There's been a lot of talk about depression as the result of Robin Williams' suicide. His case was tragic but that's not what I'm addressing here. What I want to talk about is my battle with depression. I've found that being open about it has allowed others to open up about their own battles. It's been a truly eye opening experience to find out how many of my friends and family have, and still do, battle with depression. Pro Tip: it's the strong, not the weak.
I've suffered some degree of depression all my life. I've always been a solitary individual which maybe depression is just par for the course for this personality type. Luckily through childhood, adolescence, college, and early in my career I was also accompanied by a certain naiveté that kept it at bay. I grew up with the same formula in my head that I think most with my upbringing do which is go to college -> meet someone -> graduate -> get a job -> get married -> have kids -> blah blah blah. That was my assumption on the way life goes. I figured I had all that ahead of me and there wasn't need to worry during those early years.
In August 2005 I moved from Kansas City to Colorado Springs to break the pattern that I was losing years of my life to: working hard and doing my best to succeed in my career with no personal life to speak of. There's always more to do and another promotion just on the horizon. This is the time when I started to question the aforementioned life formula. Basically, when that formula proves to be incorrect what do you do? The focus on work and neglecting a personal life continued unfortunately. Then in April 2007 in CO I stepped out of bed one morning and fell over. This was when the battle with Labyrinthitis and an imparied vestibular system began.
I remember a quote from my buddy Jonathan, from some context which escapes me, which was "I feel lonely but not alone". During the next 5 years with this sickness/impairment I went from feeling lonely to feeling completely alone. I saw many "experts" but no one could fix me or even understand what was going on with my body. Up to that point I had assumed I was always part of the majority. If someone were to say "there's a 99% chance you'll be back to normal" I accepted that because those were good odds. Unfortunately when in the 1% you're 100% screwed. Odds are tools to help us make decisions, reality doesn't look at odds.
Stress, terrible medication, detachment from the world, I fell apart. At a high level my illness affected my ability to move my body in space and visually take in my surroundings. It's overwhelmed quickly. I spent most of my time laying on my couch with eyes closed. I was working half days because that's all I could sit up for. The rest of my time was spent on my couch recovering so that I could repeat this pathetic day over and over again. During these times my only attachment to the rest of world were sounds of the street from my 10th story apartment window.
When I couldn't lay down any longer I'd look out the window. Across the street was a raised parking lot with a section which I can only guess created the illusion of privacy, horizontally maybe but not from ten stories up. I witnessed secret rendezvous and all sorts of illicit activity, most common being drug use. Recreational drugs had never interested me but when literally looking down on these people it occurred to me that they might not be into recreational drugs either. Maybe they needed to get out of their mind just as much as I did.
I've been confronted with suicide twice in my life. A friend of mine committed suicide back in 2007 soon after I became sick. The devastation to his family and friends was unimaginable. For years, and up to this time in my 10th story apartment, I was angry with him for what he did. I constantly asked "why didn't he just call" naively thinking something so simple would have fixed everything. But being alone in that apartment I gained some understanding of what he must have felt. I could no longer be mad at him. Identification of what I assumed could have been his mental state was creeping in.
Mental illenss is so terrible because no one can save you from your own mind. Your mind is your one and only constant companion. There are no vacations from it. There's no off switch.
Locked in my mind, this was when I thought about suicide. Luckily I never got to the point of thinking of committing it but I had to evaluate it as an option. My conclusion was that until I became a burden to my friends or family I had further to fall. Knowing this had unexpectedly created hope of all unexpected things.
I stopped the medications and never spoke to the "experts" again. I ended up in my general practitioner's office crying my eyes out asking for help. He got me in contact with a counselor who eventually put me on anti-anxiety medication, in other words a shrink who put me on anti-depressants. I'm still on the medication today.
I'm doing well today and continue on a path of recovery for both depression and an impaired vestibular system. This is not a cry for help, I'm doing great. I'm writing this so that any reader knows they have someone to talk to. Contact me on FB, twitter, phone (I still have a Seattle number), written letter, however works best for you. I won't be able to fix you but I may be able to provide some insight into how to get help.
If you've known someone who has lost their battle with depression or want to help, please donate to research for a cure. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is one such place. If you would like to donate in someone's name please do so in the name of Dustin Locke. It would be greatly appreciated. You can also donate via purchases on amazon smile. Every little bit helps.