We’ve arrived at a place in time where everyone has something. ADD. OCD. Asperger’s Syndrome. Depression. Personality Disorder. SAD. The list is endless. And while treatment for mental illness is still not mainstream, we mention the labels flippantly and often.
My Dad suffered from severe depression for over 3 decades. He visited countless counselors and therapists, pastors, and MD’s. He contemplated suicide. He mused about moving and living alone in the Colorado rockies. He joined Writer’s Groups. He was a tortured spirit. He lived woefully and painfully for most of his adult life in the depths of his own mind from which he could get no relief. I couldn’t help him. No one could.
The worst advice I think he ever got was from our evangelical pastor who told him “if you just had more faith Dick, you wouldn’t be depressed.” What an idiot. The second worst advice he ever got was from a counselor who told him to write his Mother a letter baring his soul about his childhood and their relationship. She never spoke to him again.
The tragic part of this whole story is that my Dad was the kindest, gentlest, most loving man I ever met, other than my own husband. He was a master craftsman and a writer. He knew how to laugh. He loved teaching boys how to become real men through his carpentry. He loved people, butterscotch lifesavers and God.
But he was tortured.
My Dad lived in the shadow of my Mom’s real struggle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She did everything she could to turn everyone’s attention to my Dad’s depression so that the focus wouldn’t be on her. For the most part, it worked. He sought help, she didn’t.
(Sidenote: I’m not a psychotherapist or an MD. I have no formal counseling background even though I’ve visited my own fair share of psyche people over the years and can recite at least 10 different medications for depression and anxiety.)
But this is what I know from my 50 years of life experience. Depression is unrealized potential. When you give up what ‘might have been’ and believe it’s over for you it settles in like a long-hard winter and threatens to consume your soul. Depression isn’t necessarily chemical like all the nauseating ads on television would have you think. It’s because you know there is more purpose in you than you are willing to admit.
Depression is the body’s way of rebelling at life. It’s yelling, screaming and yes, even making you sick thinking about it. And until you do something it’s going to consume you. You’re going to get sicker and sicker. You’re going to lose yourself if you don’t watch out.
And then the worst happens. You get the “depression” label. People interact with you differently because you’re ‘depressed’. They talk in whispers and single you out behind your back. They understand when you don’t show up for things because you’re having a ‘bad day’. You’ve officially opted out of real life.
I believe that depression is a life off-track. You know, you wanted to go to SUCCESS Freeway and you ended up on DETOUR #362. You’re sad because you know there are things you should be doing. Decisions you should be making. Action you should be taking. But you’re not willing to do any of them.
You have to move, take action, pray. You have to become wildly obsessed about life and quit succumbing to the TV and the comfort of sleep. You have to be willing to ask for help. You have to cry when it hurts. You have to change something, anything really. You have to start showing up. Because way down deep in your soul, it’s not depression that’s killing your life. It’s something even bigger. It’s you.