Running on the treadmill at a 9-minute pace, and I am not a runner, I begin to hyperventilate as tears start to stream down my face yet again.
I am running because I am told to exercise because it helps with depression.
I am running because I am angry that I lost yet another friend to suicide.
I am running to try and block out the thoughts that are constantly in my head.
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I am running for those that are so crippled by depression that they can’t even get up off of the couch.
Running is so much easier than facing depression. Because the face of depression is dark and foreboding and relentless.
The behavior therapist, cognitive therapist, psychiatrist and psychologist all have shown me the “tools” to deal with depression. But today running was easier, even though I am not a runner. I channeled my anger, fears, and sadness to push me through it.
But then, I thought of my friend. He, too, had been running, for a very long time, but relentless depression became his finish line.
I know that there are many places and people out there, right now, who are trying their best to reach out and help those who are struggling with depression. And it seems simple enough to those on the outside. Reach out, get help and you can beat depression. But like I said, depression is relentless and doesn’t give up so easily. Just like with alcoholism and drug addiction. Depression keeps pounding at you, whispering in your ear, trying to bring you back in to its fold. So even those people who are fortunate enough to have all the resources in the world can still end up bowing down to its will.
In our world of expected “perfection and happiness,” those with depression and mental illness feel that they must keep their pain and sadness hidden because others don’t want to hear of the real struggles and darkness that they are facing.
We are told that depression isn’t real and can be replaced by a smile and positive thoughts.
We are told that depression isn’t really an illness.
We are told to take supplements and eat all organic food and our depression will go away.
We are told how others “fixed” their depression on their own and didn’t need the help of psychiatrists and treatment centers.
So now can you begin to see why people with depression isolate themselves and go into the darkness? Because at every turn they feel that they will be judged and seen as weak.
I finally publicly shared my fight, of over 20 years, with depression after I didn’t have the energy to hide it anymore. All of my life, the one thing people have always said about me is that I am always smiling. No one knew the extent of my pain, not even my family and closest friends. Depression has always been seen as a shameful, dirty secret. Even after I shared this on social media, I had people doubt me. Perhaps they thought that I was just looking for some sympathy and a few clicks of the “Like” button to make me feel better.
But I shared my story because I hurt and am angry that so many others out there are not as blessed as I am to have the family and friend support system that I do.
I shared my story because I will not be silenced anymore and just stand by as someone diminishes the mental disorder that is depression.
I shared my story because I don’t want to lose another friend.
I shared my story because when I looked to an out-of-state treatment center, due to the severe lack of funding and resources for mental health care in the state of Kansas, my health insurance would not cover any of the costs.
I shared my story because I, a single parent with ridiculously expensive health insurance and an unobtainable deductible, couldn’t afford in-patient treatment after my most recent breakdown.
I shared my story because I am going to join the fight of changing the stigma that comes with having depression.
Today, I stopped running.
Becky Galloway is director of the Hesston Chamber of Commerce and lives in Wichita.
World Mental Health Day
Tuesday is World Mental Health Day. More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression, the leading cause of the disability, according to the World Health Organization. More than 260 million are living with anxiety disorders. Many have both.
A recent World Health Organization study estimates that depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity.