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.

The Things That Divide Us: Part I

There are things in this life that divide us and destroy us. In this entry I want to talk about something I’m all too familiar with, as I am sure many of you are as well. Lies.

As a child and growing up, I was always told the Bible verse that states the truth will set you free. I was punished as a child for lying and told that if I had only been honest, the punishment would have been much lighter. Sure, there would still be a punishment, but maybe there would be a little redemption due to my honesty.

I learned as an adult what my parents were trying to teach me about. The small lies about stealing a cookie or getting out of bed to play with toys when I should have been sleeping, are on a much grander scale as an adult. The lies as an adult carry much harsher penalties and there’s always so much more at stake.

I recall in a previous relationship I had, the amount of lies I was told. Each lie, as you know, compounded into another lie until eventually it snowballed out of control and there were so many lies just to bury the one simple lie in the beginning. There were so many lies that it became hard, even to the author, to determine where the truth ended and the lies began. For such people as this, their life ends up becoming one big lie. They lose the truth of themselves because they’ve had to fake things for so long.

Lies don’t just hurt the person telling them. Lies hurt the person on the receiving end as well. Lies sometimes have a ripple effect and can hurt people as the snowball rolls downhill out of control.

I know all this probably sounds simple, but if it is, why have you and I been hurt so much over a three letter word? If lying didn’t cost so much, why is the devil himself called, “the father of lies?” If lies didn’t sting so bad or have such hefty consequences, why are there broken families all over the world, because of something that started as a lie? If lying was the just thing to do, why are we punished as children for doing just that?

Lies destroy and lies divide. If you’re caught in that web and you’re struggling to get free, just start by telling the truth. It may mean you have to swallow your pride a bit, and others might be angry or hurt. But please stop the cycle before someone is destroyed.

What is Your Life’s Motto?

I have been thinking about this recently and asking myself this exact same question. Truthfully, everything I have written about up to this point, is straight from me and my thoughts. Continuing on with that trend, I must say that I spend a significant amount of time reflecting on life and the people in my life. How can I be a better husband, a better father, a son who makes his parents proud, a better friend, a better photographer, and an all around better person? These are all things I brainstorm quite often!

What is my life’s motto? What will be written, visibly or invisibly, on my tombstone? When I was in the military, we were always told to leave our current duty station “better than we found it.” It always sounded so cliche when I heard it, but it really has taken on a lot more meaning to me personally; more than it did the dozens of times I heard it in the past.

My goal in life is simple. Leave this earth better than I found it. Leave my small community better than I found it. Leave my friends and family better. Every single day, strive to end the day better than I started it. Is it that simple?

I stumble a lot. It happens. I mess up, fall into a ravine of self pity, and eventually climb and pull myself out. Of course it isn’t simple, but it’s not unattainable. I pick small things, like writing a blog or making a podcast, that somehow might impact someone else. I give a photo away that means a lot to me but more to others. I send a message to someone that might feel abandoned. We have all been there. I choose to respond with kindness to those who may not deserve it in that moment. We have all been there as well.

Bottom line, I make a conscious decision daily, despite my own shortcomings and failures, to make today better than yesterday. To be a better version of me than I was yesterday. To make those moments of reflection moments I can smile about and not moments I’m ashamed and afraid to confront.

I just try and be better and hold myself accountable to that.

America, Social Media, and Me – Part 2 of 5

Worldwide, there are currently 3.5 billion active social media users. Given that the world population is roughly 7.8 billion, that means almost half of the population worldwide is connected in some way through a social media network. On average, people have 7.6 social media accounts. I told you yesterday I had eight, and for me, I thought that was excessive. Nope, I guess it’s just average. The average person spends approximately 142 minutes on social media per day. Facebook and WhatsApp handle sixty million messages a day on average. Facebook and Snapchat both have an average of eight billion daily views. Adults in the United States spend an average of one hour and sixteen minutes each day watching videos on digital devices. Even here on WordPress where you’re reading this from, there’s approximately 70 million blog posts published each month! Here are some more astonishing statistics from SocialPilot: Social Media Marketing Blog (www.socialpilot.co).

  • 69% of Americans are on Facebook
  • 74% of Facebook users check it daily
  • The average user spends 35 minutes on Facebook a day
  • Women make up for 52% of Facebook users; men make up for 48%
  • 90 million access their Facebook accounts daily
  • More than 100 million hours of video are watched per day on Facebook
  • The average number of friends each Facebook user has is 155
  • 500 million people visit Twitter each month
  • Twitter has 1.3 billion accounts w/317 million monthly active users
  • The average Twitter user has 707 followers
  • There are 6,000 Tweets every second
  • 22% of Americans use Twitter
  • 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube…every single minute
  • People watch 1 billion hours of YouTube videos every day
  • The average person watches forty minutes of YouTube content a day
  • YouTube sees approximately 1,148,000,000 video views per day
  • Covering 95% of the internet population, YouTube can be navigated in 76 different languages
  • Instagram has 1 billion active users monthly
  • 95+ million photos are uploaded onto Instagram daily
  • There are 4.2 billion likes on Instagram daily
  • 37% of Americans use Instagram
  • Pinterest has 200 million users each month
  • 28% of American citizens use Pinterest
  • LinkedIn has 500 million members
  • 27% of American adults use LinkedIn
  • Snapchat has 187 million active users daily
  • 60% of Snapchat users are under the age of 25
  • 24% of adults in America use Snapchat
  • The average user spends twenty-five minutes a day on Snapchat

Phew!!! That’s a ton of statistics and don’t worry, there won’t be a test on any of them at the end of the week. The numbers are important however because it’s all leading into what I’m going to be talking about the rest of the week. While some of the numbers might be scary, I’m not going to say they’re negative. I’m not going to suggest any of them should be any less. I’m not even going to go so far as to say you and I should spend less time per day on a particular social media platform. What am I suggesting? Well, I guess you’ll have to come back tomorrow!

America, Social Media, and Me – Part 1 of 5

A very broad title. Although America is mentioned, this five part series can easily be relatable to any nation and people. I know that I have readers in other countries, so please don’t think the principles in this series only apply to us here in North America.

Social media is a wonderful thing. Think of all the platforms you can become a member of. How many do you personally have? For me, I am currently a member at least eight different social media platforms, each for their own uniqueness they provide both personally and professionally. You have platforms for just local neighborhoods, those for photos, professionals and businesses, those for sending out quick messages to users worldwide, and of course we have the largest, Facebook, which can be used for just about any type of communication.

Within a matter of seconds, you and I have the power to show millions of people what we are having for dinner before we even take the first bite. Want to get suggestions of a great place to take your family on vacation? Post it on social media and allow people to give you their recommendations. Are you looking to rekindle a long lost love? Social media makes it easy to find someone and instantly connect after years of being apart.

Remember the days of pen pals? I remember in fourth grade, I had a pen pal in Mwanza, Tanzania. We were supposed to get married! Well, at least she said we would. I remember waiting weeks to receive a letter back; the news from the letter already well surpassed by something else far more exciting in the lives of us children. I wonder if there’s an app or social media platform for pen pals nowadays. Is there a way to slow things down so you can have the anticipation of waiting. Does anyone send a letter anymore? I haven’t purchased postage stamps in years and I don’t even know if I have envelopes in our house.

We live in an exciting and technologically advanced time. As soon as I hit “Publish,” this post has the potential to reach every single person across the planet who has internet access. And I’m writing this from my smartphone. Mind blowing!

This week I’m going to talk a lot more about social media, society, and myself. I hope you will join me. Please comment and let me know what you think. I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts. If you enjoy reading, subscribe and follow me on this site and you’ll be notified each time I post. Thank you again for taking the time to read.