Watching a portion of the PBS 3 part series, This Emotional Life, tonight, brought back so many vivid memories…times of depression, times of searching, times spent yearning for understanding. I am ecstatic for the understanding and awareness that quality television, such as what is produced on PBS, brings to our world. It is a joyous moment to sense the eyes opening across the nation as people watch and learn about living with major depression. In my own living room, I sensed a desire to better understand it, even though I am living breathing proof of what life with major depression can be like, for some reason it is better understood out of the mouths of others. Chevy Chase did a spot on the show, candidly describing some of the challenges faced when battling depression. I found that particularly interesting and a good way to draw my husband, who is a big fan of his, into the audience.
I couldn’t help myself, but secretly, I wished I had been given the kind of opportunities experienced by the 18 year old who’s story was told. Her family was very proactive and she was in the care of great and knowledgeable professionals at the University of Michigan. They did not allow her to continue suffering when a treatment did not work, they continued on, and searched together for solutions, eventually ending up using ECT as a method of treatment. So many who struggle with this condition could benefit from having a support system such as the one she has in her family, therapists and physicians.
I remember so clearly my first devastating experience with ongoing and relentless major depression. I had been experiencing anxiety and bouts of depression for a couple of years previously, but it’s presence was “off and on”. It was when I was a freshman in college, and also 18 years old, that I would have given anything to have experienced “normal” life. I was truly taken down by the disease. The young lady featured on “This Emotional Life” reminded me so much of what it was like laying in my dorm room, suffering but not knowing why or how to deal with the illness. There was a moment during the program that the narrator said something about how life is stolen from those who suffer … and yes, I can think back now to the losses I have suffered. I have lost so much time. I have missed opportunities for education and achievements. I left college in my last semester before graduation largely because I was non-functioning due to depression and anxiety. I have yet to obtain my Bachelor’s degree, although I am far too close to let it slip by me. ( A goal on my horizon!)
Just now, as writing this, I recall a moment when I was given an award while attending the University of Kansas for my accomplishment in my studies of the French language. My parents made the trip to the college town (Lawrence, Kansas) to go to the awards ceremony with me, but because of the depression and such a deep-seeded feeling of inadequacy, I refused to go. I was unable to see myself as worthy of the award. I was frozen by social anxiety. I was paralyzed, sad, and also perplexed by my own behavior.
Depression is a dreadful thief.
But, I have been given so much life, still. I see that my life is a continuous journey filled with more joy each and every day. I will not let this thief rob me of everything! There are new studies, new findings, and efforts being made to help the millions who suffer from depression and other mental health issues. My life is not wasted. I can share with others, relate with others, and offer hope to others. I am not left with a sadness too great tonight.
The one thing I really took from this evening’s program was that there is indeed a very delicate balance of our emotions and we all do the dance as best as we can in life … sometimes dancing in darkness, other times in light.