Headline from the February 5, 2014 edition of the Richmond-Times Dispatch: “Man accused in Car Wreck Due in Court”:
“Andrew Taylor Walters is expected to make his first court appearance this morning after being arrested early Tuesday, hours after police say he fled an accident scene and left behind two passengers in a flooded, overturned vehicle. [Both passengers subsequently died.] Walter’s parents . . . described him as fighting mental illness and anxiety issues for many years . . . ‘He has needed medication most of his life and when he doesn’t take it, he can become very violent,’ the mother said, asking not to be identified by name. ‘We have had a struggle all of his life.’”
Since starting this blog, I have received messages from friends telling me that they too suffer from depression and thanking me for telling my story. I’ve been called brave and gutsy too. I don’t know about that. I don’t mind sharing my story if it can help others recognize their own struggles and get help. It’s also nice to know you are not alone in this.
People are afraid of what they don’t understand. Because of the stigma associated with mental illness, even today, with all we know about the causes of depression and the treatment options available, many people will not go to the doctor and get help. Perhaps they are afraid of losing their jobs or the respect of their friends and family. What I have seen most, however, is that people seem to think they can beat depression on their own.
One friend told me that her grandfather committed suicide rather than go to a psychiatrist and get help. A colleague from my first law firm insisted on using herbal remedies rather than obtain medical treatment. He was a brilliant tax lawyer, with both an MBA and a JD from UVA. He left the law firm we both worked at in 1990 and hasn’t had a permanent job since. He spent his children’s childhood sitting in a chair in the corner of the family room reading books. It was as if he had a concrete blanket thrown over him, preventing him from getting up out of his chair and living his life. How sad when Prozac could have allowed him to have a happy, fulfilled life.
I’m not a doctor or an expert on depression. I do agree, however, that depression is caused by both internal and external factors. I know that my dysfunctional childhood has played a huge role. It has to be more than that, however, otherwise, why would I get depressed even when everything is going well in my life?
According to the Harvard Medical School:
“Research suggests that depression doesn’t spring from simply having too much or too little of certain brain chemicals. Rather, depression has many possible causes, including faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications, and medical problems. It’s believed that several of these forces interact to bring on depression.”
This article goes on to describe just how complex the causes of depression are. This being the case, how can someone think they can handle it on their own? Would you try to remove your own appendix? Would you try to build a house if you didn’t know a thing about carpentry, electricity or plumbing? Of course not. You hire an expert to do the things you cannot do yourself. Heck I don’t even write my own will and I’m a lawyer. I have a trusts and estate expert do it.
In this respect, depression is no different than any other illness. When you get sick, you go to the doctor.
I leave you with some words from my favorite lyrical poet, Bernie Taupin, from the song “Healing Hands.” It helps if you listen to the song, which is on Elton John’s “Sleeping with the Past”:
I never dreamed I could cry so hard
That ain’t like a man
I could fly like a bird some days
Had a place where I could land . . .
But givin’ into the nighttime
Ain’t no cure for the pain
You gotta wade into the water
You gotta learn to live again
And reach out for her healin’ hands
Reach out for her healin’ hands
There’s a light, where the darkness ends
Touch me now and let me see again . . .