One year ago today, we posted the first episode of the Giving Voice to Depression podcast. That first month, 106 people played it. Since then, we have produced more than 40 episodes, which have been played more than 23,000 times — about 1,000 times a week now (not a huge number in SEO or Kardashian worlds, but we’re talking about two Wisconsin-raised sisters, talking about a highly-stigmatized topic.) The GVTD Facebook and Twitter community is more than 5,000 strong. We post daily, and reply personally to every comment. We’ve presented at national conventions, done interviews and segments on TV and radio news, been published on national mental-health organization websites and international platforms, and talked 1:1 with countless people at depression-awareness and suicide-prevention events. More than 60 people have shared their personal stories of life with depression on our podcast. And those aren’t the most-important things. The point that’s most important, the point I really hope you let sink in, is that one year before the launch of this project, I truly believed my life, as I had known it, was over. I thought all the talents and gifts and love and joy I’d been blessed with was in the past. It’s not that I was sad. It’s that I couldn’t remember happiness. Life had become nothing more than an endurance test, and I did not have the energy or the will to endure.
I did everything wrong while I was in depression’s deep, dark pit:
I isolated. I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling (not out of shame, just because anything they might try to do to help would require energy on my part, too. Or worse- I’d tell them and they’d do nothing.) I wasn’t on antidepressants, which I knew had helped in the past. I wasn’t exercising or getting outside or much of anything, because I work at home and I was constantly exhausted on a cellular level.
But the part of me that knew… the teeny ember that depression had not extinguished… urged me to call my doctor. To get on meds again. To try. One. More. Time.
And it worked! I’ve had some really low days since, but not bad weeks, and certainly not bad years. And that’s just life. The only thing that changed, was that I started taking a low dose of antidepressants every morning with my vitamins. My situation was exactly the same–which is how I finally came to really understand that depression is a medical illness. If I was depressed because I was heartbroken, alone, under-employed, isolated or any of the other “depressing” factors in my life, then I would still be depressed. And I’m not. I would still be unmotivated. And I’m not. I would still be dreading waking each morning, and I am not. And that’s why I started a non-profit (Giving Voice to Mental Illness, Inc.) and the Giving Voice to Depression podcast with my lifetime BFF and little sister, Bridget. I want to reach back into the darkness and tell the people there that there is hope and treatment and a life far better than the one depression has convinced you is your only option.
I wanted to create something that would allow people in depression’s grip, to hear short, real, intimate conversations between People Who Have Been There and Found Their Way Out.
In this past year, we have taken our message of hope, and recovery and depression-management, to colleges and suicide-prevention events, and to Facebook and Twitter and the media and anywhere else that would have us. There is nothing special about us. Well, nothing more special than there is about you, I mean.
Hope and recovery live in the understanding that depression is an illness as real as any other. It’s not a weakness or a failing. But unlike diabetes or cancer, it is “all in your mind.” And that’s the danger. Because with full access to your mind, it can convince you of terrible things.
But I am writing you today, with my hand on my heart (had to pause to do that) and conviction in my voice, shouting that DEPRESSION LIES! Like me, you have to blow on any surviving embers of hope. Everything can change. You may need meds. You may need therapy and/or exercise, meditation, support, the outdoors, music, creativity, friends, alone time… whatever it takes. But don’t give up. Please don’t give up. I’m so very, very, very glad I didn’t! We are not alone. And we are so much stronger together. Terry