Although I had endured a major depression in 1991, medication and an effective self-care regimen brought me back to the light of day. I helped raise two wonderful children and built a successful securities-litigation practice. But the demons of depression and alcoholism were waiting in the wings. In 2012, a storm of genetics, drinking, life stressors and the growing ineffectiveness of my medication pushed me back into suicidal despair.
By early 2013, I was close to catatonic. The grey sludge of apathy and despair oozed into my head. Small tasks felt like trudging up a steep mountainside through deep snow. I took a medical leave from my law firm and entered the psychiatric ward at a hospital in Berkeley, California. My two months in those dim halls were the worst of my life. I started a grueling course of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). In between treatments, I stared listlessly out the psych ward's narrow windows at the Berkeley Hills where I had grown up. It was like watching a black-and-white film about a childhood that I could barely recall.
I spent the rest of 2013 in a small inpatient psychiatric program in a dreary Palo Alto house. Although my mood had stabilized, and I was two years sober, I was still clinically depressed. When I thought about exercising, I took a nap instead. Lethargy and apathy were my bedmates. My psychiatrist was methodically trying various medications, none of which were gaining traction, and my ECT treatments were still underway.
Yet, as my father used to say, "While there's life there's hope." Over time, new meds, exercise, other self-care regimens — and the love of friends and family — slowly melted the permafrost of my depression. I began to find the "me" of the past decades, and the world went from dull gray hues to technicolor again.
I am now standing on the far side of the valley of the shadow of suicidal despair, six years sober, and feeling better in many ways than I ever have.
I will always have to work hard to stay that way. Although the genetic components of my depression and alcoholism are not my fault, it is my responsibility to do everything I can to stay out of their cold grasp. It helps tremendously to have what I call a SEAL (Supportive, Energizing And Loving) Team. Trusted friends and family, my mentor, AA sponsor, our pastor, and a psychiatrist are on the team. They help me stay focused on six self-care regimens that support my vitality and give me a sense of purpose, hope and often serenity.
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