I Have Depression, Depression Does Not Have Me
Joel Quass, CEIP, CPRW, GCDF
The story of my life facing depression head on; after only 62 years of ignoring it, of never calling it by name, hiding it from everyone including myself, and sweeping the crumbs of an episode under the rug each time it was over, as I walked away never looking back.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.
Before I begin:
This is not a book about the depths of my depression, the suicidal thoughts, and all the sad, woe is me baggage that accompanies many books about depression. Not that those books are not important. And there may be triggers for some, but my goal is to talk about my personal experience with depression in a way that people will engage with it.
Scaring the heck out of people is not my goal.
Increasing awareness of the depths of mental illness and how they affect many of those close to us is where I am headed. I am also afraid of how stigma stills play a role in our communal attitudes towards depression specifically and all mental illness in general.
I am certain not addressing my depression for so long was partly me being afraid of what “they would say.”
I am still petrified that people will change their perceptions of me once they know I have depression. My relationship with stigma is dripping with examples of people being less than understanding about someone and what they are going through.
While you may find me pouring out my soul in certain instances, this is not intended to be a sad book.
It is easy for me to say, I should a, would a, could a, and then blame depression for where I am today. I could and still do time-travel. I wasted hours in the past, wallowing in self-pity about what I did. And then there are the hours where I time-travel into the future, creating elaborate scenarios about my relationships with success and/or failure.
I am a master fortune teller, weaving together stories in my head about a situation, where I then create an outcome, without ever talking to anyone involved. The answer is clear to me, and I can move on, confident that I have the correct answer about what was going to happen. After all, my depression was (and still is) right there to tell me.
And let’s not even start with keeping secrets.
My depression is happiest when I tell no-one. Depression says it knows better than anyone what is best for me and speaking about any action I want to take with someone other than depression, will make depression mad. I am sure depression is angry because I am writing this book about it and its relationship to me.
My story is just that, my story.
In my 500+ blog posts since I was released for 5 East over three years ago, I have attempted to be completely honest about what I was feeling now. Yes, I was writing a public blog, but who was reading it? No one I knew personally. And I have taken steps to reduce the opportunities for people to identify my blog with me as a person.
In fact, I was surprised when a manager I had worked with years ago contacted me via Facebook messaging. He had connected the dots and was sure it was me who was writing the blog. It did take a while to think about having someone know who I was and that I had major depressive disorder with suicidal ideation. But, in the end, I acknowledged my authorship and learned about his life since I last saw him. And he was supportive and shared stories of his own.
So, this book and my “coming out” about my depression is a logical next step.
My relationship with depression will suffer, but I am focused on that change being positive. I have discovered so many tools I can use to understand my depression better. There are resources that were there all the time, that I never knew about. And there are people in my corner, that I am sure will still be in my corner when I come clean and share my depression openly.
I have been inspired and in awe of those who have had the strength to share their mental health stories.
In today’s ongoing covid environment, isolated people need ways to see they are not alone. Alone is where my depression has tried it’s best to keep me. And at times, it has been successful. The cost of that has been a life filled with higher highs and lower lows. Depression is skilled at giving me ways to let success seem unfulfilling. And then it shows me a better idea, which soon goes from being depression’s idea, to being my idea.
From there it’s just a matter of time until depression has me circling the drain.
Then comes that wall I end up against. There’s a lot of no hope and sameness, where getting out of bed is a feat to be celebrated. Eventually things abate and I begin the journey back to hope and action. Once I finally see the light, I also see that my depression is not around to pay the bill. In fact, it is nowhere to be seen.
Today my depression is nowhere to be found. Nowhere, that is, until the next time.