Some people think that depression is a condition designed for adults; maybe those that are older in age or the ones that have gone through serious turmoil in their lives. This could not be further from the truth.
Depression does not discriminate, it does not care about color or race, or gender, or age. It’s a monster that can attack anyone, at any time. I know, because I had my first depressive episode when I was nine.
It was the early nineties and, where I lived, diagnosing a child with depression was unheard of. As a matter of fact, the word “depression” was seldom used back then; it was almost taboo. I heard of some elderly people that had issues with their “nerves”, and some of them even took medication (Diazepam) to help them cope. But that was the extent of my knowledge on the matter and of everyone else’s, it seemed. So, when I woke up one morning without the desire to get out of bed, or eat, or breath, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and neither did my parents.
I spent two whole weeks in bed, having lost all reason for being, my hopes, my desire to enjoy life, my outlook for the future. All tasks took an almost unbearable effort; even going to the bathroom was challenging. My parents didn’t know what to do, and taking me to the doctor was not an option. Psychiatrists were reserved for the 'mentally ill' and 'psychotic', not the melancholic.
For me, prayer and cheer-up attempts would have to suffice, and although knowing that a higher power is listening can be comforting, it just wasn’t enough, not for the way I was feeling.
As the days passed, so did the depressive episode, gradually. Little by little I was able to incorporate myself back into everyday life. We all swept that harrowing event under the rug and moved on with our lives, thinking it was just a one-time ordeal. We were wrong.
The older I got the more depression and anxiety knocked at my door, and the more difficult it was for me to ignore them. Then, I had an unexpected encounter with something that would transform my life, like a hurricane transforms the landscape wherever it makes landfall.
I was fifteen years old when I had my first alcoholic drink, and I remember it vividly to this day. More than anything I remember the way it made me feel: free. I was instantly liberated from the fear and the sadness I had been plagued by for such a long time. I was free to explore and have a real shot at enjoying life. I was excited, thrilled, ecstatic. It was a bliss I had never felt before. From that day forward I knew that alcohol was going to play a crucial role in my life, but I wasn’t yet aware that it was going to be a Category 5 hurricane!
Almost two decades later I look back at that naïve boy, and I don’t blame him for taking the path that he did. He had discovered something that brought him incredible peace; an escape from the constant torture and how many people in history have become martyrs in the fight for peace! That young man invested in something that he thought would help, but it slipped his hands and almost killed him instead.
My relationship with alcohol became very dark, very, very quickly, and through my twenties I spent very little time sober. This lead me to losing jobs time after time, all my friends, my money, two marriages, my dignity and my health. I still can’t pinpoint exactly what made me change, whether it was looking at Death straight in the eye or the shame of who I became, knowing I was wasting away. All I know is that my efforts began to concentrate on absolute change, and today sobriety is my most valuable possession.
I can’t help but think that if there would have been more valuable information available on depression and anxiety, and if people had been more open to seeking help, I might not have gone through all that hell.
Now that I am a father myself, I talk about these topics openly with my son, and I welcome him to share whatever emotions he might be feeling, so we my tackle the issues with the right response.
Depression is not reserved for adults, and yes, you should be open to seeking help for your child should they exhibit some troublesome signs. Most importantly, we must strive to eradicate the stigma that surrounds mental illness in today’s society, and maybe then we will be doing our part in saving a nine-year-old’s life.
I'm sure there will be many of you who can relate to Jay's story, and it's all credit to him that he came through and is showing the world that there is a true strength within us all. Is there anything in your childhood or your relationship with alcohol that has altered your life. How did you get through it? Let us know in the comments below.
You can find out more about Jay's struggles on his website, over at theflawedones.com. You can also keep up-to-date with him on Twitter, where he's @theflawedones or Instagram, where he's flawedones. He also has his own YouTube channel.