Friday, November 12, 2010

The Well of Depression

As the commercial says… “Depression Hurts.” But for those experiencing the bottomless, dark well of depression, it goes much deeper than that. I call it the “well of depression” because when someone is acutely depressed, they feel like they are caught in this great, dark abyss with no sight of light anywhere to be found. With no light, they lose hope. And with no hope, they lose their will to live.

According to some statistics, over 15 million people in the United States are suffering from depression. From what I see, it is one of the most misunderstood disorders we can experience. Most people have the idea that you can just snap out of depression. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Depression is real and it affects people of all ages, races, and cultures in some form or another. And unless you have experienced depression, you do not have a clue what it is like. I also want to make it clear that there is a big difference between feeling depressed, and being in a depression. All people have periods of feeling depressed, but they can come out of it just as easily as they went into it. For depression, it’s not that easy.

Over the course of my adult life, I have experienced depression to varying degrees. Because of my happy-go-lucky personality and a great ability to hide my feelings, no one ever knew the extent of what I was feeling. For those who are good at sweeping things under the rug, we know that at some point, the bump in the rug is going to become large enough that we are going to trip over it, and trip over it I did. After years of swallowing my feelings and hiding the depression, it finally manifested itself as a total breakdown in 1997. I was living in an apartment on my own at the time, but since I was now unable to function, my parents had to move me in with them.

Unfortunately, at the time, my parents didn’t understand depression and thought like most people, that all I had to do was snap out of it, get a job, and I would be fine. As I said, it’s not that simple. For the next couple of years, I did a lot of crying and sleeping. I also swallowed a lot of anger because no one seemed to understand what I was going through, so I continued to swallow my feelings. Because my mind was so busy all the time, I also suffered from insomnia. At one point, I took two many pills three times (though not enough to cause harm, but enough to scare me}, not to hurt myself, but I just wanted to stop thinking. At that point, my doctor suggested that I admit myself to a psychiatric hospital where I stayed for four days. I thought “finally, I’ll get the help that I need.” Didn’t happen. I didn’t get any counseling or therapy. The hospital just kept me until my insurance company said no more. In fact, the day after I admitted myself, I was feeling okay, and ended up counseling the other patients.

The good thing was that I had begun delving into spirituality before the breakdown and had begun to learn about the power of our thoughts. The first couple of years I was with my parents, I read book after book about spirituality, self-empowerment, motivational, and any other book I could find that might help me get out of that deep dark well. I kept an open mind in all things. I started to work on my thoughts. And I started to get better and heal. I also started taking anti-depressants which would help balance my “brain critters” until I could get a good handle on life.

At one point, I did start seeing a therapist, but she told me I was only paying her to tell me the same things that I was telling myself, and that she never had a patient like me because I knew what to do to get better. I was looking forward and not back. You can’t move forward if you’re always looking in the rearview mirror.

Granted, my depression wasn’t as severe as many who have gone through it. I didn’t experience any traumatic events that spiraled me into the abyss. Therefore, I wasn’t as deep in the well as most. I saw the light at the top and had a point to move towards. And I moved into that light to wellness.

It’s amazing to me to see how many people are experiencing this awful disease. For a time, I worked in the medical records department of a mental health center and was surrounded by thousands of files filled with many stories of people who experienced the most horrific and traumatic periods in their lives. I would walk through the waiting area filled with people, and since I’m so sensitive to people’s energies, I could “feel” their helplessness and desperation.

Recently, I watched an episode of “Oprah” when Marie Osmond was the guest, and she talked about her son’s suicide when he jumped off the balcony of his apartment complex to his death. In all outward appearances, her son seemed happy and well-adjusted. But he was, like me, good at hiding what he was feeling.

Suicide is an extreme result of depression and another issue that people don’t understand and are very judgmental about. People don’t want to commit suicide. They just want to end the pain, and in that one split second of desperation, they make that rash decision to end their life.

So…what’s the answer? Why are so many people experiencing depression? Why has it grown to such epidemic proportions? There are probably just as many answers as there are symptoms and reasons, but as of now, no miracle cure. In my case, I was able to heal by really working on my thoughts. At one point, I hated myself with a passion. I hated everything about me. I also ate all the wrong foods resulting in a eating disorder. Too much sugar, processed foods, chemicals, etc. My belief is that the foods we take in are one of the biggest culprits to depression (outside of dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic experience}. I was already a vegetarian, but I cut out most all fake foods. I’m still working on the sugar, but I’m a lot better than I was. I also began a serious spiritual journey and worked on listening to that still inner voice within. The voice of Spirit. And that voice will never fail you.

At this point in my life, even though I’m not always happy with my life circumstances, I can say that I am probably the best I’ve ever been. I’m happy within, I have a very positive and optimistic outlook on life, and I want to help others to overcome their own life struggles in order to be the happy and joyful person they were meant to be. I am now a motivational speaker and my intention is to teach people to learn to love and accept themselves as they are, and to share my own life experiences so that maybe, they too, can learn what I learned.

I also really believe that a great part of overcoming depression is to learn to love yourself unconditionally, to know that you were meant to be, and always were, this wonderful, beautiful, magnificent being. You were meant to have a healthy self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. We were born that way! Somehow, though, along the way of growing up, we’ve forgotten.

For anyone who is experiencing depression, or knows someone who is, my heart goes out to you. If you or anyone you know is suffering from any signs of this dark illness, please get help. Do not think that they are just going through a phase and will snap out of it. Don’t take chances. It only takes that one split-second decision to make that rash decision to take a life. Stop it before that happens. There’s always hope. Anthony Robbins once said, “Never take away a person’s hope because that may be all they have left.”

For those who are reading this and are in that abyss, know that you are loved. You are worthy. You are a wonderful, magnificent child of the Universe. Never give up. Hang in there and keep looking for the answers until you find them. They are there. I promise.