In January 2018, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) released its 2016 statistics. The NIMH estimates “1.6 million adults (aged 18 and older) experienced at least 1 major depressive episode (6.7% of all adults); the prevalence of a major depressive episode was higher among adult females (8.5%) compared to males (4.8%).”
Until recently, admitting depression, anxiety, or any other mental health disorder has been taboo. Were you to confide in anyone, you would instantly be branded with a scarlet letter “C.” Refreshingly, celebrities and royalty alike are changing the dialogue and talking openly about mental health.
I encountered my first bout with depression during my college years. Athletics and heaping on the academics helped to refocus my energies. Post-college I took up Bikram yoga and long walks to calm my mind and focus on the positives.
Eventually, a series of one-sided friendships, the lying, and politics of the cold, hard real world took their toll and depression struck once again. I tried every coping mechanism. I would call friends, but they were either too busy to listen (read: did not want to hear anything other than, “I’m great!”) or they simply could not comprehend what I was going through. I couldn’t call my family, as the pressure was too strong to be the best and to excel.
Admitting depression and suicidal thoughts would be a steep fall from grace. So, I took pills. A LOT OF THEM. I said good bye in my prayers. I said I’m sorry to the air, apologizing to family members, hoping they would understand, and I drifted off to sleep expecting never to wake again. Except, I did.
Re-framing “Success” and What It Means to Live
From that day forward, I made a choice about how I wanted to live my life. It is hard work every day, and it is why I so fiercely protect whom I let in to my inner circle. While it isn’t always easy, challenge yourself to Live Happy, today and every day.
Tell yourself, “Positive thoughts beget a positive day.” Treat yourself with the same tender loving care that you would a newborn baby, and surround yourself with only the people that will lift you higher. Guard your heart, and remember that even in the darkest of hours there is hope. Simply to live and to love is success enough.
What Can We Do Differently?
Everyone keeps asking me in the wake of multiple deaths by suicide this week, “What could we have done differently as a society?” Social media is a flutter with posts about the passing of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and speculation about their mental health. And since you asked, I’ll tell you. Take care of each other.
Be Kind. Be kind to everyone that you meet, but also be kind to yourself. You’ve heard it before, you know not what someone else is going through. Your smile or your kind words can change a person’s day and maybe even a person’s will to carry on.
Be Strong. Be strong enough to be there for someone else. It’s not always easy being the listening ear, or the shoulder to cry on. But believe me, it means more to that person than you know. And be strong for yourself. Remember, even in your darkest hour there is always hope, and there is no shame in asking for help.
Be Love. Love others and love yourself. Humans crave connectivity, as I said in my article, Putting the Human Back in Humanity: Less Judgement More Empathy, we need to be able to share our emotions, to be honest and vulnerable. Love each other.
Be Hope. Someone recently said, “Pick up the phone and call your strongest friend. Ask how s/he is doing.” Truer words were never spoken. Be someone’s hope. Ask how you can help. Tell them that tomorrow is a new day. You just may save a life.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, do not be afraid to ask for help. I am not a professional and I will not offer advice, but if you just need a friend, someone to listen, as Randy Newman once sang “You’ve got a friend in me.” Or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).