A Daily Struggle by Joe Proctor
Before I start, here is a "disclaimer". Anything said in the following is done so while I am clear-headed. The only reason why I would be disclosing any of the following is in hopes that it might help someone in the future, not as a cry for help…if any cry for help is made, I promise to try my hardest to make it as clear as possible and deliver it towards people I know can help (i.e. people in my life that recognize the triggers and signs of my depression like my wife, Caitlin, and anyone at Live Again). The current state of my mental health is stable and do not believe I would be able to share such info if this were not the case.
I think of suicide on a daily basis. That sounds horrible…but luckily it’s not the type of thoughts that have actions backing them. Suicide has affected my life in more ways than I would like to admit…and is currently affecting my life. While I am in no current danger of ending my life, I, unfortunately have suicidal thoughts every day (some days on multiple occasions).
Years ago, I was feeling very depressed and in a moment of weakness, inebriation, or whatever, I chose to end my life. I placed a handgun in my mouth and pulled the trigger while sitting in my car after leaving a night out with my friends. I heard ‘CLICK’ and thought for a second that I was dead and this was hell…not being able to die, being stuck living a life I no longer wanted. Turns out, my good friend David LeRoy (has dealt with these tendencies in his life) noticed my behavior (signs) and removed the bullets from my gun. He helped me make sure my life would not be affected by a decision made when I had no business making decisions that would affect my dinner schedule. I made it through this dark period of time with the help of my friends, family, physical fitness, and charity work.
Years later I would find myself in Colorado, surrounded by strangers, miles away from any support group I felt comfortable enough with to reach out to for help. I saw the signs myself and knew I wouldn’t be able to count on a friend to intervene this time. So before it got to a place where I knew I couldn’t come back from I made the decision to tell my doctor I don’t trust myself. Within the hour, I, with the recommendation of my doctor, voluntarily checked myself into a Colorado hospital’s psychiatric ward. There I learned different techniques for recognizing triggers, what to do when confronted by them, and how to deal with them when they become too much.
Even though I have these thoughts (involuntary and unrealistic in my current life) on a daily basis, I have come to understand and deal with them. I have learned (over and over again) not to dwell on these thoughts, yet still pay attention to them if they start becoming a constant foreground thought versus just a rare background.
I have had these thoughts…at times urges (some might even say desires when I’m in deep) since I was around 12. I remember in high school once being on the verge of losing it, calling my best friend while masking the fact that I was crying and couldn’t stop. I held it together long enough to make up some generic reason for calling and quickly got off the phone. Once I hung up I remember wondering why I would call someone in the state I was in with no reason to call in the 1st place…looking back, I would have to say an obvious cry for help. I, however, didn’t want my friend to know I had these thoughts…I wanted to make my friend proud of me not disappointed…so I hid it at a time I clearly needed help. It has only been within the last 6 years while I have been able to open up those around me that I have had a confident handle on any suicidal thoughts that could progress to something more. I do not have the same grasp on my depression. When I’m depressed, physically my body is heavier. I sleep nonstop. I can sleep 14 hours a night, wake up and want nothing more than to take a nap. I count the hours until I can go back to bed, I fall asleep behind the wheel on the way to work, then again at my desk, nap through lunch, and struggle to make it home without dozing off. When I get around my family, it only seems to make the depression worse due to the fact that I am aware that I can be a drain of this family. Knowing that I am potentially failing at being a good husband and happy father makes me that much more tired. When I get this low, for some reason I want to get worse…I want to see how deep the water gets. I hate the fact that when I am feeling the effects of depression, they are so counterintuitive to getting better that I actually can see myself making decisions that I know are going to make me unhappy in the future…and I just watch myself make these decisions. I can’t think of too many issues other than my depression that is negatively affecting our marriage. No sex drive. No desire to go do things. Overwhelming feelings of guilt…you feel bad that you were the lucky one that married into a better situation and your wife married into a situation she doesn’t deserve. And of course all these can feel overwhelming which leads to feeling even more depressed. I am grateful that my wife Caitlin has done everything she can to support me, but at times I find myself trying everything I can to not reach out. I imagine this scenario being incredibly frustrating for her or for any person trying to help. It is important to have multiple people you can count on to help.
My good friend Clay and I are closer than ever and can and do talk about depression with each other. This seems to be something my group of close friends has in common. For some odd reason, most of us have had a long battle with the same demons/struggles. Perhaps this is the reason we are all drawn together. My community has changed throughout the years as most peoples does. I’ve noticed the more willing to be outgoing and connect to others I am, the stronger my personal community is…thus, playing a greater (more positive) role in my life. Having a greater sense of community, for me, makes a big difference when dealing with the small day-to-day problems of life along with the life-changing issues we all run into.
I believe it is important to show not only the people that have depression it’s ok to talk about it, but also the people who don’t know much about it that it’s ok to ask questions. One of the most positive actions I see to remove any stigmas is letting people know it’s ok to ask questions, and to make sure the people that do have to personally deal with it that it’s not something they should be ashamed about. Nine times out of ten, talking with anyone is better than talking to yourself…you are already at a point where you can’t be trusted, asking yourself for advice doesn’t make sense. The one time out of ten might be when you talk to someone who not only doesn’t understand it, but doesn’t believe depression is a real thing and that you should “Just cheer up.” That being said, if my wife was constantly coming to me looking for solutions to her menstrual cramps I would most likely have no solution to her problem due to my lack of understanding…or worse yet, give her bad advice because of something I assumed I could comprehend. When your car isn’t working, you get advice from someone who knows what you are dealing with and what possible solutions are. That is why it is important to have a good support network and seek professional help when needed.
My other advice to anyone who is depressed, exercise. I have had different type of meds prescribed to me, I’ve gone to different types of therapy, and I’ve reached out to different people in my life looking for help and they have all played their important roles. However, exercise is by far the most productive thing I can incorporate into my life that makes a consistent difference. I’m still on a low dosage script and sometimes notice a difference if I forget to take them, but will notice a much greater change when I stop working out. My greatest hope for those struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts is to that they learn how to deal with today, get the help they need, and mostly that they see tomorrow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe is can be found most days hard at work "being awesome" at Wells Fargo. He is a loving father of two and husband to Caitilin. He is known sometimes known as "the funny guy", but more distinctly it can be said he is a well humored guy who loves his friends and family.