If you spent any time on social networking this past weekend, you no doubt noticed hundreds — nay, thousands — of people reflecting on the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Some wondered what might have motivated these two wildly successful individuals to take their own lives. Others mentioned that we can never know someone else’ s pain — and that, regardless, just because someone leads a apparently blessed life doesn’ t imply she or he can’ t suffer from depressive disorders.
The New York Times tweeted out there helpful recommendations of books that will explored depression, including Andrew Solomon’ s classic, “ The Noonday Demon. ”
Lots of suggestions had been offered to help people suffering from depression:
And then there is the category that hit me personally the hardest: people who had experienced depression and decided that at this point was the right time to tell their very own stories. Peter Sagal , the host of NPR’ h comedy quiz show, “ Wait around, Wait, Don’ t Tell Me, ” was one such person; Kirsten Powers , a USA These days columnist, was another. Both hinted that in their darkest days, that they had harbored thoughts of suicide.
Such stories — or even rather the accumulation of this kind of stories — convey a intense truth: Depression is far more common than you might think. And people you would in no way expect to suffer from depression — hi, doesn’ t Sagal tell humor for a living? — do.
These stories also talk to the stigma that still connects to depression. Untreated depression could cost people their marriages, their careers, their friends — and indeed, their lives. Yet far too frequently , people who suffer from depression are afraid in order to acknowledge it, out of fear or even shame.
Your decision to come out of the depression closet generally comes after a great deal of hesitation — so that as part of a conscious effort to express out loud that depression is a condition, not a character flaw. Stigmatizing this isn’ t just counterproductive, it’ s dangerous.
I understand these feelings because I’ ve had them myself over the last couple of years, as I’ ve gone to and fro over whether to tell my own tale of depression. Like those other people who have come forth following the deaths of Spade and Bourdain, my answer — finally — is yes. So here will go.
Twelve years ago, while i was 54 and living the seemingly blessed life, I chose to get divorced. That decision, though the appropriate one for me, consumed me with sense of guilt, and caused me to spin out of control into a paralyzing depression, something I had formed never experienced before. I dropped all interest in everything; my mind became a never-ending loop associated with crazed and dark thoughts. I possibly could barely get out of bed. My work, which usually had always been so central to a life, felt meaningless. At Thanksgiving holiday that year, I was so immobilized I could barely speak to my own kids. It was the only time in my life which i had suicidal impulses.
I got through that 1st depression with the help of a new psychologist, several anxiety medication, and my soon-to-be ex-wife, who despite everything assisted coaxed me back to health. Since depression had never been portion of my makeup, my working presumption was that it was a one-off. It had been the result, I assumed, of our being traumatized at the thought of divorcing a good person with whom My spouse and i raised three children and had distributed a life for over 30 years.
But I was wrong. For some reason that episode triggered something, or even changed something, in my brain. 3 years later, I had a second bout associated with depression. And then a third a few years and then. And a fourth. In between I would have got long stretches of normalcy, in addition to shorter stretches of what I right now realize was mild mania — hypomania, it’ s called — during which I would feel invincible. Deeply into middle age, I had turn out to be bipolar.
Except which i resisted that diagnosis with each fiber of my being. Partially it was because I was terrified on the idea of having to take lithium, the particular drug of choice for people with bipolar disorder. (Didn’ t it have side effects that will caused patients to stop taking this? ) But it was also because I used to be ashamed. Why? I can’ t really say. But that feeling was real, and it was powerful.
Because these subsequent depressions were not as severe because the first, I decided to push through them. I went to work as if nothing were wrong, and managed, somehow, to write two op-ed content a week for the New York Times, exactly where I was employed at the time. But the thinking was impaired, and I occasionally blurted out non sequiturs throughout interviews, which did not enhance the ability to get the information I was looking for. I would spin my wheels for the at time, unable to come up with a line idea until the last possible 2nd, which put me under the type of deadline pressure that does not make for great writing or good thinking.
Worst of all, as a immediate consequence of being depressed, I produced several major factual errors that will required substantial corrections in the papers and apologies from me. These types of mistakes didn’ t just blacken me, they also, painfully, embarrassed the days editorial page. In no little part because of those errors, our boss — who had no clue I suffered from depression — ultimately had me shipped off towards the sports section.
The most recent bout of depression arrived two years ago. This time I chose to acknowledge to the sports editor which i was depressed, though I believed I would try to push through this once again. But I was acting erratically in the office, and to his everlasting credit score, he wasn’ t willing to seem the other way. He insisted which i go on sick leave so that I really could get better at home, with the help of my family and without the pressures of work.
Which I did. That was summer time when I finally accepted that I acquired become bipolar in midlife, decided to let my doctor prescribe li (symbol), and began telling friends which i suffered from depression. When I returned towards the office after a two month depart and colleagues asked me exactly where I had gone, I gave all of them an answer I had never given prior to: I’ d been depressed, We said, and I needed the time away to get better.
Like a lot of others, the stigma of despression symptoms prevented me from telling folks who needed to know that I was sick. We realize that now. Had I already been willing to acknowledge my disease, I would have avoided those mistakes plus maintained a decent relationship with the boss. By trying to hide our depression, I harmed my profession and an institution that counted a great deal to me.
A lot of stigmas have thankfully disappeared through the years. There used to be a stigma related to having cancer, but that’ t largely gone. Being gay was once stigmatized, but in much of the country that’ s not true anymore. In the sixties, there was a stigma attached to in the military; now service individuals are glorified in our culture.
It used to be that depressed individuals would be told they needed to wring it off, or “ draw themselves up by their bootstraps. ” That attitude has been fading because people come to understand that depression is definitely an illness, and that those who have it can’ t shake it off anymore than someone with cancer may shake that disease off. A lot more of the estimated sixteen million U. S. adults a year who suffer a major depressive episode tell their particular stories, the stigma will surely raise. Just not fast enough.
This particular column does not necessarily reflect the particular opinion of the editorial board or even Bloomberg LP and its owners.
To make contact with the editor responsible for this tale:
Stacey Shick at sshick@bloomberg. net