Guest Post: An Excerpt from Author & Advocate Steve Austin’s Upcoming Book

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Steve Austin was the very first guest I had on my podcast, “The Depression Files”. I had reached out to him after I had learned of his advocacy work and his book, “From Pastor to a Psych Ward”.

Steve is now about to release his fifth book: “Catching Your Breath: The Sacred Journey from Chaos to Calm”. Steve is a skilled writer who gracefully shares his story in the hopes of supporting others.

Please enjoy this excerpt from his upcoming book. If at all possible, please check out his Kickstarter page in order to support the launch of this important book:

When I was just a little boy, our family was vacationing at a motel on the outskirts of Nashville. My dad’s best friend from high school lived in the area, and we always had such a great time with their family. I was standing on the stairs at the shallow end of the pool, mesmerized as I watched my Dad take a deep breath and disappear under the water.  Dad has always been in fantastic shape, and I just knew he could do anything. I stood there, anxiously watching and waiting for him to return from the other side of the pool. It felt like he was down beneath  the surface of those deep waters forever and might never return.


For the first few seconds, it was so cool, but to a kindergartener, staying under past the count of ten seemed either impossible or superhuman. Dad finally returned, and I cheered. “Whoa! Dad! That was awesome! I counted all the way to 100 while you were underwater!” As incredible as it was, I always felt better when my Dad was near me. The water was an uncertain thing to me, and I didn’t like feeling alone.

It’s interesting to note that children can’t hold their breath as long as adults, but the older we become, the longer we teach ourselves to hold it in. The same is true in life. There are many people holding their breath and fears, just waiting to exhale. Every day, we have an opportunity to exhale all the pain, anxiety, anger, and everything else we have been holding on to and breathe-in calm and newness.

When I was much older than the little boy in the shallow end, I became acutely aware of what it feels like to hold your breath so long that the pain and shame feels like drowning. For me, the end of the rope looked like waking up in an ICU room after a serious suicide attempt. This was the point where I started to learn how to breathe again. I’m not a medical professional, I’m just a guy who has survived a shipwreck and found the courage to talk about it. Not everyone has an official mental health diagnosis, but  everyone knows what it’s like to feel completely overwhelmed by life.

Much like the day my Dad returned from the deep end, laid his head against the edge of the pool, and finally exhaled, my journey from chaos to calm started after years of holding my breath. No matter how superhuman someone may seem, we have all been overwhelmed at one time or another, and we are all looking for the safety of the shallow end.

– Excerpt from Steve Austin’s upcoming book, Catching Your Breath. Support the Kickstarter campaign today at kickstartmybook.com and get more details on this powerful new book at catchingyourbreath.com.

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Guest Post by Storyteller Paul Currington

The following post is from Paul Currington. After reading about Paul online, I reached out to him to be on my podcast, The Depression Files. After he agreed to be on the show, he shared this piece of writing with me. To say that I was impressed is an understatement. This piece of writing is incredibly powerful and insightful. Both sad and inspiring. Paul speaks his truth, shares poignant insights into suicide and suicidal thoughts and the importance of sharing one’s story. I am privileged to be able to share his post on my blog. Enjoy the following piece of writing by Paul Currington:

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A lot of people say they’d die for their child. Not many people can say they would live for them. Think about that every time you pick up a cigarette, a doughnut, a cocktail or a pill. If someone put a gun to my head and said you or your son? Easy choice. I take that bullet 100 times out of 100. If you put a doughnut against my head and said, “Eat this and die early,” a lot of us would say, “Well, it’s only one, and I did skip breakfast.”

The truth is we justify doing all kinds of things that put our lives at risk. We say, I’ll be happier if I eat this doughnut. I’ll be more patient if I smoke this cigarette. I’ll be more relaxed if I have a few glasses of wine after work. Ultimately, my kid will be happier if I give myself a break.

Most people understand this. Except when it comes to suicide.

When you cross the line from thinking about suicide to surviving suicide, you end up having to answer one question for the rest of your life. “You have a child! How could you have been so selfish?” Everyone seems to assume that we didn’t think of that when we made our attempt, but from my own experience, and my conversations with other survivors, I know many of us did think of that and came to the conclusion that our children were better off without us.

That’s the insidious nature of depression. When you’re deep in it, all the lies you tell yourself make perfect sense. I call it The Calculus of Despair. No rational argument or past experience can make you believe otherwise. You can have a wall full of gold records and still feel like a failure. You can have a hundred voicemails in your phone and still feel unwanted. You can be holding a handmade birthday card from your son and still feel like he would be better off without you.

Depression doesn’t give you choices. It gives you ultimatums. It convinces you that nothing will ever change and the only way out of this pain is to get out of this life. If your depression leads you to end your life, it doesn’t mean you haven’t thought about the consequences. It means you put everything into a spreadsheet, did the calculations, and discovered that ending your life was the best thing for everyone. You didn’t decide it, you discovered it using the upside-down mathematics of depression.

If you’re lucky, you survive. Someone stops you or you stop yourself. Maybe you just miscalculate and wake up on the floor of your bedroom in a fog, not sure if you’re angry or grateful. What happens next will shape the rest of your life. When I woke up the day after my attempt, I realized I had a choice to make. I could keep living the life that had brought me to my knees or I could do everything in my power to change how I lived. If I ended up a year later in the same place in the same state of mind, at least I would know that I went down swinging.

I decided to go down swinging.

For the next year I did everything my therapist and doctor told me to do. If they said take a pill, I took a pill. If they said eat healthy and exercise, I made a salad and went the to gym. I did everything I could think of so that in the end, if nothing worked, at least I could say I did my best.

But it did work. After a while, I could see my life changing. More importantly, I could see my outlook changing. I slowly started to see where I went wrong in the past and how my new habits were helping me stay on course. I stopped isolating myself. I started asking for help when I felt myself slipping. I swallowed my pride and joined support groups. All of these things together helped me achieve the emotional stability I never thought was possible.

The most helpful thing of all, though, was the one I was most nervous about, my decision to reveal to others that I struggled with depression. I was tired of keeping it a secret, and the longer I held it in the heavier it became. Shame gathers momentum in silence and I didn’t want to give those feelings a chance to grow. I figured if I told my story as a survivor rather than a victim, people would see me as strong instead of flawed, tough instead of fragile.

A year-and-a-half after my attempt I started telling people outside my close circle of friends what I had been through and what I continue to deal with. I didn’t do it all at once and I didn’t do it online. I just slowly revealed, one-on-one, to the people around me that I dealt with depression, and that some of the things I did that they joked with me about like eating healthy, not drinking, walking to the store instead of driving, were things that I did because they helped me stay happy and centered.

The only person I couldn’t bring myself to tell was my son. He was 22 and not living with me when I made my attempt. He had no idea what I’d been living with. In the beginning, I decided not to tell him until I was healthy enough so that he wouldn’t have to worry about me. As important as it was for me to stop keeping my depression and attempt a secret, I still wanted to protect him. I still wanted him to look up to me as the kind of man who never let life get the better of him. But I also knew that if there was any chance of my story becoming public he needed to hear it from me first. It was time to tell my son that his father had crashed and risen, and that for the rest of my life I would have to rise again at the beginning of each day and do the things that kept me alive.

So I sat him down in the place where we always have the hard talks. The car. There’s something about being side by side in a car that allows us to say things that we couldn’t if we were looking at each other. So I asked him if he’d like to go for a drive with me like we did when he was little and he said yes. I drove all over town and the surrounding woods before I found a way to bring up the subject. I started by telling him the depression that I’d dealt with all my life had gotten worse a couple of years ago. And then I told him about that terrible night in the apartment when I tried to end my life.

He was quiet for a minute and then he said, “I’m glad you’re still here dad.” I said, “Me too, kiddo.”

And then he did something unexpected. He revealed that he also struggled with depression. He shared with me that the difficult times I had chalked up to teenage moodiness were actually more than that. He said that those feelings were still inside him and that he was worried he was getting worse. We spent the rest of the drive talking about how he was getting by and what I could do to help. That drive led us to finding him a good therapist and the work he does now in his own recovery.

It’s been three years since that talk in the car and I’ve never regretted it. My kid still sees his therapist and isn’t embarrassed about needing one. He even gets onstage sometimes and tells personal stories like his dad. By sharing my struggle with depression, I showed him that his dad is just as flawed as anyone else. When my son feels sad and lost, he doesn’t have to add shame to the equation. He knows his father also sometimes feels sad and lost. There’s no impossible bar that my son has to live up to now.

When I shared with him the real reason I go to the gym, get enough sleep, and spend time helping others, I wasn’t just sharing my story; I was showing him how to get through his own hard times. Pretending to be fine when you’re not isn’t strength, and admitting you need help isn’t a sign of weakness. The hardest thing in the world is to tell your kid how far you’ve fallen. But sometimes it’s the one thing they need to hear. You can’t give your kids courage, but you can show them what it looks like.

About the Author: Paul is a former standup comic who now tells awkwardly personal stories on stage to strangers. Once a month in Seattle he hosts the show Fresh Ground Stories where he gets some of those strangers to walk onstage and tell their own stories. He’s a lifelong friend of depression and manages to keep it all together with humor, meds and therapy.

Guest Post: nOCD Improve lives with 24/7 care

The following post is the first Guest Post on my blog. This post describes an app that has been created to support those living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). While I personally do not live with OCD and have not utilized this app, I cannot personally endorse it. That being said, I believe in sharing possible resources that may improve one’s life. Please feel free to post comments or questions! Thank you. Al

Due to the first hand experience that our founder and other team members have had with the OCD recovery process, nOCD was started. We were fed up with the issues surrounding its affordability, accessibility, and quality. nOCD, standing for “No OCD”, is an online platform that we believe would have helped us during the worst of our struggles and that currently is already helping thousands of others with OCD today. The platform is designed to help people with OCD during all four phases of treatment: 1) coping with the onset of OCD symptoms, 2) selecting a care team, 3) actively managing OCD treatment, and 4) maintaining OCD treatment progress. Our team is able to address each phase of treatment using a unique combination of highly vivid content and 21st century technology. For instance, people with OCD can view our content on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter at @TreatMyOCD and download nOCD for free on the App Store (link to the app is on our homepage: (www.TreatMyOCD.com).

People with OCD say the app has been a major difference maker. It gives people guidance in the moment of OCD episodes, a structured platform to do CBT exercises, a major community to talk with others around the world about everything related to this disorder, and real-time data 24/7. Here is more information about how it works:

SOS Guidance:

nOCD offers members clinically effective guidance in the moment of any OCD episode, using OCD specific Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. During an episode, members can hit the button “SOS” on their phone, which tells the app to immediately provide Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy and Acceptance Commitment Therapy (Response Prevention). For instance, if the member is obsessing, nOCD will ask questions such as: “Are you experiencing an Obsession or a Compulsion?”,  “What Obsession are you experiencing?”, “What triggered the Obsession?” and “How intense is your anxiety?” Then, based on the answers, nOCD will offer specific Acceptance Based Therapy guidance, to help the member effectively respond to the obsession without doing a compulsion. We believe the SOS feature can empower people with OCD to live their lives fully, knowing help is always in their pocket.

Structured ERP Exercises

nOCD provides members with the tools and organization needed to consistently do planned OCD treatment exercises regularly and effectively, acting like a mental gym. The main challenge with doing these planned mental exercises is that they instigate anxiety. Since the anxiety alone can reduce OCD treatment adherence rates, the app attempts to remove all pain point. It offers members the ability to create loop tapes, scripts, and drawings. It also has built in exercise reminders and educational tips.

Custom Therapy

nOCD customizes the entire treatment process to each member, helping augment therapy with licensed clinicians. Patients can customize their hierarchies, their compulsion prevention messages (acceptance based messages), their ERP schedule and more.

24/7 In-App Support Group

Inside the nOCD app, people with OCD can join different support groups and anonymously post to each groups wall. We’ve created a platform where people can support each other through treatment and learn quickly that they are, in fact, not alone.

Real-Time Data Collection

It collects real-time data about every aspect of the patient’s condition and treatment. It also longitudinally displays the data for every patient and clinician to see at any time. nOCD protects each users PHI data to the highest degree possible. For example, it uses a dedicated (encrypted) Ec2 instance on Amazon Web Services, SSL connection, Touch ID login access, LastPass Password security, and new, monthly, VM keys. nOCD is a HIPAA compliant commercial enterprise.

It’s important to note that we have many improvements and additions coming to all of this. We are growing as a team and will continue to make the whole nOCD platform as efficient and helpful as possible. We understand what the struggle of living with OCD feels like, and we are excited to keep working at this to help the almost 200 million people around the world that are struggling with OCD each and everyday day/night.
 
Twitter: @TreatMyOCD
Instagram: @TreatMyOCD

 

The Depression Files–The Launch!

I had been “stockpiling” the interviews for several months. My idea was to launch a podcast in which I interview men who had experienced depression. The goal? It was threefold:

  1. To educate people on depression; the serious and often times debilitating nature of the illness
  2. To give hope to those who may be suffering from depression
  3. To help minimize, or even eliminate, the stigma around mental illness

I wanted to create a “stockpile” of interviews to eliminate any stress of getting episodes published on a regular basis.  I knew that I would need to find willing guests, schedule the interviews, record the interviews, and edit them. In the meantime, I was having a friend help me create a temporary logo (one that I hope to change in the near future) so that I could also post to iTunes.

I had a teaser up…and I had even created a “Sampler” for possible guests. I had no interviews published, so I figured possible guests may want to hear a sample of my interview style and get a feel for the project. I had created an intro, but had not yet created an outro. All of this allowed for me to continue down the path of promoting my teaser, without the worry of whether or not the show would be successful once I actually launched it. In the coaching world, we call this the Saboteur…and mine can be HUGE. The Saboteur is the negative self-talk that prevents us from moving forward. For example, “What makes me think I could be a successful interviewer?” or “I’ll never be as good as Terry Gross, Mark Maron, or Larry King” or “What if nobody listens to the show?”

Sometimes, there needs to be something that gives one a big kick in the rear to begin to move forward. That kick in the rear for me…World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, 2017. I figured, if I were ever going to launch this project, The Depression Files, there would never be a better day than World Suicide Prevention Day. I quickly made an outro, finished editing the show that I had decided would be the first episode, and…launched it! That was a big day for me! My teaser had been published at the end of June and I had been working on the project well before then.

My first episode was an interview with Steve Austin. As someone who is used to public speaking and hosts his own podcast, he was an ideal interviewee that made my “job” pretty darn easy. Steve is a life coach, author, speaker, and host of the #AskSteveAustin podcast. Steve has a website at iamsteveaustin.com. He is the author of the best-selling From Pastor to a Psych Ward: Recovery from a Suicide Attempt is Possible and other books, which can all be found by clicking here.

I have a new episode coming out every other Sunday and have just published my third one. I have been thoroughly enjoying the interviews and learning a great deal from every one of my guests (I believe I have about eleven more interviews recorded, awaiting to be edited).

I hope that you will listen to The Depression Files and that you are able to get something out of them. I hope that you will understand that depression is much, much worse than simply feeling sad. I hope that you will gain a deep sense of empathy for those who may be struggling with depression. In addition, I am hoping that any listeners who may be in the midst of a depressive episode, or living with chronic depression, are able to gain a sense of hope from the show. As cliche as it may sound, after going through major depression myself, I would never wish it upon my worst enemy.

If you would like to read more about the podcast, you can check out one of my earlier posts: Giving a Voice to Men with Depression: New Podcast Coming Soon!

As always, comments to this post are welcomed and encouraged! In addition, I hope that you may be willing to ‘like’ and/or share comments to any of the episodes of The Depression Files. Thank you!

The Essentiality of Sleep Through the Recovery of Depression

When I think of how important sleep is, I am reminded that sleep deprivation is often used as a form of torture. In Kelly Bulkily’s article titled, “Why Sleep Deprivation is Torture: Prolonged Sleep Deprivation is a Cruel and Useless Method of Interrogation”, he notes that, “The first signs of sleep deprivation are unpleasant feelings of fatigue, irritability, and difficulties concentrating.  Then come problems with reading and speaking clearly, poor judgment, lower body temperature, and a considerable increase in appetite.  If the deprivation continues, the worsening effects include disorientation, visual misperceptions, apathy, severe lethargy, and social withdrawal.” He goes on to say that, “One of the first symptoms of sleep deprivation in humans is a disordering of thought and bursts of irrationality.  Beyond 24 hours of deprivation people suffer huge drops in cognitive functions like accurate memory, coherent speech, and social competence. Eventually the victims suffer hallucinations and a total break with reality.”

It is clear from the depiction above, that decent sleep is an absolute necessity. Often times, when a new patient meets with a doctor regarding depression, sleep is the first issue they attempt to get under control. This is often done with the support of medication. Prescription sleep medication should only be taken upon consulting with your doctor, as it could interfere with other medication that one is taking and may have side effects.

In my case, I became overmedicated. When I entered a partial hospitalization program, I explained that I struggled falling asleep, but once asleep I could stay asleep. The psychiatrist added a prescription antihistamine to my regimen. He believed that the antihistamine would help me fall asleep (induce drowsiness) and the sleep medication that I was previously on would keep me asleep, as it had been doing.

For several weeks, the medication seemed to be just fine and I was sleeping well. However, eventually there were two separate evenings in which I had to get up in the middle of the night. On these two occasions, I experienced fainting spells. The first evening was when our daughter woke in the middle of the night and thought my wife and I were still awake. She went downstairs to the main floor of the house, accidentally setting off the house alarm. I shot out of bed and made it downstairs to the alarm panel. I quickly canceled the alarm and grabbed the phone to call the alarm company to ensure that it had properly been canceled. As I waited for them to answer, I collapsed suddenly to the ground. I came to, I believe a minute or so later, with my face inches from the bottom of the coat rack. Little did I know, that fall would give me a permanent shoulder injury that I still deal with today. After getting up, I walked about six feet, falling to the ground and fainting a second time. After coming to, I again got to my feet, started up the stairs banging off of the stairwell walls like a ping-pong ball, and fainted a third time, falling through the cracked-open door to my bedroom. By this time, my two oldest daughters were in the room with my wife.  I pulled myself up to the bed, lay down on my back, and told my wife I was just fine and needed some sleep. I was apparently as white as snow.

Since I serendipitously had to bring my daughter for a strep test the next day at Urgent Care, I decided I would mention my fainting spells. They checked me out, found nothing wrong, and asked me to call 911 if it happened again. Sure enough, two nights later, one of our two-year old twins was crying in the middle of the night. I got up to tend to Sam. I tried rubbing his back, singing to him (which understandably made him cry even louder), and rocking him. Nothing worked and he continued to kick at me. Getting frustrated, I turned to leave the room. Before I could take a step, I suddenly collapsed to the ground, fainting once again. This time, having fallen flat on my face, I ended up with a slightly bloody nose. My wife came quickly into the room when she heard the thud and attempted to wake me up for a good couple of minutes. After coming to and calling two family members who are doctors, my wife decided to contact 911. An ambulance arrived and two young EMTs were at my side taking my pulse and checking my vitals. After a short, bumpy ambulance ride through a Minnesota winter storm, I ended up in the Emergency Room (ER). I didn’t notice the sarcasm the ER doctor had used until I was walking back to my car. He had explained, “You don’t have to change your medications at all. All you’d have to worry about is death by bumping your head upon another fainting spell.” I quickly weaned off of the sleep medication.

Another possible side effect to be aware of with sleep medication is daytime drowsiness and confusion. It is my understanding that some of the sleep medication can build up in one’s system, making it difficult to wake up, causing drowsiness in the mornings, and adding to confusion. In my case, it was difficult for me to decipher whether some of the confusion and cognitive issues I was having were due to the medication or to the depression. Again, it’s important to take these medications under the consultation of a doctor and to let the doctor know of any possible side effects one may be having.

Some therapists believe that by treating insomnia alone through talk therapy, much of one’s depression may be cured. This type of talk therapy is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a structured program that helps you identify and replace thoughts and behaviors that cause or worsen sleep problems with habits that promote sound sleep. Unlike sleeping pills, CBT-I helps you overcome the underlying causes of your sleep problems” (Insomnia treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy instead of sleeping pills). The benefits of the CBT-I also seem to be long lasting. According to Colleen Carney, associate professor of psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, “…those who successfully resolved their insomnia with cognitive-behavioral therapy were twice as likely to shake depression as well” (Healthline.com). Some of the techniques used in CBT-I include:

  • Stimulus control therapy
  • Sleep restriction
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Sleep environment improvement
  • Relaxation training
  • Remaining passively awake
  • Biofeedback

Typically, the therapist and patient would select a combination of some of the above-mentioned techniques to work on. There are many resources on the worldwide web that explain each of the above techniques in details.

Another way to get sleep under control without the use of medication or talk therapy is through better sleep hygiene. Although this is one of the possible techniques mentioned above that may be used in CBT-I, some people focus solely on improving their sleep hygiene on their own. Sleep hygiene involves changes in lifestyle that will increase your chances for a better night of sleep. Some of the common strategies to improve one’s sleep hygiene include:

  • Limit naps during the day. Naps should be no longer than twenty minutes per day and should be taken well before your evening bedtime.
  • Limit your caffeine intake. Do not consume caffeine after 2pm or so.
  • Have a relaxing nighttime ritual such as reading, taking a warm bath, meditating or drinking some warm tea prior to going to sleep.
  • Use the bed for sleep (and sex) only. Do not read or watch TV in the bed. It is important for your brain to make the connection that equates your bed to sleep.
  • Do not use screens (computers, smart phones, TV, etc) just prior to going to bed. These stimulate the brain and make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Exercise, but not immediately before going to bed. Exercising just prior to going to bed will increase your heart rate and, again, make it more challenging to fall asleep quickly.
  • Be sure the room is dark and comfortable for sleep.

Whether it is with sleep medication under direction of a doctor, talk therapy, or better sleep hygiene, the importance of sleep when working towards recovery from depression cannot be over-emphasized.

As with all of my posts, comments are welcomed and encouraged!

(Note: This post was originally published by Psych Central at the following link)

Giving a Voice to Men with Depression: New Podcast Coming Soon!

I have been a mental health advocate for just over one year. I’ve been blogging, tweeting, and speaking publicly for NAMI. I’ve been invited to attend a conference for online advocates of chronic illnesses, interviewed for podcasts and radio shows, and have been published or quoted in several publications.

Several months ago, I decided that I wanted to do more. I’m in the process of producing a new podcast: The Depression Files. I believe that men experience depression differently. There is often a belief (including by men themselves) that men need to just “be tough” or “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”. Men aren’t “supposed” to talk about their feelings. These stereotypes and this stigma make it more difficult for men to face their depression. Men tend to isolate themselves and are less likely to reach out for the help they need.

I hope that the podcast helps to educate those who have never experienced depression. Depression isn’t just feeling sad. In fact, sometimes sadness isn’t even the feeling at all. It’s been described by many as a feeling of numbness. Hear stories that give a first-hand perspective on how it feels to go through some of the very challenging times of depression and just how debilitating it can be.

I also hope that the podcast gives hope to those who may be struggling currently with depression. These are stories of hope. Stories of living with depression. Managing depression. Overcoming depression.

Please check out my podcast at allevin18.podbean.com. If you are a man who has dealt with depression and would like to be interviewed, please contact me at levi1818@yahoo.com.

 

An Open Letter to Anyone Experiencing Depression

Dear you,

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!

With compassion,

Al


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 therecoveryletters@yahoo.co.uk.