I want you to imagine the following scenario: You have everything you have ever wanted.
If you are single, you are enjoying the single life. If you are married or in a steady relationship, that relationship is going strong. Your children, if you have children, are happy and healthy. Your career is satisfying. Your social network outside of your immediate family is also thriving. But inside of you, there is a dark void. Nothing can fill that void and as much as you try to put on the mask of having a good life, that mask can easily crumble into your hands.
This is depression.
The new song Zero, by Imagine Dragons is part of the Ralph Breaks The Internet soundtrack.
The song hits the nail on the head. Depression is like an emotional wormhole that sucks out all of the good things in your life and leaves on the constant reminders of the bad things. It revels in your mistakes, your flaws and your anxieties. It reminds you how useless and stupid you are. Worst of all, it prompts you to take your own life.
The worst part of living with mental illness is not the mental illness, but the stigma attached. If this song helps one person to ask for help, then it is more than a song. It it a lifesaver.
When we talk about our health, we usually talk about our physical health. We don’t talk about our mental health. While discussions about physical health are accepted as normal, discussions about mental health are still considered to be taboo.
Today is World Mental Health Day.
I’ve been grappling with depression for quite a few years. It has been my unwanted constant companion for far too long. But even with my depression, I still count my blessings. Among those blessings is that my employer provides health insurance which allows me to receive treatment without completely emptying my wallet. Not everyone who wrestles with mental illness is fortunate enough to be able to seek treatment with a reasonable cost attached to it.
The problem, as I see it, is the stigma that comes with mental health problems. If someone for example, has heart disease, there is no question that they will go to the doctor and seek whatever treatment is required. But if someone has depression, anxiety, PTSD or any other form of mental illness, it’s almost like there is subtle snickering about seeking help. Some of us throw around words like bipolar or claim to be depressed when we are merely having a bad day, but they have no idea what the effect of those words are on someone who lives with mental illness.
My hope is that we can use this day to spread awareness and encourage at least one person who is suffering from mental health issues to seek help. It may just save their life.
When you picture someone living with depression, the image that is conjured up is someone sleeping or staring mindlessly at the television all day. They don’t work, they don’t go school, they just do nothing all day.
While that is the experience of someone else living with depression, that is not my experience. From the outside, I don’t look or sound like I have depression. I look like and live like any functioning adult. I have a steady job and a steady income; my social calendar on the weekends is often full. But the fact is that the black dog, as Winston Churchill spoke of so tellingly, is an unwanted fixture in my life.
I was diagnosed with dysthymia when I was in my late 20’s. I saw my first therapist when I was about 12. Since then, I’ve had about a half a dozen therapists (my present therapist included) and I’m taking an anti-depressant to help to manage my depression.
The black dog is forever with me. When I’ve had a good day, it reminds me of my shortcomings, both perceived and real. When I’ve had a bad day, it is like a perpetual rain cloud that continually hangs over my head. It exhausts me to no end, if my depression had its way, I would be sleeping most of the day. It says that I am not good enough, that my life is not worth living. Some days it feels like I am wearing a mask to hide my true feelings.
What they don’t see is the constant barrage of negative thoughts that are always with me. They don’t see the energy it takes to get up in the morning to get to work on time. They don’t see the bags under my eyes and feel the overwhelming exhaustion that I feel daily. They don’t hear the voices in my head telling me to kill myself. They don’t see the unshed tears that I sometimes have to fight tooth and nail to keep from spilling down my cheeks.
I’ve been through a lot in my nearly 37 years, I have much to be proud of. But at the same time, the depression tells me that it is not enough and will never be enough.
The black dog, as Winston Churchill put it, has struck again.
On Wednesday, the dog claimed the life of designer Kate Spade. This morning, the life the dog took was that of chef, author and television personality Anthony Bourdain. He was 61.
He was found in his hotel room in France where he was filming a future episode for his CNN series, Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown.
Depression and mental illness is not a joke. At best, the person suffering lives as best they can. At worst, they take their own life, causing their loved ones to ask questions that can never be answered.
My heart breaks for those who knew him on a personal level, especially his young daughter and his girlfriend, Asia Argento. Ms. Argento is one of the woman who accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and assault.
I know what it is like to live with the black dog. It sits on my lap all day, every day. If your reading this post and you also have the black dog sitting on your lap, please get help. If not for your sake, but for the ones you love.
Depression is like a dark cloud that refuses to dissipate. Professional success, a solid marriage, happy children and supportive family/friends can often mean nothing when one lives with depression. The dark thoughts are insidious, invading the thoughts and psyche of the person suffering until for some the only way to get ride of them is take your own life.
Today it took another life, that of fashion designer Kate Spade.
Ms. Spade was found this morning by her housekeeper. While there has not been an official ruling on her passing, speculation is pointing to suicide caused by depression.
She leaves behind her husband, her teenage daughter, a fashion empire and many who will miss her terribly.
What breaks my heart is that she had every reason to live, but that was not enough in the fight against mental illness.
If you are suffering, please seek help. Whether it is through your clergy person, a therapist, a trusted loved one or another resource, please get help. You are beautiful, you are worth it and you are powerful. You deserve all of the good things that have come and will come your way.
The telephone for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. The life you may save with the phone call is yours.
She was 55. May her memory be a blessing.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
As many of my readers know, depression is my constant companion and has been so for quite a few years.
Depression or any mental illness is not just an excuse for acting up or staying in bed all day and mindlessly staring at the television. It is very real and affects millions of people around the world.
It also takes lives in the form of suicide.
If nothing else, this month encourages those who suffer to get help. It is possible to live a full life with mental illness, but we must seek out help.
Please, if you suffer like I do and you are not working with a mental health professional, I highly recommend that you do so. The life you may end up saving is yours.
Like any disease, depression knows no boundaries. Not even those whose have successful careers in Hollywood are immune.
Wrestler and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has recently has recently come out as living with depression.
Like many that live with mental illness, The Rock is genetically disposed toward living with depression. His mother suffered from the disease and nearly killed herself in front of her son when The Rock was a teenager.
I find comfort, as weird as it sounds, that The Rock has made a public announcement. Mental illness, even after all of these years, still carries a stigma. In coming out of the closet, so to speak, he has put another public face on the disease. If someone like The Rock can live with depression and still live a full and happy life, then perhaps the rest of us can.
Depression knows nothing of boundaries. It doesn’t matter where you grew up, where your family is from, who you go home to every night, etc. Not even fame and success in Hollywood can ward off the demons of depression.
Rick Springfield is one of the millions around the world who suffer from depression. The musician and actor recently opened about his own bouts with depression and his attempts to take his own life.
I found his story not only to be meaningful, but also relevant. One of the things I have learned about depression is that those of us who suffer from the disease tell the same story. We may use different phrasing and talk about our battles with depression from our own individual perspectives, but the stories are the same.
I find that very comforting because we need to talk openly about depression and other mental illnesses. Talking open and honestly opens doors, helps to diminish the stigma, brings comfort to those suffering and will hopefully prevent the loss of life due to suicide.
It can be said that one cannot understand another until they walk a mile in another’s shoes.
Especially when it comes to depression.
I could describe how it feels to live with depression, but I think the video below basically says it all.
It’s a cold, lonely feeling that never ceases to go away, akin to sitting in a empty bathtub, shivering cold with no clothes on, without light or heat.
It is the saddest, scariest feeling anyone can experience. Millions of us suffer from it and too many die from it. I think the most important thing to remember is that we are not alone. If we remember that, then we can somehow find a way not just to live, but to thrive.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”-Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
One of the more common signs of depression is how easy it is to stay home and do nothing.
The weather in New York City for the past few days has been frigid. Walking outside is akin to walking into an icebox. No amount of layers can protect against the freezing temperature.
I could have stayed in today after completing some minor errands. It would have been easy to say that the weather makes for an excuse for staying in.
But I knew I couldn’t stay home. I couldn’t let the depression win. Not today at least.
It took a lot for me to get out after completing my errands. More than I expected. But I did it. I know that my depression will never go away. But if I have the courage and strength to fight against it, then maybe one day, it will not have the stranglehold it does on my life.