How I Got Through Depression
... And it only took two counseling visits.
My trip into depression started like so many others. One little bit at a time. Seven years ago (give or take a bit), I was happy all the time. Well, not necessarily happy, but not sad or depressed.
I was working a job that was not the greatest, but it did allow me a lot of personal time. I could read while on shift, try my hand at writing. I had a lovely wife, and a beautiful son, and everything was good.
Of course, to get to that point, I had given up on my dreams of being an artist. The closest I could get to my other dream of being a writer was to pen the odd short fiction and submit them into the publishing black hole. I never got any acceptance anywhere that would pay. For that matter, I was not accepted anywhere that didn't, either.
So I worked a dead end job where they didn't appreciate me, but it was work, and I didn't mind it too much. I played Dungeons and Dragons with my friends on the weekends, and generally survived each day.
Then two problems arrived. Kidney stones, and heart problems. One after the other. I got through the stones. I spent two days in the hospital to be told that my heart was fine, I just had a condition that allowed me to feel it skip a beat every once in a while. Neither of these conditions turned out to be life threatening, but they dragged me down.
I learned what to do to minimize the effects. I got back to work. Then my life turned upside down. My wife started having problems, too. They were, to put it politely, "female problems." We took her to doctor after doctor, only to be told her hormones were off balance, and that to test for any other issues would cost so much as to make it pointless to try.
I finally got her to go to another doctor who ordered the tests. She came home from work about a week later. She wouldn't let me stand up. She told me to stay sitting. She had gotten the results. It was cancer. It was at least stage 3.
We were shattered. We met when I was in Junior High School. We had been constant companions almost from the beginning, and after more than a decade of marriage, we had faced down every problem life could throw at us. And now... the worst of all possible news. She had just graduated and was now a Registered Nurse. She was happy, and excited to be moving up, but then her body decided she couldn't.
The next year was spent driving up to St. Louis for chemo treatments. She started getting disability payments. I quit my job so I could drive her up and be with her through all of it. After several months, a scan finally said we had beaten it. She was given a regimen of pills to take while we tried to figure out how we were going to go on with life now that everything we had before was gone. Neither of us had a job.
Three months later, we went for a check-up. The drugs had not worked. In fact, it was now stage 4. Within two months, she was gone.
I was left to drift in a world that had no real use for me. I had given up my dreams years before so she could follow hers. I had a fourteen-year-old boy to take care of and finish raising by myself. Still, I forced myself to keep my chin up. I didn't feel like I had depression at that point. It took almost six years for me to realize in fact that I did have it.
During a follow up for my third round of kidney stones in about ten years, I mentioned to the doctor how I was feeling, and he agreed that it likely was depression. We agreed to try handling it without drugs. If worse came to worst, we could add drugs later if we needed to. They set me up with a counselor.
I had two appointments with her. We discovered a lot about me. Things I had left hidden. Things I didn't want to admit to. But, by the time my second appointment came around, I had found a way to get past my problems. I still have her number, and I can call whenever I need to talk with her, and I've thought about it once or twice.
But what did I do? What was this miracle cure?
Well, firstly, there is no miracle cure. I still have depression. I still feel the feelings come in and try to drag me down once in a while. But more importantly, I recognize them for what they are. I don't let them have power over me. It isn't easy. It takes a lot of willpower. But when those feelings come rushing in, I do a few different things to stop the flow.
First, I write. Even if it's just a few lines. I scribble a few notes in a journal, I write a blog entry, I start a story. Most of what I write during those times is crap. But it's a creative outlet. It lets me funnel that bad energy into something.
Second, I paint. I paint miniatures for games like Dungeons and Dragons. It's calming and relaxing. I've even gotten a few commissions. It isn't a lot, but I found something I enjoy doing, and I make a little bit of money doing it.
But the easiest thing for me to do to stave off the dark moods is Youtube. As silly as it sounds, I queue up Youtube and let it play music videos for me. I have a list of songs that help me. I don't care what people think of my selections. The list isn't for them, it's for me. On that list are such artists as Imagine Dragons, Macklemore, Meghan Trainor, Taylor Swift... anything that has a beat. I've even gotten to where I feel like dancing (and I never dance in public, though that may change soon).
Everyone is different. What worked for me may not work for you. But try it. Don't let yourself be embarrassed. Listen to the music your friends might laugh at you for listening to. Let your body move to the beat. Lose yourself in the music. I can't keep being sad or angry or depressed when I am dancing along to "Shake it off" or "Brave."
The bottom line here is that you have to realize that you have a problem, and you have to begin looking for a way to control it. I won't say I'm cured. But I will say I know how to endure. I know these are temporary fits, and I know what to do to get out of them. It all comes down to willpower.
Don't let it control you. Find the thing that works, and get out of it. Find something that makes you feel human again. I just got a violin. Little by little, I am learning how to play it. I'm 44-years-old, and I'm taking violin lessons. Let your creative, good feeling you out. You'll like it. A lot.
Gotta go. "Shut up and Dance With Me" just came on...