Lessons learned from dealing with depression

Published 9:05 am Monday, May 17, 2010

Many years ago when my kids were young we watched “The NeverEnding Story.” “The NeverEnding Story” is fantasy novel made into a movie. It became one of my favorite movies.

In the movie the world is being destroyed by the Nothing. The Nothing represented people’s lack of imagination in the real world. The only person that can stop The Nothing is Atreyu. The Nothing is destroying Fantastica. Fantastica is a representation of the dreams and fantasies of the real world. The Nothing are the effects of the lies humans use in their greed for power. It is the denial of dreams and fantasies that will take down the nation Fantastica. The only one that can save Fantastica is a human child.

With every step into Fantastica this human child met darkness, sinks into the swamp of sadness and loses himself a little with each step farther into Fantastica.

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I’m not going to tell you the rest of the story, but I am going to tell you why I liked this story so much. This story gave me hope. At the time I watched this, I loved its symbolism, but many years later, as I was struggling with depression, I remembered the hope that is not lost.

This movie was about losing dreams and fantasies, but this movie could also have represented how depression takes over your life until your life is no longer your own and your dreams are lost.

Recently I have heard many negative things being said about people that are suffering from depression and different controllable mental illnesses. Comments made to people about other people that can hurt and stop someone from getting the help they need.

About eight years ago I felt like I was sinking into the swamp of sadness just like the human child in “The Never Ending Story.”

I didn’t know what it was. It seemed a series of events triggered my step into quicksand. A lost job, my mother’s death, other personal issues were all things I thought I was coping with. I knew there was something wrong when I couldn’t feel the exquisite joy I should be feeling at the birth of my first grandchild. I wanted grandchildren so bad and when it happened I didn’t feel the joy I thought I should be feeling. I continued pretending until one day I broke my ankle, ended up in the hospital and then sat on my couch recovering for six weeks.

Breaking my ankle was almost a relief. I didn’t have to pretend anymore. I didn’t need to take care of anyone. I didn’t have to go anywhere. I was so tired I was relieved to have the rest.

My family and friends took care of me. They lifted me up and kept me going. I don’t know if they had any idea how tired and anxious I was. Maybe they did but didn’t want to say anything to me.

When I recovered I could make it to work. I just could not go anywhere else without experiencing an anxiety attack. I wanted to stay in my safe haven. The final straw was having a panic attack in a restaurant that I formerly love to visit. Finally I knew I had to give up and get help.

There was no quick fix. Between my doctors and my family and friends that understood and supported me I got better. I didn’t know life could be so good. I thought I could do it myself. I thought it was silly that I was falling apart. Who does that anyway? I thought no one would understand. I thought by admitting what was happening to my mind and body that I was giving up. I was so wrong.

I suspect everyone but me might have known I was depressed, after all, they lived with me and living with a depressed person is no picnic. But no one wanted to say anything because they didn’t know how to approach the subject. They just loved and supported me the best they could.

Depression sometimes seems to be genetic and run in families. Depression is sometimes caused by life events that are overwhelming for us. It also from what I understand can be a chemical imbalance in your body. Depression is real.

The hard part about depression is the fact that we hide it because of the stigma. We are ashamed because we can’t handle what everyone else seems to be handling and so we sweep it under the rug.

We are worried how other people will perceive our problem.

I had a friend who was battling with depression. Every time she would mention that she was going to see her doctor others would laugh and ask her if she was going to the looney doctor. She quit going.

Another friend suffers from a manic depressive disorder. She got help but regulating her medication was tough. Medication also has side effects. The word on the street is that she is crazy because her behavior is not always calm and normal. And that’s what they call her when they talk about her “crazy.” She isn’t crazy. She is a normal human being that has a difficult disease that is hard to manage.

It is hard for people to cope with their problems and their illnesses and we don’t make it any better by making judgments and using derogatory names when we speak about their illnesses. We need to do better.

I understand it is hard for those that have never suffered from depression or other mental disorders to understand. Unless you walk in those peoples shoes you won’t understand but you can use compassion to support those people in their walk through the Swamp of Sadness so they can find the hope on the other side. The words you speak may be the difference between them sinking into the Swamp of Sadness and letting it take over or getting out of the quicksand of the swamp into the hope and light of the future.

I no longer feel the way I did; however, there are moments I can feel myself again sinking into the Swamp of Sadness. I have learned to recognize the symptoms when the sadness starts to go beyond a normal sad. Now I have tools to help myself navigate the quicksand, hence My Happy Light in the winter time. I have a problem with dark days. Now when I laugh I am actually laughing and not pretending.

If you feel your sadness is like quicksand and you can’t get out, take that first step and ask for help. It will be your first step to tomorrow.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send e-mail to her at thecolumn@bevcomm.net .Her blog is paringdown.wordpress.com. Listen to KBEW AM radio 1:30 p.m. Sundays for “Something About Nothing.”