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Lessons Learned From Depression


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It's been quite a week.

The chronic pain ramped up. A lot. Like, curled up in pain and trying not to scream a number of times because it would freak out the kids.

Then I got sick.

Then the mental health stuff decided: Hey, looks like a party! I wasn't invited! Time to crash that be-yatch!

It ended well, because I'm still here. And no, I don't mean that as an expression or an exaggeration. There were a few times where my wife had the phone in hand, ready to call the men in white coats to take me away to keep me from doing harm to myself. Three things prevented it:

1) My wife. She is my first reason for sticking around. Sometimes I know she feels bad because she feels like I'm miserable and she must be doing a bad job because if she was doing a BETTER job I wouldn't be so sad. Which (when I'm rational) I try to tell her isn't the case. It's the opposite: she keeps me alive. Literally. She's a light in the dark, and one of the things I hold to when nothing else seems worth it.

If you are someone who cares for or cares about a person suffering from major depressive disorder/suicidal urges, don't EVER blame yourself. It's a disease. It's like saying, "Boy, I must really be radioactive since he/she got lymphoma and still isn't better!" Indeed, you are the equivalent of all those nifty drugs that keep the patient alive. Sometimes it's just not enough. But do you stop taking them? Don't be dumb. You keep us alive.

Literally.

2) I managed to crawl out of bed and talk to someone. Just a little thing: a girl who wanted to be a writer wanted to talk to me because she had it in her head that I knew what I was doing. I could barely stand up, but I talked to her for about half an hour. I told her flat out what was going on, and that my ability to give good advice might not be at its all-time high. She took that in stride.

Lessons learned: people are willing to be there for you. And helping others is a huge help. I forgot myself for a few minutes. The pain - physical and mental - didn't go away. But it shifted from front and center to... well, at least a bit toward the middle.

3) A belief system. I believe in God, I believe my family loves me, I believe I love my family, I believe things will get better. And even when those beliefs turn from active realities to just words that have nothing more than the basest meaning... sometimes I can cling to the memory of when they DID mean something. Sometimes it's okay to lie to yourself. Because the lies you tell are the truth that matters.

4) Friends and family. Small kindnesses matter. If you have an email to send that just says, "Thought of you, you are a cool dude!" then SEND THAT MUTHA! You never know when it is going to someone hurting, someone struggling. Someone looking - sometimes desperately - for a reason to stick around. It doesn't have to be long, it doesn't have to drip with depth and meaning. Just "Hey, been a while. Hope you're okay!" (You can even spell "you're" wrong, that's okay.)

Reach out. Be kind. Avoid the toxic crap that clutters so much of our online communications. Next time you think about clicking "publish" on a political post where you are going to point out some person's douchiness in a fit of righteous rage, or are going to sarcastically show how dumb someone is on a social issue because you are the Champion of Right... don't. Instead, find a post from someone you like. Drop into the conversation. Post something like, "You are a rockstar," or "Your posts make me happy," or...

"I think you are great. I love you."

We all have bad days. Some worse than others.

We all need light. Some brighter than others.

We can all be the good. We can all be the light.

And I thank all those who have done just that.

Because I am still here.

###

Michaelbrent Collings is an internationally bestselling novelist and screenwriter. You can find him on Facebook at facebook.com/MichaelbrentCollings, on Twitter @mbcollings, or you can sign up for his mailing list here.