| 4 min read | by Doug Marrin |

These are real stories from our neighbors in their own words, personal accounts of struggle that sometimes end in triumph, sometimes in coping, or sometimes simply falling apart.

It’s the human experience we all share and in giving it voice we are encouraged to know that we are not alone, we are not weak and failing. Life is hard and we’re doing our best, like everyone, learning as we go.

“David”

“Inside, I was very unhappy with where I was at in my life. Sure, on the outside I did my best to put up a good front to my family, friends and coworkers that I was getting by.”

To all but those who knew him best, David was a regular guy living a regular life with a good career at a good company, providing for his family. David could be a poster child for how the American Dream works, but he was caught in a cycle familiar to many of us – playing out a façade, a role player in a public performance, all the while struggling inside.

“Work was difficult and stressful. There were times that I didn’t want to be there. At home, raising kids in Dexter, that can be challenging and stressful as well. So there were times that I didn’t want to be home either. That as well can be hard on relationships.”

“I was caught in a circle where when I was home, I didn’t want to be there. But when I was at work, I didn’t want to be there either. I was stuck going from one place to the other and that really propagated a downward spiral in terms of my mental outlook, on how hopeful I was for tomorrow. I was just seeing problem after problem, and each time I looked, the problems appeared bigger and more difficult to deal with.  I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.”

“I was depressed, trapped. I thought it would be better for everyone if I wasn’t here, but not in a suicidal way. I didn’t want to kill myself. I just didn’t want to be here. My expectation was that tomorrow wasn’t going to be as bad as it was today, it was going to be worse.”

It did get worse and it began to show. David’s friends intervened, encouraging him to seek help. His family was more firm saying, “You need to get help.”

Stigma

“I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what it was. And in that state of mind, I wasn’t willing to accept the tag of ‘depression.’”

There’s a stigma about getting mental health assistance, and that’s something on my journey that I’m trying to break. In society, it seems like there’s a stigma or an attitude that if you need help, then you’re deficient in some way.”

Stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because of a distinguishing characteristic that is viewed negatively. Negative attitudes and wrong beliefs toward people seeking mental wellness are common. It can lead to discrimination, which can be subtle and even unintentional, but damaging as assumptions are made about the person’s condition. Perhaps worst of all, the person may even judge themselves.

“We’re very willing to get help physically, from a personal trainer in a group setting, and talk with people about it. We’re very willing to get dietary help from other people in a group setting and talk about it. You don’t have to be in dire straits to go through any of those avenues to make yourself better, but with mental health there’s the notion that you have to be on your last straw, on the ropes, at your wit’s end in order to go seek help, and that it’s not something that should be talked about in public.”

Finding help

Reluctantly, David agreed to seek help. He quickly found it more difficult than expected. Therapists and psychologists are in high demand. There are waiting lists, which seemed an odd situation to create for someone in crisis. Different practices have different specialties and approaches, how could he possibly know which one would be the best fit?

Help came when David learned of a clinical trial for a new program for depression and anxiety.

“I figured that would be a good thing to try. We met twice a week for seven weeks. I wasn’t a willing participant. I wasn’t fully vested in the program and its exercises. I was doing it mainly to appease the people around me.”

The program David had stumbled onto was “Mood Lifters,” an innovative approach to helping people move toward mental wellness and live the life they want to live.

The neurologically based program was founded by Patricia Deldin Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Michigan. Dr. Deldin created Mood Lifters to help people who aren’t receiving sufficient mental health care because it’s too expensive, they don’t know where to go, or the stigma keeps them from even seeking help.

“At the end of seven weeks, without trying hard or putting conscious effort into it, I was blown away by the changes I noticed in myself and how I differently I felt about myself.”

The program incorporates group support, a reward system and empirical data to measure participants progress. David came into the program with a highly depressed rating, cause for concern. By the end of the seven weeks, he was down to an average range, the same for anxiety. That was three years ago and the change over those seven weeks has stuck. He’s a different person today.

“It was remarkable. That was the first time in a very long time that I that I felt like tomorrow would be different. It would be okay, and I I’d be a little bit happier tomorrow.  I actually looked forward to what tomorrow would bring.”

Happier-than-before ending

For David it is a happy ending, or at least a happier-than-it-was-before ending. The world hasn’t changed. It still presents its challenges, but David feels he has been equipped to better handle what comes his way.

“You’re going to experience difficulties in life. There’s ups and there’s downs, and it’s how you deal with those things, how you respond, how you react, and what you choose to carry from that experience forward that matters. If you carry failure every day with you, you’re just accumulating failure baggage. But if you learn a lesson from it, if you can change a tactic, if you can do something different tomorrow, you’ve learned from that experience, and you’re better off for it.”

“I’m very happy that I have learned skills to cope and regulate my emotions and my thoughts. I find much more joy in the day. It’s an amazing mindset change from always seeing problems to being able to see goodness, joy, or something rewarding. There is something to appreciate each day, and it builds momentum towards a positive future.”

Notes:

I have not used David’s real name. More information on Mood Lifters can be found on their website at https://www.mood-lifters.com/