Depression – The Silent War

I have really debated the past couple of days on whether to write this or not. It’s personal and deep, and involves taking a journey down a road that although familiar, isn’t a pleasant one to travel. But I am a traveling man, and not all roads are easy to travel down.

Depression. Depending on who you speak to, you will get different responses regarding this word. Even within the last decade, my own personal thoughts and opinions regarding depression have changed.

Why am I writing this? Don’t I usually choose topics that are a little easier and pleasant to absorb? Yes, but I also dedicate this blog site to impacting those near and far and trying to positively influence those who read it.

This particular topic and blog entry has been on my mind constantly for the past two days. For those of you who don’t know, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2016, which led to my early retirement from the United States Air Force after sixteen years active duty. Part of having MS is trouble falling asleep. Because I have trouble sleeping, I was prescribed a sleeping medication recently. This particular medication has caused me to have extremely vivid dreams, none of which have been great dreams.

I will skip the details of the dream I had two mornings ago, but immediately upon waking, I took the contents and overall theme of the dream, as a prompt to write this and hopefully inspire others to share their own stories.

I’m not a doctor, a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health professional. I have zero textbook experience on the subject of depression. What I do have however, is years of hands-on practical knowledge, experience, and coping mechanisms used to deal with this silent killer.

I call depression a silent killer for many reasons. Almost more times than not, those who deal with depression will keep silent about it. For different reasons, they’re ashamed, and don’t want it to become evident to those around them, let alone themselves. These silent victims walk through their daily routines, wearing masks and hiding the pain they feel inside.

I am no stranger to wearing masks. For years, I became an expert at changing them often, and creating different ones for various occasions in life. I have never been one that is talented in the area of hiding facial expressions. Those around me could usually tell how I felt inside by the way I looked on the outside. So I created masks. I portrayed a smile on the outside while my heart and soul screamed on the inside.

Many times over the past years, I’ve talked about silent warriors fighting silent battles, and the battlefield being hidden within the four walls of their home or within their minds. They’re fighting these silent battles in a silent war, and if they make it through the night and into the next day, they’re winning. I’ve talked about this often and it’s so true.

When I was in the military, depression wasn’t something people talked about very much. The perception was there, especially in my career field and carrying a weapon, that any sort of mental or emotional health problem was a career killer. So you ended up having so many kill themselves on the inside to save their careers. With a rise in mental health awareness programs to combat Post Traumatic Stress and Suicide, the stigma has started to be shunned out of most units. Those who were in positions that did nothing but support the stigma mentioned above, have found themselves either getting with the program and following suit with other leaders, or being hidden in places where they will have minimal influence and impact on others. Good!

It’s a hard place to be when you’re standing in a room full of people, only to feel completely and utterly alone. For those who have never been surrounded but feel an intense loneliness and emptiness, it’s hard to fathom. To be surrounded by happiness and light, but feel as though you’re standing in a dark corner, is excruciating. To want nothing more than to break and scream at the top of your lungs, but thinking you can’t because they’re depending on you to be the happy person you always present yourself to be, is nothing short of painful. It’s like being stung over and over by the same bee.

Many think that someone who is depressed is suicidal. Not true at all. Someone could be in such a state of loneliness, sadness, and emotional despair, they don’t want to continue. They lay down at night praying they won’t wake up, unable to fathom another day in pain. But they’re not suicidal. They just want their pain to go away. Imagine the most excruciating toothache. Everything you tried to do to make the pain go away, failed and you’re left walking around with this pain that no one can see but only you can feel. Wouldn’t you do anything, including the removal of the tooth, to make the pain subside?

If you’re reading this and can relate, I’m here to tell you there is hope. I can also tell you that you can think all the happy and positive thoughts in the world, and it isn’t going to work. Why? Because that’s not you and that’s not how you were wired. And you know what else? That is okay!

I started this post by telling you I am not a doctor and have zero professional experience in the case of mental and emotional health. But I have experience, and if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here writing this for you today. I’m going to talk about things I’ve done to help in my next entry. It might just save you hundreds of dollars or another long period of pain and darkness. Maybe you won’t have to wear that mask so much. If none of the above, at least you will know that there’s another person fighting alongside you and cheering for your victory.

This Time of Year

There is something about this time of year. Here in the Northeast and in many other parts of America, the green grass is or has already turned a shade of brown, while the hills and forests were set ablaze with the awesome spectacular of autumn. Snow has made its appearance but has not yet blanketed the earth, while the nights have turned bitterly cold. Shorts, for most people, have been neatly folded in a drawer, while jackets and gloves have been hung by the door. We’ve searched for the ice scraper and once again are thankful for the remote starters in our vehicles. Yes, it’s that time of year.

While nature continues its course and life gives way unto death, something else tends to happen this time of year that seems to renew life and hope. While the outdoors becomes frigidly cold and the ground becomes harder, it seems this time of year always softens the hearts of mankind and we become a bit more sensitive to those around us. Things we may have been blind to for most of the other months throughout the year, seem to become painstakingly obvious to us in our daily travels. We notice the homeless individual standing on a corner, shivering and praying for warmth tonight. Many Americans in a couple of weeks will demonstrate this emotion they feel by going to homeless shelters and food pantries nearby to serve Thanksgiving meals. We remember those who are close to us and the family members who will be missing from the table on Thanksgiving Day. We remember the person fighting an illness or disease, knowing this holiday season may very likely be their last. We are reminded of the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, serving abroad and away from family and the comforts of home. It is without a doubt that our hearts become more sensitive to the needs of others around us during this time of year.

I don’t have an explanation for why this happens. Maybe it’s because while many of us take time to reflect on our blessings in life, we become more in tune with those who may not be as fortunate. Social media will be flooded in the next month with ways and opportunities to give to people and our communities, as well as others around the world. Men and women around the world will hear the ringing of a bell next to a red bucket at store entrances. Our hearts will become softer and some will be broken for others.

I end this with a question. No, maybe more of a challenge. This holiday season, what will you do in the service of a stranger? Will you stop for the homeless person, shivering and alone, on the street corner or in the park? Will you drop an extra dollar into the red bucket? Will you make that phone call to a family member that is long overdue? Will you reach out to the friend, who for the first time in many years, will spend this holiday season alone? Take advantage of this time of year, listen to what your heart is telling you to do, and move on it. For whatever reason this time of year inspires so many to go beyond themselves and reach out to others, be thankful for it and use it to impact someone else.


I always enjoy hearing from others who read my posts and gain something from it. Please feel free to leave a comment, share, subscribe, follow me on this journey. Thank you for taking the time to read these simple words.

Stephen Willette, CEO and Founder, Patriot Images New York, Inc. http://www.patriotimages.org