I am a middle-class male who has worked since he was 10 years old. My career includes 43+ years in retail management and along with my wife, have raised 3 wonderful children.
I have lived with Major Depressive Disorder for over 40 years. Depression often shows me paths to follow that end in my circling the drain and crashing into the abyss.
My reason for writing is to let others dealing with mental health issues know that there is hope. There are tools available that lead to living a balanced life. And they should ignore the stigma that some still feel.
Over 43+ years, my relationship with depression has ebbed and waned in cycles. The good times are always exhilarating. The bad times with depression include days, weeks, months, even years of nothingness, of being up against the wall. And while in the grips of depression, I see absolutely no way forward,
21 months ago, I finally made the decision not to sweep my depression under the rug. I had become so adept at hiding my depression, instead of facing it, I had never looked at what was happening. I had never even considered that depression was a problem. When the bad times would subside, I would conceal what had happened and move on. I never, ever faced what had happened and I did not want to.
Last year, I finally faced my depression. It was not that I was suddenly empowered. But I just saw three choices.
These options have come up repeatedly in my life:
- Stop trying and end my life by suicide
- Keep doing the same thing and keep expecting a different result
- Break the cycle and ask for professional help
This time I chose the third option. Not because I was brave, but because the other two were more terrifying.
21 months after checking into the hospital, I am solidly in recovery. I have my life back. My journey has included meeting wonderfully supportive people at On Our Own, whose mission is to provide free peer support, self-help, education, guidance, and referral services for adults. Through them, I discovered WRAP training and now have my own personal Crisis Plan.
I discovered SMART Recovery and took courses, becoming certified to assist in meetings. I even flew to Chicago last year (pre-pandemic) and attended their 25 Annual International Conference. And I discovered DBT, The Change Triangle, and NAMI.
I am finally seeing that I can lead a balanced life with depression. The wall is gone, and the path forward is clear and waiting for me.
From over 43 years of personal experience, I know that loneliness and isolation accompany mental health challenges. Guilt and shame appear and would keep me from facing my illness. I have spoken with people in support groups and heard many others share the same experience.
There is still a stigma around mental health.
This keeps many who would benefit from the tools available, feel they cannot access them. Sadly, I personally know two people who could not see a past the wall they were against. Looking back I see they became lonely and isolated. Seeing no way forward, they chose to end their lives.
Their outcomes may have been different, if there was more acceptance of and less stigma surrounding mental health issues.
Removing the stigma around mental health would help untold millions.
When seeking treatment for depression is finally viewed the same way as seeking treatment for a broken arm or an impacted wisdom tooth, doors will open for those with mental health issues.
Having celebrities acknowledge their depression takes away some of the stigma. And hearing that everyday people are making decisions that can alter their lives can be the catalyst to begin a new life.
But even as 2012 draws near, our society is still treating those with mental health conditions as somehow deviant, or nor deserving of help. People still believe you can “snap out of it.”
Clearly, there is more work to be done educating people on what mental health issues are about. While I and many others are living with our mental illnesses and leading balanced lives, we lose one person in the US every 12 minutes to suicide. This is about how many we lose to breast cancer each year.
Once society becomes more accepting of mental health issues and the stigma is removed, many of those who commit suicide will see other options. I was there once, I know.