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My Session With Depression

When I finally picked up the phone and made the call, I got an answering machine.  I waited for the beep, and said something that included the phrase “I need some help”.   It was early spring, about 17 years ago.

I was sick.  And despite a few bouts with the flu, I had never felt so bad.  Physically, I felt like warm molasses inside.  Heavy.  Slow to move.  Lacking energy. 

Mentally, I was exhausted, and focused on the negative.  I was especially dialed in to situations I couldn’t control and disasters that were unlikely to happen.  I felt like I had a brick in my chest most of the time.  Not one to cry often, I would tear up at the slightest provocation, whether it was a sad news report or a sentimental song.  I was totally out of balance and I didn’t know what exactly my problem was.

It was scary.  Especially because I couldn’t see how to get out.

Several sessions with the therapist I had called made things drastically better.  I started to see the way out and progressed more quickly than I had anticipated. I learned that I was suffering from depression.

I also learned how to handle or avoid the situations that got me into that mess- unrealistic job expectations, failing to take care of myself, failing to live in accordance with my priorities.  In short, I had been allowing other things and other people to control my life against my best interests and desires.  A human can only take that for so long before they crack and break.

Months later, I would become strong enough to make some difficult decisions, create some new habits, restore proper balance to my life, and return to my self.

But what if I hadn’t made that initial phone call? What if I had kept making excuses or buying in to the stereotypes and stigmas of the time regarding mental health and depression? 

Maybe it wasn’t so much excuses and stereotypes as it was me just not being willing to admit that I had allowed my situation to get as bad as it was. 

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I had “left it all on the field“ in my job as a teacher, only to end up feeling under-appreciated, disrespected as a human, and “dumped on” with an ever-increasing workload.  It seems that in teaching, once you prove you can make the best of a bad situation, those in power make the situation worse because they know you’ll make do and handle it- just like you always do.   At some point you must choose either to quit that game, or risk being pushed past your breaking point.

The combination of physical and mental fatigue brought on by my job and the feeling of being enslaved to the paycheck I was getting, really took a toll on me after awhile.

I was flying high at first.  For many years, I loved being a teacher and everything else about life.  But I was like a long distance runner who sprints the first 3 miles, uses too much energy, and suffers through the other 10 miles of the course. 

After surviving for years in that state, I slid into a negative feedback loop, where exhaustion fueled my “Eeyore on steroids” outlook, which sapped what energy I had, which sent me back into exhaustion for another lap around.

Therapy sessions were critical for me in breaking that cycle and climbing out of my depressive hole.  But, they weren’t the only things that helped.  Another key was re-ordering my life to align with my priorities. So was starting an exercise routine and improving my diet. 

I also visited a native hypnotherapist who asked me if I knew what my spirit animal was.  I didn’t.  He helped me to find out.  If you don’t know yours, I recommend finding out- the information can be very useful.

Those that know me are aware that I dislike using the telephone- I’m more of a text and email guy.  But that call to the therapist 17 years ago was one of the most important phone calls I ever made.  

If anything you’ve read here sounds familiar or relatable, don’t hesitate to make your own call; to a friend, a professional, whoever.  Ask for the help you need.  You deserve it.

29 thoughts on “My Session With Depression

  1. Incredible description of how you felt and what helped you in a tough season, Todd. I’m constantly struck by how vulnerable I feel when I ask for help but I love that you talk us through why it is so necessary and effective. Wonderful!

  2. Yes. Seeking help is SO crucial for recovery. For so many people, most of our “mental life” just stays locked away inside ourselves. I’m learning, over time, the incredibly redemptive power of “getting it out there” – sharing with others through blogging, through vulnerable conversations, and yes – definitely through therapy! I appreciate you having the vulnerability to share a bit of your journey in this way.

  3. Job burnout is a sizable percentage of what my patients struggle with. The guilt and shame that come from a lifetime of being told to keep one’s nose to the grindstone and that one will get all the rest they need after they retire can be overwhelming. I am so happy you found someone to work with and got the help you needed.

  4. Thank you very much for giving face to depression and how vulnerable we are as humans many times.

    I believe the more people share their experiences of their psyche, we become more able to remove the shame connected to those painful emotions. (That we all go through from time to time)

    And I personally think depression is a way our soul is trying to call us back on the track.
    So we get a kind of forced to realign our lives and get where we are supposed to be.
    The alchemy of pain into gain and wisdom.

    1. Great point! I totally agree with the idea of soul trying to get us back where we should be.

  5. Thanks for sharing, Todd. Your approach – utilize traditional therapy and resources aimed at wellness and better understanding self is, I think, a terrific example of using multiple avenues toward feeling our best. I love your sharing about the native hypnotherapist, too. Resources abound…but the courage it takes to ask for help? That’s the first step and you’ve written about that beautifully. 💕

    1. Thanks Victoria! By the way my spirit animal the otter-and it’s amazing how much sense that made when I learned about otter behavior 🙂

  6. Bravo not only for seeking help when you needed it, but also for sharing your experience.

    Too many men suffer in silence because there’s a mistaken idea that men cannot ask for help with their mental health, for fear of being labeled weak.

    Mental health issues aren’t at all about being weak. They’re real, and affect both men an women. Seeking help is a sign of wanting to feel better. There are doable things we can do for ourselves, and we aren’t always aware of the options we have until we talk them through with someone.

    Thanks for sharing Todd!

  7. Depression is a serious illness that shouldn’t be underestimated, but many do so. Talking about how you feel is for sure the best thing to do because also other people may help you with their empathy. And you did the right thing 17 years ago, you couldn’t continue living a life that wasn’t yours. Very useful insight Todd, thank you for sharing your experience.

  8. I can relate to this on so many levels, friend. Teaching is one of the most beautiful and difficult professions, and it without a doubt played a heavy hand in my own anxiety and depression. Your description of the administration making things worse? Spot on.
    Thank you for sharing this, Todd. And thank you for being a teacher. Best wishes in all you do.

    1. Thank you SnapDragon- for reading, for your kind words, and for being a teacher yourself. Have an excellent and relaxing summer!

  9. Thank you for sharing your experience…may it be the lifeline someone needs to make that call for themselves 💞💞💞

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