Aaahhh, depression. Truly a ten letter word and similar in semantics to love in that it can be difficult to define. Let’s start by identifying a few of the characteristics we often confuse with the definition of depression and that are not true depression: sadness, despair, loneliness and broken-hearted.
Those are all very real, daunting things but they aren’t true depression. They can be a result of depression or just fleeting emotional out-spurs: true depression is physical & chemical in nature. It can be very difficult to overcome.
All my life I’ve been a happy-go-lucky guy. I’ve had my flairs of what I used to think of as depression. My first traumatic experience with sadness was when my best friend, Penny Kuhn, died back in high school. She was the first person I opened up to and shared the fact that I’m gay. You may think that isn’t such a big deal, but back in the 80s that wasn’t what it is today, so it was a difficult matter.
She’d told me first (because she already knew I was gay) that she was gay. She wasn’t. She only fibbed to make the situation easier for me to share and I even knew she was fibbing, which only made me love her as my best friend even more. Remember…this was the 80s. Coming out was a scary thing. If I even thought for a second that someone knew, panic would radiate outward from my chest!
Penny and I were BEST FRIENDS in all things until the day her Mustang went off the mountain on Peenpack Trail. I remember when my mother told me as if it just happened yesterday. I’d been out at a gay club called Christopher Street in Middletown New York until 4am. Yes, you read that right…I was 16 years old and hootin’ it up at Christopher Street. Thanks to my high testosterone genetics my plush chest hair always got me in.
The day Penny died was also the day my mother discovered I was secretly sneaking out on the weekends. She didn’t punish me. I think a lot of my personality I get from her. I quietly entered the house and slowly crept up the stairs when I hear, Dean, honey. Come here, I have something to tell you.
My first thought was: Uh-OH!
She called me into her room. My father slept through the conversation and she told me that there was an accident & that Penny didn’t survive. I said oh, okay and walked out of her room. It was a very strange, empty feeling. I felt…nothing. I walked into my room, undressed, turned around, walked downstairs and out the door.
I started walking down the road and I should mention that we lived in the city, but our house was back in the woods about a mile down from the highway. It was a really beautiful place to live, all neatly tucked into nature with two gorgeous ponds outside our picture window and wildlife-a-plenty.
The moon was full and the night air hummed with curious life–nature knows only simple joys. I made it halfway down the road and under the cover of a multitude of trees lining the road that was really only a dried up creek-bed, I sat my naked ass down beneath the callous-moon and cried deeply like I’ve never cried before.
That…was sadness, despair, loneliness & a broken heart, all morphed into one, big hole in my heart that fed the veins of my existence with dread.
This was not depression…
Eventually, the pain subsided to where I could pack it up & place in the back shelf inside my heart. It is always there and sometimes fights its way to the surface to make sure my tear ducts are still working. And when it’s done, I pack it back up, move a few items and place it back on the shelf.
The first time I REALLY experienced depression was in the fall of 2012. Yes, I’ve been lucky, you think…to have only been depressed for the first time in my 40s. But depression doesn’t schedule time, when it comes––––>IT COMES.
I was still working in my accounting career at the time as a controller for Mitsubishi. The owner was murdering the company by sucking it dry and would not listen to any advice. I suspected he had ulterior motives, but I’ll keep that to myself. The creditor calls were coming in and I told him that I was not going to field them, that they weren’t part of a controller’s job. He disagreed, yelled at me for the 1st time in the 5 years I’d worked for him and told me, yes, it is part of accounting’s job. Then, he stormed off to his office.
At this point, in my twenty-year accounting career stint, I all-too-well knew that my life could not continue on this 9-5, creative-less, soul-sucking purpose of a job. I’m trying hard not to complain because we all must understand (THIS IS IMPORTANT–––>) that it is OURSELVES THAT CHOOSE our paths. And the money I made was very good, but not worth the price of my soul or the purpose of my existence.
So, I grabbed an empty box sitting next to my desk and started filling it with the few personal items I had. There were cameras all throughout the office, so I knew the owner was watching. One of my coworkers jumped up and ran into his office to tell him that I was quitting.
He called me into his office and I’m thinking to myself that he’s under a lot of pressure & didn’t mean to lose his cool. I go in and sit down, fully expecting him to apologize. When he began, I just have to tell you that it is a part of accounting’s… I didn’t even let him finish. I said, that’s it–I’m done, and popped up out of the chair. He flinched! I think he thought I was going to hit him. When I started to head for the door he made this pathetic display of shaking my hand and asking me to leave on good terms–yeah, okay.
I always say things happen for a reason and I’ll stand by that statement until the day daisies are pushing up from my grave. It was that moment that I quit, that I decided it was time to do something with my life. And by that, I mean do something that has MEANING for my life…hence, I became a writer.
By this point (and I swear, I’m trying to save your eyestrain with shorter posts) you’re wondering where the depression comes in…well, we’re at that point!
I went home with a new sense of freedom and hope. I was going to (and did) throw myself wholeheartedly into my new career of becoming a writer. That sense of hope was quickly dashed when the realization of what I’d done sunk in.
Never, in my entire life, have I quit a job on the spot or made such a rash decision. Don’t get me wrong: it was the RIGHT DECISION. But still, I’d never done something so off-the-cuff before.
That…is when depression descended over me.
It wasn’t sadness, despair or any of those things I mentioned. Those things, while stilled rooted in my heart, were only temporary. Time heals all wounds as they say & it’s true! But depression is much more difficult to chase away.
The depression that hit me was more than just a feeling of despair. It replaced my core. Suddenly, for the first time in my life I felt like nothing around me mattered. Nothing brought me joy. I couldn’t shake myself out of it. IT was like nothing I’d ever experienced in my 44 years of being.
I was truly scared.
People with PSTD will understand completely. True depression isn’t something that can be chased away with Pharrell’s song Happy or Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey<–––although that comes pretty close…
Depression hits you on the deepest level. It is a real, documented illness that millions suffer. The traumatic experience that triggered it for me was making that rash choice. Even though, I knew at the time it was the right one. Trauma to the body & mind is still trauma, no matter how you look at it. And sometimes, our bodies work against us even though it’s trying to protect us.
That decision caused a chemical reaction to occur within my body. I was lucky though, because it did not get to the point where I wanted to commit suicide. It’s never been that bad…but that doesn’t go without saying that if left untreated, depression could bring you to suicidal thoughts. Thinking to yourself that the world/husband/wife/partner/etc. would be better off without you isn’t the same as REAL SUICIDAL THOUGHTS. There’s a big difference.
I started reaching out to friends and telling them how I was feeling–about how I’d never experienced something so awful. They were all wonderful, sympathetic & supportive, but nothing anyone suggested helped until I spoke with my beautiful friend, Merri Grimes. (I met her through my old job–––>She was actually one of the creditors calling Mitsubishi. Glad I fielded that call.)
Even though, we’ve never met in person (yet), we bonded that day she called and we’ve kept in touch all these years later through Facebook & phone calls. She said, oh, honey, you need to get yourself moving! We talked for a long time and what she meant, was exactly what she said: GET MOVING!
So, I put my headset on & found the peppiest iHeart station I could find and I cleaned that house like Consuela! And to be clear, that isn’t a comparison to people of Spanish lineage holding house cleaning jobs. I got that from Delta Burke on Designing Women. Her housekeeper was named Consuela and the standing joke was that she was fearful of her and her Black Magic ways… What can I say? You do know I’m gay. Designing Women is like Golden Girls. I don’t think there’s a gay man on earth that hasn’t seen those shows.
Merri’s advice worked!
Not at first…but slowly, like the tide coming back into shore–I felt it. I kept myself occupied, regardless of how I really felt, and forced myself to keep my body moving. It made PERFECT SENSE! The depression I was experiencing, brought on by trauma, was chemical in nature. What’s the best way to eradicate something from your blood? Get it pumpin’!
That single piece of advice can hold true for many things: diabetes, obesity, etc. By our physical design, we were meant to hunt & gather our food. Build our homes, walk to our destinations, etc. It only makes sense that we shouldn’t be stagnant for too long.
My advice in this article is not to keep moving. WHAT, you say? I just finished telling you what worked for me, so why wouldn’t that be my advice? I will tell you why. The reason is because depression is different for everyone. The triggers are all different & sometimes that evil little devil, depression, sprouts from nowhere; nature’s cruel joke. That’s why I’ve struggled getting this article out here in the Blogosphere. I wanted to make sure what I’m writing can really make a difference for someone under the pain of depression.
I know what depression is…I know what triggered depression in me…I know what helped chase my depression away. But I cannot begin to know your pain or what triggered your depression or what symptoms you have as a result. AND I’M NOT QUALIFIED to diagnose anyone with depression.
What I am going to do is point you to some really good, easy-to-read articles, written by professionals. I AM ALSO GOING TO TELL YOU that I will be here for anyone that needs help with depression. I will listen, try to give you the best advice (despite what I said) etc, but I will first make sure that you know where to reach help from professionals. There are articles, help lines, etc.
I’m going to stress one more thing before I leave you with solid links on depression & help thereof: IF––AT ANY TIME––YOU EVER TRULY HAVE SUICIDAL THOUGHTS: DIAL 911. That may seem harsh but if you noticed within this article, I haven’t really joked too much or included any pics, videos or silly memes. Depression is a serious matter. It can happen to anyone. Just think about the former funniest guy on the planet: Robin Williams. If depression gets so bad as to where a person experiences true suicidal thoughts, they need to reach out to someone that WILL TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. People on the outside of depression, how I was until I reached the age of 44, don’t understand the severity. Dial 911. I promise you – they care & they WILL get you the help you need.
JUST ONE MORE THING TO REMEMBER:
YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.
–DEPRESSION GUIDE (REALLY GREAT RESOURCE)
–SUICIDE HOTLINE: 800-784-2433 (No one has to know you called––total confidentiality.)
–DEPRESSION SELF-HELP WEBMD (IF YOUR DEPRESSION IS SEVERE SEEK A DOCTOR)
–DEPRESSION CHECKLIST (This isn’t a definitive resource, just an awareness tool.)