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You're not a nutcase if you want to see a psychiatrist
February 17, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
The weather absolutely stinks, and there’s no doubt that one more snow storm is not needed, but it’s coming. And if you’ve been bumming out a bit about the weather, that’s OK. But, if it’s been something more than just a little cabin fever, stir-craziness, if you’ve lost interest in friends, family, fun, the stuff that usually gets your motor running, it could be something more. If you feel worthless, as if nobody needs to hear your voice including yourself, you need a bit of help.
And if it seems there’s no hope, if it seems there’s nothing that spring being literally right around the corner will do for you, then it’s time to admit something: You need a bit of help.
It could be therapy. It could be a short-term prescription from a medical professional to help your mind restore a chemical imbalance.
Doesn't matter if you're a kid or an older person or if you've never been through this before.
And it’s time for me to come clean about my battle with depression.’
I come from a family where the “crazy” were “shipped off to Cambridge” (former home of the state mental hospital for the region in the old days). And after anyone did get help, they were spoken of ever after in hushed tones, with words like “nervous breakdown” used as if it was a badge of absolute shame for the person, or pity for the person.
My parents were strong people from the era where you didn’t let anyone in to see when life was winning the battles. Instead, they had minds that were to the approach to life what an NFL linebacker’s body is to a gym. They just toughed it out. The Greatest Generation were some pretty tough folks who left introspection to the hippies or whomever.
About 10 years ago, after dealing with my mother’s illness and decline over a number of years, the loss of my mother-in-law to a yearlong battle with lung cancer, The Drummer being ill, kid No. 1 being an out-of-control teen-ager, and my wife’s legal troubles, along with the fact that The Boss (at Home) and I had drifted mentally apart while dealing with all of those troubles, I finally had enough.
I walked into work one day, exploded at The Boss (at Work), hopped in the car, drove home and started counting whatever pills there were in the medicine cabinet to get myself toxic, and reaching for the bottle of Jack Daniels to finish the poisoning.
The phone rang at that exact moment and, thanks to the voice of a caring pastor on the other end, who had been contacted by a worried Boss (at Work), I went to get help instead of turning inward.
What followed was about four years of regularly scheduled sessions with a therapist, some pharmaceutical intervention (which I hated), and mostly, learning more about myself and life than I had bothered to learn before. It wasn’t that those tough parents with their tough minds hadn’t taught me or given me the skills. It was that the lessons never took.
And learning about myself led me to learning about others who had been down this same road.
Mike Wallace, the closest thing to a reporter-hero that I’ve ever seen, had a long battle with depression that included a bout with considering suicide. That floored me. Here’s the guy who once was revered for making world leaders and corporate chieftains sweat on “60 Minutes,” the guy I loved to watch and read and wished I could have had a tenth of his courage, and he was thinking he wasn’t worth it.
He died in 2012 at the age of 91, but it was not at his own hand. Time caught up with his body, as it will with us all.
His first bout was triggered in 1984 when he was sued by Gen. William Westmoreland over stories he had done. And still in the 1980s, depression was synonymous with weakness or imbalance, and Wallace was publicly said to have been suffering from “exhaustion” when he went for initial treatment.
“You’re not a nutcase if you want to go see a psychiatrist,” Wallace said in a story in Guidepost.
That’s the thing that finally made it OK for me, that Mike Wallace said that. That finally cracked my feeling even after a a year or so of regular therapy sessions, that it was wrong or weak or an admission of being damaged somehow because I sought help.
I”ll get a little more honest about where I've been tomorrow.
But if you’ve got the blues today and it’s not just about the weather, talk to someone. Please. The world needs the thoughts and talents and words of everyone. It really does.
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