In my case, depression seemed to come out of nowhere. I remember dropping off a good friend and saying to him, “Something’s going on. I just don’t feel like myself”. From that point on, things went downhill. I wasn’t communicating well with people, I was struggling to get sleep due to my racing mind, and I could barely eat. Any time I was out with my wife, when we returned home, I’d ask her if I had done alright (socially). I began to take medicine and see a therapist. Things continued to deteriorate. I would somehow manage to mask my depression at work, hold it together fairly well with my kids when I returned home, and eventually break down and have uncontrollable crying bouts in the evenings.
I went back to the psychiatrist to inform him of my suicidal thoughts. He increased the medication. My crying bouts increased and my suicidal thoughts became more detailed and pervasive, occurring throughout the day and even in a dream. I brought my wife and sister to my next psychiatrist appointment so that they could help communicate just how bad things had gotten and advocate for more support. I made the decision to take three weeks off of work and checked myself into a partial hospitalization program.
Please know that you will get better. I did and many, many others have. It takes work and effort. I would urge you to consider multiple strategies to work towards recovery, rather than relying on just one. Here are some of the suggestions I have for you to consider:
- Contact one or two close friends and share with them what is going on. Ask for their support. This may just be requesting that they send you a hopeful text a couple of times a week or invite you out for breakfast or a coffee.
- Reach out to family members (your parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, significant other, etc). Have trust that they will care about you and your situation.
- Join a support group. The more narrow the focus, the better. While others may not be able to really understand what you’re going through and how it feels, these people will. This is a great way to receive support and to support others once you are feeling better. It’s instantly a group of trusted individuals who have been through similar challenges. I still attend a men’s depression support group twice a month.
- Try to exercise, even if it means a short walk around the block in the beginning. Little by little increase the amount of time you’re exercising and/or the rigor.
- Consider journaling. I journaled every night while going through my depression. At the end of every entry, I included a piece in which I wrote, “Today, in order to work towards my recovery, I…” Sometimes, it may have been a very short list of something quite simple, such as, “I drove my kids to school”. This is one way to recognize your small successes!
- Consider medication and talk therapy. If you are trying talk therapy for the first time, do not give up on it if you do not like your therapist. You may need to “shop around” a bit, unfortunately, in order to find a therapist with whom you really click.
- Try to get back into an old hobby or start a new one. While I was in the partial hospitalization program, I began to make pictures with pastels. I continue this new hobby and share it with my children. I also started to play the guitar.
These are just a few ideas to help you begin to move in the right direction. I believe the more strategies you utilize, the quicker the recovery. It’s critical that you seek out help.
Too many people mask their depression and many begin to self-medicate. Reach out for the help you need. Accept the help. Make the effort necessary to recover. I know that is easier said than done, I’ve been there.
Small steps. You will get there. You will recover. You’re not alone!
The letter above was included in “The Recovery Letters: Addressed to People Experiencing Depression”, Edited by James Withey and Olivia Sagan (2017), p. 93.
This is an incredible book of hope for those currently suffering from depression. There are many more letters much more brilliant than mine. As author Gwyneth Lewis describes, “This book will save lives…”
I want to thank James Withey and Olivia Sagan for including my letter and for creating such a powerful, inspirational book!
You can order your copy by searching Amazon. The following two links are for Amazon US & Amazon UK. For additional information on the book, you can email James Withey directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.