I may have depression, but depression doesn’t have me.
When he was 23, my friend Steve took his own life, and although I don’t think of him every day, I do think of him often, and I wonder what kind of life he’d have now if he’d gotten help for his depression. Today, as a 41 year old recalling being 23, I can’t imagine a person ending a life that is just beginning.
“I am proud to support NAMI because NAMI supports people like me when we need it the most.
I haven’t ever felt suicidal, but I do have depression and anxiety. I suffered for no good reason for decades, until I couldn’t reconcile my awesome life with feeling terrible all the time. Talking therapy wasn’t ever enough for me, and I was very resistant to medication because I believed—and continue to believe—that we are an over-medicated culture.
The thing is, I wouldn’t just sit around and suffer if I had a treatable non-mental illness. I wouldn’t “just deal” with a broken arm. I wouldn’t refuse medication if I was experiencing a serious physical illness, like when I had H1N1. But I was afraid that medication for my brain would change who I was. I was afraid that it wouldn’t work. I was afraid that I was going to spend the rest of my life struggling to just get out of bed every day. I kept thinking about some friends of mine, both incredibly successful and creative people, who speak very openly about their mental illness. Though it was a little scary for me, I worked up the courage to talk about it with them. I asked them about their experiences and medications, and afterward, I wasn’t afraid of getting help. I made an appointment to see a doctor, and I got better.
Now, I take some medication every day, and it has made all the difference in my life. I also talk about my depression in public, because I don’t want anyone else to go through what I did, when getting help is a phone call away. I talk about it because maybe someone who admires me the way I admire my friends will hear me, and make that phone call.
I remember the first week after I started my medication, my wife and I were out for a walk. I felt her hand in mine, and realized that I didn’t have any lingering tension or unhappiness buzzing around in my skull. I was just enjoying a walk with my wife and holding her hand. And I began to cry, because I was so happy.
“It’s like I was in a loud room for so long, I didn’t know how loud it was,” I said, “and all I have now is the ringing in my ears.”
She squeezed my hand and I said, “I’m going to remember that ringing in my ears, so I never go back into that room again.”
That was about five years ago, and I’m happy to say that I’ve stayed out of the loud room. I can actually enjoy my friends, my family and my life. I have bad days from time to time, but I know they’ll pass, and—most important of all—I may have depression, but depression doesn’t have me. I know that’s sort of corny, but it’s pretty accurate too.
Please know this: if you have depression, you do not have to suffer. NAMI is there to help you.
NAMI is just a phone call or a click away and can provide you with resources to help you get support and information on finding safe, effective treatments and services, so even if you have depression, depression won’t have you. The NAMI education programs are available in towns and cities throughout the country and help thousands of individuals living with mental illness and their families every day. I am proud to support NAMI because NAMI supports people like me when we need it the most.
But for NAMI to be able to support people like me in times of need, it needs your support too.
So, please, if you or someone you know are affected by depression or another mental illness—with or without thoughts of suicide—please talk to someone, and get help from a doctor. As my friend Jenny Lawson says, “Depression lies, and you don’t need to let it control your life.”
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