As a mental health therapist by trade, depression and suicide are my enemies, and as a well-trained soldier in the field, I know my enemies well. So let’s talk. I’m sure practically everyone reading this has experienced some “down days”, “feeling blue”, or being sad or grieved. The difference in that and in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is quite significant. In MDD, all those feelings are amplified, and it lasts more than just a day or two – sometimes for a whole lifetime if untreated. People with MDD do not describe it as “just a bad day” or “kind of sad”, they describe it by a much harsher and sadly enough, more accurate set of words and phrases: “crippling”, “trapped”, “lost”, “stuck”, “hopeless”, “cannot enjoy life anymore”.
The main symptoms of MDD are quite significant, as those statements attest to. Loss of the ability to feel joy or happiness, regardless of what happens. Deep and powerful feelings of sadness. Significant sleep problems, whether the inability to sleep or sleeping one’s life away. Thoughts of death, of dying, of suicide, or of believing that one is a burden and people would be better off with them gone. Loss of hope in the future, dwelling in the past, and just not caring about the present enough to even bathe or eat.
This devastating disorder can start at any time, to anybody, and it doesn’t matter about race, gender, money, social position, or anything else. But, I’m glad to state that my enemy and yours can be defeated. With proper mental health care, through medications and therapy, maybe some lifestyle changes, this dark invisible demon can be caged and dealt with. All it takes is reaching out for help. There should be no shame in that, although at times, people fear being looked down on or judged. Nobody asks for depression, let alone MDD, but no one should be ashamed to ask for help.
If you, your family members, or your friends are struggling with depression, ask for help. Contact your local mental health center and arrange to talk to somebody. Take care of yourself.
I assure you I’m not here to drum up business. I’m just here to inform folks about our enemy. Any death is too many, and to be honest with you, look at Mr. Williams. That loss got all of us.
Don’t be afraid and don’t be ashamed.
Step up and reach out if you feel the need. There is hope.
(Nathan Sexton is a Mississippi Certified Mental Health Therapist with Region IV Mental Health Services.)