I guess the first question is why now? Why am I publicly discussing my depression? It's not really what I had in mind when I emailed Jose. I saw one of his posts about Creatives Against Depression, and what caught my attention immediately was the tag line, "you are NOT alone." For a number of years, I've had a desire to support the cause of depression awareness as a way to honor the incredibly compassionate professionals who helped me overcome my depression. That tag line rang the bell for me. I reached out to Jose to ask if I could help in any way, and he asked for a post about my experience with depression. I'm not wild about the idea of glorifying my past suffering, but I'm not even remotely ashamed of it either — except, I used to be, when I thought I was alone.
If you suffer from depression, you've got that awful loop of negative feedback playing over and over in your mind. You're a piece of shit. Nobody else could be THIS fucked up. If those other people with their Barbie Doll minds could see inside your head, they'd, Christ you can't even cope with the thought of it.
One counselor (whom I wish I could thank publicly), set me on the road to recovery with one simple revelation. She let me in on the secret that everyone is fucked up. You've heard that a lot of times, I know. Everyone's got their shit. But you don't really believe that their shit is as bad as yours. They're just regular fucked up. You're a freak. This one counselor knew I wouldn’t believe her at first. She knew that my disbelief was what stood between me and recovery. She walked me through credible examples of abomination in other people's lives and thoughts, stayed with it enough to plant the seed of belief in my mind. She handed me a map. Recovery is a long and brutal road. I did not fully appreciate the importance of that map early on. But looking back, I’m certain I would not have found the road at all without her guidance.
'If you suffer from depression, you've got that awful loop of negative feedback playing over and over in your mind. You're a piece of shit. Nobody else could be THIS fucked up.'
Fast forward. I've changed jobs, I'm a partner hired away from one law firm to join another. I'm pretty well known and respected in my community. I've worked my ass off to keep my depression a secret. My new law firm wants to buy a life insurance policy on my head, and I need to sit with another very high profile financial professional from my small city to answer his questions for the policy application. He's been hired by my new partners. He's doing them a favor. A term life policy is way below his pay grade. He's going to get all of my medical information, and when the application is denied because of my history of depression, he's going to have to tell my new partners why. And, worse yet, he knows everyone I know in the business community. I'm screwed.
We sit down in a conference room, we get through the basic stuff, and we dig into the medical history questions. He can tell I'm freaking out. He says I have to answer everything honestly or coverage can be denied, so I do. After handing it over reluctantly, he starts to read then puts down his pen. He tells me about the time he was naked on his kitchen floor sobbing and his wife had to pick him up off the floor. He tells me he didn't think he would get better, but he's clearly proud that he did, and it's clear he's impressed that I did too. I had become an avid cyclist because endorphins offset depression, and my overall health was excellent. My application was approved with a preferred rating. That seed of belief had now fully flowered.
I've had three bouts of depression in all over the course of 15 years. Counseling, an insanely patient primary care doctor (whom I also wish I could thank publicly), and, most fortunately for me, good response to medication (take the fucking meds), have all played a role in my recovery. But if I had not been given that map, that knowledge that I am actually not alone, that everyone is a freak, I'd be dead. With each succeeding episode of depression, I built on that belief, and each recovery was quicker and more complete than the last.
It's really true. You are not alone. Put that in your feedback loop.
P.S. In case you are THAT sick as you’re reading this: I’m really, really glad I’m not dead. When you recover, you will enjoy a life so filled with gratitude, and so free of the fear of death, that the simplest daily experiences will be joyful, and the memorable moments will seem like miracles, which is exactly how we are meant to feel.