I suffer from depression. There. I said it.
None of my regular readers, nor many of my closest friends, family members, and coworkers probably would have guessed it. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t have guessed it myself either and I didn’t for a very long time–at least two years. However, since I discovered that I suffer from depression, I’ve decided that it’s not something I’m going to be quiet about. I’ve already shared about it with a number of people and I’m really glad I have; if I hadn’t, I would still be suffering much more than I am today. Hopefully by sharing from my own life experience I can help others as well.
Some of you may be asking yourself, “What does Ricky have to be depressed about? He has a good job, he has people in his life who love him, he’s active in his church, he’s always learning, he joyfully serves and helps others. I mean, if I had his life I certainly wouldn’t be depressed.” If you’re asking that question, it is a question based in ignorance. It’s like hearing that I have a broken arm and saying, “Why does Ricky have a broken arm? He has a good job, he has people in his life who love him, he’s active in his church, he’s always learning, he joyfully serves and helps others. I mean, if I had his life I certainly wouldn’t have a broken arm.”
Although depression affects the psyche, it is very much a physical problem–as much as a broken arm is a physical problem. I do not hold a psychology degree but I do have an understanding of the ailment now. It is nothing to be embarrassed about and it doesn’t indicate some particular weakness that is the fault of the depressed person. For some reason, in our society, we tend to remain quiet about mental disorders. Just like we can’t always control what’s going on with our physical body, we can’t always control what’s going on with our brain either (note that the brain is part of our physical body). Because depression is a physical problem, it can be treated like other physical problems, often with medication and/or therapy. When I was debating on whether to consent to take medication for my depression, one of my friends asked me, “If you had cancer, would you take chemotherapy? If you were diabetic, would you take medication for that?” “Sure,” I replied. “Well,” she said, “this is no different.”
When Did It All Start? How Did I Realize I Was Depressed?
I’m not quite sure when my bout with depression started. I tend to think that it was at least two years ago though. For a couple years now I’ve had a very difficult time getting motivated to do things. I’ve been procrastinating a lot and causing myself extreme stress to meet deadlines. Even for those things I haven’t had to do, and I would normally want to do, there just hasn’t been a lot of drive there.
You may recall that a couple years ago I was looking for a new hobby and decided to take up sketching and drawing. This was coming off wrapping up a particularly challenging project. In retrospect, I think this is about the time some shift began to take place in my brain. Looking for a new hobby seemed to be the way to resolve the problem, even though I didn’t really know what the problem was. I only knew that there was something wrong in my life.
Well, drawing and sketching didn’t hold a lot of interest for me. I tried several other things and nothing else has held much interest for me either. When I talked to friends about how I was feeling, some of them, had suggested that maybe I was dealing with depression. I dismissed that quickly thinking that I had no reason to be depressed; therefore it must be something else.
One person suggested that I talk to a counselor. I seriously considered this option. Because I think like an engineer, I can’t just tell someone that there is a problem without identifying the problem as much as possible. At this point I knew I had some problem in my life, but I had no idea what that problem was. For me to go to a counselor at this point and tell her, “I’ve got a problem,” would have been like someone telling me, “My email isn’t working, fix it for me,” without telling me what they were trying, what the desired and expected behavior was, and what they had done to try to fix the problem themselves; I need more information to even know where to begin investigating.
So, last fall I began a “Depression Notes” journal. I’m not quite sure why I called it this, but that’s what I called it. I didn’t journal every day, but I would mostly journal when I was stuck and couldn’t seem to work on anything or when I was especially stressed. I think I discovered a lot about myself through this process. On May 12th of this year I wrote:
I’m bored. I mean, I’m like really, really, bored. Sure, I have plenty of things I could be doing. I have plenty of things I should be doing. In fact, I have another big project that I’m behind on now and I just don’t want to get started on it. I have a tight deadline and I’ll probably be majorly stressing for the next 2 or 3 days as I work on it. Right now though, there just isn’t anything that I want to do. I don’t really want to be journaling right now, but it seemed to be one of the least negative things that I could do.
So, what am I bored with? Pretty much everything. I’m bored with my job. I’m bored with my business. I’m bored in my ministry. I’m bored in Toastmasters. I’m bored with what I read. I’m bored in my marriage. I’m bored with computers. I’m bored with our evening routine. I’m bored with music. I honestly can’t think of anything that I’m not bored with.
When I applied the word “bored” to my life, I felt like I finally had something tangible I could grab onto. I now had some way of describing what I had been feeling for a couple years. I had something that I felt could be “fixed” because I knew what the problem was.
At this point I thought it was a problem with myself, a sin, if you will. I’m a believer. The Holy Spirit lives inside me. I shouldn’t have felt so bored with life. I repented to God of my boredom and asked Him to help me grow through this. After this, I was really motivated and excited for the next couple of days.
James tells us, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” I think that confession is a big part of getting the help to grow and improve, however most of us want to just deal with things on our own in blatant disregard for James’ wisdom and God’s instruction. I began to share this with some of my friends so they would be praying for me as well.
One friend shared with me that he thought I may be clinically depressed. By this time, the ‘high’ from my realization and repentance was wearing off already. He shared about depression in his own life and urged me to see a doctor about it. I didn’t even know what kind of doctor to go see. He told me that any general practitioner could diagnose and treat it. So, I made an appointment with my doctor.
What Is My Current Treatment and Experience?
When I talked with my doctor, he agreed that it sounded like I’m dealing with depression and prescribed 10mg of Paxil per day. I started taking it the next day. It’s supposed to take a couple weeks to kick in, but almost immediately I began feeling better. I think a lot of this may have been the placebo effect and just psychologically knowing that I was on a path to getting better.
About a week-and-a-half after I started the medication, I felt “lower than a snakes belly” for a couple days. After feeling so good for over a week, this provided a great point of comparison for how I had felt for so long as compared to how I could feel.
I’ve been on the medication for three weeks now and I really can tell a difference. No, I’m still not as motivated and energized as I would like to be, but I’m still in the very early stages of my treatment as well. Imagine having a toothache and having periods, maybe days, where it doesn’t bother you at all, or not quite as much; that’s kind of what this is like. I see my doctor again next week and we’ll talk about the medication and how things are going. He may also recommend psychiatric counseling, but he wanted to see what the medication would do first. I also need to talk to him about Sleep Apnea as something that could possibly be contributing to this.
Along with the medication, God has also been bringing other sources of strength and help into my life. When I told one friend about it, he put out his hand to shake mine and exclaimed, “Welcome to the club man!” Other friends have also shared about their experiences and encouraged me and listened to me.
Many of the books I’ve been reading lately have been dealing with depression (even though depression is the focus of the book). One of them is a book that overcoming creative blocks that I just started re-reading. Even though I read most of it just a few months ago, I don’t remember much about it; it’s as though I was in some kind of haze at the time. Now I see that the book talks a lot about depression in creative type people. It’s odd that I re-read any book, and I don’t have any good reason for re-reading this one except that I believe God drew me to it again, knowing that I was now ready for it’s message and teaching.
I’ve also joined a virtual Master Mind group which is helping me through some of my productivity and motivational issues. We meet over the phone every other Monday evening and a personal productivity coach facilitates the discussion between us. I’ll be sharing more in future blog posts about what I’m gaining from participating in the group. I don’t think that I would have joined it if I wasn’t moving down the path of treatment for depression, even though I’ve wanted to take part in a Master Mind group for several years.
So, through confession to others, God is helping me. He’s brining all sorts of helpful resources into my life that I would have otherwise have ignored. I’m so thankful for His abiding presence in my life.
Why Am I Sharing This on My Blog?
The bottom line for why I’m sharing this is that I want to help others. I believe God allows all of us to experience things so we can help others who experience those same things after us. I wish I had read a blog post like this a long time ago–it may have pointed me in the right direction a lot sooner and I could be even further down the path of treatment. Maybe by reading my confession, some of you will be encouraged to share your own experiences with depression and therefore be able to help others as well.
I also have a number of new blog posts that I plan to write, and some of them deal with lessons that I’m learning as I grow through this. I think that by writing this public confession it will provide a better context and background for those articles.
Finally, just as opening up to others has already helped me, hopefully confessing to a larger group will provide other help as well. Perhaps some of you will share your own stories and encouragement which will contribute to my further healing. And hopefully some of you will be much in prayer for myself and others who are dealing with this.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. — James 5:16