Guest Blogger: Jack Smith
I could barely get out of bed.
I didn’t want to go to work. Didn’t want to see anybody. Didn’t feel like going for a walk or playing with my young children.
I felt this heavy weight pressing down on me. My stomach churned with anxiety. I felt utter hopelessness and despair.
My wife shut the bedroom door and sat down on the side of the bed.
“Something’s wrong,” she said. “I think you are depressed.”
And that was the first time I heard that dreaded word used to describe what I was feeling. We went to see my internist, who prescribed an antidepressant. He said it would take two to four weeks to make any difference, if it did at all.
It didn’t. So we switched to another antidepressant, and the same cycle repeated itself. That’s when my internist, in an act of professional humility, said I was suffering from major depression and needed help from a psychiatrist—and probably a therapist, too.
I had to drive an hour to a bigger city to find a psychiatrist, who promptly told me I had to quit drinking alcohol if I wanted to feel better. She prescribed new meds and asked all sorts of questions about my family history, which was more significant than I had ever realized.
I was frustrated and embarrassed by the diagnosis. That’s what it feels like when your sickness is given a label that carries with it an unfair stigma.
The doctor explained that my condition was no different than diabetes. It was a real illness that needed treatment with medicine. It was a “brain disease.”
I went back to work after a few days in the bed and gradually began to feel better. I distinctly remember a few of the small victories—first making it to the mailbox and then, later, starting my running routine again. Those awful days at the office got better, too.
I thought I had it licked, but I soon realized that depression is often a recurring illness with no definitive cure. At least not for me. I cycled back into a deep depression some time later—a cycle that has repeated itself over and over again for the past seven years.
I’ve been on numerous antidepressants and still see a therapist. I’ve discovered that combination, along with a regular exercise routine, is critical for my mental health.
It’s been a maddening and sometimes heart-breaking struggle, but I have found comfort knowing I’m not alone. They say twice as many women as men suffer from depression, but I’m not sure I believe it.
Ever since I began talking openly about my depression, I’ve been surprised at the number of men who tell me they felt the same way but didn’t know it had a name or didn’t want to believe it.
Depression is real. It’s not a sign of weakness or a spiritual deficit. It’s a brain disease that needs to be taken seriously. I’m no longer embarrassed by my mental illness, even though I still get frustrated that even when I do everything my doctors tell me to do, the suffering always seems to return.
The good news is with the right team of doctors and medical care, it can be managed if not defeated.
I’m Jack. This is my story. If it’s yours, too, get some help from a professional. It’s the first step to turning your life around.
Depression is a growing problem in America. Check out Sharecare’s Top 10 Influencers in Depression for more information.
Join the largest health conversation in 140 characters or less! Tweet what you want to talk about to @SharecareNow and let’s start chatting!
File under: Expert Spotlight