I have discovered the secret. To a vitally important question. The answer has eluded me for twenty years. But, it is now within my grasp. It may make me a very rich man. It’s very simple really. I’ll tell you more in a moment. But, first . . .
How do you know when you have emerged from clinical depression?
My first episode of clinical depression began in October of 1999. For the next four-and-a-half years I walked down a very dark path. Suicidal thoughts dogged me daily.
But, I know the exact day when it was over.
It was after a Friday night concert given by some former classmates of mine. They were on the road to fame and success in the world of Southern Gospel music. In contrast, I had lost nearly everything. My life’s purpose – the reason I lived – lay in tattered rags beneath my feet. I left the concert early. Their success and my failure could no longer abide in the same room.
At home I retrieved the pistol that I kept in the top draw of my chest-of-drawers. Got out a loaded magazine clip. And jammed it into the grip.
I had put the pistol to my head before, but had never loaded it. It was loaded now and I put it to my head with every intention of pulling the trigger. Except fear, and a glimmer of hope however dull it was, intervened. I called a friend.
He came. My wife followed him in. We talked. The pistol was still in my hand, but now loosely held between my legs below my knees.
That day in April 2004 marked the beginning of my recovery. For the next three years I was free of depression.
My next clinical depressive episode started in March 2007. It lasted about four months. I was hospitalized for the first time. Remission from that chapter was more vaguely defined. The suicidal thoughts and severe depression were gone. What remained was not recovery. It was more dysthymic. I didn’t feel bad, but I didn’t feel good either. It was like living with a rainy, cloudy day every day.
By April of 2008 I had slipped back into severe depression. The week after coming home from my second hospital visit, my wife asked me to leave. I called my Dad. He was living in a grandparent apartment attached to my brother’s house. While there, my brother did not give me time to feel sorry for myself. I mowed his yard. Cleaned his pontoon boat. Scrubbed down his wrap around deck. He kept me too busy to think about how bad I felt.
At the end of the summer I took a ministry position in a small church that had gone through some rough times. On my first Sunday there I told them, “You are hurting and I am hurting. Let’s heal together.” And we did.
Four years passed. In August 2012 I found myself overwhelmed with a far-too-large counseling load. A two-church circuit. And desperately trying to save my 33-year marriage. It was too much. I collapsed under the weight of it all into yet another depressive episode.
During the next two-and-a-half years I lost it all. Was hospitalized twice. Landed in jail for a year. And only after some very hard work spiritually and mentally did I slowly escape from the abyss. Individual and group therapy. Medication adjustments. Personal dedication. A supportive friend, family, and church. At last in January 2015 I could say I was in remission.
Although the dysthymia persisted, I was free from the most crippling aspects of my mental illness.
This last depressive episode began in August 2017 and ended June 30, 2018.
How can I be so precise?
It was the day we left for a traveling vacation.
And that, my friend, is the secret for defeating depression. It is the sure cure. The enema that will flush you clean of the bile of melancholia. (How’s that for an impactful word picture?)
I jest, of course.
But, it worked for me. It was the commitments made to be at a certain place at a certain time. The routine of travel. The tight schedule. Days filled with activity. Visiting friends and family. Talking. Listening. Comforting. Storytelling. Making memories.
You know by now that I have no secret solution to overcoming clinical depression. Each of my episodes have had both commonalities and peculiarities. It takes time. Effort. Commitment. Support. Planning your recovery and working your plan. Hope.
I can tell you one thing with certainty. You will emerge stronger.
Here’s to the journey. The discovery. The recovery. The remission.
The LORD be with you.