Column: Hello Darkness My Old Friend, it's time to talk about depression
It hits like a train coming off the rails -- smashing through your subconscious and leaving your feelings of joy, accomplishment, success and confidence in a pile of debris.
Then it wraps around your every thought -- suffocating you with a dark blanket of negative emotions.
It’s no longer just mental wreckage you’re experiencing. Now it’s spilling out into the physical world.
You no longer want to leave your room, let alone your house.
You feel a sense of shame without any justified cause. You feel alone. You feel like a failure, a burden. You can’t focus on work, or life or much of anything. Now you’re eating poorly and sleeping poorer. Maybe it’s too much or too little of either, it doesn’t hit us all exactly the same.
I hope you’ve never experienced it, but you probably have.
If you haven’t guessed, I’m referring to depression.
The truth is, I didn’t choose this topic. It’s a response to a request from a reader who said a recent piece on suicide had been helpful to her.
If you’re reading this, I hope you’re doing well. We’re rooting for you.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and if you need resources in St. Lawrence County, check out this link: https://stlawco.org/Departments/CommunityServices/MHSProviders .
At its most basic form, depression, like just about everything else we experience, comes down to chemical imbalances that make us feel an array of terrible feelings. Genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, lifestyle and some medications can also contribute to depression.
But knowing that has never been particularly helpful to me.
I often think of the Simon and Garfunkel lyrics “Hello Darkness My Old Friend” when I’m hit with a bout of the bad chemicals. I’ve tried medications, exercise and discussing it with other people. It’s all helped to varying levels of success for varying periods of time, but it tends to find its way back, not unlike a familiar radio tune.
So what works for me?
What I’ve found most helpful is getting out of my house, despite every ounce of my soul begging me not to. Getting lost in my work, despite not wanting to leave my room. Socializing, hiking, gardening, being in public and being charitable to others I’ve found really put me in a better place.
It’s basically doing all the things my depression is telling me not to do that seems to force it into recession.
For me, the absolute sure-fire way to remain in the wreckage of darkness is being isolated. After all, depression feels l
ike your brain is attacking itself and isolation is a mighty weapon to give your enemy.
Again this isn’t advice. But if there has been an Excalibur in my battle with depression, it’s been art. Music tends to be the best form for me. A song can take me through a gamut of emotions, but it’s often a cathartic ride either way.
So that’s what I do personally and it works for me.
What’s most important is that you don’t face it alone. Do not be ashamed of getting help. After all, it’s bad chemicals, not poor decisions that are at fault here.
I’m not arrogant enough to think this column will help much, but if you’re reading this and you’re wrapped in that blanket, at least know you aren’t alone. We’re all struggling one way or another and talking about it is a great first step.