What You Should Know Before You Tell Me to 'Snap Out of' Depression

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It’s easy to say, but harder to do. “Snap out” of it that is. I’m talking about depression. Not just the blues. Not sadness that comes and goes. I’m talking about deep depression. A sadness that won’t go away. An empty feeling of being lonely. A feeling of not belonging. A feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness. The type of sadness you feel in your bones. When nothing is really wrong, yet nothing is quite right either.

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment I started feeling overwhelmed with depression. All I know is that it feels like missing the desire to breathe. Nights are bad, but mornings are worse. I’ve been depressed for such a long period of time it’s as if I’m afraid to feel anything else. I’m afraid to be happy, because I know deep down that just a glimpse of joy would be just that — a glimpse.

Being depressed is like an addiction. I need my sadness to stay alive, yet at the same time, my sorrow is killing me slowly. I’ve gotten so used to feeling alone and empty I don’t know how to act when I’m feeling something other than depression.

I’ve tried to change. I’ve tried changing my hair color. I’ve tried a new hairstyle. I’ve changed my clothes, my friends and my lifestyle. I try to list my hobbies, but nothing comes to mind. I just can’t “snap out of it.”

There are people out there who feel like I do. We are not an isolated group, yet we are isolated from the world around us. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. In 2010, more people died from suicide than in car crashes. Yet, I believe no one listens. For young people, for every one completed suicide there are 25 attempts. Every year, up to 250,000 people become suicide survivors — people who’ve lost a loved one to suicide. Every year, over 800,000 people die from suicide worldwide.

So can you hear me now? I may be your daughter, son, brother, sister, your aunt or uncle. I may be your mother or father. I may just be your neighbor. But I’m here to tell you that I matter. Depression is real. Depression is a serious mental issue. Take off your blinders. Take a good look into my eyes and see me. Do you see me now, or am I still invisible?

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.

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sarah silverman in film 'i smile back'

In Unlikely Sarah Silverman Role, Comedian Plays Mother With Depression

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Get ready to see Sarah Silverman like you’ve never seen her before — as Laney, a mother and wife who struggles with depression and substance abuse in the upcoming drama “I Smile Back.”

In what Access Hollywood called a “career-changing performance,” the comedian portrays a woman trying to balance motherhood with her demons, addressing the realities of living with a mental illness while parenting.

“Why’d you stop taking your meds?” Silverman’s husband, played by Josh Charles, asks in the trailer below. “You’d rather be insane?”

With one in eight women experiencing major depression in their lifetimes, according to National Alliance on Mental Health, this movie is sure to resonate with many mothers grappling with mental illness.

The movie is set to be released October 23.

Watch the trailer below: 

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Why I'm Speaking Up About Lawyers and Depression

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Years ago, 1997 to be exact, I was thinking about writing an article for a lawyer’s magazine about my experiences with depression while practicing law. I had lunch with a good friend of mine, Bob, who at that time worked in a large litigation firm in New York City. Since then, Bob has become a federal judge and remains a dear friend.

After we had ordered, I told Bob about my idea to write the article. He sat quietly and listened, looking down at his salad as I spoke. Finally, he said, “Dan, this is an awful idea.  While noble, why would you expose yourself to the insults some people are going to hurl your way.” We spoke at length and I finally told my dear friend I was going to write the article anyway.

For the first few years after that initial talk, Bob would call me regularly and check in, “How’s it going, Dan? Is everything all right?” I so appreciated Bob’s loving concern. More importantly, however, something began to change in our relationship. Bob eventually disclosed to me that he had had a episode of major depression some years ago and had tried to take his own life.

It seems to me that my willingness to speak frankly about my depression gave Bob permission to speak about his.

Unfortunately, talking about depression is not easy for most men. They have lots of trouble coming to terms with depression, even when they get treatment. I believe that’s even truer if they’re lawyers.

Lawyers aren’t supposed to have problems; we’re supposed to fix them. Most male lawyers I know would rather drop dead than admit they have problem with depression. I guess the exception to this observation is when the wheels have fallen off. Then, and only then, do they recognize (hopefully) they are experiencing depression. The consequences for failing to recognize this basic fact can be serious (loss of productivity at work, sleep problems, etc.) or even fatal — lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers, and the profession is fourth on the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ranking of suicide deaths by profession.

Psychologist Terrance Real, the author of the book, “I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression,” makes the observation that we don’t think of men as depressed. This is because when we typically think of the “overt” signs of depression – weeping, a willingness to discuss painful feelings, etc. More often, men experience “covert” depression that might express itself in addiction, isolation, workaholism and increased irritability.

The excellent website, Men Get Depression, says there are three distinctive signs of male depression:

Pain: 
“Depression may show up as physical signs like constant headaches, stomach problems or pain that doesn’t seem to be from other causes or that doesn’t respond to normal treatments.”

Risk-taking: “
Sometimes, depressed men will start taking risks like dangerous sports, compulsive gambling, reckless driving and casual sex.”

Anger: “
Anger can show itself in different ways like road rage, having a short temper, being easily upset by criticism and even violence.”

So often, I’ve noticed the first symptom male lawyers notice when they’re slipping is in the performance department. One of the symptoms of clinical depression is difficulty concentrating. This leads to problems in getting work out the door. They may try to hide their work is slipping, ask for extensions and take much longer to do tasks that were simple and routine in the past.

My therapist used to liken my depression to a caveman camping out of his cave. It took a lot to coax me out of there. Men need to come out of their caves into the light of day where the colors are brighter, others can help them and they can get better.

This post originally appeared on Lawyers With Depression.

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The Moment in 'Twilight' That Made Me Face My Depression

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I’m watching “Twilight.” Bella is sitting in a chair in her bedroom and Edward has left her. Her fears have come to fruition — she isn’t good enough. She feels lost, alone, scared, hurt, worthless and abandoned. Lykke Li’s haunting singing intensifies the pain. My chest is tight, my heart is hurting and I’m crying. No, not crying. I’m sobbing. Ugly, chest-heaving, snot-dripping sobbing. I have to get out of here now.

I make my way to the bathroom of the theater and see my reflection. I think, get it together! It’s just a movie. But I can’t stop thinking about Bella’s pain; her eyes are so sad. The tears pick up again and I go into a stall. The tears won’t stop and my throat feels like it’s closing. I’m a mess.

I hear my name. My best friend comes in looking for me. Again I think, come on! What is wrong with you? She knocks on the door and says she’s worried. She asks if I’m OK. In that moment I realize it’s not Bella’s pain I’m feeling. It’s my own.

I’d had bouts of depression but was always able to get through. But when within three months of my son being born my grandmother who raised me died, I couldn’t pull out of it. I self-medicated with Xanax, Vicodin, wine and over-the-counter meds. I went into hibernation and barely made it through the days. I was emotionally closed off and most times felt nothing.

I turn to my friend, and answering honestly for the first time in seven years: “No, I am not OK.”

I’m not sure how long she hugged me while I cried in that bathroom, or how many people came and went, but I didn’t care. God, it felt good. But I was also scared. I wanted to run, but instead went to see a therapist the very next day. The ugly crying commenced as soon as I sat in the chair. Thoughts I’ve had for years but was too afraid to say came pouring from my mouth in inaudible words and incomplete sentences.

During the session I was drained, but also felt 500 pounds lighter. My therapist asked me what triggered my break. Embarrassed, I told her.

“Rita, you are an extreme empath,” she said. “You embody these characters. You feel what they’re experiencing.”

In this case, because of what I was experiencing in real life, watching Bella’s pain ripped my emotional dam wide open.

This happened four years ago, and it’s been one of the most difficult, but also the most rewarding, times of my life. I’ve still had breakdowns and still have moments where I’m sunk in scary darkness, but now I’m not afraid or embarrassed to talk about it. I’ve learned it’s OK to be myself, and feel for myself, and I will continue to battle this because I’m so grateful to be alive.

If you think about it, Edward Cullen saved my life.

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An Open Apology to Anyone With Depression

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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

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

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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: 

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