Are you someone who suffers from depression, and have been for a very long time? Like many others, do you also believe many lies about depression?
On a warm spring evening in 2003, I considered ending my life.
I was driving home from a long day at grad school. I had been battling clinical depression on and off for several years and was going through a particularly nasty spell. At 28 years old, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t focus, and felt like my head was in a fog most of the time. I was emotionally numb and sleepwalking through life.
As I headed home, my thoughts turned as black as the night surrounding me. I wondered what it would feel like to swerve into oncoming traffic and put an end to my suffering with a great crash of twisted metal and flames. It would be a quick way to go.
Would I be missed? Would anyone care? Did it matter anyway?
I pressed on the gas and the car approached 80mph. My stomach tensed and I began to shake. I felt like I might vomit.
The approaching headlights grew bigger and brighter. I clenched the steering wheel and wondered if I had the guts to do it. A quick jerk of the steering wheel to the left would do the trick.
At the last moment, I came to my senses. What was I thinking?
Clearly, I wasn’t thinking and hadn’t for some time. Depression had its claws around my heart and mind, and I had become a different person. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel, and it was a struggle to even get up in the mornings. The anguish in my mind was so intense that the idea of dying sounded better than the mental and emotional anguish I was experiencing.
Depression is bad enough by itself, but in dealing with it my whole adult life I’ve made a number of mistakes that made it much worse. I believed five lies about depression, and in doing so became my own worst enemy.
With over 18 million U.S. adults suffering from depression, there is a pretty good chance that you or someone you know is walking this dark path. I’m sharing my thoughts on this topic to make you aware of these lies that are easy to believe. But more importantly, I hope that everyone who needs help will find the courage to take action and begin the journey out of the darkness.
Here Are 5 Lies I Believed About Depression
Lie #1: I can manage my depression on my own.
As an adult, it’s natural to think you can handle life on your own. Men are especially prone to this line of thinking. You don’t want to show your weaknesses and feel like you have to maintain a tough image. But on the inside, you may be falling apart.
The problem with a “tough guy” mentality is that it works against you when it comes to dealing with depression. You sink further and further inside yourself and it’s impossible to pull yourself out.
Depression is like quicksand. You can’t get out by yourself. You need help.
I tried to manage things by myself for way too long, and to be honest, I still struggle with that tendency. I’ve always been an independent person, reluctant to ask for help. For a long time, the only person who knew about my depression was my wife Melanie. But as I’ve gotten older and hopefully a little wiser, I have opened up to trusted friends and family members who I knew would be supportive.
If you’re struggling with depression, the first person who should help is your spouse.
He or she needs to know about your struggle. You can’t really hide it anyway. If you’re battling depression, your husband or wife has probably noticed something different about you. They are also the person who loves you the most and are likely the most well-equipped to help you and give you support.
Second, your friends can help.
You need friends whom you can lean on when times are tough. As a man, I confess that it’s not always easy to maintain close relationships with guys. But it’s worth the effort.
And third, you need to help with a larger support network.
This can include pastors and therapists (which we’ll get to later).
Want to know more about how you can ask for help when depressed? Read How to Ask for Help With Depression: 8 Ways To Reach Out & Start Recovering
Lie #2: Self-medicating my pain is an effective coping strategy.
We all have our “drug of choice.” It may be alcohol, gambling, too much TV, illicit relationships, or any number of other vices both big and small. When we are suffering, it’s easy to medicate the pain with things that make us feel good at the moment, even if they will destroy us in the long run.
For me, it’s food. When I’m angry, upset, or just plain bored, I’m quick to drown my sorrows in a calorie-packed McDonald’s meal or half a dozen sliders from White Castle. It feels good and makes me forget my problems for a while, but this kind of behavior creates its own set of problems and makes your depression worse.
It’s a vicious cycle where you feel unbearable pain and try to medicate it with your drug of choice. But the “medication” only causes more pain, so you continue the downward spiral, wondering when you’ll hit bottom. Perhaps even hoping for it.
This isn’t a good coping strategy because it’s just that—it’s only coping, not healing. When you’re going through a painful time, it’s hard to see beyond the next day or even the next hour. You just want to feel better now.
You can’t run from yourself. You must face your pain and ask the hard questions about the behavior that is making things worse. Despite what our culture says, there are no easy solutions. Managing depression effectively is not a neat and tidy process. It’s messy, it’s real, and involves lots of zigzags and curves in the road. Sometimes you have setbacks. I still do. But that’s a normal part of the process.
Lie #3: Depression is only a mental issue and is not related to my physical health.
Depression, by its very nature, means that you lack energy and are not in an “up” state. When you’re depressed, you don’t feel like expending the energy to take care of yourself, which in turn puts you into an even unhealthier state. There’s that vicious cycle again.
In my early 30’s, I lost about 30 lbs. and felt great. But then I stopped working at it, gained all that weight back (and then some), and sunk deeper into a state of inaction and lethargy. For most of my 30’s, I didn’t pay much attention to my weight (other than watching it gradually increase). I completely ignored the fact that exercise could be a big help to me.