Dealing with Male Depression

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 1, 2009 · 99 comments

in Health & Sports

depression1Source: Life

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from S.M. Leahy. Mr. Leahy is a student studying at Columbia University. He is originally from Virginia.

A man will have faults.  An overweight man can look at himself and take the steps needed to shed pounds.  A man with poor eyesight can wear glasses or contact lenses. How often, though, does a man look inside himself for ways to improve? A man’s emotional and mental health are just as valuable as his physical, yet the former receives much less attention. One of the most common mental illnesses in men is depression. 10 % of men will suffer a major depressive episode during their lifetime.

Great men in history who suffered from depression are numerous: Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, and Buzz Aldrin to name a few. Buzz Aldrin overcame his depression and alcoholism, eventually becoming Chair of the National Mental Health Association. Churchill took up painting to keep what he called the “black dog” at bay. The treatment Hemingway sought for his depression only served to deepen it. The ECT shock treatments stole from him valuable memories and hindered his writing ability, precipitating his  suicide with a gruesome shotgun blast to the forehead.

What makes mental illness, such as depression, so difficult to deal with in men is the perceived shame that comes with admitting it.  The World Health Organization states that fewer than 25% of male sufferers worldwide will seek treatment “[because of] social stigmas associated with mental disorders including depression.”   A man may put his pride before all else, no matter what the cost. I know this, and I know how high the price can rise.

Origins  of Depression

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder when I was seventeen years old, but I believe I had been suffering for years prior.  Since childhood I had bouts of extreme sadness.  I would sit in the blue-grey light of our family’s kitchen as the sun slipped below the horizon and feel paralyzed, head to foot, by some terrible aloneness. I would recover from each bout within a few days, but I could feel the sadness stalking me.  I’d fall into it even when I had something in my life to be elated about. I became confused and frustrated because of the incongruity, and the depressive episode would deepen. I had no idea where it all came from.

Depression’s origins vary from man to man. Sometimes traumatic events such as sudden death or illness triggers depression. Early social interaction and a man’s childhood also play a major role.  If a man felt neglected or unloved by his parents, or ostracized by other children, depression is more likely to become a constant companion. Eventually, however, depression boils down to a question of biochemistry. Although we all have sad episodes in our life, even some lasting for weeks or months, men who suffer from depression have some sort of imbalance in their brain chemistry that causes pain and suffering for no reason and without warning. While looking to the past to find the root of a man’s depression can be beneficial, a focus on positive and active treatment now and in the future is most essential.

Dealing with it: The Monster and The Man

Everything was enemy to me. I used denial as a defense mechanism, a way to preserve my ego and pride.  I would not admit to myself that I was weak and needed help.  This is how I built my monsters.

I started to self medicate. Towards the end of high school and the first semester of college, I used alcohol heavily at the worst times.  I would seek it out on the weekends and drink alone in the corners of house parties and in the back seat of parked cars. This was not a social activity. I smoked cigarettes in the same secretive way. When I had happy and together moments in life, I abstained from drinking and smoking – to this day, I don’t enjoy either. When I was in the valleys – when I hurt – alcohol and cigarette tobacco always arrived.

The emotional abuse I saddled on those around me remains the worse product of my depression. I allowed depression to burden not only me, but two girlfriends, my family, and my closest friends. One girl could not deal with it and ended up leaving me.  The other stuck around longer, and I abused her emotions without knowing it. I was terrifyingly cold and unfeeling, even as she broke down into tears and begged me to say anything.  I made her feel responsible for anything that went wrong in my life.  I left her more than once without warning, but would soon come back  and manipulate her damaged emotions to get back together. All of it was a way for me to artificially build myself back up. I was trying to destroy my depression, but I ended up harming the most vulnerable people in my life. Cowardice and dishonesty dictated my thinking.

What underlies all these abuses is a fundamental disgust and anger with one’s self.  I manipulated the emotions of everyone around me to bring them down to my level and feel better about my station in life.  Admitting my weakness terrified me so much that I went out and tore away.

The booze and cigarettes, I think, show a self-destructive streak common to all those who suffer with depression.  Although the exact motives for self-destructive thoughts vary, they usually revolve around the ideas that a man cannot deal with such a great burden or, as in my case, that a man is not worth it, that he does not deserve to live because of such weakness.

I was honest on the worst day of my life. It was December 12, 2007. That day, I received my acceptance letter to Columbia University, an Ivy League school in New York City. The second I opened it and saw “Congratulations!” I placed it on my mother’s desk, walked into my room, and slowly lowered myself, face down, to the cream carpet after turning out all the lights. I was motionless for hours, half naked, praying for life to seep out of me. I never cried. I was far beyond the point of emotional release.  When my mother opened the bedroom door, I looked up and said, “There’s something wrong with me.”

Honesty and integrity are fundamental parts of manhood. Admitting weakness takes a tremendous amount of effort. It also is the most important step to correcting the flaws in a man’s life. I realized I could not deal with depression on my own and allowed myself to grow more comfortable with the idea of professional help. I started seeing a psychologist, who I will call “Lloyd.” Lloyd was a soft spoken Southerner who talked with me instead of treating me. I was skeptical and guarded when we first met, and I asked him why I should trust him, a stranger I’d never met. His response was simple, “There’s no good reason.” It was the perfect answer. Lloyd let me talk in a way I never had before. He asked simple but difficult questions and let me unravel myself. There were points when he was candid and told me that he didn’t have a good answer for whatever issue we were working through. He showed me life was uncertain but worth it, too.  Eventually, we developed a system for dealing with my depression:

  • Carefully monitor my moods. I started keeping a journal after talking with Lloyd. I update it every day.
  • When I begin to see my mood swing down, I mentally prepare myself for a depressive episode and take preemptive steps to deal with it. It’s like the first signs of a cold or the flu – I realize there is no avoiding it, yet there are ways to make it easier.
  • Understand that my depression will be more or less present for my entire life. Simple acceptance can be the deciding victory.

Opening up to Lloyd was critical. Without talking about depression, and letting myself share the burden, I would be in much worse shape now. I would not be writing this article. For any man who feels he may be suffering from depression, a depressive episode, or is just in a low cycle of life, seeking counsel in someone close is the simplest and often most potent medication. A professional is not necessary for everyone; use your close friends or family members; they will judge you less than you think. But I would caution against relying on a girlfriend or wife as partners’ moods in a romantic relationship tend to feed off of one another, and you may end up inadvertently sucking them into your depression.  A little distance between yourself and that trusted other person is healthy.

Another method that I use to deal with depression is physical exercise. Vigorous exercise releases chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, that can elevate mood instantly. Studies have shown that exercise is just as effective as medication in treating depression. I stick to my routine every day and  never skip it, even when I am in a low phase.

Do not let depression hijack your life. Keep busy physically and mentally to hold depression at bay. It can be tempting to think that a step back from the stress of life will do a man good. However, when a day loses purpose, when nothing fills the hours, depression is happy to steal them away. Depression will lure you away from the good in life before it strikes.

Lloyd and I  talked about prescription drugs briefly, and we quickly decided against it.  Unfortunately, there seems to be a trend in America that revolves around quickly and haphazardly prescribing potent drugs. To that end, overprescription and abuse are higher than they should be. Antidepressant use in this country has doubled over the last decade; 1 in 10 Americans are now takings meds! Medication for mental illness is extremely powerful and should only be used by men who absolutely cannot function without it

Lessons

I do not revel in my depression. I do not use it as an excuse nor do I exalt it to others or myself. I understand it is a destructive force. That being said, I have learned things while in deep depressive episodes that have allowed me to grow as a young man. The introspection and reflection that came with depression has led to my life evolving.  Because I know how dark things can get, I am more thankful and more aware of the happiness in my life – I appreciate my friends and family much, much more.  Finally, I believe I may never have started writing were it not for Lloyd recommending starting a journal.  Now, I plan to make writing my life’s work.

Yet I wish I could have found these answers in other ways.  There is something here a man should learn to do: Whatever the situation, no matter how dark, move through the awful and find the goodness.

Have you dealt with depression?  What have you done to overcome it or get a handle on it? Let us know in the comments.

{ 99 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chris September 1, 2009 at 10:43 pm

The last sentence reminds me of my favorite Biblical passage: “In his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

2 peter September 1, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Kudos to Mr Leahy on the courage to address his depression. I know full well that his purpose in sharing with us, the readers of AOM, is not to seek accolade, but to encourage us to take proactive steps in getting a handle on the events in our own lives that can lead to depression. I think it is very noteworthy for the rest of us to take note that Mr Leahy has said that he hit bottom with his depression on a day when others could have found reason to rejoice: getting accepted to Columbia University. This is noteworthy in that while things may “seem to be” going well for someone, they may not feel that it is. I am a person that has sunk into the depths of depression on many occasions and have been told by many people that I am “well off”, “doing better” than most, “smart” or just generally have a lot going for me. I have been reduced to paralysis in my development as a human being, through my neglect in getting this problem managed, It is inspiring to hear of people that have dealt with depression, found constructive ways in coping and decided to carry on with their own development. Thank you Mr. Leahy for sharing your experiences with us and the best of luck to you in your writing.

3 Mike Rock September 1, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Marsilio Ficino, the eminent Renaissance philosopher, wrote of the importance of exercise for melancholics in his awesome work Three Books on Life which can be found sometimes on Abebooks.com as it is currently out of print, ISBN 0866980415. Melancholy is of Saturn while exercise is of the harmonious Jupiter, he even recommended exercising in Jupiter’s hour for best effect. Saturn is excessively inward looking, while Venus is excessively outward looking in her proclivity for pleasure, eating, drinking and smoking, while Jovial natured pursuits (outdoor activity, sunlight, walking, moderation in diet, even active meditation like yoga or tai chi in modern urban life would be very Jovial) are said to be just right in the perfect balance for well-being. I struggle with melancholy quite a bit myself at times, doing a Christopher McCandless can sure seem tempting at times.. his story is a perfect illustration of some possible results of the Saturnian impulse, even the setting – complete withdrawal from all society to perish withered, cold and alone in complete isolation out in the untamed wilderness…

4 nmrosycheeks September 1, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Excellent, worthwhile reading. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

5 Josh September 2, 2009 at 12:07 am

I’m a little concerned by the third to last paragraph regarding drugs. Certainly no one should go out and start taking anti-depressants just because of normal downs in life, but Mr. Leahy seems to have attached stigmata to using medication. Taking medication should not be a unilateral decision by either the Doctor or the Patient, instead it should be a choice of the patient: weighing the benefits and risks of medication, not the patient’s own perception of what is absolutely necessary. For someone who is depressed and extremely proud, absolutely necessary may only be realized after suicide. I’m not touting medication as a panacea (I’m bipolar and would go crazy without therapy OR medication), but I do think that attaching stigma to it can prevent many people from getting the help they need.

6 Mike G. September 2, 2009 at 12:24 am

Boy Josh, where do I begin!

“but Mr. Leahy seems to have attached stigmata to using medication.”

Stigmata huh? I think it would be pretty hard to attach wounds corresponding to the wounds of Jesus to medication.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stigmata

“Taking medication should not be a unilateral decision by either the Doctor or the Patient, instead it should be a choice of the patient: weighing the benefits and risks of medication, not the patient’s own perception of what is absolutely necessary.”

I’m afraid this doesn’t make any sense. It basically translates as: “it shouldn’t be the choice of the patient, but it should be, but it shouldn’t be.”

Medication for depression is a crock. I had to laugh the other night when a commercial came on that said, “2 out of 3 people say their antidepressants don’t alleviate all their symptoms of depression.” Boy with that sorry rate, what was the solution offered? Another medication! Now you can take two pills because the first one just isn’t cutting it. Maybe it’s not cutting it not because you need another pill, but because medication isn’t the answer!

7 James September 2, 2009 at 12:41 am

Great piece! Thank you so much Mr. Leahy for being brave enough to share you story so openly. I know it will help others. Your story is very similar to mine. My freshman year of college I just finally hit bottom and had to admit that I couldn’t handle it by myself. Through counseling and exercise I’ve been able to keep the black dog (I really like that) away. Now I’m a senior and it’s amazing how much more satisfying and “together” my life is.

8 Sensei J. Richard Kirkham B.Sc. September 2, 2009 at 2:16 am

As a martial artist, I find regular workouts help with any depression I may have. Even pretending to beat the pud out of someone helps to emulate the original purpose of stress which is survival

Rick

9 Jesse September 2, 2009 at 2:37 am

Thanks for posting this one, and thanks for stepping out there, Mr. Leahy. I think the description of hitting rock bottom when anyone else would have told you you had ‘made it’ is perfect. The number of times I have heard friends and family say “Ah, you are doing great, everything is coming together” while I am feeling the exact opposite . . .

10 Steve September 2, 2009 at 3:09 am

Stigmata huh?

So he used the wrong word once, or spelled “stigma” wrong once in his comment. Big deal.

Medication for depression is a crock.

No, it’s not. Statements like that reflect precisely the kind of stigma Josh was talking about. Illnesses involving brain function are still not understood very well by doctors, at least relative to other medical conditions. Often, the information published for medications for depression, bipolar, disorder, and other mental illnesses will say something like, “The exact mechanism of action of [medication X] is not understood.” Psychiatry, as a branch of medicine, still probably raises many more questions than it can answer. I suspect that’s because the brain is a very complex organ and we probably don’t understand many of its interactions with other organs and systems in the human body.

I don’t know what medication commercial you saw, but from what you’re saying, it sounds like it could have been for a drug called “Abilify” that was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as an add-on treatment for depression, in people whose symptoms are completely relieved by regular antidepressant medications. The idea is to achieve a more complete remission of symptoms by adding a medication that can increase the effectiveness of another medication. This is not a very new idea in the treatment of depression; in the past, psychiatrists have used lithium carbonate, thyroid hormone, and multiple antidepressants as augmenting therapies to achieve the same effects. In most cases, as far as I know, that treatment was considered an “off label” use of the medications that was supported by anecdotal or even rigorously gathered evidence, but had not been approved by the FDA.

When we hear claims like “2 out of 3 people say their antidepressants don’t alleviate all their symptoms of depression,” we need to remember that there is some marketing hype involved. I can easily believe that 2/3 of people do not receive full relief from their depression symptoms. That doesn’t mean that the medications are not helping the patients.

Depression is a complex condition with many possible symptoms and all patients don’t experience it in exactly the same way. Although I haven’t seen the commercial, I suspect that the company advertising the drug was saying (truthfully) that 2/3 of patients don’t get full relief, and they are suggesting that using their medication can provide relief for those people.

That doesn’t mean that antidepressant medications are a crock or generally ineffective. I understand such “2 out of 3″ statements to mean that the medicines we do have, while helpful for many people, can be improved upon.

There are, apparently, many tools that can help a man deal with depression. In the toolbox, we have exercise, nutrition, synthetically-manufactured medications (pharmaceuticals), electro-convulsive therapy, alternative and complementary therapies such as herbal treatments, light therapy, psychotherapy, prayer, meditation, support groups, and so on.

We ought to use what works. Different treatments may work better for different individuals. To me, the important thing is to relieve the suffering and get the depressed man back on his feet, functioning fully, and live his life completely, for his benefit and that of others. It is folly to throw away, ignore–or, perhaps worst of all–to refuse to use some of the tools because of irrational prejudices against them.

I’ve seen too many people recover from depression, and manage chronic depression and bipolar disorder with medications to dismiss those drugs as valuable treatment options for some patients. As Josh pointed out (clearly enough, in my humble opinion), we don’t want to overuse psychiatric drugs, nor do we want to under-use them. Despite all the concern that psychiatric medications are being excessively prescribed, I am not convinced that they are. I still see an awful lot of serious illness out there that goes untreated, costing us countless billions of dollars in lost productivity and wealth and causing inestimable amounts of suffering.

11 Steve September 2, 2009 at 3:15 am

Correction to my previous comment:

I wrote: “I don’t know what medication commercial you saw, but from what you’re saying, it sounds like it could have been for a drug called “Abilify” that was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as an add-on treatment for depression, in people whose symptoms are completely relieved by regular antidepressant medications.”

The last phrase should read, “in people whose symptoms are not completely relieved by regular antidepressant medications.”

12 Gaurav September 2, 2009 at 3:20 am

“Admitting weakness takes a tremendous amount of effort.”

Accepting your faults wont make anyone weak human beings are not perfect
Accepting your fault is like cleaning the sh@@ from your own and next time reminding yourself and avoiding.

To deal with Depression i feel Art is mesmerizing medium. Although that vary from person to person.

Very insightful article.

13 Ivan September 2, 2009 at 4:06 am

this is an excellent piece. i think what might be most important about it is that mr. leahy honestly lets you know that depression will recur. i’ve found that (1) i need to be ready for mine; (2) my depression has morphed over the years, shifting shapes and guises, so it needs watching; and (3) being depressed these days is never as stomach-clutchingly dark as it was at its worst, some 20 years ago. you learn to spot it, guage its progress and cut it off at the pass with a brisk walk, some clear thinking, a good book, the sight and sound of a close friend, or, miraculously enough, just a hearty, self-generated laugh: you have to let depresssion know that you’re onto its tricks and that it does not rule.

as a man who lives alone, i’ve also been helped to ward off depresssion by a piece of advice i heard many years ago on the radio, a simple acronym that can alert you to a possible onset of depresssion: HALT. the idea behind it is, if you live alone, you should never allow yourself become too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired: HALT. that may sound pat, but it’s pulled me back from slipping into depression more times than i can count. it’s no cure for anything, but it can keep you out of trouble.

my best to mr. leahy. he’s got something tough and strong going for him deep inside.

14 reader_germany September 2, 2009 at 4:13 am

Thanks for sharing!

15 Ivan September 2, 2009 at 4:18 am

brief correction: never allow yourself “to” become. i dropped the word “to”. thanks.

16 Blueyedevil September 2, 2009 at 5:12 am

I’ve tried various meds since 17. No more!

Liddell Loneliness + Sadness oral spray. It’s amazing!

17 Josh K. September 2, 2009 at 7:56 am

Wonderfully honest piece, beautifully written; and one I could completely relate to.

18 Josh September 2, 2009 at 9:02 am

Actually, stigmata is the plural of stigma (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stigmata). I was referring to both the “by taking medication you are jumping on the bandwagon” stigma and the “by taking medication you aren’t being strong enough” stigma, at which the author hinted. Thanks for the backup, Steve.

Ivan, the HALT trick is absolutely wonderful for depression and illustrates exactly why it’s important to keep a journal.

19 Edwin September 2, 2009 at 9:21 am

Few, if any, antidepressant drug treatments have been proven to work in the long-term (specifically SSRIs). That doesn’t mean that they don’t work in terms of producing positive outcomes. Similarly it is difficult to prove that psychiatric treatments such as psychoanalysis and cognitive behavioural therapy work. Each case, and person, is different.

My understanding is that any well considered treatment, drug, placebo or counselling, has a positive affect on treating depression. The practice of simply prescribing drugs at the first sign of anything, I believe, is wrong. You wouldn’t treat a heart murmur with a transplant, nor should the first hint of sadness (not clinical depression) be treated with drugs. I’m more likely inclined to say go with drug-free treatments if you can, because there are no physical side-effects or withdrawal symptoms.

Simply put: If it helps, stick with it. If it doesn’t, why waste your time?

20 John September 2, 2009 at 9:26 am

I’m with Steve and Josh. If you suffer from depression, you owe it to yourself to keep an open mind and consider pros and cons of any form of treatment, including meds. Meds of course are not a cure-all, but they have helped me greatly with my depression and anxiety, and with few noticable side-effects. A bias against meds suggests the same kind of pride that keeps men from seeking treatment in the first place.

21 Jon Jon Wes September 2, 2009 at 9:29 am

Though I have introspective qualities, I never saw myself as one who would get depressed. Last fall I did. It was terrible. The events in my life weren’t necessarily the most unbearable, but for some reason everything went dark. For me, it was all unpredictable. And if it weren’t for a mentor, and the counseling he helped me get, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I probably wouldn’t have killed myself, but the person people know me to be would be drastically different. I think everyone should have an active mentor in their life that can help them WHEN those dark times occur.

22 Jake September 2, 2009 at 9:53 am

If only exercise were that easy a cure for what ails ye mentally. In college, and especially in law school, I was a workout fanatic. Mostly because I was a health nut, and vain (I loved how I looked and the attention I got from the ladies). But I loved mostly the euphoric way I felt for hours afterwards and the ego and mood boost. The problem is it doesn’t last forever. Plus, you don’t always have time to workout.

Bottom line, no matter how much I exercised, I was — as later confirmed by psychiatric diagnosis — still suffering from pretty bad depression (along with mild OCD and adult ADD). God, I hated it, but thought I could “man up” and just work through it. It took losing a lawyer job for inability to concentrate to realize I had problems I couldn’t fix myself. I went to a shrink and it was a lifesaver.

The medication cleared the haze and allowed me to function at a high level. (Mind you, I had graduated from Cal and U.S.C. Law School and passed the bar the first time out. But being a student as opposed to a lawyer — where billable hours and “we need it yesterday” mentalities rule — are a different story.)

Like I said, the meds are a lifesaver. And I still work out as much as humanly possible. I wish the focus were more on guys with my experience than Brett’s. The article leans a tad too much towards “it’s all in your head.” I heard that for years, and that itself made me the most depressed of all.

Everyone is different. My wife and I will take the drug-taking Jake 100 times out of a hundred over the drug-free yet functionally deficient and buff Jake. I’m still in great shape, by the way….

Food for thought. Jake

23 Brett McKay September 2, 2009 at 10:37 am

@Jake-

A minor correction-Please note that this is a guest post-not about my experience.

24 Brian Burnham September 2, 2009 at 10:42 am

Overall a very well written and helpful article. I want to commend Mr. Leahy for being willing to share his experiences. I believe that this the sort of article that will help break the stigma of mental health issues among men.

As a mental health provider myself, I agree with Mr. Leahy in disagreeing with the “better living through chemistry” theory of psychotherapy. While medications can and do help people cope with depression, I believe that they should be used in conjunction with psychotherapy to have maximum effect and that one of the goals of that psychotherapy should be to reduce or eliminate the client’s need for that medication (though for conditions other than depression, this policy may not be practical).

I must politely disagree with the assertion that all depression is the result of a chemical imbalance. While many cases of depression do involve chemical imbalances, others involve problems with thought processes or responses to trauma that do not necessarily result in a change in brain chemistry. However this is mostly just an academic quibble.

Great work and best of luck to you at Columbia.

25 Taylor Smith September 2, 2009 at 10:53 am

I went through a period about 2 years ago where I found myself having most of the symptoms of depression. The first time through I didn’t do anything about the problem and ended up hurting my marriage and almost losing my job. When I felt the same symptoms coming on again a few months later, I decided to go see my doctor. I was diagnosed with Hypogonadism (basically I’m producing almost no testosterone) and was put on a monthly testosterone injection to up my levels. While I realize this isn’t what is considered actual depression, I think the important fact that I want to share with others is: go see someone. If I hadn’t made that appointment with my doctor about a year ago, I don’t know where I’d be today.

26 Mike G. September 2, 2009 at 11:02 am

@Josh-

The link you left goes to a page that says “the word you entered is not in the dictionary.”

All I’m saying is that if studies have shown that exercise is just as effective as antidepressants (and there are more studies than just the one linked to above) than depression is not really a “disease” and doesn’t need medication. If you can cure it with exercise than it’s not a disease. Sorry. The only thing antidepressants offer you is the very powerful placebo effect.

There have been no studies than have conclusively shown this “chemical imbalance” that makes depression sufferers feel better about themselves. Now Steve says that this is no matter-it’s just that we don’t understand everything about the mind yet. But if we don’t really understand how depression works, then maybe we shouldn’t be prescribing medicine for it! In any other context other than mental illness, people wouldn’t be given meds for a problem that nobody could see or prove. In the context of real disease this would be termed “quackery.”

27 Terri September 2, 2009 at 11:55 am

Suicide is a male problem. About 375,000 lives could be saved in the U.S.A alone if male mortality rates were brought into line with those of women. Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death.

Nowhere is this more evident than in looking at suicide rates. Each year, about 31,000 Americans commit suicide, making it the eighth leading cause of death in the United States – about 80% of them are men.

Worse is that when a man goes to a suicide prevention organization, there is no mention of help/support for him, but their is help offered and programs available to kids and women.

28 Bernie September 2, 2009 at 12:15 pm

As someone who both suffers from long term mild depression and is taking Lexapro, I have several comments and insights to offer.

First, medication was not my first choice for treatment. Attempts at regular exercise for 8 months were not helpful and so I tried Lexapro. It’s had good results for me. I believe it should not be considered a last resort but part of a doctor prescribed regimen. Mine consists of seeing a therapist as well as medicine.

Second. I would offer that “overprescription” has multiple causes. For example, anyone ever price a month of SSRIs versus, say, two visits to a therapist? I pay $40 for the first and $140 for the second. Yes, there are “bad doctors” as well and patients who ask for scrips as a panacea. But it’s not cut and dried.

Third, I take issue with Mike G’s statements that depression isn’t a disease and that meds only offer a powerful placebo effect. Also, I would like to point out depression is alleviated by exercise, not cured. Take a look at some research before you offer misinformed opinions, Mike.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19675114?ordinalpos=13&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19684491?ordinalpos=19&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19664343?ordinalpos=40&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

29 Angst September 2, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Women seek help…men die.

Depression is a factor for suicide and men receive less money and resources through treatment programs than do women.

This men’s issue in our country’s health care debate is ignored.

30 Alfredo E September 2, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Hi All of you. I have been there, I mean with depression and I don’t really would like to be depressed again.

That is whay i do have my way to prevent it from reapeting: keep my thyropid at optimal level, exercise eceryday, low carbohydrate diet, take the sun every day for vitamin D, 8 housrs of sleep minimun every night, no too many newspapers or tv news and keep my weight under control. I would just add one supplement, 6.000 mg of fish oil everyday.

You can read more at http://www.omega-3-fish-oil-wonders.com/omega-3-for-depression.html

Best wishes.
Alfredo E.

31 Greg September 2, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Such a great read. Your writing is powerful and I think you will do well making a career out of it.

32 lady brett September 2, 2009 at 12:33 pm

@ Mike G.

first, i would like to say that i am heavily in favor of medications as a last resort only – in depression as in everything. the effects of diet, lifestyle and other non-”medical” practices on a wide variety of illnesses – mental and physical – has been well documented. in the case of many ailments (again, physical or mental), the fact that such activities can assist you in no way proves that medicine cannot. it is not a zero-sum issue.

if we were to avoid treating every health issue we don’t really understand, we would be in serious trouble! all science (and therefore medicine) begins with what we don’t understand. that is how progress is made, along with which there are certainly medications which work for reasons scientists do not understand (this is often discovered in clinical trials, when a medicine intended for one illness is found to help with another, unrelated one). not knowing why something works in no way changes the fact that it does work.

generally, however, i agree with many people here that it is a very personal decision; i would never presume to tell someone else what is correct in their individual case.

Mr. Leahy, thank you for writing this! The stigma (in my experience, more internal that external) around depression and other mental illnesses is so weighty, and i know that it is even more so for men – bringing it into the light like this is the certain path to changing that for the better.

Also, in my personal experience, i found that what you *don’t* do can be as important as what you *do* when you see yourself beginning downward. For many people that might mean not drinking. For myself, it means not reading Hemingway (though he is my favorite author) if i am in a vulnerable place internally. I also keep a close eye on my playlist =)

33 Quint September 2, 2009 at 12:33 pm

I don’t understand all of the negativity directed at medication. I have suffered with major depression for most of my life (more of my story is available on my neglected blog), and have been through enough therapy to qualify me to be a psychotherapist. While I found the therapy helpful, and have a much better understanding of myself and the roots of the depression, therapy never “cured” the depression.

It is nice to say that exercise can “cure” depression, but how do you exercise when you can barely drag yourself out of bed and get to work in the morning? At the lowest points of my depression, I would sleep 16+ hours a day and still feel exhausted. Couple that with aches and pains and a complete lack of hope and motivation, and physical exertion becomes nearly impossible.

Today I take two medications each morning to manage my depression. I am functioning at a higher level than ever, managing a full time job and a freelancing career. My marriage has never been better, and I am able to spend quality time with my children. At the end of the day, I don’t care if it is the placebo effect, serotonin/norepinephrine levels or magical fairy dust. I feel better, function better and I am happier. You can take my meds from me when you pry them from my cold dead fingers ;)

Be careful when making such blanket statements about anti-depressants. You may discourage someone from pursuing medication when they would be truly helped by it. I don’t care what your pet study says because I can most likely find a study that refutes it. It is fine to say that you are not comfortable taking medication and that your opinion is based on some research out there, but extend some compassion to your weaker brothers who find relief in psychopharmaceuticals.

34 Einar September 2, 2009 at 12:50 pm

What a fantastic post! Thank you for sharing your experience. My story is strikingly similar.

35 Carlos September 2, 2009 at 1:06 pm

here’s a good article on the evolution of depression that i found interesting:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=depressions-evolutionary

36 Steve September 2, 2009 at 1:52 pm

@Quint,

Your experience sounds very close to mine. I’ve come to some of the same general conclusions. However, I disagree with your final request: “but extend some compassion to your weaker brothers who find relief in psychopharmaceuticals.”

For me, the decision even to try medications was a huge thing. While it’s true that no one forced any medication on me, I did resist it for many years. I strongly disagree with the implication that men who are taking medications to deal with depression are somehow “weaker,” or, to put my own spin on it, “less manly.”

I spent many years with talk therapy. I was doing regular workouts whenever I possibly could, though I had plenty of those days of sleeping “16+ hours a day” and still feeling exhausted. I tried everything I reasonably could, including improvements to nutrition (though my diet was already pretty healthy to begin with), relaxation, reducing stress, and nutritional supplements.

Anyone who knows me well from the time period I first sought treatment for depression can tell you I fought hard against the notion of even considering medical treatment. Why? I resisted, in large part, because I thought getting such treatment would mean I was “weak” or “unmanly.”

Forget that! I understand very well that every man has his share of big troubles; no one gets a life free of problems. Even the guys who seem to have it all together, who make the best money, who are surrounded by beautiful women–even they have plenty of suffering in their lives. It’s the nature of life on this planet. Comparing one’s sufferings with those of other men is a waste of time and only makes us feel worse.

At the same time, some of these guys have done their share of manning up. Let me offer one man as an example.

This man, now in his 40s, has bipolar disorder type II (basically a chronic recurring depression with occasional periods of elevated mood). He can trace depression and bipolar disorder in his mother’s side of his family for at least four generations. His mom, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and of rape as a young adult woman, suffers from bipolar disorder and twice attempted suicide when this man was just a boy. There is a lot of mental illness in his extended family on his mother’s side, including depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, along with various self-medication of those conditions through the abuse of various drugs and alcohol.

This same man spent 17 years doing talk therapy and still suffered from depression. As a boy, he endured about 11 years of sexual abuse committed by people outside his family. He has Asperger’s syndrome, which has caused him a lot of difficulty in social development and functioning according to socially-expected norms of behavior. He manned up and worked very hard in school, graduating with high honors from college near the top of his class (after changing majors halfway through his 4-year college stint from political science to computer science–not much overlap there–and working anywhere from 20 to 40 hours per week while he was in school). He put himself through law school while working long hours as an IT analyst and manager. He played tackle football in the snow, without padding, until his late 20s, and has competed successfully for a number of years as an amateur boxer.

This man nearly suffered financial ruin in the mid-1990s due to severe family illnesses and the near-death of his mom from a traumatic brain injury. He kept on going to develop a successful law practice and writing career. He did not succumb to the temptations of excessive drinking or abusing illegal drugs, but he did self-medicate for a long time by working too many hours, even through one four-year period when he didn’t take any vacation time. He resisted any kind of medical treatment for years, until the situation became so unbearable that he was planning suicide in frightening detail.

He still works out regularly, still boxes, and still takes 2-hour bike rides in the winter along the cold, windy shore of one of the Great Lakes. He created a Web site to help other men who have depression. He keeps going, even though every day seems like a huge effort. He works hard to be a good family member and good son to his retired parents, and a good friend to his buddies. He doesn’t watch much television, except for Animal Planet, a few shows about pets, and sports events. He always feels he’s not functioning at 100% of his ability, but he keeps going anyway, refusing to give up. Pursing his dream, he published a successful two-volume book about Internet law before his 35th birthday. During a particularly stressful time for his family last year, he told his brother he is “not giving up” and is still determined to live an “inspiring” life. He’s not perfect and has his flaws, but he shows up for the battle. Even if it’s not every day or he’s not always at his best, he keeps showing up, keeps trying, keeps learning. Oh yeah, and he takes some prescription medications to manage the depression/bipolar type II.

If you want to call him “weak” or “unmanly,” that’s fine; it’s your right to say what you want. I’m a firm believer in, and very grateful for, freedom of speech.

But I am that guy, so if you call him “weak” or “unmanly,” I will very strongly disagree.

37 Eric Mart September 2, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Great article but I share concerns about avoiding medications As a psychologist I know it is a big step for many people but if you don’t get pretty prompt relief (weeks, not months) from talking therapy and exercise, you should discuss the possibility of taking an antidepressant or mood stabilizer with your doctor. All medicine has payback but most of the commonly used antidepressants are pretty benign and can be very effective. Plus, with major depression there is always the risk of suicide and that must be measured against transient side effects. The rule of thumb is that for the first episodes of major depression, six months of antidepressant therapy is generally prescribed. For the second episode, a year is the usual time frame and for the third episode, you go on medication generally for life. The reason for this is that each episode of major depression increases the likelihood of a subsequent episode and each episode messes with your brain chemistry, making you more prone to mood disorders. So by all means learn to manage your symptoms but do not avoid medically necessary treatment; most of the readers of this blog would take insulin if they had diabetes and major depression is no different.

38 Glow Ruiz September 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm

uhm, it’s nice people discuss about depression and mind-related diseases
BUT
why “male” depression? since when is depression gendered?

39 Dr Shock MD PhD September 2, 2009 at 3:14 pm

“The treatment Hemingway sought for his depression only served to deepen it. The ECT shock treatments stole from him valuable memories and hindered his writing ability, precipitating his suicide with a gruesome shotgun blast to the forehead.”
how do you know all this, did you know the man? Or is it just gossip?
You could also consider the possibility that maybe if he had another ECT course he would never had committed suicide. But all speculation. Comment on your opinion on antidepressants were all ready made in a previous comment the same goes for ECT. Some patients do need it for their depression.

Take care Dr shock
P.S if your interested in ECT have a look at my blog

40 Brett McKay September 2, 2009 at 3:24 pm

@Glow-

This is a site for men. Our audience is largely male, so the topic is on male depression. If a similar article appeared on a women’s site, it would be about female depression.

41 Robert Scott September 2, 2009 at 3:33 pm

The problem with something like depression is that, once caught in the cycle, it become difficult to separate the cause from the effect. And it becomes difficult to maintain the awareness, and accept the responsibility that goes along with it, that any emotional state is ultimately a choice.

What I mean is this. A significant event happens, say you lose your girlfriend or wife. You choose to see it as a terrible thing (hey some men might celebrate an event like this). You begin to “self-medicate” you stop eating properly (maybe you never did), you lay around. Before you know it, you are in a deep dark place – the basement of life. It becomes difficult at some point to separate the original mental state from the state caused by lack of nutrition and healthy practices.

The bottom line is this, the brain – and all the thoughts in it good and bad, are as much a part of the body as your muscles. The mind must be properly cared for and conditioned in order to be kept at its optimum functioning levels. To the extent that you would never expose yourself to damaging strains on your muscles, you should avoid indulging negative thoughts and emotions and if they do come, make sure you are getting plenty of nutrition and sleep when dealing with a taxing situation and make sure you do your best to see the positive aspect of any situation including one that seems as if it should be terrible.

42 Bill September 2, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Excellent, excellent piece.

The most meaningful point was that depression is not necessarily something that does not vanish but it is to be anticipated, confronted and disciplined. Everyone has flaws. It is how we deal with them that is important.

As strange as it seems, sometime there can be a positive to getting through the dark times. As Art Buckwald said “You never completely get past it, but once you go through it and come out of it, you’re a much better person” Just can’t know until you have been there.

43 Seth McCormick September 2, 2009 at 4:31 pm

I have never before heard or read an account that so closely matches my own struggle with depression. It is wonderfully reassuring to see that I am not alone in feeling “paralyzed, head to foot, by some terrible aloneness.” Thank you.

And thank you, too, those of you who have shared personal experience and advice.

44 Quint September 2, 2009 at 5:06 pm

@Steve

I apologize if my tongue in cheek use of the term “weaker brothers” didn’t come across as intended. I don’t consider myself weaker because I choose to take anti-depressants. I used the term because those who are staunchly against medication often consider those of us who do take meds to be weaker.

I am no weaker than a diabetic who takes insulin daily. I literally feel as if medication saved my life.

@Eric Mart
Thanks for sharing your professional perspective. People need to feel comfortable with the option of taking medication and as a society we need to reduce the stigma attached to this decision.

45 Jay September 2, 2009 at 5:31 pm

“Teetotalers More Likely To Be Depressed Than Moderate Drinkers”

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090827123518.htm

PS Brett – could you please install the ‘subscribe to comments’-plugin – http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/subscribe-to-comments/ and:
http://5thirtyone.com/archives/262

46 Steve September 2, 2009 at 5:42 pm

@Quint

No problem and no need to apologize. I get your point.

47 Yupjoe September 2, 2009 at 6:20 pm

Dear Brothers,
I suggest IODINE therapy for depression. To understand how this works, google iodine + pineal gland. You will be amazed and suprised. Our diet is full of flouride and bromide, which screws with the pineal gland, causing all sorts of imbalance.

-yupjoe

48 reader September 2, 2009 at 8:38 pm

First of all may I simply add to the praise given already for the author and the appreciation shown for opening up with his own personal experience, that is certainly not an easy thing to do.
I will attempt to keep the following brief as I believe that with this issue it is exceedingly easy to confuse the issue or fall into a scenario of reporting facts from the FDA.
If I may weigh in specifically on the topic of medication for depression, let me say first that there is no specific route that will work for every man. The above suggestions by Mr. Leahy are tried and true methods to dealing with depression and very well may be the solution to many cases of depression, but i believe that is simply the first step.

After several years of living with on and off periods of what I self diagnosed as depression, my feelings suddenly hit a new low and I thought I must have hit rock bottom. I was so far down that although I abhorred the idea I was frightened enough to seek professional help. I went into the process with the idea of medication nowhere in the near future, for now it would be talk therapy and whatever else was recommended.
To help support this response, I would like to specify that the facility in which I sought treatment is a world renowned facility that really offers the best that I could hope for as far as professional advice. My Dr. there agreed with me on the issue of medication; other options must be tried first. I began talk therapy and even tried out several people to talk with. It became apparent that I was dealing with a Chemical Imbalance. Nothing in my life signaled a reason for the depression.
It was at this point that two things happened. First, I did what I didn’t think was possible, I sunk even lower. Simultaneously, I had a doctor explain that although talk therapy often works, many times it fails because patients in a depressive state are not displaying their true personality. What this means is that if a person can go into the Dr.’s office in a normal state and discuss how they feel when they are feeling down, it can be effective. If a patient, however, goes into the doctors office already in a depressed state, progress is hard because the patient can’t properly analyze themselves from the right perspective.
The sudden wave of quite honestly the worst possible depression and the fear that the above may occur led me, and in fact my Dr. as well, to the idea that I was so far down that first I had to balance myself out before the talk therapy would do any good.
I was severely depressed as a result of a chemical imbalance. If that is the case and one is too far gone for personal motivation for physical activity and being active, there is a good solution in medication.
Anti-depressants are dangerous, over-prescribed drugs. This I cannot deny. The other side, however, is that quite often they do exactly as they are designed to do; they help correct the chemical imbalance.
I began taking anti-depressant medication and after going through the process of finding one that works with my body as far as effectiveness and side-effects are concerned, I began to feel a change. I feel better. I don’t feel as if I am taking a drug that is changing the way I think, it is fixing a chemical imbalance that is effecting my brain. Now, in a more balanced and not so critical state, I can focus on physical activity, social interaction, and talk therapy.

49 Mlynx September 2, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Thank you to all who have commented and for the original article. I too fit into the category of clinically depressed men. In my case, the depression kept me overweight, with high blood pressure.

What was so great was the change that took place as we found the right medication for me. I have been able to turn my life around. I regularly am up before 6 am and have the energy to get things done that were difficult to get up the motivation in the past. In less than a year, I have lost over 40 pounds, my blood pressure dropped to normal in the first few months and I am eating, feeling and thinking better than I have in years. I am even opening up, finding new friendships where before there was mistrust and fear.

To anyone considering seeking help with their depression. I say go for it. One thing that kept me from seeking help was a negative experience with a “so-called” family counselor as a teen. She had the audacity to look at me, tell me that my life was great and that there just wasn’t any reason for me to feel down. That one experience jaded me against professional help for 20 years! My resistance to help may have also been a contributing factor to my divorce after 11 years of marriage. Don’t waste the moment and don’t let anyone convince you that you just need to work it out. Depression is a treatable illness. You can get better. It may take time and a variety of things, but don’t give up. Please, learn from the mistakes of those of us who have been there.

50 Alejandro September 2, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Whether severe or not, depression is a mental aberration that must be taken seriously. Yet, our society looks down upon men who admit they’re sad or depressed; it’s just not socially acceptable. Most men just won’t admit that they don’t always have the right answers and can’t always perform to the best of their abilities. So, when they get depressed, they ignore it; self-medicate with alcohol and / or drugs; get angry at everyone and everything around them; or take their own lives. I started suffering from depression as a child. I have no siblings and was shy and introverted, making it almost impossible to make friends and be comfortable around people. That carried into my adulthood. I’ve always found solace in frequent exercise and writing in my journal, but it took a lot of years and heartache before I finally realized I’m worth something and didn’t have to live in the dark. At the age of 43, I finally returned to college and earned an online Bachelor’s degree. I’ve turned my negative thoughts into positive energy and feel better more often these days. It’s still a struggle, but I know I have to live my life as I please without anyone’s approval or permission. I am my own man. It’s tough to fight depression, but it can and must be done!

51 Davey Jones September 2, 2009 at 10:14 pm

While I certainly wouldn’t want to live with depression, I have to wonder if we would have the same great art and literature and music, and whether Lincoln and Churchill would have been the same leaders, if there had always been meds around to take the edge off…….

52 Doug September 2, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Good article and good conversation.

YMMV – Your mileage may vary. Every man’s experience will be different in some way. My work to keep my depression at bay involves a balanced, diversified portfolio of talk therapy, experiential therapy, exercise, diet, involvement in activities that get me out of myself, a men’s support group, experiences that nurture me. Oh, yes, and medication. The cocktail and level of medications has evolved over my treatment, and is at its lowest right now (I joke with some about being on a “pediatric” dose of my antidepressant – I’m glad I can manage on such a low dosage!). I talk periodically about getting off the medication, and my doctor have agreed, “Not yet.” Given the biochemical component of depression, it’s important to keep medication in the arsenal, when appropriate.

The comment that men don’t ask for help is right on the money. In addition, the health industry finds it easier to deal with women and women’s ways of dealing with such problems than with men. I generally rate my health plan and resources quite high, but in terms of men’s health, they’re clueless.

I was initially quite skeptical about AOM; based on the name, I had expectations of simplistic views of masculinity (The Marlboro Man for the 21st. Century). Some of the content I find irrelevant, and even offensive. Articles and discussions such as this more than balance out any negatives *I* find at this site.

Men, take care of yourselves!

53 Eric Granata September 2, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Great post and fantastically written!

The author’s experience with depression before seeking treatment is much like my own. I was either high or low. Hypersensitive, or cold. I was always too proud to seek treatment through therapy. However, at one point I did use medication to suppress the symptoms.

Unfortunately the side-effects were even more unbearable than the depression and so after a few months I stopped taking medication, started taking vitamins, changed my diet and exercised. The difference has been amazing, though I still deal with occasional anxiety, unchecked anger and the odd bout of the dumps. That’s not to say that medication does not have its place. I am sure for some people that no amount of lifestyle change could set everything straight. But imagine the time and money I would have saved if the doctor had told me to eat right and get off my butt instead of moping around and supporting big pharma.

…hmmm…maybe big pharma has something to do with it. Selling drugs that make their drugs work better. Sounds like a scam to me.

54 Steve September 3, 2009 at 12:30 am

@reader

I am glad you are getting relief from your depression. I hope your recovery and wellness continue.

I want to comment on something you said, “Anti-depressants are dangerous, over-prescribed drugs.”

I keep seeing and hearing this, repeated as dogma, but I have yet to see any really convincing evidence that it is true. (Yes, I have looked for such evidence and have found a lot of speculation, but very little data that are persuasive.)

It’s valuable to question things and maintain a healthy level of skepticism. We ought not be swallowing pills recklessly, at the first reminder that life is not perfect. On the other hand, I wonder how many people are really doing that.

55 chris September 3, 2009 at 7:27 am

meds no meds who cares. Like you pointed out the crutches are endless drinking, smoking,drugs,poor behavior to make your self feel better. This was a very good article and very profound as any who have really been there can attest to. Thank you for writing this.

56 John September 3, 2009 at 10:53 am

I appreciate the article above very much.

For those who live with depression, like myself, it can be the most important topic to address. I’m 32 and have been dealing with depression in various ammounts, from severe to a low simmering boil, since being a teenager. First off, I do not believe there is one right cure for everyone. Even the idea of a “cure” is juvenile, and everyone must choose their reaction to this force in their lives. What I have learned in my personal experience is my depression is synonymous with my passion for life and I must always be reminding myself to keep that focus on the positive, on the creative or productive side of things. To keep it in check, although it’s not always possible. So I seek the things that keep me looking upward. I distance run and enjoy the benefits. I write and keep a eye on my attitude. I’m a musician and find that a few hours with a guitar and singing/writing songs puts me right in balance. I allow myself a moment of weakness, if needed, but only a moment, and then man up. I ride my motorcycle out in the country and live in the moment. Most importantly, I get together with friends or family and have a laugh or just share time working on a project or doing something we all enjoy. I keep a list of the things that make me happy and add to it almost everyday. It started out with about 20 things and is now around 1000! If I’m down, I read through it and I’m reminded that there is a lot be joyful about. These are just some of my personal home-brew approaches for achieving balance. It’s life, it happens to all of us and we are not alone in it. I say, find the way to truly enjoy your life and value yourself. We hold our own keys to survival. Life is indeed what you make it and if I can keep floating on after my own trials then I truly believe anyone can. Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories.

57 Mick September 3, 2009 at 2:43 pm

I read the article concerning male depression with considerable interest. It applies to my life in so many ways.

Currently, my business is not doing well. Part of the reason involves issues related to depression, including the “freezing up” and inability to function. I have been able to take a couple of steps forward after several major steps backward. Other issues concerned the time that I had to take away from my business to try to help a drug addicted child who finally had to serve a prison term. The emotional toll was tremendous.

My wife and I will be filing bankruptcy shortly. The debt load is just too much with my business not doing well. We will be losing our home as a result.

My wife and I are officially separating. As she put it, the is “too much history” and she “lost whatever feelings” that she had for me.

My health has been deteriorating for some time with diabetes, HBP, asthma, etc. I have been trying to follow my doctor’s recommendations and have dropped my weight from 247 lbs. to 206 lbs with a goal of 180 lbs.

My mother’s health issues have been another tough issue to take care of. She is losing some of her mental faculties. With physical ailments, she has had a difficult few years.

I was seeing a very good counselor for over a year. He was so very helpful in getting me to straighten out my head, my issues and my priorities. He also made me aware that I am not a bad person and not responsible for every bad thing that has happened between my wife and I. Unfortunately, due to my financial problems, I am unable to continue treatment.

Depression has been devastating for me. Sometimes, I wish that I could just go to sleep and not wake up. For this reason, it is so helpful to read articles like the one by S.M. Leahy. It gives me hope that there will be a life out there for me when I get past my current issues.

Mick

58 p51mustang September 3, 2009 at 4:20 pm

This article and commentary is for me very timely and helpful. I commented the other day after the Hemingway posters led to the discussion of whether his suicide made him a good authority on manliness. I learned about his despair over the loss of his memory and writing abilities because he was treated with electroshock therapy, and I believe he was also diagnosed with cancer. I remember that Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri was dropped as Sen. George McGovern’s vice-presidential candidate because it was found that he had received ECT for depression, so perhaps the discussion about whether anti-depressant pharmaceuticals are a valid proven treatment possibly represents the same old prejudices that a percieved infirmity- treated, cured, or hushed up- serves as an indicator of weakness or inferiority in a person- or especially- a leader. Franklin Roosevelt was almost never photographed in braces or a wheelchair, either. Why is that, and why do we differentiate between mental and corporeal disease? In other words, is not treating the brain and its proper function in controlling, initiating, and regulating thought, mood, and action any more or less different than how we treat and cure any diseases of the “body”? Does it go back to the ancient idea that any illness is the fault of the afflicted, brought on by a moral or spiritual defect?
In our time depression is considered a disease, just like schizophrenia or bipolar syndrome, so do we ask of those so afflicted that they should just exercise, pray, or keep a journal and be cured? Why don’t medical plans cover mental illness therapy at the same rate as other disease therapies? My plan only pays for six visits a year- not enough for a serious illness, in my opinion- and that is one reason for the explosion in SSRI anti-depressant prescriptions. In 1990 my family practitioner could begin to help and monitor my newly diagnosed depression, coinciding with my diagnosis of HIV. I think that long-lasting depression led to my infection through overuse of alcohol and drugs to relieve sadness, loneliness, and low self-esteem . Of course my doctors did also strongly urge me to seek advice and treatment from psychiatric specialists that my plan paid for or I could afford. It’s been a long road since then- I worked, biked, lifted weights, and ignored my HIV until it progressed to AIDS- then friends intervened and I began treatment with every medication as it became available. I developed resistance through HIV genetic mutation, suffered 11 years of worsening diarrhea, sank to 140 pounds but avoided hospitalization and even gave myself injections twice a day for two years to little avail.
In 2007, finally a new class of antivirals came on the market that beat my virus into submission, my diarrhea disappeared (mostly) and I’m 56, 205 pounds, healthy, sociable, active, muscular and grateful. I do have some numbness in the extremities, chronic hand tremors, and possibly slight cognitive and memory loss, but I’ll take them in stride. I’ve cycled on and off anti-depressants and tried most of them, and the two I’m on now work most of the time. Oh, and I also nursed my mother through the last five years of her life to 2001, mostly by myself and without the help of my siblings, because I believe in love, honor, duty, responsibility, perseverance, endurance, and maintaining grace under pressure. I don’t think I would have survived that experience without Zoloft, and then Effexor. I’m on Wellbutrin and Luvox now, and I probably will have to take something forever. I hate pills- I take a handful twice a day for everything. I feel so lucky to be able to join in this discussion, to tell my story, and most of all, to be alive on this earth and to continue to try to make a difference.

59 p51mustang September 3, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Mick, you posted your commentary before I posted mine. I forgot to say that I’m going through bankruptcy myself, due to share of costs for medications and tests, chronic overspending to help myself feel better, lack of confidence in my future, the prevalence of easy credit and home refinancing, and I think depression and illness making it difficult for me to monitor and manage my finances. I’ve been living on a fixed income since 1996, I never planned to retire at 43, and inflation is really starting to pinch. I really blame no one but myself for most of my financial predicament, and I should have educated myself and planned better for my future. But I didn’t think I had a future, and back in ’96 even my doctor told me that I might want to spend my money and enjoy myself because my prognosis was poor. I sympathize and empathize with your situation, believe me. As men, our self-esteem is tied up in our work and ability to provide for ourselves and others. There should be national health care plan that provides needed medication and treatment for people like you and I that doesn’t depend on what your employer provides or what your business income enables you to purchase. Please seek help through your community, county or state for your immediate and medical needs. You have a lifetime of experience and education to share with others who are building businesses, caring for family members in distress, and I’m sure many other things. My friends have been invaluable, but they’re not all still around for various reasons, same with my family, trusted doctors have moved on, and so social workers have helped me cope. If you find you want to unload please email me at bennettwille@aol.com. You’re not alone. Wish you the best. Bill

60 p51mustang September 3, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Mr. Leahy, thank you for stimulating this discussion by your excellent article. Steve, thank you for sharing your inspiring personal story. Thanks to everyone for contributing to my own education and awareness.

61 Steve September 3, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Gentlemen,

The comments here have touched me deeply. The number of comments, their substance and death, and the intensity of the discussion they have prompted have underscored for me just how significant an issue depression among men really is.

The pain of depression–whether physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or some combination of these–is real, severe, sometimes acute and sometimes chronic and recurring. I think, more than any other reason, the severity of the pain prompts us to seek relief in the fastest, easiest forms such relief may be available. That’s only reasonable; I don’t know anyone who enjoys being in pain like this.

As we go to the mat with depression and seek to understand its origins and mechanisms, we find that different remedies, whether alone or in combination, work differently for different men (and women). Finding the right treatment and developing a solid plan for wellness that will reduce and control depression is difficult: the process can take a long time, involve trial and error, and be very frustrating for the patient who seeks relief, wanting only to feel “normal” or “like himself again.”

Unfortunately, I’m concluding again that there is no easy answer to depression and no one-size-fits-all for this complex state of body, mind, emotions, and spirit. I believe the men here, in this discussion thread, all genuinely want to help their suffering brothers. If the debate has, at times, been impassioned, it’s because we see the intense suffering and want to lessen or eliminate it. We don’t like seeing others in such pain, so a natural compassion wells up inside us and moves us to suggest whatever we sincerely believe works, or what has worked for us in our own encounters with what Winston Churchill referred to as the “black dog.”

At this point, I’m inspired by the kindness and forthrightness of this discussion. You guys care–a lot. At various points in the thread, we have disagreed over some of the exact means to heal depression (e.g., exercise, writing, developing stronger traits of manly character, psychotherapy, and prescription drugs). While we have wrangled a bit with the means, I’ve never sensed any doubt about the end, the common goal: to reduce each man’s suffering and help him get back on his feet, functioning in society, and living a full life.

To me, that’s what it’s all about. Thanks, Brett, for this site, and thanks to all of you for teaching me a lot in this discussion and giving me some additional tools to keep in my own toolbox as I keep moving ahead, and doing my part to help others who have depression.

Best wishes for good health and happiness always.

62 Billy September 3, 2009 at 9:08 pm

“Medication for depression is a crock.”

Tell that to my mother, who credits her antidepressants with saving my parents’ marriage – and in so doing, led to my birth.

63 Lee September 3, 2009 at 10:55 pm

What I’ve found in myself is that when I am in or entering a depressive period, is that I retreat from personal interaction and instead spend inordinate amounts of time surfing on the computer. I have a benign sexual fetish and I’;ve found that I retreat into it, using the internet to provide escape and fantasy, as opposed to facing my difficulties in a direct manner. Therefore I limit my use of the computer, using self-control to accomplish tasks and not drift into surfing. There are some days in which I will not sit down at my keyboard at all. As a result, I tend to be more active and engage with others more frequently. Doing so facilitates the upward spiral needed and required to minimize the impact of the depressive period.

64 Ed September 3, 2009 at 11:10 pm

It should be noted that the people you mention with depression: Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, and Buzz Aldrin all actually had Bi-polar disorder or are now suspect of having bi-polar disorder as it was once not a diagnosis. Depression is a part of that, but i thought it worth mentioning.

65 Don September 3, 2009 at 11:49 pm

@Billy post 61

Oh, GREAT!! So anti-depressants also cause pregnancy. Now I’m DEFINITELY not taking them.

66 Sir Lancelot September 4, 2009 at 3:13 am

@ Ed

I’ve always suspected that. The get-up-and-go those people had doesn’t come from a depressed state.

67 Michael H. September 4, 2009 at 4:15 am

Clinical depression is a physiological disease caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and the value of medicine is one tool in combating this disease, While I commend Mr. Leahy on his public discussion of such a taboo topic, I am very concerned that his attack on the value of prescription anti-depressants negates much of the article’s point.

Men are stubborn about admitting depression. As the discussion points out we are also stubborn in admitting that we are not being weak if we can’t pull ourselves out of it through lifestyle changes and sheer force of will. Exercise and psychotherapy can certainly help, but are not enough for many sufferers.

I have come close to hurting myself before breaking in and giving medicine a chance. Medicine has saved my life more than once. Even then, after feeling better, I would try and survive without my medicine only to become depressed again. Clinical depression is generally cyclical and those that suffer it have very little control. Because of the feelings of hopelessness associated with the disease, it can cause one’s life to get out of hand.

I would like to second Bernie’s point that the article Mr. Leahy linked to didn’t even come close to proving exercise was as effective as medicine. Loads of research has been done on the effectiveness of different medicines. We actually have a pretty good idea of how modern medicines are working, what chemicals they are affecting, etc. Modern anti-depressants are soundly based in modern neuroscience. However, this isn’t the proper forum to be making claims on the medical research though. That is something you shouldn’t trust either Mt. Leahy or myself on. You should talk to your doctor and look into the research yourself.

I strongly believe that the views of Mike G. and Robert Scott are dangerous in that they perpetuate the falsehood that depression is not a disease. To those who don’t suffer from it, it is hard to understand what depression is. It often has nothing to do with what one intends or one’s surroundings.

Thanks to Mr. Leahy for bringing up such an important topic. I wish he had not perpetuated the idea that medicine is bad, but at least it got the conversation started. It takes courage to discuss this in public. Unfortunately, as this discussion highlights, the use of medicine for physiological mental illnesses has too much of a stigma attached for me to discuss the topic using my full name.

68 Ruben September 4, 2009 at 4:23 am

Thy for this Article, i liked it much!!
from now on i will read this blogs everyday!! ;)

69 Jon H September 5, 2009 at 10:11 am

Understanding depression and its treatment has been an obsession of mine since my breakdown, if only to help lessen the burden I carry with me every day. I’ll share some of the pertinent things I’ve learned in the past year and half of therapy that have helped me, even though I still have a long journey ahead of me.

This article is a decent start for those who can recognize that something within themselves that doesn’t feel healthy or isn’t serving them fully. Feeling alone, feeling sad, or feeling pain from loss are all normal emotions that should get expressed throughout life normally that come and go. My working definition for depression is when those normal emotions get stuck or unresolved e.g. trauma, loss; when such emotions aren’t able to be processed in a healthy way that last longer than 3-6 months and impact daily functioning.

I’ve heard many people describe depression as the “Thinking man’s illness”, where you think to much and do to little. Whether that inaction is out of fear, regret, or apathy, it acts as a wall of sorts that prevents us from functioning how we perceive we should. Mans’ cruelest prison is the one he builds for himself. Breaking free of it can be especially difficult if it’s construction was aided by your family while you were growing up. Only you can free yourself of it, but you don’t have to be alone during the process. Blame servers only to distract. Acceptance of what you didn’t get then is the start of figuring out how to get it now for yourself in the present and for the future.

For me, anxiety often times goes hand in hand with depression, especially when trauma is involved. The way it played out for me was I would have depression sully my recollection of the past and distort/limit my focus and awareness in the present. When it came to trying to do things in the present or plan for the future, my impaired judgment would feed into anxiety that would further lead to inaction — which in turn I’d later get depressed about and feed into a downward spiral. Recognizing these patterns is the first step to understanding them. When you understand them you can try and put ‘stops’ in, so that you don’t get sucked back into it and can have choice over the pain. Pain can be a powerful motivator to enact change, but only if you’re able to be aware of it in the present. Eventually, you can make real conscious change. Lasting change however doesn’t come easy. It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes courage. Momentum is key, not the pursuit of perfection. Feeling emotion is not like rocket science, though I wish it were sometimes. Taking two steps back to take a step forward is progress. Hell, as long as you don’t give up, even a step backwards is progress — especially if you’re feeling trapped or stuck.

On the topic of Meds, I have a very strong opinion against initial use. They should be used when traditional approaches have little to no success. The meds can be the extra push some people need — but I think there is a difference between you moving you with a little help vs. expecting the meds to move you for you.

I was diagnosed with a dissociative disorder until I was actually able to express feelings again, at which point it was later changed to depression. The first treatment decision was that I was put on anti-depressants at the age 14 after my initial “cry for help”. I didn’t know what I needed, I just wanted to stop feeling sad, alone, and hurt. My mother was an experienced sufferer of bipolar and a social worker herself, after all “Mom knows best!”. Unfortunately for my sake, she was incorrect — It was easier to give me pills than it was to acknowledge the fact that I had a less than healthy childhood and that her inability to manage her illness impacted me in ways that I still struggle to understand and cope with today. When college started, my rents started their divorce. My dosage got ramped up to the max halfway through college to help cope and I had a breakdown episode a year after my Father was diagnosed with prostate cancer(He’s cancer free these days) while my Mother was calling umpteen times a day with her suicidal episodes(Also alive, but I cut her from my life) in a desperate bid to upstage my Father. What I didn’t realize then was that not only was I facing the potential death of both parents, it also triggered post traumatic stress flashbacks from childhood trauma which fed into my depression which made the meds simply ineffective for helping me cope with that ramped up level of stress, pain, and sadness that I was going through but couldn’t understand why. It was only a matter of time until I couldn’t function at school and came home broken. When I got back home, I wasn’t taking my meds and it took me a year and help from my Dad to get me past the guilt and self-loathing and actually get into therapy. The key to therapy is wanting to help yourself. I honestly think the meds prevented a breakdown that needed to happen so that I could process the shit I went through as a kid. Its difficult and its a daily struggle for me, but I needed to prove for myself that I am not my Mother, but more importantly that I am an individual; me. Not her. Not my father. Maintaining the realization that I am worth it and that I am stronger than I have previously believed requires continual herculean effort now, but someday I have faith it will be a part of who I am that I’ll be able to pass on.

Medications are only one part of a treatment program for managing depression. If you believe that all you need to do is take the pills and you’ll be fine, you’ve already let the disease win. Believing that only the meds can help you robs you of your control to help yourself.

Since depression can lead to suicidal tendencies and impulses, I’ve always found it helpful to remind myself that it’s as an escape from living. It’s easier to die for a cause than it is to live for it. When that cause is living itself, dying for it hardly does it justice. If you should ever find yourself at rock bottom and decide you don’t want to die, make sure you also make the choice to live. Remember: Surviving is not substitute for living life.

70 Timo McGregor September 5, 2009 at 6:38 pm

I don’t believe it is possible to begin a discussion on medications for mental illness without considering the placebo effect. Since the late 80′s Americans have been conditioned to believe that medication will be able to help fix them.

71 Greg September 5, 2009 at 8:52 pm

I am amazed at the lengths men will go to justify their depression and justify their meds.

So Churchill, Lincoln, and Hemingway really had bipolar? What’s the proof? You’ll never be able to prove that one way or the other. I don’t know much about the other two but I’ve read several Lincoln biographies and the guy was depressed all the time. There is no evidence of “manic” episodes. The truth is that great men of the past dealt with their depression like men, they didn’t have the option of meds, so they had to live with it. They made it work for them instead of defeating them.

I’ve had crippling depression. But I refuse to take pills to fix it. My brain is who I am and it doesn’t need chemicals to alter it. I exercise, I hike, I journal, I surround myself with friends, and I’m able to control my feelings instead of having them control me. I encourage others to stop the justifications and man up.

72 von September 6, 2009 at 3:34 pm

i feel that @ times i’m depressed and dont kno how 2/break it–i think i need 2/exercise more -do fun things and take honest inventory–thanxs

73 Jordan M. Poss September 6, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Outstanding story–I appreciate your honesty. I can affirm your recommendation of exercise.

Until college I got virtually no physical exercize and weighed around 280 lbs. by my senior year. During the summer between my senior year and my fifth year, I lost 110 lbs. and began working out three days a week, running three days, and taking a day off. I’ve stuck to the routine for several years now and as pleased as I am with the physical results, the mental and spiritual results are infinitely more worthwhile. While I used to struggle frequently with down moods and mood swings–perhaps actual depression, though I’ve never sought actual diagnosis or treatment–such episodes are exceptionally rare now and much more brief when they do occur.

One again, great post.

74 Oscar September 9, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Thank you
i could relate to every part of this article i wish everyone well in fighting their own inner demons
my have almost killed me twice, but i have come to grips with it without meds

Be weary of expelling all of your demons because some of them make you who you truly are

75 Santa September 10, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Sometimes the best remedy for depression is between a woman’s thighs… but unfortunately the cause of a lot of depression can be a woman. Go figure.

76 Stan September 10, 2009 at 9:50 pm

I have had depression, at least, what I call “conscious depression for the past four years”. Gone through two suicide attempts, alcohol and drug abuse – anything really to dull the brain, to make it forget the mental hopelessness when it really strikes you. M wife could not take it all and I was left alone.

Have been heavily medicating till about six months ago when I realized that medications is just another form of accepting the illness, another form of a drug or alcohol abuse.

Took a month off work and went cold turkey. First two weeks were the worst weeks of my life but I lived through it. My medicine these days – time spent with my 8 year old son who is the reason I am writing this now. I have not had any attacks I could not overcome myself since then. I don’t think I can rebuild my family now but I am working hard to rebuild my life, one step at a time, under a watchful eye of my little son, Eric.

77 Pedro Angel Serrano September 14, 2009 at 4:24 pm

In a time gone by I would have been discribed as having a “mercurial personality.” Today I have a Bi-Polar Condition. Personaly I like mercurial. What a great word. It’s elemental.
You article has helped me get focused on a chapter of the book I’m writing.

One of the ways I deal with depression is I don’t call it depression. After creating a work of art for a friends magazine cover I found myself lying on the sofa, tears in my eyes. When my friend got the drawing he phoned me and said it was “the coolest things I ever saw.” The tone of his voice mirrored the feelings I had while making it. It seemed that the joy I had drawing his cover was being transmitted to him.
I refer to my depression as “emotional exhaustion”.
A good friend was depressed over his break up. I used the term emotional exhaustion and he said “That’s it exactly.” You’re empty. There’s nothing “inside” to draw from.
When I’m absorbed in my work, really in the groove, there will come a point where I’m a complete nit-picker. Needlessly so. I make adjustments to my writing, drawing, etc… I now step back and tend to something else. Another project or time with friends. Anything but what I was doing before. I also get counseling and have been on medication. Will be going back on it again because it works.

Knowing yourself ain’t what it used to be. Excepting that our emotional states are a product of chemistry made it easier for me to take a (slightly) more objective. I’ve grown more aware of how I spend my time, and even how the food I eat effects my moods. Also reading biographies of folks who had “mercurial personalities” has helped. I recognized myself in Hemingway, Frank Sinatra and Jackson Pollack. Knowing I’m not alone has been a blessing and being able to say to others, “You are not alone.” is as well.

.

78 jim_bob September 15, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Great article.
Re: the question about “Why *male* depression” as opposed to just “depression,” I highly recommend Terrence Real’s book “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.” It is an excellent, detailed discussion about the uniquely male aspects and challenges of depression. Of course, both men and women suffer terribly from depression, but (like every other aspect of our lives) there are vastly different expectations our culture places on each gender’s “acceptable” way of dealing with grief and stress. An excellent, serious, and beautiful book.

79 protein supplements October 1, 2009 at 5:27 am

As someone with a long-term but (usually) mild form of it, I have viewed depression as an unwanted condition, something that gets in the way of creativity and personal growth, and should be managed with medication, psychotherapy or other treatment if severe enough.

80 Luke - AspiringGentleman October 3, 2009 at 7:49 pm

I’ll second (or third or fourth) the effects of exercise. I feel far better about myself, my life, and my circumstance after thorough exercise. In my (completely uneducated on these matters) opinion, a pair of running shoes is worth the investment over expensive meds. And it’s a permanent solution, with a myriad of other benefits.

81 Anon. October 4, 2009 at 9:04 pm

Finding this article, right now, almost seems like fate. Thank you for writing it. It scares me- it really does… but I needed to read it. Thank you so very much

82 kimutai October 5, 2009 at 4:28 am

i have been struggling with bouts of depression for over six months,
i use prayer and physical exercise,
irecently started keeping a journal

83 Chris October 13, 2009 at 4:48 am

Great post. Very insightful.

I grew up with depression myself. My father’s side was prone to depression and alcoholism and father left me at very young age. My mother worked so much that I only saw her on Monday afternoon. I lived with my grandparents for sometime in my childhood. My grandfather was a superintendent for an apartment building, and my grandmother was so drugged up on prescription meds, she was asleep majority of the time. Being a child, this left me thinking that there was something wrong with me. I was sub-human to even the parents that were supposed to love me. There are many more stories that confirmed my thought process, but my answer was to join the USMC, where I have been more focused than ever. The exercise, being pushed to do certain goals, the constant communication and interaction with people, knowing that people are there for me, and the no drug policy really did it. Of course keeping a journal was an important item as well. Now I have the urge to go back to school. Making plans for my life after the Marines. I have wonderful friends both in the Marine Corps, and at home. Me and my grandparents and especially my mother have a great relationship now.

After all the accomplishments I have done, depression still lurks in the shadows, and you must learn to keep it in that corner. I can honestly say that everything in Mr. Leahy’s post is 100% correct in my opinion. If you don’t address depression it will only get worse.

84 Jesse November 1, 2009 at 6:21 am

I have anxiety, cyclothymia and depression. It’s really hard because I’m only thirteen and I often feel like I shouldn’t have to deal with these things. I have to keep reminding myself of all the people who have it worse. But I am dealing with it. I think haha.

85 Dave November 6, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Great discussion of this health issue, so good to see it being aired like this.
One thing that nobody mentioned that’s very important : diet,exercise and talking about it are three key elements to controlling depression, in my opinion/experience there’s a fourth : sleep! Establish regular sleeping patterns and make sure you get enough.
This is not for anyone in the middle of a depressive episode, when it’s well nigh impossible, but when you’re on the up do this, it’s essential to a healthy life.

86 Zach March 9, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I suffer from both depression and social anxiety disorder and I have since I was diagnosed at 15, though I believe I suffered from such from age 10. I wanted to thank you for writing this up. It has really been a “manly” light in the darkness, showing me that I can dfeat this and be a good person, and a man.

87 Tina March 25, 2010 at 2:38 pm

(Is a female allowed to post a comment? haha) I started taking imipramine (antidepressant) almost 30 years ago as a prophylactic med for migraines (and secondarily for panic attacks). Normally these types of antidepressants take weeks to start working, but my headaches started getting better within 24 hours. Oh, and of course, my hidden depression was helped. That was a happy byproduct (pun).

So, in my case, I think there is a familial element and a brain chemistry imbalance. It helps to talk to a shrink, but that would never do it alone for me. I don’t know about you, wonderful writer guy, but for me… I’m convinced that there is a chem imbalance in some families.

Don’t say that you’ll never try the meds. My meds stopped my high highs and my low lows that I thought EVERYONE had. Turns out my dad is bipolar and I have a touch of it. Go with your non-med plan for as long as it works, but God gave us intelligent and creative scientists and miracle medicines for a reason. Medication shouldn’t be the first line of attack but I found out by accident (treating another disorder) that my brain needed something to make it work correctly. (PS I’ve been seeing shrinks off and on for 40 yrs…we sort of have a family shrink, so I have nothing against talk therapy.) I believe in both. However, exercise triggers migraines in my bod so I can’t comment on that.

88 Bernt April 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I’m always drawn to reading about articles like this. I’ve dealt with depression in the past, and had a pretty major episode last summer that I’ve only in the past 4 months or so really been able to pull out of again. I am happy to say that I’ve never self-medicated with alcohol, drugs, etc. However, I did see a psychologist when I was in high school and honestly I found that talking to her did absolutely nothing for me at all. I am not criticizing Mr. Leahy, simply stating that talking it through may not always help all people if that makes sense.

One other thing that I always try to point out to people when discussing depression is that while there is a biochemical component to it, I think an ex-girlfriend of mine said it perfectly “its a bit like the chicken or the egg thing. Some people have depression caused by a chemical imbalance, others have the chemical imbalance caused by a traumatic event”. I think finding the root cause of the depression (admittedly easier said than done though) is probably the best way of dealing with it in the long term.

Food for thought…

89 Jared August 4, 2010 at 3:58 am

I just wanted to come back to this post to say thanks. I’ve already expressed this to Brett, but this article was the slap to the face I needed to realize that I had severe depression. When I was going back through my AOM emails in the third week of September last year, I stumbled across this one, as I had not read it. I quickly realized how badly I was struggling with depression and started researching for a professional to visit (that I could afford). Luckily, I found Pacific University’s Psychology Service Center (http://www.pscpacific.org/) which offered me a rate based on my income, as I was unemployed at the time and not receiving UI benefits. I had my first appointment Sept. 29 (not sure why I remember the date) and met my therapist, who would stick with me over the next 10 months. For the last 3, I have been depression free, other than normal ups and downs anyone would face. I had my last appointment with my therapist on Monday. We shared a tearful farewell, yesterday, as she’s moving on to work in another clinic for a differently focused practicum, and I chose that transition to end my therapy.

When I started therapy, I was sad. Really sad. I had days that I couldn’t even bring myself to get out of bed. If I was able to convince myself to get that far, I had a hard time convincing myself to get in the shower, shave or brush my teeth. My marriage was on the rocks, I didn’t enjoy anything that I used to do for fun, my education was failing me badly, I didn’t see how I’d ever be able to afford to have kids, I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to even afford to rent a house, let alone buy one, and my career (or, rather, complete lack thereof) was a total failure. Just ten months later, I’m re-educating for a career in welding, my wife and I are doing well and working on that family, and we’re looking at places to rent or buy when our lease on our apartment is up in February. I’m back to doing my hobbies, and finding more. And, I have a self-confidence that I’ve never possessed before.

Thank you so much for this article. It has saved me. It’s saved my marriage. It’s saved my life. The support and encouragement I’ve received from reading the articles and interacting on AOM has turned me 180 degrees around. I still have days where I’m depressed, but I quickly climb out the next day and keep on where I left off before. I’m living the life that I’ve always wanted and never quite knew how to get. Now I know how…thanks to everyone at AOM.

90 Laura November 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm

The picture is perfect and exactly what I see. This piece is very well done. I was glad to read it. My question is if you are a loved one how do you possibly function with this cold existence? My husband of 21 years has finally agreed that he fits these symptoms. I love him and would do anything for him but WOW, I am overwhelmed with the lack of emotion and the intense coldness. I can’t do this another 40 years. How do I help and how do I help the kids function when their dad is so unfeeling.

91 John J November 27, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I swear everything you wrote hit me in every area of my life and what I’ve been going through for the past 7 to 8 years. I just recently discovered this site, and I wanted to say thanks for sharing and the advice you have given!

92 Nikhil January 7, 2013 at 11:56 am

Found another article on dealing with the problem of depression.

http://asknrj.com/how-to-deal-with-the-problem-of-depression/

Hope it proves useful to everyone out here.

93 Phoenix April 5, 2013 at 1:47 am

Thanks for the article.
I’m 32 … my grandfather passed away 2 years ago before I turned 30. After I turned 30, I came down with testicular cancer. Survived it by taking action quickly. Also been a diabetic since age 10.
Just over a month ago, my father died unexpectedly from diabetic complications and left me in charge of his estate. It is difficult to manage it all with the insane emotional hell hole I’m in.

I gotta change things around.

94 jack May 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm

it all comes down to thinking..

believe it or not but we D0 have the power to control what we think…

depression becomes a distant memory when you ruthlessly refuse to think negatively…

95 John June 1, 2013 at 8:44 pm

If you’re not depressed these days you’re not paying attention.
Anyway ruthless changes in thinking works. But man oh man is it ever tough. Hardest thing I’ve ever done.

96 Angela July 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Hey, I have been diagnosed with OCD, Major Depression, Panic Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, and Personality disorder. The doctors I have talked to, told me that there was nothing other than a very strong dose of medications and lots of therapy that I would have to follow through the rest of my life to get rid of my problems. I had gone to the mental ward twice. I couldn’t stop compulsively doing a few things, and It was all I thought about, along with suicide. but about 3 months later, I am now no longer doing any compulsive actions, I have a new job, my depression is going away, and my anxiety is so low, that I am getting very good sleep at night, and I have quit smoking entirely. (which probably helped alot). Depression, OCD, all these disorders are all in the mind, your thoughts, many physical symptoms come from these thoughts and feelings, which make the disorders feel very scary, real, and sometimes unbearable to the people experiencing them. people with these disorders feel they have no way out, so when a doc tells them a little pill will make it all better, of course they try it. using the medication as a crutch, dealing with side effects and pain for most of there life. however, for me, eliminating my depression was something i had to do, by going deep inside myself, really searching, going through memorys of my life, and really Dealing with unsurpressed emotions. I also am working to enrich my spiritual life and my faith. on top of that, i am sticking to my goals, my dreams, and my ambitions, as well as my goals about depression. i take life one day at a time, and I try my best to eat right. exercise is great, it has helped me many many times from falling into a deep depressive episode. I don’t know what it is, but if i remain positive, keep doing good things for myself, and honestly depression stays away. I was a case that they had basically told me there was no hope without medications. Medications don’t solve the problem, they mask it. Im not saying they should never be used, alot of people i know take medications and it really does help them. many of these people had mild depression, or trauma in there life, and it does something for them. but sometimes it isnt the only way. the other way is beileving in yourself, and never giving up. no matter what.

97 Michelle Says So September 25, 2013 at 3:06 pm

This was a GREAT article. There were certain parts that are identical to what I am going through with my BF right now. It was so dead on, it was scary. I forwarded this article to him. I hope he reads it. And I hope he doesn’t get mad or offended that I did. I’m only trying to help, because I need to step away. I can’t be his therapist. I suffer from bipolar I disorder and I have enough to deal with. Thanks for such a great piece of work. I posted it for all my FB friends.

98 colt October 8, 2013 at 3:22 am

Thanks for the article I am 17 and been in a miserable rut for awhile now I am going to start some of your advice immediately glad to here theres ways of lessening it without medication.

99 Mat#$% December 21, 2013 at 5:37 pm

It is very good that he was able to stay away from medication. Also, this young man shows a real inner strength that I admire. I have dealt with severe depression for 20 years. I have a loving wife and four healthy boys. Reading this young mans story gives me hope and inspires me to keep up the good fight.

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