On a dreary, fall day in 2017, I found myself seeking help at a local medial clinic because my body was shaking uncontrollably, my insides felt like they were in a blender and I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my face. The on-call physician saw me for less than two minutes and immediately sent me to the clinic psychiatrist. After less than 10 minutes of talking with the psychiatrist, she strongly recommended I, meaning if I didn’t do it that she would, admit myself to the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) to get help. After some discussion, which included a lot more shaking and tears, I agreed. This transpired just two days after the police were called to my house because of my suicidal thoughts and threats.
I am a gentleman who is usually very kind, respectful and I always try to treat others with dignity. I was raised in a pretty typical Christian family who, for the most part, supported each other except we never really talked or shared our feelings. I am the very proud father of some amazing children, despite the fact that my daughter hates me, and a very grateful & proud grandfather to my grandchildren. I was a loyal, loving, caring husband who tried to provide everything, so I thought, my family needed to be happy. I was a devoted member and leader in a Christian denomination church. I was a leader in my community, coached youth sports teams for many years and volunteered regularly. I was a successful professional who was well recognized in my field for my accomplishments (for which I was well compensated). I was sexually abused at a young age, but I have no history of drug or alcohol abuse. (Did you notice the number of times I said “was”? <sigh followed by several deep breaths>)
That dreary, fall day was the culminating event stemming from over 10 years of feeling alone, hopeless, like I didn’t matter and that no one really cared if I was dead or alive. I wanted to be done with life, be done with trying to meet everyone else’s expectations, be done with acting like someone I wasn’t, be done with pretending that I was happy. I remember being admitted to UNI and sitting at a conference room table with my head down looking out over the glistening city lights. I began counting the stars in the dark, blue sky to help distract me from the thoughts of hurting myself, feeling worthless and more than ever before – feeling alone. I was there for more than 5 hours, by my own choice, and it didn’t work. Finally, the UNI staff convinced me to take a very strong medication sleeping aid to help me relax. I hadn’t slept for more than 2 consecutive hours for almost 4 years, so I thought why not. It was no surprise to me that it didn’t work, but it did help me achieve a calmer state of mind. This is when my healing journey began. Within 12 hours of being admitted, I was diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder (MDD).
Depression is currently the leading cause of disability across the globe. Think about that for a minute. More people are disabled because of depression than by any other physical or mental health issue out there. Anyone who struggles with depression knows how debilitating it is. How it consumes what you think and do. How it makes you into something you never wanted to be. I know that you have experienced depression at some level in their life and that you know someone right now who is currently struggling to get relief from its dark, lonely embrace. Depression effects everyone no matter your race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, religious or political beliefs.
My story may be different than yours, but the symptoms and feelings are the same. You are sad, empty inside, hopeless, with feelings of guilt and worthlessness. It affects how you feel, think and how you behave. You want to get away from everything and everyone. This leads to a variety of emotional and physical problems that include tiredness, lack of energy, reduced appetite, weight loss, weight gain, anxiety, agitation, restlessness, short-term memory problems and slowed thinking. You may also have very vivid thoughts of death, suicide and then attempt to take your own life – that’s where I was in 2017.
When I was admitted, I knew very little about depression let alone how to help myself. UNI gave me, over a nine day intervention, a few elementary skills to begin coping with my depression by focusing on healing my body, mind and spirit. Most people who deal with depression know good treatments and coping strategies are hard to come by—but they do exist.
So let me personally welcome you to Firm Hope (firmhope.org), one of my depression coping strategies. I can’t afford to go to therapy anymore so I decided to share my feelings and emotions with you. This is my personal collection of education, information, ideas, strategies and resources to help improve my physical health, mental health and spiritual health. My firm hope is that the information contained in this website will remind me, while helping you or someone you know, to have a better day today than yesterday. I also hope that you will share with me those things that may have helped you cope with the effects of depression. I am still healing and probably will be for some time – but I don’t want to feel sad, mad and alone anymore. I understand your struggle and you understand mine. I believe we can help each other live a happier, healthier life.