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    Posted May 3, 2014 by
    Roxboro, North Carolina
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Going public with mental illness

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    My Side of Depression

    My depression started as a Naval Aviator assigned to the USS Independence in 1989. I was 37 yrs old. They didn’t know what depression was back then and I was treated like a person acting crazy to get out of the Navy. I underwent cognitive therapy and left the service. It wasn’t long and my depression came back with a vengeance. I became suicidal and could be found hiding in a closet or leaving the house when the kids came home from school so I wouldn’t have to interact with them. My wife (with persistence) got me to see a psychiatrist. This was scary to me because nobody understood the mental health community back then. I had a lot of misconceptions. After a visit, the doctor prescribed medication and it pulled me out of that dark hole.
    As long as I took my medication, I was able to function normally. I owned and operated a small retail store and started a windsurfing school. I also built our retirement home on a lake and received a patent for an electro mechanical switch that I designed.
    In 2009 I was reading about a number of teen suicides. I recognized that there were small things that if known, might have prevented a tragedy. Things like: if you are prescribed an antidepressant from a family physician, go to a specialist (psychiatrist) to ensure you get the right prescription because only a specialist has the knowledge to tweak your meds until you get favorable results with minimal side effects; don’t stop taking your meds as stopping could drive you further into depression; knowing when to see a psychologist or psychiatrist; and better understanding of the mental health system so you aren’t afraid to ask for help.
    Because of my passion, I wrote a presentation for middle to high school age children and showed it to a number of teachers. They asked me to publish it and that became my book, “My Side of Depression”. I was able to speak to one health teacher’s classes one day and I had an eye opener. These middle school kids wrote me 85 thank you notes and in those notes 2 kids said they were considering taking their lives and my talk saved them. These notes were so powerful that I tried talking with other classes. My efforts were shut down because I don’t have a master’s or doctorate degree and the schools were afraid of the liability if someone took their life after the talk. We don’t know what we need to know and the schools need an accredited program to better teach the signs of depression and what to do about it. Early recognition could prevent suicides and murder / suicides.
    It was shortly after writing my book that I got prostate cancer. With that surgery and another for a hernia, something strange happened. My depression came back and none of the meds worked any more. For the last three years I have tried everything from changing meds to isolating myself on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, going med free and learning to kite board so that I would get exercise and fresh air. It actually pulled me out of the depression so I decided to come home. After two weeks, I went back down the hole. My depression was causing my wife to get depression and a 26-year marriage ended with divorce. I lost my family and the home I built. With no job I started going to the VA for help. I had one “rehearsed” suicide and two attempts to take my life which resulted in hospitalization both times. Hospitals are there to get you safe, not heal you. I have experienced how the mind controls the body instead of you controlling your mind. I have experienced the different level of depression from not having eye contact during a conversation, to isolation, to continual thoughts of suicide and finally to an attempt. To date, the meds are closer but I am not there yet.
    I owe my survival to the knowledge that I know it can get better. My church family knows me and supports me without judging. They pray for my health, as do I. I find myself fighting this disease on a daily and many times on an hourly or minute by minute basis for the will to survive. Only those that have experienced the pain can understand it and so I go to peer support meetings weekly. I have to fight a broken mind with a broken mind. I truly believe that I’m still here because I’m supposed to tell my story. Well now with 25 years of pain, loss and fight, you have some of my story.
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