I am beginning this series because of how important this topic is to me as an individual. I had begun this several months ago, and was reminded to pick back up on my work when an article was published where I work by the owner of the company regarding this very subject. You can read his excellent article here. The story below is my own, in my own raw and very real words. I hope it helps those who have or do struggle with this topic, and ultimately I hope it helps you find peace.
Part I – Why so serious?
It’s a serious topic and sometimes I think that’s why it’s easy to shy away from discussing it. After all, what’s ‘fun’ about discussing a subject called ‘depression?’ It’s depressing right? But sometimes you have to be brave enough to tell the story that needs to be told. Sometimes you have to break the mold.
So I’ll do it… I’ll break the stranglehold on what is often taboo. I’m 32 years old, I’m male, and I’m happily married – I’ve also been diagnosed with clinical depression since age 29, though I’m certain that was merely the tip of the iceberg hitting the surface – this ‘issue’ has plagued me most of my life since before I was 13 years old. There are times when it doesn’t rear its ugly head, and there were even a few years where it seemingly had vanquished, but in the end, it’s never too far away – it’s there, within. I could tell you about how long I denied the entire idea of depression. I could tell you how much I hated the very concept of it, and refused to believe it was anything more than someone’s imagination playing games (sick games) with their own psyche. But that was before I knew about the science behind depression, before I realized the chemical composure of the brain could be dramatically different from person to person. I also didn’t realize, at the time, this can be a genetic disorder, carried down within the genes from one generation to another. But I know now, more than I wish I did.
Thinking back, as a child, I knew my grandmother was sad a lot, I just didn’t know why until I was an adult – when my pastor at church made reference to it in pre-marital counseling. She mentioned my grandmother suffered from depression a lot, and it was both a surprise and an ‘a-ha’ moment in one instance. I mentioned it to my mother, but she seemed upset our pastor had told me. This puzzled me then, and often continues to puzzle me now – why do we hide from this reality?
There is a stereotype within this country, at least in my opinion, that having a disorder like depression somehow makes you weak, or that somehow it makes you mentally disturbed. To that I call ‘BS,’ because depression by no means makes you psychotic or mentally insane. Unbalanced, perhaps, but certainly not disturbed. And who’s to judge anyone out of balance in their life; aren’t we all at some point off kilter? Financially, relationally, spiritually – why not consider mentally? In the modern world, the human mind is increasingly important to success as technology continues to bring about more and more mental stresses. I’m not saying the past wasn’t stressful; undoubtedly it contained its own tribulations to address. But living in the world of modern computing has certainly added to this mental strain – and how many of us aren’t on the computer that often? I mean, you’re reading this on a computer or electronic device, so let’s be real honest here. We’re all hooked. The mind is important, now more than ever, and it’s seemingly very hard to acknowledge it when it’s hurting our out of balance.
I suppose the major issue with depression is that for many of us, it’s not something you bring balance to, at least not naturally. I’m sure there are plenty of natural ‘cures’ on the market, no doubt about it when asking the right salesman – but in reality, modern science and medicine suggest that sometimes the only means to combat depression is to treat it medicinally. And of course that requires physicians, like a psychiatrist, and that doesn’t exactly help the stereotype since ‘shrinks’ typically receive a somewhat unscrupulous repute within society. In some instances, it’s like telling your friends you’re going to see your probation offer - it’s typically met with this look of, “Ohh… I didn’t know that.” And so, we hide.
On that note, I want to be very clear on something. There is absolutely no indignity or reason to be ashamed of taking medication to fight the symptoms of depression. Depression is not always a condition you can “think” or “reason” your way out of, especially if the causality and factors producing the symptoms are not environmental. I personally of all people know this well; you can be incredibly smart or remarkably self-aware, but you cannot think, reason or wish your way into bringing about chemical balance within the brain. Yes, there are plenty of techniques to aid in the process, many of them mental exercises that are quite effective – for a time. I’m certain there are those who will criticize my opinion on this; and for a long time I was one of the individuals who believed you could beat chronic depression with your mind. But I now believe with some certainty, here and now at least, that by taking that aforementioned approach alone; you’re going to find yourself in a complex tug-of-war with your own psyche. I personally was never strong enough to win that battle – not over the years and decades. It wears you down, it exhausts you, and eventually you’ll find yourself in a place you don’t want to be. I believe the best solution is to try and identify chronic/clinical depression as early as possible (anytime the emotions last longer than a few weeks), find a formula for beating it (friends, family, work, and potentially medication if necessary), and always be realistic with yourself about the condition you face. You don’t have to hide from it, or be embarrassed by it; and you certainly don’t have to think you’re alone – you are not – not at all.
The good news is ultimately this – depression doesn’t have to define you or your life. There are many ways to either reduce or overcome the symptoms of depression. In the coming portions of this series, I’ll continue to explain my personal story regarding this subject, how I’ve handled it (or not) through my life, and finally how to best diminish the effects it can have on your life.
Thank you for reading and joining me on this journey. Remember, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long or dark it seems. Trust in that always, and you’ll never cease to find it waiting for you just around the next bend.
Part II - Depression kills you on the inside