My friend, Chuck Pearson (@ShorterPearson on Twitter) published a marvelous essay last week on his struggle with depression. I’ve thought for a couple of years about writing about mine but could never get around to it. This has been especially true in the last year since Dad died. The beauty and clarity of what he wrote pushed me through the remaining barriers so I could out my depression and share my story.
In November of 2016 I was in a very dark space. There are/were many external reasons, things that been building to a crescendo pitch for years, but ultimately it was a failure to address the fact I had never admitted my depression, nor had I tried to treat it effectively. There was no excuse for this, other than the depression itself. I understood depression to be an illness, a chemical imbalance. After all, my wife was being treated for it, my oldest, and others around me.
I simply didn’t want to deal with it. I was being self-destructive.
I quit caring about myself.
It wasn’t until a very smart and insightful friend asked, “Tod, why do you hate yourself?”
I was stunned. It stopped me cold. I had no answer. But I did understand what I had just learned. It took me several days to absorb it, to come to terms with it. Two weeks later I made some choices.
I went to my PCP told him I felt depressed as a regular, ongoing thing. “Tod,” he said, “You know it is a chemical imbalance. We can can treat it.” Just like that I had a script for a mild antidepressant, starting low to determine its effectiveness.
Later the same morning, I made two calls. One to a therapist that had been recommended to me, one to a weight-loss clinic. I made radical changes to my diet and lifestyle and went to counseling two days a week for several months. It was intense.
Forty months later, I am in a much better place. I’m still on the antidepressant. After ending counseling and just doing the ongoing work required to be healthy, I have started back to counseling. It’s different this time, not just because I have a new counselor, but I am working on something else. Before I was working on the self-hatred thing, now the focus is simply on happiness.
Is my depression solved? No, its treated. As long as I take my script each day, pay attention to life, check-in on myself regularly, and keep my doctor apprised of how I am doing, it’s managed. I wish I had done this years ago. My depression was not new. Looking back it was clearly a part of my life a long damn time.
Like I said, I wish I had taken these steps a years ago. Age 58 is a little late, but damn well better late than never.