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Shane’s story

“Depression is not shameful. It is not your fault, nor is it something you can will away with a positive attitude.”

What kind of stigma did you experience/observe?

I had my first panic attack at age 11. This is when I became aware that I was not OK, that I was full of dread about life. Later that same year I was repeatedly bullied at school, physically and verbally. For years into early adulthood I experienced chronic periods of extreme anxiety followed by bouts of depression. I came out as gay.

I met with a string of psychologists who failed to help me get better. I was plagued with obsessive, morbid thoughts, mostly about disease. I constantly thought about death and sickness. I was often withdrawn and unable to relate to others. I had social anxiety. I frequently didn’t sleep well. Mornings were unbearable because I felt crushed by the day ahead and the deadening hopelessness that I would never be OK.

Thing is, I tried. I worked at it. I was forever aiming for a healthy mind-body through exercise and diet, I talked about my feelings with a therapist, I always had a few close friends with whom to confide, I made art, forever thinking that I would one day be free of the dark chains of misery that hung on my soul every day.
But things did not improve, they worsened, and I continued to fight and fight and fight until suddenly at the age of 30, I simply became too exhausted to try, because for 21 years I had only been treading water, and I no longer had the strength. So I stopped kicking my legs. I stopped pumping my arms in the water. I went still. The stillness was terrifying because I knew then that what I wanted most was relief that I believed only death would provide.

How did you overcome this experience?

The psychologist was seeing at the time urged me to try a new med. His pitch was practical. Medications I tried in the past had only worsened my symptoms, which left me terrified.

He said with this new med, he had seen remarkable results with his own patients. It was a full month before I began to notice a change. I remember one morning looking at a red book cover and being flooded with an ancient joy that red was my favorite color. Each day after I felt the darkness recede.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

Depression is not shameful. It is not your fault, nor is it something you can will away with a positive attitude. Never tell yourself that you’re crazy, or that things could be worse. Find a caring professional who can give you the tools you need to live well with depression.

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