Have you ever woken up sad? Not for any particular reason, really. But no matter what you do, it’s just there? Your sadness colors your entire day. You keep wondering, “Why do I feel so sad? Nothing particularly bad has happened. What’s wrong with me?”
Now imagine spending every day like that. Even things you love feel muted, as though you can’t quite get the feelings right. Not even sadness itself, because it has taken on a different meaning. You aren’t sad for a reason like a breakup or a bad day at work. You just are. And it doesn’t go away.
It gets worse. Your brain lies to you. It tells you horrible things. That you’re a burden to your friends. That you are alone, even when surrounded by people that love you. It lurks at the edges of who you are and whispers its lies to you even when you’re supposed to be having fun.
It has a name, but it can be hard to say it. Depression.
I’m not sure exactly when I realized that I was depressed. It’s certainly been with me for a long time, and it’s something I’ve battled for years. I see a therapist and psychiatrist who have helped me work through it, and I take medication to treat it; for the most part I live a “normal” life. But even with all of that, sometimes it hits me. Not for any reason, but I can feel it creeping in.
And it’s taken me a long time to even admit it was there. 30 years. That’s a long time to be sad for no reason. But it’s not uncommon. I’m far from alone.
According to the CDC, 1 in 20 Americans age 12 and up have reported experiencing depression, and more than 10% of US adults experience frequent mental distress each year. That’s a whopping 31,610,000 people every year. Many of those people suffer alone and in silence.
I’m lucky though. I have an amazing social support system that starts with my family — my wife, my mom, my stepdad, my brother — and expands to include my friends and coworkers, all people who listen and help.
I know I’m lucky. Not everyone has a social support system, or can afford therapy or medication.
But no one is truly alone, not in the age of the internet and social media. Thankfully there many resources available, like the ones below. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of depression, please share them.
- Knowing The Signs and Symptoms of Depression
- Find mental health services in your area
- Find a Doctor
- Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance
- NAMI.org features the latest information on mental health illnesses, medication, and treatment and resources for support and advocacy. Other features include online discussion groups and fact sheets. They have a helpline, online tools, free courses and support groups.
- StrengthofUs.org is an online social community for teens and young adults living with mental illness, is a place where they can connect while learning about services, supports and handling the unique challenges and opportunities of transition-age years.
If you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, tell someone who can help right away:
- Call your doctor’s office.
- Call 911 for emergency services.
- Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
- Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.
- Ask a family member or friend to help you make these calls or take you to the hospital if you aren’t able to do so yourself.
If you have a family member or friend in a crisis
If you have a family member or friend who is suicidal, do not leave him or her alone. Try to get the person to seek help immediately from a physician, mental health professional, or emergency room. Take seriously any comments about suicide or wishing to die. Even if you do not believe your family member or friend will actually attempt suicide, the person is clearly in distress and can benefit from your help in receiving mental health treatment.
October is depression awareness month, and it’s in that spirit that I wrote this. Because no matter how much depression makes you feel alone, you never are. It’s one of the reasons I talk about my own struggles, in hopes that I can help those who don’t find it so easy.