by Charlie Blackmer
There is more than one way to be depressed. What comes to mind for many is a lifeless form, wrapped in blankets, curled up on the couch of a darkened living room, blocking out the daytime world. Others conjure up the image of someone drifting zombie-like through their work or school day, as if half asleep. Still for some, it is the memory of a friend or family member, crying uncontrollably over the phone, scared and anxious and lost.
For more than a decade, I’ve embodied each of these ideas of what depression looks like and many more. I’ve let responsibilities and relationships slip through my weary fingers. I’ve bounced around from state-to-state, job-to-job, hoping frantically that by changing my surroundings I would escape a state of turmoil that always caught up to me. And like many others with a mental illness, I’ve also done a pretty good job at fooling those around me.
But, over the past 5 years, since moving to Grand Junction, I’ve had to pretend less and less to be “normal” around coworkers, classmates, friends, and family…because I’ve felt better than I ever have. And quite honestly, I credit counseling for that change. I credit a really wonderful therapist and a great psychiatrist with helping me find my way and teaching me incredible skills to cope and grow and to quiet a very busy mind.
I also credit myself. I thank myself every day for making the scary, but necessary, decision to reach out and seek help. I had reached a point in my depression where the functions of everyday life were too much to bear and normal, healthy relationships were hopelessly out of reach.
However, you don’t have to have reached that point to seek counseling or other interventions. This Mental Health Month, Mental Health America reminds us that, just as we begin with prevention when dealing with diabetes or heart disease, it’s never too soon to act or ask questions when symptoms of depression manifest: sleeping too much or too little, feelings of anxiety, lack of appetite, lack of interest in the world around you.
“These early symptoms might not ever become serious,” says Mental Health America. “Like a cough, they often go away on their own and are nothing to fear. But when they do not go away, it typically takes ten years from the time they first appear until someone gets a correct diagnosis and proper treatment.”
The idea is to seek help and act B4Stage4, before things get out of control before your symptoms become unmanageable before you lose your job, or leave school or contemplate suicide.
As stable as my life is now, and as much as I love my job and my place in the community, I sometimes wish I could have those 10 years back to do over. To get healthy sooner. To have lost less and gained more. But, if that had been the case, I wouldn’t be writing this now. I wouldn’t be sharing my story in the hopes that if you, or someone you know, is struggling with any symptoms, big or small, of a mental illness, you will act B4Stage4.
For more information on professional, affordable counseling, contact the Counseling & Education Center at 970-243-9539.