A few years ago I experienced atmospheric levels of stress when several life-changing events all occurred at the same time. My father passed away after a long illness, my divorce was finalized, a career-changing opportunity needed my full-time attention, a personal friend betrayed me, all happening while I was suffering from career burnout, having managed my specialty retail store through the worst financial downturn in US history.
This chapter was clearly a turning point in my life with respect to acknowledging my addiction to work, to realizing ‘self care’ needed to be a priority and a ‘heads up’ I needed to make some important changes. At the time however, it didn’t feel like a much needed wake up call, as I was too emotionally drained and more depressed than I imagined possible. I honestly could not feel joy, not even over simple things like a great cup of coffee or a hot shower. I was completely numb and in despair.
I knew something was terribly wrong. Per my usual ‘do it myself’ atititude, to manage the stress, insomnia and a lack of appetite – a completely new situation for me – I tried to power through by focusing on working out and eating healthy. While the healthy focus helped, the emotional upset continued to take a huge toll. Fortunately I had access to a well-qualified therapist who began to help me work through all the issues, help me process my need to grieve over several relationships, and begin the work of emotional recovery from burnout and depression. She explained the lack of joy is diagnosed as ‘anhedonia’ and is a core symptom of deep depression.
What I realized, with the help of my therapist, was at some point everyone experiences drastic life changes and feeling emotionally down. Per Harvard Health Publications, about one in 10 Americans have some form of depression. Sometimes a brief down period turns into something more, sadness or lack of joy that persists longer than two weeks and begins to impact relationships, work performance, and reduced satisfaction in hobbies and activities that once brought joy.
In addition, it IS possible to suffer depression and not realize what is happening, which is exactly what happened to me. Some people experience fatigue, loss of appetite, loss of weight, sleeplessness, foggy thinking or lack of concentration and chalk the symptoms up to the stress, getting older, or other illnesses. Other people suffer from what is termed ‘atypical’ depression and instead their symptoms are over-sleeping, over eating, and gaining weight instead of losing it.
Many people try to fix their life on their own, rather than seek outside help, and do what is called ‘self-medicate’ ending up addicted to pain killers, opioids and/or alcohol. Other people distract themselves or indulge in addictive behaviors such as gambling or shopping ending up compounding a bad situation by creating unworkable financial problems. Depression untreated can spiral into a destructive addiction which can be life-threatening and create more problems for yourself and others.
But now, there are so many forms of treatment available, so if you find yourself as I did, suffering a prolonged sense of despair, fatigue, or general lack of joy in life, don’t wait to seek help, or worse, begin to abuse alcohol, drugs or prescription medications. Regardless of where we may be in the cycle of depression or addiction, we all have options. One health and wellness center that specializes in options is The Recovery Village, with two locations in Florida, and one brand new facility in Ohio, which offers assistance to both those in need of treatment, and family members coping with those in need of treatment. What is so important to know, and what helped me to realize that help is an option, not just to soldier through my troubles all on my own, is that you are NOT alone. As many people who are successfully in recovery now from depression or addiction can testify, that life really does, and will, get better.