AUTHOR: TIMOTHY HOSMAN, SALEM MA
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18% of the population of the U.S. suffers from anxiety and depression disorders. I am a 55-year-old man and, sadly, one of the approximately 40 million Americans to which this statistic refers. Real-life, first-hand observations, experience, and on-going treatment for anxiety and depression always remind me that there is a serious lack of understanding about this disorder, including from some of those who are treating us! My goal is to shed some light on this incapacitating problem, the situations that arise from it, and some of its consequences. I am also hoping to raise awareness and to motivate compassion, understanding, and caring (each of which exist in the human psyche and capability) within society as a whole. The invisible quality of this sickness makes it very difficult to recognize, understand, and treat. There is an urgent need to further our understanding on this disorder that is devastating the lives of those suffering from it.
Anxiety and depression are beyond one’s ability to control. This is perhaps the greatest misunderstanding about the issue. Anxiety is not “butterflies in your stomach,” and depression is not a “blue Monday,” where you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, give yourself a swift kick, and move on. No, this is something entirely different. Let us increase “butterflies” and “blue Mondays” 1,000-fold to the condition of paralysis, crippling the decision-making process, rendering it useless, and causing a disconnection from reason and logic. This is what we are dealing with.
The ineffective treatment solutions presented to us make this disease even more difficult to manage. They expose the depressing lack of fundamental understanding of what we are going through. As for me, many of the resolutions, from the never-ending experiments with pharmaceuticals – which is a whole other story – to the advice of friends, family, or medical professionals, cause me more frustration and confusion. These “solutions” are reason-based or logic-based. While they actually make sense when I hear them, they result in more confusion because my anxiety and depression disconnect me from the reason or logic that I need to reach the solution. Just as the blind do not possess the physical ability to see, the depressed lose the ability to co-operate with (or, “to see”) reason and logic. The connection is simply not there.
I also get frustrated when I hear the question: “why?”. I cannot count how many times I have been asked, “Why are you so depressed?” or “Why is your anxiety so bad?”. This question proves that the person asking does not understand anxiety and depression. There is neither rhyme nor reason for the attacks or episodes, which seemingly come ‘out of the blue’ and unexpectedly highjack your life! It defies logic! It does not make sense! This, for me, is maybe the most overwhelming frustration of this sickness. Yes, there are times when some external events trigger these attacks, but still, the intensity of the reaction far outweighs the level of “threat” of the oftentimes “routine” activity that pull that trigger.
I’ve just shared with you my general overview of anxiety and depression. I have combined the two for this writing because very often they go together, as in my case. Of course, each of these conditions presents symptoms that are unique and specific. I experience anxiety as an uncontrollable runaway freight train and depression as a smothering cloud of hopelessness.
We need our providers, our friends, and family to pay more attention to us. Life is very difficult for those who live with these diseases. Those who live around us also face great challenges to comprehend us. Seeking to understand what we experience through research that benefits us, organizing open discussions with our community, and helping us build relationships with our loved ones, will lead to a better quality of life for us. Our loved ones who have to endure us will also benefit from it.
Timothy Hosman was born and raised in Beverly, MA. in 1961. Primarily a musician for roughly 35 years, he has also worked in Israel as a teacher and has been involved in philanthropic endeavors, such as teaching and agricultural/economic development in rural areas in West Africa and Central America. Anxiety and depression have been problematic since childhood and he has now been receiving treatment and therapy for several years. Enrolled at North Shore Community College, he is now working on a computer networking degree, as well as journalism and psychology courses. He resides in Salem, MA.