"If I gave you my entire psychiatric history," Ken says, "you'd probably wonder how I could put two sentences together and function on any meaningful level. During tough times, I look back and see only the darkness, but there has been a lot of light, otherwise I wouldn't have survived."
Meet my friend Ken, a person who has struggled with his mental illness, but is now doing very well in recovery. Ken began fighting depression early. He had life experiences that were very challenging. He tried everything to treat his depression.
Overcoming depression, for Ken, involved a spiritual approach. By trying to control his own emotions, he found that he only allowed them to control him. When he gave up control and used that energy to follow his own creative path, he was better able to cope with the emotions and get through each day.
"My depression hasn't changed," he explains, "but my reaction to it has." He uses the analogy of encountering a bear in the forest. Your gut reaction is to run, but you have the best chance if you lie down and act as if you're totally relaxed. Similarly, it's difficult to outrun one's own emotions. Another apt comparison is quicksand. Ken says, "the more I wiggle, the faster I sink, so I'm learning to stop wiggling."
Since he began working with this doctor and joined a support group, who believed in him and encouraged him, Ken has written and recorded several songs and is continuing his musical pursuits. Today he lives in the present: "I've grown a lot through my illness and have a lot to show for it, if I stay in the present. Don't regret the past," he says, "because everything you've experienced, good and bad, got you where you are now, which is on the verge of creating the kind of life you've always wanted."
Ken concludes with this message, "Have gratitude, have patience, get in touch with who you are and go for what you want now. Give yourself credit for the person you have become. The real power for all of us lies within ourselves. Tapping into that power is exhilarating and a bit scary. But by all means, enjoy the ride."
Recovery from depression and other mental health conditions is possible and Mental Health America wants to help you. Ken, who now has a rewarding career and full life, worked hard to get where he is today and you can as well. MHA offers free support groups for people experiencing depression and other disorders. Call me at (740) 522-1341 for information and referrals.
Paddy Kutz is the executive director of Mental Health America of Licking County. MHA is partner agency of United Way, NAMI and the Community Mental Health & Recovery Board.