In early 2016 my doctor diagnosed me with depression. It was the least surprising thing my doctor could have told me because I was quite aware I had been dealing with it for some time. From the age of 16 on, I had encountered bouts here and there, but this was the first time I sought medical help.
Since that February day, I’ve found it very easy to be open with that diagnosis. For some reason, telling people about my struggles with depression rolls off the tongue just as easily as telling them about my struggles with Mike Matheny’s managing. It just feels a bit natural. But after talking to people and reading about the “black dog,” I’ve discovered it’s not that common to discuss. Regardless, there is something in me that tells me I need to be discussing the issue of depression with others. And here are 6 reasons I talk about depression.
1. It’s a big deal that’s not a big deal.
I would never minimize the severity of depression. It’s an awful thing that attacks and destroys so many lives. It’s a big deal. Talking about it, however, is not. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell someone I had a migraine. I wouldn’t try to conceal a cast that shows I have a broken arm. For me, talking about the issue isn’t that big of a deal. It’s a part of life, and it’s a part of the road I’m walking down. There are plenty of other issues in my life that I’m not comfortable discussing with strangers, but this is one I’ve been able to talk about freely, and if talking about it openly can help someone else, I’ll gladly do it!
2. There is strength in numbers.
The more I talk about my battle with depression, the more people that open up to me about their battles with depression. And the more I realize I’m not alone, the more inclined I am to lean in, be authentic and transparent with others, and realize what I’m dealing with is completely normal. There is great strength in knowing we are not alone in our struggles. Knowing that someone else knows what we’re going through does us a lot of good. And I can say this with complete sincerity: every single person who has opened up to me about their battle with depression has been an encouragement to me in some way.
3a. Too many men are suffering in silence.
As men, we don’t like to talk about our feelings or emotions. We also have this idea that depression means we’re weak and it’s an indictment of our masculinity. Therefore, we stay quiet and suffer in silence. It doesn’t need to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. Men, we need to talk about it. We need to discuss it. We need to offer each other hope and encouragement. We definitely don’t need to perpetuate the myth that depression is a sign of male weakness. Nothing could show strength like speaking up, being honest with ourselves and others, and admitting our struggles. We need to talk about it.
3b. Too many leaders (and especially ministry leaders) are suffering in silence.
Because of the corporate, survival-of-the-fittest attitude that exists today, people in high positions are afraid to speak up out of fear of losing their influence and position. Corporate leaders are afraid that an admission of mental illness will cause them to get replaced by someone who is more “stable.” Pastors are afraid that speaking up will cause their board to see them as weak or their congregation to see them as “lacking in faith.” And while I wish I could say that none of these things will happen, the truth is that they do happen sometimes. Our dog-eat-dog world can be cruel. Our ignorant world can be cruel. But there’s no need to suffer in silence. There are people out there who are going through the very same thing who want to help. Depression isn’t synonymous with ineptitude or lack of faith. Depression is no respecter of persons or professions. I’ve spoken up because I don’t want leaders to feel like they have to suffer in silence.
4. I’m not exactly qualified to talk about fitness so I might as well go with something I know!
5. I want to see us end the stigma.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 6.7% of US adults have been diagnosed with depression. That number jumps to over 10% when you examine 18-25 year olds. And that’s just those who have been diagnosed. Think about all of the people who are suffering who have yet to seek help because they’re afraid to seek help. They’re afraid to be labeled. They’re afraid to be seen as inferior. They’re afraid people will think there’s something wrong with them. I want to see this stigma disappear in my lifetime. Like I mentioned earlier, I would love for us to get to the point where we view depression as no different than a headache or broken arm.
6. People need to know help is available.
It took me almost 14 years to get help. Thankfully, I wasn’t suffering 14 years straight, and thankfully my depression has been something that comes and goes and has been behind me for a couple years, but if hindsight is 20/20, I wish I had gotten help long before I did. Meeting with a doctor and getting on medication did wonders for me. Having trusted friends to talk to who have dealt with or are dealing with the same thing kept me feeling refreshed and normal. And I want all my friends to know that help is available and it’s a beautiful thing. Whether that looks like medication, counseling, etc., help is out there.
As long as depression still exists, I’ll keep talking about it. And I hope those who are dealing with it will find the strength to discuss it as well. You’re not alone. You’re not broken. You’re just like me and I’m just like you. Let’s talk about it.
Photo credit: Choc.org.