In my last post on the subject of depression, I had expressed anxiety that more people might copy Kate Spade. But I did not think another very public figure would follow in Kate's footsteps so quickly. I did not know either Kate or Anthony, so I can't speak to their specific life experiences or what demons brought them to a darkness that they felt only one escape from. I can only tell you what I have been through, the demons and darkness that have visited me, and how I have tried to cope with them. I will say at the outset that at this moment I am living a life where the sun is shining most every day, I am finding interest in new and old friends again, new and old interests, and making the best of where I am at a given moment. I will also candidly admit this is a relatively (and happily) recent development after so many long years. I hope that my thoughts here can be useful for anyone reading this that might be suffering from depression.
For as long as I can remember, I have been living with lengthy periods of despair and anxiety since I was probably 8-10 years old. There are a lot of reasons I can think of as to the why - but I'm not all that sure the specifics matter; after all, Kate and Anthony were two different people with two different life experiences, yet they wound up sharing the same fate. Depression is that way, it is a disease that seeps into the very fiber of your being. Just as cancer may have different causes and can - but does not always - lead to similar disease progression in different patients, the causes of depression may differ from person to person but the outcomes can - but not always - be similar in different patients. It truly is a disease, just as someone who can't see needs eyeglasses for their eyes to focus, someone with depression needs consistent treatment and perhaps medication to have their mind focus and work in a more healthy manner.
I've often wondered why I spent so long trying to hide my mental and emotional pain. I suppose it is "not something people talk about", which if you think about it is really silly, and can be dangerous. I never got quite to the point that Kate or Anthony did - I could never leave my family, and I never wanted to quit fighting - but I understand the sheer terror that comes with a darkness and a lonliness that feels entirely out of your control. I felt, just like it seems like Kate did, that I had to put the smile and the act on to carry on my day to day life, and that admitting my problems would be tantamount to giving up to them. But the demons were always there, foreboding, angry, at times immobilizing. I wrote a poem back in 1992 when I was 22 years old, that may give you an idea of what can go through my head. You can read it at this link if you are interested.
For me, admitting the fact of depression was the first step in starting to understand how to cope with it. I first found and got help when I was 42, when I was feeling like my anxiety and depression were so overhwelming I was starting to feel like my entire being was fraying. Help consisted of both therapy with psychologists and psychatrists, as well as medicaton to help me "see" - my mental glasses. I admitted to my wife, certain close friends, and doctors that I was in crisis. It was really hard. I've run into some walls and have fallen flat on my face during this time. But the minute I realized I was not alone, and accepted a medical regimen that the doctors are keeping a close eye on me, that in fact I did not need to judge myself for feeling this way, I felt like I was starting to go down the right path.
Here's where it gets tricky - despite the constant therapy and trial and error on medication, it has taken six years of different doctors, approaches, medications and persistence to get me to the point where today, I feel like I wake up and I am ready to enjoy the day. I want to be clear on this - I am in a good place right now, but there's no doubt that just as a diabetic needs constant care and medication, depression requires the same. I also want to say that therapy and medication may not always be enough. It may require, like it did for me, changing fundamentally ways of how to live my life - lifestyle changes and avenues to my passions, which include my routines, my diet, and pursuit of things that are meaningful to me. There is also a useful NYT article here if you have a loved one suffering from depression and do not know what to do.
I would like to close this piece by reiterating a point - I judged myself for what I was going through, that somehow I was not good enough or able enough to fix my own problems. I used to feel almost out of body - like I was watching my own car wreck happening and I could not stop it. The fact is that I suffer from a disease, and I no longer feel shame or judgment for what I've been through. It is because I admitted my disease, let my loved ones - my wife, my children, my friends, family and closest colleagues - help me through my day. And for each of you, I am humbly and eternally grateful for you every single day.