Mt Pleasant News
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Neighbors Growing Together | Apr 17, 2014

Depression — an often misunderstood, sometimes fatal disease

Nov 15, 2013

By BROOKS TAYLOR

Mt. Pleasant News

You just never know.

The four-word phrase is uttered often, but used more as an expression than one carrying weight.

I thought of the phrase recently when I learned of the suicide of a good friend of mine from another life.

Ray (real name not used) seemingly had it all together. He had been a supervisor with a state agency before going back to school to become a water treatment plant operator.

In addition to steady employment, he had a supportive wife and two successful grown children.

The American Dream, you say.

In addition to being successful in the workplace, Ray was one heck of a nice guy. Gentle in demeanor, he always had a smile and good word for everyone he met.

I became acquainted with him a quarter century ago. We attended the same church and were teammates on a silver-medalist softball team in the Iowa Games and also on the church softball team back in the 1990s.

Over the years, our worlds separated. I moved to another part of the state. However, when I moved back to southeast Iowa, I saw Ray every now and then, generally at church.

Time hadn’t changed him. He was the same Ray. The last time I saw him was during the summer of 2012 at a wedding of the son of a mutual friend. We talked for a while, he told me about a new position he had taken in a different part of the state.

We also talked about our families and old friends.

This fall, I heard from a mutual friend that Ray had gone back to school. I was somewhat surprised because he had worked several decades for the same state agency.

A few weeks following, our mutual friend called and said Ray had taken his life.

Wow. The news felt like being body slammed by a ton of bricks because Ray seemed the least likely to take his own life. At his funeral attended by around 500 friends, relatives and associates, there surely was sadness. But there was also a lot of shock. No one had any answers.

My friend told me Ray had been battling depression. He had visited Ray and his wife the day before the suicide, and Ray was feeling good. Ray said his doctor had told him that he though the depression was in remission.

Obviously, it wasn’t.

Depression is a mean, cruel disease. If you never have been inflicted by it, you have no idea of its far-reaching devastation.

Most of us think of depression as feeling blue or having a bad day.

If it were just that, incidents like Ray’s wouldn’t occur.

Depression is not seeing storm clouds on a sunny day. Although the disease can be managed by prescription drugs, it never really leaves and, obviously, is fatal in some cases.

Depression is a feeling of emptiness and hell on earth. It impacts the way you live, think and act. It can affect your personal relationships with others, your job performance and your outlook on life. You start to question the meaning of life, why you are living and why you want to continue living.

A former co-worker once told me that hope is paramount to mental health. “If you lose hope,” she said, “you’ve lost everything.”

How true. You need a sense of hope to function, to see the sun behind the clouds, to see that tomorrow will be better today and that life has meaning.

People like Ray lost hope long before losing their life. How sad.

 

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