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When Do You Know It Is Time to Get Help?

Personal Perspective: Small steps help on my road to recovery from depression.

I could only fight the depression for so long. Initially, I blamed the pandemic on my recluse behavior that, over time, morphed into a deeper state of loneliness.

Ira Selendripity / Unsplash
Source: Ira Selendripity / Unsplash

At first, I was forced to be alone and isolate myself like the rest of the world; then, I got used to being alone, and the next thing I knew, years had gone by, and my behavior hadn’t changed very much. I didn’t want to go on an antidepressant because I wanted to get through it on my own, coupled with the fact that this had become the result of external environmental circumstances that brought me here. It made it difficult to decipher the difference between nature and nurture, so instead of seeking help early on, I sunk deeper and deeper into depression.

Once I started Wellbutrin, I knew that in addition to medication, I had to make personal changes to pull myself out of my depressive state. I feared that I would start an antidepressant and not make any adjustments to my daily life, so I would lose out on an opportunity to amend my behavior.

When I spoke to my psychiatrist about my daily “activities,” it brought me back to a depression I endured decades ago. There were similar symptoms and behaviors that I thought were all in my past.

Aside from slugging my way through work, the majority of my free time was spent bingeing on junk food and television, surfing the Internet, and staying inside. It seemed that the majority of my social interactions were brief encounters with a handful of people I was forced to engage with: my butcher at Whole Foods, my pharmacist at CVS, the doorman at my building, or random people I ran into at my gym.

When I got on my antidepressant, I made a valiant effort to take action on my behavior. I purchased a journal at my local bookstore and vowed to start my day with a single sentence or word to get me through it.

Last Sunday, I wrote, “Sit in the silence.”

The distraction of the television, the Internet, or whatever my mind could get its hands on needed a break. I made a point to walk to my local church to meditate. When I got there, I couldn’t enter because they searched my bag and discovered that I had a change of clothes for the gym. Apparently, you can’t bring clothes inside a church in case you change them if you are being hunted down for theft or something. Who’s going to steal a cross from a church? A candle, maybe, or a Bible in one of the pews? I don’t know. Either way, I didn’t feel like checking my bag and storing it in some locker, so I walked away, thinking: That’s OK, you tried, you got there. It’s something.

As I headed toward the gym, I happened to walk by a music school. I noticed there were a bunch of people in the lobby, and I asked the security guard if it was some music museum. He told me it was like Fame—the TV show. It was a school for young kids that were talented in music. They happened to be having a recital that day, and I probably wouldn’t have stayed if the security guard didn’t tell me it was like Fame, a show that I grew up watching. It was also free. I supported the arts through my presence, OK.

When I sat down, I checked my watch, and it was time to take my second pill for the day. Thankfully, I was getting into the habit of carrying it around with me, so I tossed it back and swallowed it dry. When the recital began, every time my mind switched to meandering thoughts, I did my best to re-direct my attention to the prodigies and their music.

I wonder how long this thing is?...Wow, that 10-year-old is killing it on the piano…That violinist’s arms are so skinny...I want arms like that… I’m so fat today that I can feel my stomach rolls…OK, pay attention, be present…This is a gift you’ve been given since the church wouldn’t let you in...That guy sitting near me is kind of hot...Jesus, focus on the 16-year-old playing the cello…He worked hard, so show some respect…Do not start crying...Look up at the lights above the stage and just listen…Can I wear my sunglasses in here if I burst into tears?

At the end of the recital, I thanked the security guard and shook his hand.

Later that night, when I got home from the gym, I didn’t walk straight to my computer to hear some white noise in the background while cooking dinner. I also remained in silence when I sat down to eat. I found myself present with my food without any of my usual distractions.

It was a self-imposed decision that allowed for a minor shift in daily activity.

After dinner, I allowed myself to watch a movie on Netflix. It was a reward for the tiny steps I took that day, plus full-blown changes don’t happen overnight, nor should they. When the movie ended, I sat facing down my keypad and thought, I can check out what’s on Hulu, or see what pops up on my YouTube stream, or not. I shut my laptop and picked up a book off of my nightstand.

So when did I know it was time to seek help?

I knew I needed help when I couldn’t take it anymore. Things were getting worse and worse, and how much longer was I going to sit there and allow things to get worse again? Depression creeps up and seeps in and slowly chips away at your psyche while incrementally disrupting your daily life. Although I realize getting out is a road that I am ready to take, and there’s no real timeline for an upward swing, at least I know that, with help, change is on the horizon.

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