weeks to create a talk that would be about 14 to 15 minutes long that would share not only the idea of perfectly hidden depression, but give a solution to its core problem, and that talk had to be memorized. <laugh>. I’ve always had trouble with memorizing; even my band used to kid me in my twenties, that I kept song lyrics in front of me when I’d sung the same songs night after night after night.Memorizing was simply not my forte.
So I gave the talk on May the 20th this year, and I was incredibly nervous. But I think the message comes across, it’s not only about perfectionism and depression, it’s on transparency. It’s on learning to trust. It’s on how we as a culture can change to stop talking about suicidal thoughts or feelings as if they’re only a symptom of depression. They’re not. Pain is at the core of suicidal thinking, and we can all feel that kind of pain given the right circumstances. All of us. I can’t tell you how many times people have shared the fact that they’ve thought about dying, about taking their own lives because of what’s happened to them in the present or in the past.
But I’m not gonna give you the talk here. I’m asking that you go watch it on YouTube. The link will be in your show notes or you can go to YouTube, put in Dr.Margaret Rutherford and TEDx and it ought to come up. That’s it. Again, the link will be in your show notes and please like, comment and share if you can.
Now, I don’t know if this is the end of the journey or not, but what I hope you can see, if you keep curious, if you keep open and if you risk, you never know what might be in store for you or what potential you have that is within you just waiting to be discovered. Thank you so much for listening. Today’s shortened self-work. I always appreciate you taking the time to listen. I’m Dr. Margaret, and this has been SelfWork.
You can hear more about this and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive my weekly newsletter including a blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!
My book entitled Perfectly Hidden Depression is available here! Its message is specifically for those with a struggle with strong perfectionism which acts to mask underlying emotional pain. But the many self-help techniques described can be used by everyone who chooses to begin to address emotions long hidden away that are clouding and sabotaging your current life. And it’s available in paperback, eBook or as an audiobook!
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