Your story isn’t over yet
“If you know someone who’s depressed please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do.” — Stephen Fry.
We have all experienced a feeling of being overwhelmed with sadness and loneliness for no apparent reason at one time or another in our life. How you deal with it is a totally different animal. Depression is an extremely complex disease that can occur for a variety of reasons, or it may be inherited. Certain situations exacerbate the chances of feeling depressed; this can include one or a combination of the following:
¯ Abuse — whether it be past or continuing physical, sexual, or emotional, it can increase your vulnerability.
¯ Side effects of certain medications.
¯ Conflict, which can be personal or actual disputes with family or friends.
¯ Death or a loss — grief is sometimes strong, and losing a loved one whether it is of natural causes, a sudden death or illness of the long-term nature can be a trigger.
¯ Heredity or genetics — a family history may increase the risk. The complexity of depression could mean that there could be a “storm” (many different genes that cause many small effects together), rather than a single reason. This may not be a simple or straightforward diagnosis.
¯ Major life changing events, such as a new job and its expectations, graduating college or getting married can lead to depression related to stress. It also could be losing a job or income, moving or losing a home, retiring from a job or even getting a divorce.
¯ Other personal problems, such as isolation due to a mental illness, being disowned by your family or a social group can lead to developing depression.
¯ A major illness or condition due to the outcome of the situation can be a trigger.
One of the roadblocks to recovery for those who suffer from depression is our culture’s tendency to stigmatize depression and other mental health disorders.
The stigma surrounding depression arises from living in a culture where feelings of vulnerability are considered weak and unacceptable. This is compounded by shame and guilt about not being a “productive member of society.”
First you must look at the label “depression” as not defining who you are, but how you are suffering. You need to separate your inner self from your outer condition. Think of yourself as a normal person responding to an abnormal situation. Your spiritual self transcends depression and cannot be touched by it or any condition.
Reframe your personal battle of depression as a heroic struggle. Your fight is real, and only strong and courageous individuals could bear and ultimately transform such intense pain. Depression is an internal pain, and just managing to stay functional is a major achievement.
Christopher Reeve once said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
In thinking of his words, everyone who has ever struggled with depression or anxiety is a hero — and there certainly is no shame in that.
There is a movement out there that started in April of 2013 called Project Semicolon, which was founded by Amy Bleuel, who wanted to honor her father who she lost to suicide. The project has grown way beyond what Amy expected, and it has taken on a life of its own; you can check it out for yourself at www.projectsemicolon.org.
Though the semicolon has become a symbol that many have related to the struggle of depression, addiction, bullying, self-injury and suicide, wearing one has become a symbol of their will to continue on.
Project Semicolon has developed into a movement to inspire others and let them know that “your story is not over.”
I am hoping that when you read this, if you are suffering, reach out — you are not alone. If perhaps you know someone suffering in silence, reach out to them and pass on this information.
If you find yourself in crisis and in need of immediate help, please call 911 or 1-800-273-8255, which is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
There are people out there that care. Remember, “you are not your struggles.” I care.
Cath Kestler is an advocate and a resident of Silver Creek.