Take care of yourself

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Winter feels like the longest time of year to me.

Itís not just because I hate the cold, although I do think bears are on to something with hibernation. Winter feels like an eternity because itís when my depression hits me the hardest.

Iíve had episodes in summer and fall before, but the lack of sunlight and freezing temps in winter roll out the welcome mat for my depression nearly every January. Relapses are common during this time of year.

According to Dr. William R. Marchland in his book ďDepression and Bipolar Disorder: Your Guide to Recovery,Ē the risk of recurrence for a person who has had one episode of depression is 50 percent. For a person with two episodes, the risk is about 70 percent. For someone with three episodes or more, the risk rises to 90 percent.

With relapses being so common, depression can feel like a never-ending cycle. Thatís how it has felt for me the past two years. Every time Iíd start healing, something new would trigger it. I went through a breakup. I had a financial setback. I lost a friend too young.

I kept trying to power my way through feelings of emptiness. I told myself things would be fine again if I could make it to spring. So Iíd force a smile, do my work and fake being OK until I got home and didnít have to face anyone.

For boys and men especially, weíre taught that emotional pain is a weakness. You need to toughen up and work your way through it. A 2013 study in ďJAMA PsychiatryĒ found that there is no significant difference in the rate of depression in men and in women. Women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are more likely to succeed. According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among American men is about four times higher than among women.

Iíve never reached that point when depressed, but I havenít always been as far from it as I would like.

Growing up, people assumed my episodes of depression were typical teenage angst. They thought I was moody, cynical and apathetic. I internalized those messages and carried them with me into adulthood.

For years, Iíve been ashamed that I couldnít handle my depression without the cracks showing. I saw it as a personality flaw. I thought it was my fault I felt so bad.

Without meaning to, I was pushing away the people closest to me. I was hostile, exhausted and withdrawn. Friends and family didnít know what was wrong with me because I couldnít admit it to myself. I thought I would be miserable forever. I felt like winter was here to stay.

This February, I finally reached out to a professional. I started going to therapy, and that made things a little easier. I started taking Vitamin D supplements, and that made things a little easier. Exercising more, reconnecting with old friends, allowing myself space when I needed it ... day by day, things got more bearable.

You canít walk off a broken leg, and you canít think your way out of depression.

Reaching out for help is hard when youíre at your lowest point. Speaking from my experience, it was also the first step in breaking free from the cycle. You donít have to face depression alone. Iím grateful for the people in my life who were still around when I was ready to seek help.

Iím not 100 percent better yet. Iím working on myself every day, and I can at least say Iím better than the day before.

Spring comes around eventually.

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Kelby Newcomb is a reporter for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.