It is stunning to realize how many presidents, philosophers, singers, sports figures, artists, authors, actors, musicians, and people from every profession have suffered major depression. When we are aware of how some people managed to do great things while they felt terrible about themselves and life itself, we have respect and awe rather than distain.

 

It would appear that their depression did not stop these productive people. That is very clear.

 

This site reveals the names people who had major depression: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_major_depressive_disorder

The Wikipedia list is very small compared to the totality of famous people with depression. It gives you a sampling. When you think of all the people in the world with depression and what they go through to dealing with life, it is amazing that anyone can succeed.

 

The first name on this list, President John Adams, is one that most people would not have guessed. Can you imagine leading a new country while dealing with depression? We know that Abraham Lincoln suffered depression as well. His wife with a gambling addiction likely had depression, too. Life with one’s own depression is challenging enough.

 

In the last decade I have experienced the challenge myself in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Feeling unhappy during December, January, and February, I find myself uninterested in my former winter delights. Holidays, such as Christmas, New Years or Valentines, have no excitement for me. It all feels like a terrible burden, a dreaded time. Before these symptoms, every year I would decorate the house, host and attend large and small parties, celebrate mine and others’ birthdays, etc. That all stopped abruptly about ten years ago.

 

After that first depressed December, I realized I had to do something. Starting right away, I took health supplements through the winter. If I did not, I’d be sitting numb all day for 3 months a year, miserably going through some of the motions, but mostly not caring about anything. Even with supplements I am not as upbeat in the winter as I used to be. Yet, I am able to keep up a busy schedule and enjoy what I choose to do. Supplements allow me to stay present in the moment; I no longer wish winter would go away.

 

Depression, at least from my experience in the form of SAD, is a parasite that eats me alive with only a shell of me left. That first winter experiencing  SAD, I dragged through my day fighting against inner resistance to everything there was to do. Activities I once loved were replaced with a dark blob that swallowed me in its black hole.

 

Yet the winter experience gives me a window into how it likely was for others in the past, long before effective supplements and before anti-depressants. While there are different expressions of depression, such as excessive anger, fear or sadness, all of those expressions make life more difficult. The fact that so many suffered in silence before antidepressants showed up on the market in 1988, shows how courageous they were just to get up in the morning. Many depressed people got up, kept moving, and contributed to humanity despite feeling unhappy themselves. Truly, I do not know how they did it.

 

If you have not experienced depression, you may not understand how it feels. As challenging as it is, SAD has actually made me a better coach because I know from the inside what some of my friends, family and clients are going through with depression. I actually use the suggestions I have given others.

 

On the Wikipedia list, one wonders what must it have felt like to star in a movie with depression, acting happy and romantic, the opposite of what Audrey Hepburn could have felt while experiencing depression. What it took to do that is astounding.

 

While famous people are no more courageous than the not-so-famous, they have a public story that we know. Many of them have contributed to all of us. It is astonishing what they accomplished, despite the moment-to-moment uphill climb that they endured personally. Since in the past depression was even more of an unmentionable stigma than now, people blamed themselves for their feelings, making them feel even worse.

 

Just like the contemporary famous and the not-so-famous, depressed people now have to monitor themselves. That is because for most people, medication or supplements do not work equally well through all the years. As one’s body changes, the needs change for the amount or the kind of anti-depressant changes.

 

Many famous people in the past never got diagnosed because they, like the rest of society, were too depressed to seek help. So the numbers were probably staggering if anyone could have counted them all.  Today, many people do not seek help for many reasons.

 

There are numerous books on the journey of depression. Some are written about or by famous depressed people. Many books are written by psychologists  for those suffering with depression. My book Breaking Through Concrete: The Gift of Having Mentally Ill Parents on depression, bi-polar and schizophrenia sufferers was written from my experience as a family member with a few behind-closed-doors insights. You can order your copy at Amazon http://tinyurl.com/cvl46v4 or Kindle http://tinyurl.com/http-tinyurl-com-kindlebtc 

 

Ultimately it takes quite an enormous effort to keep moving forward in the backward feeling one gets from depression. I have the deepest respect for anyone who daily deals with depression. Sufferers born over thirty years ago got through with little or no help. Some in the last century were given shock treatment that did not work for everyone and caused memory problems often.

 

In the past, alcohol and opium were the drugs of choice to get through the day. How sufferers achieved anything is astounding.

 

Depression is an illness that is not easily identified. Even when it is identified, non-sufferers often wrongly assume that depressed people are lazy malcontents. The truth is many are and were truly heroic despite their human tendency to be more unhappy, angry or fearful than the average non-sufferer.

 

Obviously, some depressed people accomplish great things such as steering a country, painting portraits, creating memorable music, all in the face of a steep mountainous climb. Depressed people need our support, not our hostility.

« »