Before I start, I need you, the reader, to understand that this is not a self help guide. It is not meant to be the key to help you out of your problem with depression. This is simply my story of how I cope and what I feel when I fall into my bouts of depression, and the paths I take to try and get out of them. If you do take something away from this that helps you, then I am happy for you and would like you to share your story with me, if you feel comfortable doing so. I just want to make it clear that I am not an expert on depression, nor am I a health professional. Please read this with the understanding that I am sharing my experience in the hope that others might take something from it for themselves.
This is also therapy for me. Talking about a problem I have suffered with for years in a way that others will see can be very liberating. I am sure that there are those out there that will read this and wonder why I am airing my issues, but if even one person out there reads this, and it touches them, then maybe it was worth it.
I cannot say for certain when I first started having depressive bouts, but I am pretty sure it goes all the way back to high school. That in itself should be no surprise to most people, since almost everyone can agree that high school is a harsh place, even for those that do well in school. It is where we first start really learning how popularity and money can divide people into groups. I think everyone experiences a little anxiety or depression in high school simply because they need to learn to fit in to certain cliques, or become outcast.
This is not going to be a “History of Me”, so I am going to concentrate more on the “here and now” and not the “there and then”. Looking at the past, at least in my case, has never been much of a help. Those are all things and times that can not be altered and should not be worried about. What is more important is how I face the future.
Many times when a person says that they are suffering from depression, the first thing people say about it, be it verbally or in their own minds, is “Oh… Get over it.” Too often people see it as just a person feeling sorry for themselves or wanting attention, and they are dismissed. I know this because there have been cases where I have talked to a person that was going through a depressive bout and I have thought that same way about them. When I go through the same bouts and I talk to people, I can see the same thing in their eyes or hear it in their voice. It is not their fault. People who do not suffer from this or who do not understand what it is to go through it, have no way of seeing the world as I do when I am experiencing a bout. In fact, I can say that I am just as guilty because I do not, and cannot, see things the way that another person might when they are going though an episode of depression.
Because, for me, depression is a personal experience, another person cannot understand my process of “going down.” When I am starting down into one of my funks I do not care what a person can tell me or what they try and do to cheer me up. In fact I really cannot see the positive in anything at that point, I just do not care. For me, if I were to use an analogy, it is a dark tunnel that leads nowhere, and only gets darker. That is what I feel when I am in a depressive mood, and the sad part about it is that I usually know when they are starting. This is as frustrating to me, as the person affected, as it is for the few people who know I suffer this problem. Talking is about the only cure or remedy that I know, but the people I talk to have to understand that I am not going to be responsive to their support at first, so all they can do is be there. Even though I may not be interested in what they have to say at the time, and I may not care for their efforts, in the moment, they do help in the long run. Another thing that helps is if they, your friends and family, understand that you suffer from depression in the first place.
I have never shared my problem with depression with my friends, at least not until this blog. I have never felt comfortable with sharing it because I have never wanted the whole “pity parade” that seems to follow people who suffer it. I also know that some of my friends would probably not understand it, especially the ones closer to my own age. This is not meant to offend them, but unless they, too, suffer it, then they would not understand what it is to go through.
In addition to the overall sense of loathing that I feel at the time, one of the hardest parts about depression, for me, is the state of reclusion that I fall into. I want nothing to do with anyone, friends, family, coworkers, etc… and I convince myself that no one wants anything to do with me. I close myself off into what I have termed my “Darkspace”. I cannot bring myself to care about anyone or anything, I have even treated friends and family rudely during these times, and only see the doom and gloom in life. My wife will try and motivate me, but she has learned what I have learned, and that is that I have to find a way out on my own. Reaching out from the dark, as I have titled this article. However, she has always been there when I come out of it.
Another thing about my episodes, is that I can see who I am during and after the attacks. I look back at my latest bout, and I know that it had a negative affect on my job and may have affected my relationships with my friends, and I know that… I also knew that at the time, but could not work my way out of it. You do not want to tell people what you are going through, because at the time, how to you explain it? Where do you start? Can you really, truly, explain what may appear to most as a state of mind? You really cannot tell a person, “Hey, I am depressed right now, I will call you back when I feel better… M’Kay?”
One of the problems with people sharing a problem like this with others, especially in my age group, is that I was raised being that taught you should not share your problems, as I am sure others were as well. You need to hide your troubles away and keep them to yourself and things like depression and openly expressing feelings were a sign of weakness or a liability. This is much like how my father was, at least to me, and many of the male figures in my life, as a child, were much the same. I have worked hard to not be like that over the last several years. Mostly because I knew that I had a problem with depression, and that the best way to help myself was to reach out to those around me.
Since depression affects everyone differently, there is nothing I can say that will be a magic bullet that will help others. What works for me, may not work for you, and you should not expect it to. If you feel that you are suffering from depression, you need to get in to see a doctor as soon as you can. While I choose not to take medicine for mine, because I understand the potential risks in doing so, you may not have that luxury. Depression should never be taken lightly.
In my case, the best thing for me to help me get out of the funk, is writing, woodworking and family. The writing gives me a release, a way to vent and share thoughts and feelings. The woodworking gives me a outlet of creativity and something to accomplish. Family… well that is self explanatory. Your family is potentially the strongest medicine you have, and is not confined to those that share your blood, but those who are close to you. I have several friends that I consider family, and in reality, they are just as much a part of my life as any brother or sister. I may not always express that with them, but I would like to think that they know.
For me… coming out of the funk and haze of depression is like walking into a well lit room after spending a while in a long dark tunnel. There is relief because I, once again, beat it down and took back control of my life. There is also sadness… because you look back, and see the person you were during that time, and the affect you had on others… those you do not know, and those you love.
If you are a religious person, that can help as well. As I have said in a couple of my past writings, there is a lot of good in your belief in god. It helps you find your center and to feel comforted that there is someone watching over you, something greater than you that you are accountable to in the end. If you find yourself in a depressive mood, and you have a Priest, Rabbi, Pastor, etc… that you can talk to, do so. That is another reason they are there, and sometimes it is just nice to talk to someone that is not part of your immediate family. I, personally, use meditation to help… it is like having a nice sit down and chat with yourself… but sometimes you may not like what you have to say, and that helps too. If you never get to know yourself, then you may never get over it.
In closing… depression is hard to get through. I will not lie to you about that, you sometimes feel like there is no way out and that nothing you do is worth anything. You may even get to the point were you are certain that no one is there for you, but none of that is true. You have to tell yourself to live above that, live above yourself. You can get through it and you can get back to being the person you, your family and other people like you to be. You just have to take it one step at a time… that is what I do. This is no different than what they teach you in a twelve-step program. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, and one day at a time.
I hope that some of what I said can give someone a little guidance.
You are more than welcome to comment, but as I said toward the beginning of this… I am not a professional in this field. I will not offer any advice, other than to tell you that you should see a professional.