What is depression?

The word elicits different reactions from different people. Some use it when having a very bad day, where you think, “things couldn’t get worse, right?” Some think it’s an excuse some people use to avoid conflict or a hard decision. Some think it’s a deep, dark pit of hopelessness. To some degree, it can be any of those. In a short summary, depression is being unable to process life events in a manner that keeps your emotional and mental makeup in proper balance. There are several methods to correct it. These include counseling, psychotherapy, and medication. There are an infinite number of combinations of these treatments. Each person is different, so the treatment for one is not necessarily good for another.

OK, you are wondering, why are you talking about this? Because I am one of those that has this condition. I found out in 2008 when enduring a terrible situation on the job.

In 2007, after toiling away in what were really entry-level administrative positions for 13 years, I finally landed an Executive Assistant position supporting a VP. This VP had a reputation for going 1,000 miles an hour, 24 hours a day, for producing amazing results for the company, and for going through assistants like most people go through socks. Things started very well, but soon I found myself not able to keep up with him. I also found out that his philosophy was that mistakes were to be met with punishment rather than a simple “lessons learned” session. He and the 4 other VPs in the group had a certain task to do, which of course they delegated to their EAs. Three of the EAs got it done, I and one other were still not done by the deadline. The other VP pulled all his direct reports and said, “Help her get this done today.” I, on the other hand, got reported to HR as not meeting expectations and was put on a performance improvement plan. Also, I was put in the employee assistance plan, which involved me meeting with a counselor to see if I was in OK condition or needed to explore some therapy. It took no time at all for me to be referred to a psychologist for some therapy. During those discussions, the psychologist diagnosed me with depression – and she said I had probably been suffering from it since I was 8 years old, when my parents separated. She said I should explore getting an anti-depressant, which I did.

This was not easy for me to accept. I come from a long line of self-made people, and heard all through my formative years that anytime I was tempted to make excuses, I should deny them and replace them with harder work. So what if I have a disability, my mother often preached. You can feel sorry for yourself or do the best you possibly can with what you have. And of course, a man isn’t a crybaby – not that a man never cries, but that a man doesn’t wallow in self-pity, but gets up when he’s knocked down and does what he has to do, and a real man takes care of his own business and his family. So to sit on a couch and admit I have depression, and talk about how I feel about stuff, and take medicine for it? Do you realize how un-macho all this is?

Hard as it was, I came to accept the situation and the treatment. Despite my efforts to get my mind on track and correct things at work, the VP got HR to reassign me to a lower-ranking position. I do not have any proof, but to this day I believe that I have been black-balled in our HR department, that my profile has been coded in such a way that whenever I apply for an Executive Assistant position, the my profile get flagged and an HR rep pulls it, and sends me the rejection letter. I know what I can do and I know my skills, and the fact that I always get rejected even before the interview process starts on every position I apply for, there is something fishy going on. But I also believe in the providence of God and if I really should get one of these jobs, He will enable me to get it.

I got things moving, but as the “Affordable” Care Act was implemented, I stopped getting treatment because I couldn’t afford it, even with insurance coverage. But I have since gotten back into treatment and things are going very well between my ears. But everyone knows how silly I am. I can safely make a joke or two about my condition, just as I can with my physical self. When I meet people who say, “I’ve seen you before,” I usually answer, “Well, I’m pretty hard to miss.” If depression is a conversation topic, and I’m having a good day, I might make an exaggerated head drop and statement of “oh, that is SOOOO depressing!” I only do this with myself; I know everyone deals with their situations in their own way, and not many are open to mild ridicule. I’m always open to self-ridicule.  

“Depression” can be quite a loaded word. For me, it was a huge mountain, but now is just one of life’s challenges. Anything you accomplish with little effort, you don’t really appreciate. When you have to overcome challenges, especially more than you expect, makes victory twice as sweet.