I'm sitting in the doctor’s office. My doctor is noisily typing on her keyboard as she asks me specific questions about my recent experiences.
I hold up my calendar, the one I’ve used to track my progress, or lack thereof. Five weeks ago I had decided to document my episodes — the cry fests of rage and remorse. I would put a sad face on each day I cried. The days I made it through without crying deserved a happy face. After reviewing the entire five weeks we only see three happy faces, the rest of the calendar is mocking me with sad smiles.
I can’t hold back; I burst into tears right in front of her. She looks at me with sympathetic eyes, and says, “Shannon, you have clinical depression, and it's possible you are bipolar.”
She gives me a prescription and provides me with the name of the best psychologist in Chicago. I leave the doctor’s office with something I hadn’t felt in years: a smidgen of forced hope.
I open up my phone to send my family an email message. I start to type the email that would give an explanation for my mood swings. As I carved out each sentence, carefully describing my diagnoses, I feel a pull in my heart. I push send, pronouncing to family across the country that these feelings I was living with were not actually a thing I had control over, but a sickness, a disease, one called depression. The email was a declaration to the world that I needed help.
I was hoping to feel better after reaching out.
But after I sent it, I only felt worse.
I don’t know what I expected; did I want my family to understand me? This was my attempt to reach out. But it still felt like it was me against the world. I was still isolated and the one who was sick, the one who was on the outside looking in.
That’s the thing with depression. Happy people seem like they have it together, and you don’t want to be a burden to them. Happiness is foreign. Up until that point I had spent my entire life looking from the outside in.
Depression is a lonely experience, and for the brave one who does try to reach out, it's often greeted with more isolation and distance.
Depression makes most people uncomfortable. Those who aren’t depressed think, What do they have to be sad about? Why can’t they just see the bright side? Why are they always so down?
And for the one who is depressed, life is unbearable to navigate. It doesn’t matter how much you're loved. You feel like a burden to the world.
Little did I know at the time, but that small simple email I sent out to my family was the first giant step in my recovery. I had reached out; I had asked for help.
Flash-forward to today, and my life is much different. I've found purpose in my pain. I made it through the darkness. I spent a couple decades consumed with fear as I rotted in my own depression. But I thankfully, found a way out. I took one small step at a time to turn my sadness into hope, which eventually turned into peace.
More than 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. No two situations are the same, but one thing every person who experiences it will have feel sadness. Depression is a disease of the heart and sadness takes over the body.
If you or someone you know is depressed there is a way through it. Friendship. Empathy. Compassion. And Love.
Here are nine powerful mantras to help anyone suffering from depression or sadness.
1. If you keep hope alive, it will keep you alive.
2. The strongest people are those who win battles we know nothing about.
3. Faith is seeing light in your heart when all your eyes see is darkness.
4. Out of difficulties will grow new beginnings; trust the process.
5. Hope is the in between place between the way things were and the way things will become.
6. One day the pain will make sense. There is a purpose to all pain.
7. Believe in the person you want to become.
8. Allow your past mistakes to guide you, not define you.
9. You don’t have to see the entire path, just take one step.
It can be difficult to determine if a loved one is depressed or if they have had suicidal tendencies. But reaching out to another person can save your life. It saved mine.
What You Can Do To Help:
We can all learn the warning signs for suicide. Fifty to 75% of people who attempt suicide will tell someone about their intention. Listen when people talk to you. Make eye contact. Be compassionate.
Each year, nearly 40,000 people commit suicide. By 2030, depression will outpace cancer, stroke, war and accidents as the world's leading cause of disability and death, according to the World Health Organization.
It’s time we talk about this out loud. The depressed don’t need to suffer in silence anymore. We're all here for each other.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.