With the recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I
I should speak out about depression and my own struggles with it.
More than anything, I hope that if you're depressed, suicidal
or dealing with a family member who is suffering, you will find some
comfort in what I have to say. More importantly, that you will begin
to take action to heal yourself with the help you need.
I am a "reluctant expert" on the topic of depression, having
experienced scores of depressive episodes over a 30-year period of
my life. If you could see me when I am in my normal way of thinking -
which is most of the time - I'm a cheery, outgoing and joyful person,
loving and feeling gratitude for the people, humor and beauty in my
life. But when the dark cloud of depression descends, the sunshine
and light goes out of my life completely. Here are five of the things I
often tell myself during those times.
You might recognize some of them.
The real reason I'm depressed is my circumstances.
When I get my act together again and these problems
are behind me, I'll feel better.
Wrong! The first line of defense when you're in denial about your
depression is to blame it on something, someone, an event, a life
circumstance, or a life changing development...whatever seems
reasonable will do... anything that can move you away from the
dreaded thought - I have a mental problem (worse yet, a mental
That's not to say that painful life developments don't trigger
overwhelming sadness and depression. They do! But if you're really in
a clinical depression, these feelings of hopelessness don't change as
time goes by. You linger for weeks, if not months, feeling like you'll
never see the light of day again
or that the cloud will never lift.
We can so easily fall into denial when in the throes of a depression -
believing that a change in external things, a solving of our "real
world" problems will do the trick. And this can be so. But if your
thinking or funk lingers on:
Reach out for medical assistance
Go to therapy
Get on an anti-depressant
Reach out to a trusted family member or friend for support
(especially those who have gone through a depression themselves)
Find ways to relax and get out of your head to stop the constant
Pray for relief (if you are spiritually inclined)
Finding hope about one's future and a knowing that "this too shall
pass" is the Holy Grail for the depressive.
I refuse to be depressed. I am a strong person and
will be able to overcome this myself.
Depression has nothing to do with whether or not you are a strong
person! Overcoming a clinical depression on your own through shear
strength of will is highly unlikely, a dangerous strategy or, at the very
can take a very long period of time to accomplish.
This self-flaggelation that questions your mental strength will
absolutely get you nowhere. My suspicion is that the "I must be a
stronger person" fantasy is particularly prominent in Western culture
where we think it's a badge of honor and courage to be able to do
Many loved ones, friends and family fuel this by assuming that the
depressive can control the illness themselves and should just "snap
out of it." This is like suggesting to someone diagnosed with brain
cancer to forget
about treatment and to work on curing the cancer themselves!
I am so mad at myself for screwing up. I can't seem
to do anything right. I'm incompetent, ashamed,
useless, stupid, guilty, helpless, wrong...
or otherwise not good enough.
Your sense of yourself and your ability to perceive yourself
realistically is totally distorted when you're in a depression.
Consequently, you may be overwhelmed with feelings of
worthlessness, desperation, hopelessness and inadequacy. You may
find that the simplest of tasks seem impossible to accomplish. You
may be operating on one-cylinder in comparison to your usual pace to
get a job done. Even those gifts that you have prided yourself on
having in the past (strong relationships, great friends, good sense of
humor, intelligence, wide interests, etc.) seem to all be a lie.
One of the keys to overcoming this is to put your self-disdain on hold
and review in your mind your positive qualities or times in your life
when you have been proud of yourself. Remind yourself that it is
highly unlikely that you have progressed from being a talented,
capable person into an
overnight loser and overall schlub.
I should be happy and normal, experiencing life the way
everyone around me does. I'm a total dud with a negative
viewpoint towards just about everything.
There is such widespread stigma surrounding depression and mental
illness that, not only do we feel it towards others suffering with the
disease, but we are likely to beat up on ourselves when we're feeling
down and assume we should be able to do something about it. The
social stigma keeps many from reaching out or asking for help,
despite the fact that symptoms may be getting worse or not abating.
Some of the most creative, successful, admired, and intelligent
people through history and today have grappled with this disease.
Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Virginia Wolff, Charles Dickens,
Graham Greene, John Keats, Henri Matisse, Michaelangelo, Mark
and Handel all had bouts of depression.
Of our celebrities today, here are a few who have suffered: John
Hamm, Alec Baldwin, Terry Bradshaw, Dick Cavett, Bob Dylan, John
Goodman, Dwayne Johnson, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato,
Uma Thurman, Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, and Robin Williams (of
list could go on and on.. It's all the same illness. It hits all sorts of
You're not alone.
I am a burden to my family and friends. They'd be better
off without me. I can't stand my life anymore.
I should just kill myself.
This is the ultimate destructive place where depression can take
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There are
500,000 attempted suicides every year, resulting in 45,000 deaths
(representing 123 per day.) This is more than those dying of
breast cancer annually!
90% of those who have committed suicide
have a diagnosable mental illness and the majority are not taking
antidepressants (or the wrong dosage) at the time they kill
And the problem in our society is getting worse...the increase in
suicides over the last ten years has jumped an incredible 24%!
Suicide is not the answer...crazy thinking is part of your illness and
suicide ideation is just another symptom that will pass. Thinking that
you are a burden to your family and friends and that they would be
better off without you is simply not true. Giving up on yourself should
not be an option.
I know about such crazy thinking myself because I experienced it
firsthand. Years ago, I was in a very serious depression. My self-
hatred and hopelessness reached such an extreme level that I started
plotting a way to end it all.
I decided to go to a local hotel and take every medicine I had and
then drink a quart of vodka. (Probably wouldn't have worked
Before heading on my mission, I packed my bag - how crazy is that? -
after killing myself I would hardly need a suitcase!
I had two active credit cards that I was using at the time, which I
would of course need to check in to the hotel. When I went to find
them, they were not in my wallet or anywhere else I looked. I was
sure I had at least one of them because I had just taken money out of
the ATM and put the card right back into my wallet. Neither one of
the cards ever showed up again.
I immediately snapped out of my plan and returned to sanity. I truly
believe I had a Divine intervention by "losing" these cards. I am
eternally grateful to God or my guardian angels that I am still alive and
living a happy life.
Suicide is never the solution. Your Higher Power or a helping hand
will bring you to your senses if you don't act when this mood comes
over you. If you are struggling with the suicide issue now,
I hope I can be one of these helping hands.
REMEMBER: You are a beautiful person, even if you can't see the
truth of this yourself now. You're probably a highly intelligent,
creative and sensitive type. The world needs you here...maybe to
help others who are suffering.
Relief is right around the corner...don't give up before it comes to
Share this with a friend by forwarding below.
Call me if you'd like to discuss your own depression at 202.557.8716.
Who is Kathleen Pasley?
Kathleen has a life that encompasses numerous
areas of endeavor: writing, fundraising, marketing
Two things help define her: she has been on
a serious spiritual path for 35 years and has
known serious depressive episodes.
She is committed to speaking from the heart
on spiritual issues and sharing honestly
and openly about mental illness.