An Open Apology to Anyone With Depression

10k
10k
21

This apology is for all the people with depression I’ve spoken with, written with, worked with and met, and all the lovely souls dedicated to helping us spread the word on depression and mental illness at the University of Colorado Depression Center:

I’m sorry. I didn’t get it. I owe you an apology. A huge one.

Please accept my sincere words.

I realized I “wellsplained” an entire group of people.

How did I “wellsplain”? I offered simple answers for a very complex group of symptoms.

For every time I said, “Get more sunshine! Laugh more. Smile! Get exercise. Exercise gives you endorphins! Endorphins help alleviate depression! Choose to be happy. Eat more whole foods” — I’m sorry.

Every time I hear myself saying those things I shudder now — I’m so sorry.

I didn’t get it. I disease-shamed you all, and you were nothing but nice back.

And yes, each of those things offer help. Positive thinking, getting therapeutic help, meeting with a great doctor, increasing sunshine, increasing sleep, decreasing junk food and increasing serotonin-enhancing foods all “help.” But the answer isn’t simple. I understand that now. Depression is a myriad of symptoms.

After a car wreck injured my brain last year, I found out a thing (or 200-plus things) more about brains.

One thing I learned about concussed brains: There are neurochemical changes that didn’t exist prior to the injury. Neurochemical changes to really important neurotransmitters. My dopamine, melatonin and serotonin. Calmness, happiness and sleep. All gone. I started to get it. From the inside this time.

Sure, I studied neuroscience as it related to motivation, thriving, development, behavior and happiness before the accident — but from the outside. I knew about all the trainings and all the up-to-date research. Someone with depression had lots of options for treatments. Right?

But nothing prepared me for the day I woke up and I was gone. Before the accident, I would have defined myself as happy for no reason. Positive. Energetic. Vibrant. I just woke up that way. I didn’t even have to think about it. I was a Bright Sider. “Well, look on the bright side…”

Until I wasn’t.

About a week after the hit and run car accident that totaled my SUV, I woke up confused. Out of it. Simple things didn’t seem so simple anymore, like how to use a microwave.

And that natural happiness I’d felt all my life seemed like a distant memory. A loop in time. It was as if Happy lived at an old friend’s house. I knew I’d been there, I remembered being there, but I couldn’t figure out how to get back.

And believe me when I tell you this: No amount of sunshine or laughing or choosing happiness was going to suddenly fix my neurotransmitters. No amount of walking was going to help me suddenly find the directions to Happy. Positive thinking couldn’t suddenly un-shear my neurotransmitters, and the law of attraction wouldn’t attract newly formed lobes.

Now, I really get it from the inside out.

You have my full respect. And I’d love to know what works for you. Because this isn’t easy, by any stretch of the imagination.

For all of you who have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, I just wanted to say I’m sorry for “wellsplaining” you. Me, with my positive thinking and law of attraction and sunshine and green smoothies. While I still believe in those things wholeheartedly, especially the smoothies, I know they aren’t going to “fix” everything. It takes a plan. A strategy. And I understand that now. It takes rigorous actions and self-care strategies beyond what I ever imagined just to keep my mind at peace.

One day I hope that my brain will find her way to Happy again. Until then, maybe I’ll make new friends along the way.

A version of this piece originally appeared on The Good Men Project

10k
10k
21

RELATED VIDEOS

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

How This Woman Turned Her Depression Into a Worldwide Movement of Love Letters

342
342
1

The world doesn’t need another website,” declares the homepage of The World Needs More Love Letters. “It doesn’t need another app or a network. What it needs is really basic. Simple. Bare-boned and often forgotten in the race to get followers, likes and status.”

According to The World Needs More Love Letters founder Hannah Brencher, what the world needs is more love.

When Brencher moved to New York City after graduating from college, she thought her dream life was about to begin. Instead, she found herself facing a different beast: depression.

I found myself grappling with depression, unable to tell my family and friends because I was so ashamed,” she says on her website. “Depression is a scary thing. Depression, when you make yourself journey through it alone, is terrifying.”

So, she wrote. First, it was just in her notebook. Then notes became letters, and she started leaving them around New York City. After blogging about her experience, she posed the question: “Do you need someone to write you a love letter today? Just ask.”

11895284_866613140086288_9164701538203723418_o According to her site, she spent the next year writing letters to people from all over the world.

Now, her personal path to grappling with depression has become The World Needs More Love Letter, a community of volunteers who write anonymous love letters to those who need them most. On her website, you can nominate anyone (even yourself) to receive handwritten love notes. A handful of those nominees are featured on the site, with a backstory and address.

Andre, a 16-year-old from Australia who, according to the The World Needs More Love Letters Facebook page, needed a reminder he is worthy of love, received 201 letters. He was nominated by his mother, who wrote to More Love Letter:

We are completely lost for words. We in no way expected to receive such an out pouring of heartfelt support, love, compassion and inspiration from so many truly remarkable people from across the globe. Letters came flooding in from right across the USA and from every corner of the world including Canada, Vietnam, Singapore, Romania, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, New Zealand, Brazil, Ireland, Uk, Scotland and of-course our treasured home country Australia.

Mary's letter request was featured back in May, and she has now received her bundle of letters! Read through the amazing...

Posted by The World Needs More Love Letters on Friday, 21 August 2015

 

The movement hasn’t lost its roots. Members of the The World Needs More Love Letters community are still encouraged to leave love letters in public places. Letters have been found in Chicago, Toronto and Nashville, and even as far as Norway. It’s proof that while depression is a global phenomena, love is too.

Maybe you need the reminder today. Keep fighting. You deserve good things for your life,” a letter reads in an Upworthy video (below). “It sounds too simple, but it is amazing the number of people who believe that for other people, but not themselves. You deserve them too. All the good things. Don’t settle. Don’t give in. This world needs you. Don’t quit.”

 Watch the original Upworthy video: 

342
342
1
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

A Letter to a Depressed Me, Myself and I

2k
2k
8

Dear Me, Myself and I,

I’m writing this letter to myself, to me, to you, in the hopes that you will read it on the day when depression rears its ugly head. When depression strikes and covers you in a black fog, your brain has a funny way of forgetting everything you know, so this letter is here to remind you of all the things you may forget.

The black fog takes away your inner light, you feel nothing yet feel everything, and although you feel like you will always feel this way please know you will not. The cloud will go! It may take a day, a week, a few months, but it will give you respite at some point if you just see it through.

The black fog makes you lose your appetite, and the less you eat the less energy you have to fight this monster. On the days when the thought of even making a drink makes your tummy turn please do it anyway. I promise it will make a difference. The black fog covers your hunger, but your brain still knows you haven’t eaten, and even more fatigue will set in. Make this a rule. Do not trust your feelings; they are unreliable.

The black fog will take your self esteem and wrap it in chains, but you still have the key to those chains. Do not let yourself have time to sit and wallow. I know you have no energy, no umph, no motivation, no anything, but do not sit down and think things through. Depression is a toxic beast and it poisons every single thought you have if you let it. Keep busy — very, very busy. I know you just want to be alone and hide in bed, but don’t. It will not help you.

The black fog will tell you to stay home, and every inch of you will accept that so easily, but please do not give in. Go for a walk, anything, something, just do not ever agree with the monster; he does not have your best interests at heart, and you deserve so much more than this.

The black fog will remind you of every single flaw you have; it will magnify them until you only see your flaws. You are not just your flaws. You are so much more than flaws. You are amazing, brave, courageous; you just don’t know it yet. I promise the fog shall pass. Keep going, plod on, head down. You can do it. I promise you can.

Have a shower, get dressed. The black fog zaps your energy, but force yourself to shower and get dressed. That will be one batte down with the fog. Do it. Every single time, do it.

Tell someone how you feel. Stop letting this black fog keep you trapped in the chains of shame. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Ask for a hug, tell someone to send good vibes or say a prayer. Tell someone it is hard right now and you need their strength too. Do not battle a bad day, week, month, year, alone. Find someone and tell them. You will feel strengthened by breaking the silence. The black fog works better under circumstances of shame, so kick its ass and set some of yourself free. Never suffer in silence, never. Being strong does not mean being silent, please remember this.

The black fog will tell you that you are better off not around, but it’s a lie. You’ll often think about how life would play out if you weren’t here. I’ll tell you now how it would turn out if you ended it all – crap! It would be absolute crap for your family and friends. They are most definitely not better off without you. This world needs you. That black fog is a liar. Depression is a big, fat stinking liar. That is not the answer, ever. No matter how much you feel it is, it is not. Not now, not ever. You are needed, and you are more than able to fight this monster.

I know you’re tired of fighting. I know you feel the black fog approach and it shakes you to the core, but you are strong enough to send it running time and time again. I cannot tell you that one day it will be completely gone, because I just don’t know. What I do know is that you’ve held on for this long and have kicked its butt more than it’s gripped your life — for that you should be proud.

On the days when you’re tired of fighting, read this letter; this letter is just for you, for me, myself. A reminder of all that gets lost in the black fog. There is a light, and it never goes out; it just gets lost in the fog. You are loved, you are wanted, you are worthwhile, and you are more than a conqueror!

Lots of love,

Me, Myself and I

Follow this journey on Swords & Snoodles.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

2k
2k
8
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

A Guide to Therapy For Men, From a Man Who’s Been There

489
489
0

For some guys, the real “F-word” is feelings — just thinking about them can make a man cringe. But when it comes to dealing with mental health issues like depression, therapy can be a central resource in a guy’s recovery.

After a few years of going to therapy to help with depression, I’ve learned seeing a therapist is like seeing a coach or any other professional. Even if a guy doesn’t like to talk about his feelings, that’s OK. Therapy is about more than that. A therapist offers insight, an outlet to get stuff off your chest, mental health expertise and an unbiased perspective.

When I first started going to therapy, I avoided talking about what was really bothering me — feeling lonely, wanting more friends and feeling lost at work and school. I even hid thoughts about suicide.

Eventually I realized two things: One, my therapist could only help me if they know what was going on. And two, it was up to me to apply what we practiced and discussed outside of meetings.

Here are some things I’ve learned as a guy in therapy. If this is something you’re pursuing, hopefully it can help.

1. Be open and honest about what’s really bothering you.

A lot of guys don’t like to admit the problems they’re facing because they want to be the person everyone else can lean on. Admitting feeling stressed or sad seems like admitting to weakness, but that’s not the case. It takes courage to reach out and be honest.

There are still subjects I don’t like to talk about, but now I recognize the power of talking. Often things that seem stressful and overwhelming in my head don’t seem so daunting once I’ve talked them through with someone else. Even when I think I know the answers, it’s better to talk things out. Otherwise I might try to downplay how I’m doing, and I’ll never really face it.

2. Bring notes and set the agenda.

Like many guys, I wasn’t used to having conversations about myself or how I was feeling. Writing notes before meetings helped me prioritize what I needed to discuss, which keeps meetings focused and productive. It also helped me stay on topic if I get stressed, anxious, or try to cop out and not bring something up.

3. Give talk therapy time to work.

Many guys are results-driven and might give up on talk therapy if they don’t see immediate improvement. Talk therapy takes time and commitment. Be patient, and don’t get frustrated if you don’t see “results” after one or two sessions.

4. Finding someone you trust is key.

Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, community mental health workers and other professionals who offer talk therapy can all be just as helpful. It’s not about where you go, it’s about finding someone you can trust and giving them a chance to help.

Today, I’m working for HeadsUpGuys, a website that tackles men’s depression. The more I learn about the topic, and the more men I talk to, the more I realize how ingrained male stereotypes are in our society, and how often they prevent men from reaching out.

No guy wants to look weak or like he can’t handle things on his own. This type of thinking works when a guy is carrying his groceries back from the car, but not when applied to serious mental health issues like depression.

Therapy is an important piece of my recovery and one of the simplest ways to fight depression. 

Follow this journey on Mental Health Point of View. To get more information about depression in men, visit HeadsUpGuys

489
489
0
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

6 Things You Should Say to Someone Who Has Depression

6k
6k
7

We’ve all seen the lists explaining what not to say to someone with depression; never say, “Cheer up!” or “Just snap out of it!”, for example, because doing so just makes things worse for the afflicted individual, and it becomes painfully obvious you don’t understand that depression isn’t just sadness, it’s a disease. So what should you say to someone having a severe depressive episode or an anxiety attack? Here’s a list of suggestions culled from my own near-lifelong battle with this insidious disease.

1. “I’m here for you.”

It’s such a simple phrase but one often forgotten because people are too busy trying to fix what’s wrong with you when you have depression. When you’re having a depressive episode, it’s like you’re in an impenetrable cocoon. Logic doesn’t work because irrationality is running your brain. You’re also often unresponsive, too busy being stuck in your own head. Telling a depressed person you’re there for them is positive, caring and non-judgmental; any sort of phrase such as, “Why can’t you just be happy?” implies judgment, and that only makes things worse since depressed people are already negatively judging themselves.

2. “Do you want to cry? Do you want to talk? Either is OK. I’m ready whenever you are.”

Again, you’re showing non-judgmental compassion above all else. Maybe the depressed person needs to cry things out. It might not work all of the time, especially since sometimes you have no idea why you’re crying when you’re depressed, but by offering the person the opportunity you’re opening yourself up to the depressed person’s potential needs. The same applies for talking. Many times, especially in my case, depressed people dislike talking about things, but by asking someone if they’re ready to talk you’re showing your openness and kindness. Sometimes talking does help because you’re eventually able to see how you spiraled out of control. Sometimes it doesn’t. What’s important is that you, as a man or woman not suffering from the disease, understand that the depressed person might not be ready, but you are whenever the time is right.

3. “I know you have a disease, and I can’t understand how deeply it affects you, but I want to understand.”

Depression is like any other disease or disorder in that you cannot fathom it until you’ve experienced it. I have no idea what it’s like to have cancer. I have no idea what it’s like to have Tourette syndrome. By acknowledging that you’ve never been in the depressed person’s shoes and that you cannot possibly understand what they’re going through, you might be able to make a chink in the armor. It’s a hard thing to do because we always want to say, “I completely understand how you feel” when someone’s in pain, but it’s just not the truth. Admitting that you don’t know is enormous because you don’t come off exasperated or condescending. Perhaps the depressed person will open up a bit. I know I did when people finally understood how little control I had over my thoughts and emotions.

4. “Call me day or night, especially if you’re thinking of harming yourself!”

Suicidal ideation can occur in depressed people at any moment. One second you’re thinking about eating Goldfish crackers, the next you’re thinking about downing a bottle of pills. The depressed person might not ever act on such thoughts, but the thoughts are still terrifying, and knowing there’s someone out there you can speak to at any moment is terrific reassurance. You become about as trustworthy as possible to a person who trusts nothing and no one. It’s comforting to know there are people to turn to at any moment who will help talk you down. Once I was terrified by suicidal ideation, so I posted on a dad bloggers website and immediately a person I barely knew instant messaged me and wrote, “Give me your phone number!” I did, and he spent the next hour talking me off the proverbial bridge, just calming me down. If you know someone who’s depressed, make sure to let them know they have access to you whenever necessary.

5. “Breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth.”

One of the first things that happens when you start to spiral or have an anxiety attack is you forget to breathe, which leads to hyperventilating, which in turn leads to strengthening the episode or attack. Getting people to concentrate on their breathing sometimes helps clear their minds of whatever sent them down the rabbit hole, and often prevents a full on panic attack.

6.“Would you like a hug?”

Sometimes the depressed person will decline (and sometimes I do as well), but this is the most significant one for me because I grew up in a family that lacked physical affection. Simple physical contact via hugging can have tremendous effects. A hug can ground a person going through a depressed episode or an anxiety attack. The person can concentrate on the physical feel of the hug and the warmth behind it instead of his or her roiling mind. It helps them feel secure in a world that’s falling apart inside their head. It’s important that you ask if the person would like a hug because you’re giving the depressed person an option instead of being forceful. Hugs, even to depressed people, are beautiful.

I’ve been battling depression for over 30 years, but most significantly since I had my second breakdown approximately five years ago. These are the thoughts and phrases that have had the most impact on me. You must remember that everyone is different. Some people go deeper than others. Some people with depression never have suicidal ideation. Some don’t want to be touched. Regardless, if you know someone with this disease, try these out and see if they work. Remember not to judge, not to act condescending, not to be forceful, and know that depression is not sadness. It’s a real disease that corrodes the mind.

If you’ve experienced depression, what other phrases have worked for you? What would you like for people to say to you when you’re stuck in a depressive episode?

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

6k
6k
7
TOPICS
, Listicle
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

How My Mental Illness is Different Than My Physical Disability

59
59
0

At a media summit last year, a journalist asked me a question that, on the surface, I anticipated would be difficult to answer. After a few moments’ thought, however, I realized the answer was shockingly simple. The question was, “Which do you find more difficult to deal with – your double amputations and life in a wheelchair, or your depression?” This is what I told her:

Every day I’m forced to confront and overcome the physical limitations that my disability places on me. I have to figure out how to get in and out of the car, or up and down the stairs, or how to reach a mug on a high shelf. They say time waits for no man, and I’m no exception to that rule. Unless I allow life to leave me behind and go on without me, I must face these everyday obstacles, and so I do. I hardly have a choice.

Confronting my depression, however, is far more difficult for me. For years I tried to push it to the back of my mind, but ignoring it only made it worse. Like a wound that goes untreated, it became a festering toxin that tainted all my thoughts and attitudes. That habit of masking my depression and distracting myself with external interests and activities is now a barrier to overcoming it. I must make a concerted effort to acknowledge my incorrect assumptions about the world, evaluate my motives and construct new patterns for my thoughts and behaviors. It’s easy to neglect these mental processes and “just get on with life.”

Someone who’s always placed more emphasis on physical activities, like sport and exercise, may find coming to terms with a new disability more difficult than I have, as my focus has always been on intellectual and creative pursuits. I nevertheless believe that we should all take special care with the way we treat our minds and psyches because for me, it was more difficult to fix the unseen than the physical once it was damaged.

Follow this journey on darylhb.com.

59
59
0
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.