June 11, 2018
By Arthur H. Gunther III
There is, in depression, a numbness, the nerve endings dulled by a sinisterly administered anesthetic. There is a cloud about you, as if you are in a daze. Little excites you, and if you have the energy to get up, it is the tasks of the day — brushing teeth, getting dressed, doing this and that until nightfall — that babies you along, pushes one foot in front of another. You truly “exist” not in this world or any other, but in a world of detachment. You seem without hope.
I know, I was there in my mid-40s, for two solid years and steps back for some years after. Job success (as a newspaperman), two wonderful sons, a loving and giving wife, family, friends — all kept me from falling away though they never knew it.
I was fortunate in that my depression was milder than most, and I could at times see rays of light toward the end of my tunnel.
As an individual, I am too self-sufficient, and I do not advertise my hurt. That locks people — loved ones — out. But it is also protective. I figure that I will mend myself so I can give to them. I prefer to give than take, which, oddly enough, is sometimes selfish. But it is me.
“Me” was difficult to find in my depression. What had excited me about living was kept at bay by the cloud, and it was only the structure of work, with my writing coming easily, and my continuing ability to get basic tasks done at home, for the family, for my aging parents, that got me from one day to the next.
That and a belief that there was a helper, an angel next to me. In those several moments when I thought I might be leaving, I reached out and squeezed air, though it was not that at all. Kept me alive.
Slowly, as the months progressed, the cloud dispelled, a smile came at times, a re-invigoration developed, and living resumed. Though there were occasional pulls to darkness, I never again felt listless in a breathing body.
Though depression passed for me without seeing a doctor, without medication, without any consultation beyond squeezing that angel’s hand, that was my circumstance. Others similarly affected might do well seeking professional care. In fact, maybe most should.
Having survived depression, which came as a ship in enveloping fog, not because I lost a job, or money or family, my thought is that some loss or addition in brain chemistry brought it about.
We know so little about depression, about the brain’s chemical make-up. There is not enough research. Drugs, which make pharmaceutical companies obscenely rich, are not the answer, given the side effects. There has to be an understanding of nature, of how the body works and why it is assaulted.
Society must also understand that suicide is not the coward’s way out but an act in a feeling of utter hopelessness. Hopelessness that somehow we must see and address. Never cast a stone here. We must note our fellow human’s pain and be that angel who offers a squeezing hand. It will save lives that can then thrive.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org