DEPRESSION IS REAL

I found this article in a blog I subscribe to.
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Depression, like all mental illness, comes in many shapes and sizes. It can take years or just days to diagnose your mental illness based solely on the symptoms that you show. For many people, the suffering they have felt is all too real. Whether it be the emptiness and lows of depression, the peaks, and valleys of Bipolar, the fear, and terror behind PTSD, or even the stress and pressure of Anxiety; the pain we all feel differs between each of us. This, of course, does not make it any less real than those yet to be diagnosed.

Every so often I see the same gif on the internet of a forest and a bottle of pills. If you’ve seen it, you probably know which one it is that I am talking about. The top portion of the woods shows the words, “This is an Antidepressant,” which for some people it is, and I do not discount that fact. The bottom half though, shows a bottle of pills falling over with the words “This is a lifelong addiction.” That really, every single time I see it, just makes me lose my head for a minute. I want to grab whoever made that and scream at them, knowing full well that it won’t solve a single thing. A similar image that surfaces every once in a while is the one below:

Similar to the gif, this image discounts the use of medication as a treatment method, in preference of nature. Like I said, nature is great and all, but it won’t help me to not kill myself!

I love being outside, camping, living off the land, its great; and it does help alleviate some stress and sadness. Yet, it’s not a long-term thing, it will not help me every single day for the rest of my life; whereas, the medication will do just that. Sure, I agree that it will technically be a lifelong addiction, but it will keep me alive. That’s like telling someone with diabetes that they’re just addicted to taking insulin. See the craziness here?

Depression is real, so is Anxiety, PTSD, Bipolar 1&2, BPD and a whole bunch of other mental illnesses. So please, do not discourage taking medication that will save our lives. Please do not tell us to cheer up because other people have it worse. Please do not stigmatize the discussion of mental health. Please just listen, and let us live our lives the best way we can.

Yours,
Wolfgang

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Out of the Blue

Ten minutes ago, I was in the process of purchasing travel insurance for an upcoming trip. The person taking my order was a young woman named Theresa who lives in Wisconsin.

We chatted while the policy processed in their system, and I let he know I was an author. When she asked what books I’ve written, I told her my latest book was called How I Escaped from Depression. The phone went silent for a couple of seconds, after which Theresa told me her father had bought the book on Amazon and had benefited greatly from it. He’s recommended it to several of his friends.

Theresa also has had experience with depression and asked her father to lend her the book. He refused, with a chuckle she said, because he didn’t want to give up his copy. She’s going to purchase her own copy on Amazon. If you are interested in doing the same, here’s the ordering link: HOW I ESCAPED FROM DEPRESSION.

 

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A Sermon Of Truth About Depression

The message below comes from a pastor named Kathy Hurt, who went through two bouts of depression and is now not ashamed to discuss it. It is much like my story. I couldn’t write How I Escaped from Depression until seven years after I escaped it.

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As a church pastor, I prepare sermons every week that will (hopefully) help people live well and love fully. I have found that including stories from my own life experiences seems to resonate most with my listeners. They tell me that when I talk about myself, they feel as though “you were talking about me.” I always enjoy hearing such feedback—except when it is spoken in a low voice, almost a whisper, and comes with a knowing look or an especially strong hug.

That is the response I receive exclusively when I talk about my depression.

Twice in my life, I have fallen into an extended bout of depression, which has required hospitalization, medication, shock treatments, lots of therapy and time off work. My depression comes with persistent thoughts of suicide, and I have attempted suicide more than once. Recovery is never quick: My first depressive episode required a two-year stay in a psychiatric hospital for me to feel functional once again, while the second depression hung over me for nearly three years. With each occurrence, I believed I would never know joy again, would never be able to work and might so tire the patience of my family and friends that they would give up on me—not to mention the fact that I gave up on myself at least five times a day.

Yet I recovered—not just to a small degree, but fully. Today, I serve a large congregation and have recently published a memoir about my first depressive episode. My motivation for writing that story is the same motivation that inspires me to speak about depression in my sermons: I am committed to push back against the stigma that is still attached to mental illness.

Such a resolve—not only to not be cowed by stigma but to resist it—did not come easily to me. I often found myself believing some of the negative messages that accompany stigma—messages that told me I was not depressed but simply weak-willed or lazy, messages that shamed me for not being able to deal with the ordinary challenges of life that everyone around me seemed to navigate without getting depressed, messages that suggested I was not normal and never would be, messages that I would always have to work extra hard to look good, to be loved.

With all those messages reverberating around, I kept my mouth shut for a long time about my mental illness. The stigma felt especially daunting in the context of my profession: Pastors are supposed to be paradigms of perfection, to be endowed with the sort of faith that keeps them immune from something like mental illness. So, the notion of ever sharing my experiences with others was something I didn’t even consider.

Until one day. A couple in my congregation asked if I would consider going to see their college-age daughter, who had been placed on a 72-hour hold in the psychiatric unit of a local hospital. They were distressed by their inability to understand what was wrong or how they could help her. Because they remembered that she and I had formed a positive connection when she was in high school, they hoped that I might somehow get through to her.

I headed off to the hospital and was buzzed into the unit, my thoughts full of memories of times when I had been on the other side of that locked door. I found the young woman seated by herself near a window in the patient lounge. I pulled up a chair and explained that her parents had told me what happened. I tried various conversation openers, none of which got any response aside from a shrug, a polite smile, a vague answer.

Then almost without intending, I said: “You know, when I was in college, I had a breakdown, and I was so depressed I had to drop out and was hospitalized.” Now I had her full attention, as I told more of my story. Her eyes filled with tears, and her own story began to unfold.

The young woman’s parents subsequently told me that my visit had a remarkable impact: They saw their daughter shift and demonstrate a desire to be helped, to try and heal. They thought I had some sort of magic touch, yet the “magic” was not in anything I did; rather, it is the same magic that happens whenever someone risks being vulnerable and shares parts of their soul.

Our personal stories have the power to heal, if only we can set aside the stigmatizing messages that try to shame us into silence.

Mental Illness Is Not A Sin

Despite all the advances in treatment, despite all the ways in which our culture has become more enlightened and compassionate, somehow mental illness remains in a category of its own, regarded as some sort of peculiar affliction that is best dealt with by toughing it out, straightening up, putting one’s will into play and hiding any evidence of possible symptoms.

When my church members whisper that it felt like “you were talking about me,” I feel a deep sadness that this admission seems to come with a sense of shame, as though the individual were confessing some terrible sin or shortcoming. As a result, I feel like I have more work to do. We all do.

I am not a mental health counselor, but I do provide spiritual counseling in my pastoral work. Whenever someone comes to talk with me about mental health, I have some touchstones that I typically offer:

  • Be gentle with yourself. All of us are struggling and doing the best we can.
  • Be patient. Humans are incredibly complicated organisms, unpredictable even on our best days, and we will not always respond in the same way.
  • Be grateful. Many spiritual traditions urge cultivating a practice of gratitude, something as simple as finding three things each day, however small, to be thankful for. Gratitude can shift an entire world view toward greater trust, bit by bit.
  • Be vulnerable. We form our deepest connections with others not around our accomplishments or successes, but around our experiences of suffering. We bond when we share stories of those experiences with one another.
  • Be kind. When we notice someone else, even for just a moment in a shared glance or holding open a door, we are lifted out of our own loneliness and a bit closer into the human community.

I will keep telling and retelling stories of my personal struggles with depression and suicide, keeping alive the hope that one day any traces of stigma and shame associated with mental illness will vanish. We will all be so much stronger then.

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Suicide

The following excerpt from my book, How I Escaped from Depression, addresses the question family and friends ask after a loved one commits suicide. “Why did he take his own life? He had so much to live for.”

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Medication brought stability to me; it didn’t to Barry. Psychotherapy helped me come to grips with my perfectionism; it solved nothing for Barry. Anointing and prayer brought God’s strength and peace to me. The same things brought no relief to Barry, and he was a stronger Christian than I in so many ways.

I’ll never forget his last words to me that fateful morning. “Pat, I don’t know how much longer I can stand this.” Later that afternoon, his wife returned from grocery shopping to find her husband hanging from the rafters in the garage, with a sturdy rope he had bought at a hardware store two days earlier.

I’m afraid some Christians, not as many now as there used to be, believe a person who commits suicide is automatically assigned to hell, like being handed a ticket for a bus heading south. This may be the given destination for some, but for other reasons. Barry couldn’t help himself. He wasn’t in control of his life. Depression and anxiety took over, leaving him not even an ounce of himself.  The dark force that controlled him found the rope, threw it over the rafters, and roughly pushed Barry off the stool. He had nothing to do with it.

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Battling Depression

Check out Best For Christ Magazine for my article on Battling Depression>

ARTICLE LINK

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I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO ANYONE STRUGGLING WITH DEPRESSION

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO ANYONE STRUGGLING WITH DEPRESSION
I found this review on Amazon yesterday and felt it captured what I was trying to accomplish with How I Escaped from Depression.
“This book could be considered a self help manual, which it IS, but it is also the story of a few critical years in the author’s life. His thoughts and feelings are on display and it really gives one the sense of helplessness that he struggled with during this time. Aside from his transparency in relating his story, he provides a picture of how it affected his family, as well, which is often NOT a focus in this type of autobiographical piece. The 10 lessons he learned and reveals are actually TRUTHS about depression that seem simple and obvious, once read, but are not ones that are so succinctly communicated in books of this nature. I highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with depression, as well as those with a depressed friend or loved one.”
Anne Pace
I also found yesterday that the book was ranked within the top 250 in both Mental Health Depression and Mental Health Anxiety. It seems that others are finding this a helpful book.
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DEPRESSION IS LIKE A REAL PERSON

DEPRESSION IS LIKE A REAL PERSON

This excerpt comes from a book I wrote called How I Escaped from Depression, which can be seen on the following link: amazon

Then Depression – that destroyer of my soul and afflicter of my body – took over every fabric of my being. You’ll notice I refer to Depression as a real person. You see, he’s as real as the fellow next door, as authentic as the person who comes to clean your rugs. Before this time, there was a me controlled by me, the normal state of a person. Now the me was controlled by Depression, with the normal me thrown under a bus. If I were a woman, Depression would be a her.

Lesson One:

Depression is not some nebulous, wispy thing best left unmentioned. He’s a real enemy, intent on destroying his victims, men and women, boys and girls. He won’t go away by just ignoring him.

For four years, two people struggled against each other to command my body and control my soul (that is, my mind, will, and emotions). One was me. The other was Depression.

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