When it comes to mental health, many people feel that stigma is a huge hurdle. With the help of technology such as virtual reality, augmented reality and AI-powered chatbots like myself, we can remove this barrier and allow those who need support to find solace in knowing they’re not alone.
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My family has a history of depression. I grew up hearing tales about my relatives’ bad moods and witnessing them for long periods of time.
The “black hound,” as Winston Churchill dubbed it, eventually paid me a visit while I was in high school. It was my senior year’s spring semester. (Most individuals get their first severe depressive episode between the ages of 20 and 30; I was about on time at 18.) I had been very busy juggling AP courses, student council, youth activities at church, and job. I think the pressure had gotten to me (research shows that prolonged periods of intense stress can set off a depressive episode). I first mistook it for burnout, which I had previously experienced and recovered from. But as the weeks went, I became more depressed. I reached a point where I was emotionally deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly dea From the moment I awoke until the time I went to bed, I didn’t feel sad or glad — simply gray. There was no motivation. Going through the motions of school and job was a sheer willpower exercise. I just wanted to remain in bed and do nothing.
This pervasive, impenetrable shroud of grayness began to get to me after a few months. I would have done anything to feel anything different — anything, in fact. “How come I can’t be happy?” I kept asking myself the same question. I imagined I’d snap out of it and be back to normal in no time. But no matter how hard I tried, nothing seemed to work.
My thoughts began going to a fairly dark place one night after a particularly long work shift. Killing myself seemed like the only way to get out of the mental quagmire that had become my existence. Gunshot, hanging, and overdose were among the possibilities that sprang to mind. I sat in my vehicle for 45 minutes after pulling into my driveway, looking at the steering wheel, thinking about the unfathomable. Even the prospect of suicide, though, did not elicit an emotional response from me. That fact — that I felt nothing while considering taking my life — was enough to make me crack. I began to sob uncontrollably.
I realized I needed assistance.
“Something’s wrong with me,” I said as I stepped inside the home.
My parents had a hunch that something wasn’t right with me. They observed that I wasn’t as cheerful or driven as normal, but they had no idea how far I’d fallen into the abyss. So I informed them.
I was fortunate in that I had a great support system in place. I went to my church’s pastor (who also happened to be my employer) and told him what was going on. He offered sound spiritual and emotional advice. I informed him that I needed to resign from my work in order to care for myself. He graciously accepted my resignation and offered me the chance to return when I was ready. Friends and relatives rallied to my side. They didn’t coddle me or hold pity parties; instead, they went out of their way to reach out. A guy from church offered me to ride horses at his property. He was well aware that it was something I loved but hadn’t done in a long time. He also reasoned that I may benefit from some fresh air and sunshine. I went on a few road excursions with family and friends. Nothing out of the ordinary. I traveled to New Mexico to visit my grandfather and then drove down to Texas with my brother and brother-in-law for something I can’t recall. It didn’t make a difference. It was enjoyable just to be in the company of others. My closest friend and I would get our fishing permits and drive down dusty roads until we located a stream where we could cast a line. We never discussed “my funk,” as I termed it, which was excellent since it distracted me from it.
The use of therapists and antidepressants was suggested. I opted against those paths not because of any shame, but because I wanted to explore what I could do on my own.
At school, as well as with student council and religious activities, I slowed down. I concentrated solely on studying for my AP tests. I read, journaled, prayed, and exercised in my leisure time. There were some days that were better than others. I’d think I’d finally cracked the funk rhythm, but then something would happen, and the dark hound would return with a fury. But the black cloud that had been hovering over my head began to lift gradually. There was never a turning point in my life where I was like, “Hell yes!” It’s finished! “Now I’m content!” I was simply feeling better. Life had taken on a new hue.
That was the start of my serious depressed episode.
Since then, I’ve had another, which isn’t unexpected. According to studies, having one severe depressive episode increases your odds of having another. After graduating from law school in 2009, I had a second visit from the black dog. The pressures of three years of hard study, maintaining a website, and releasing a book, combined with Kate and I losing a baby, drove me over the brink and back into the gray zone. I, too, eventually came out of my depression.
In addition to these two large spells of sadness, I also experience smaller attacks of melancholy on a regular basis.
I’ve thought about seeing a therapist a few times, but due to time restrictions, I’ve never done so. As a result, I resorted to “bibliotherapy,” or reading books and research on depression treatment in order to cure my own. I’ve spent a significant amount of time investigating the topic. Quite a bit. I even got my genome analyzed to determine whether I had a gene linked to depression, which experts believe is passed down through generations. (I do, really.)
I’ve learned a lot of interesting things as a result of my study. The most surprising finding was that, despite all of the books published on how to manage depression and the billions of dollars spent on antidepressants each year in the United States, depression remains a total mystery. Just when experts believe they’ve figured out what’s causing it and how to treat it, new research emerges that refutes their beliefs. Despite over 30 years of study and a concentrated effort by scientists, physicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists to cure depression, it continues to spread at an alarming pace, affecting people of all ages.
Another interesting finding was that having a depressed temperament had certain advantages, such as enhanced analytical skills, attention to detail, and a more objective perspective than optimists.
Finally, what I learned about the cultural history of depression startled me. Depression is now seen as a mental disorder in the West, notably in America, and as something that must be treated and cured as soon as possible with treatment and medications. Everything is fantastic, and everyone should be “happy, happy, happy.” However, society has taken a more nuanced approach to depression, or “melancholy” as it was originally known, throughout Western history. It was thought to be a disposition that had both a curse and a gift attached to it. The objective wasn’t to cure someone of their sadness, but to help them control it so that it didn’t turn into “madness” or “hysteria.”
Depression isn’t something many guys want to speak about since it’s considered as a sign of weakness in the current Western world, and a man isn’t meant to be weak. Furthermore, males are less likely than women to express how they are feeling. We’re more outwardly focused and action-oriented, and we pay less attention to what’s going on within.
I understand. I’m in the same boat as you.
But I’m aware that many guys are suffering in silence. They’re sick of being numb on the inside. Suicide, a typical result of severe sadness among individuals (particularly males), has been on the rise since 2000. In 2013, males made up 77 percent of those who committed suicide. It’s an issue that disproportionately affects guys, yet no one is talking about it. So, over the next several weeks, we’ll be giving depression the AoM treatment with a comprehensive and well-researched series on the subject.
We’ll start with the history of depression in the West since I believe it provides some much-needed context for this condition experienced by many great men throughout history (including Abe Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Tolstoy, and Buzz Aldrin). The way we perceive depression in the twenty-first century differs from how it has previously been regarded, and understanding this shift might help you see your own despair in a new light.
We’ll next look at what current research indicates about depression’s likely causes (hint: we have some theories, but nothing concrete). We’ll also discuss how depression presents in males, as opposed to how it affects women.
Finally, we’ll provide some research-backed guidance as well as advise from great men in history who have intimate knowledge of the black hound to help you cope with your sadness. There are no guarantees of “healing” or that following the advise would make you the happiest guy on the planet. Things really improved once I gave up on the notion that one day I’d miraculously be happy all of the time. The advice I’ll give you is all about controlling and maximizing your bad moods — how to keep the black hound under control so it doesn’t get in the way of living a happy life. The suggestions worked for me, and they could work for you as well.
I hope you’ll join me on this trip into the dark realm of depression and out the other side, whether you’re depressed yourself or have a dear friend or loved one who is.
Read the Complete Series
The Depression’s History What Are the Causes of Depression? Male Melancholy Signs and Symptoms Depression and Its Treatment
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Frequently Asked Questions
What are the struggles of having depression?
A: There are many struggles that come with having depression. One of them is the feeling of isolation, or being cut off from those around you and not understanding why this has happened to you. Another struggle is living in a world where people often cannot understand what its like to have an illness such as depression, which can make life even more difficult for someone struggling with their mental health issues. The biggest struggle though comes when there isnt enough support available- when something happens but no one knows how theyre going to react or help out because they dont know either!
What are the top 5 causes of depression?
A: Major depressive disorder, low self-esteem, anxiety disorders and stress are some of the top reasons for depression. Additionally poor sleep hygiene is also a very important cause.
What are the struggles of mental health?
A: Some of the struggles that people may face with mental health are depression, anxiety, self-harm and schizophrenia. These issues can cause a lot of stress for those involved.