From my original blog, in case you missed it:
I haven’t always been so candid about my depression and anxiety. A year ago, while in the eye of the storm, I bailed on delivering the keynote address to a large Catholic convention. My hands were trembling so badly that I was having difficulty getting a spoonful of Cheerios to my mouth. Holding a microphone would have been problematic, not to mention inspiring the masses.
“I’m sorry,” I explained, “I’m having some health problems.”
I stayed vague because I was afraid that the event coordinator wouldn’t understand. So few people had.
Many months later the topic of depression made front-page news in Annapolis with the suicide of Phil Merrill, a renowned publisher, entrepreneur, and diplomat in the Washington area. Eleven days later Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan withdrew his candidacy for governor of Maryland because of his struggle with depression.
Articles cited all the people that had come out, past and present: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Kay Redfield Jamison, Archbishop Raymond Roussin, Mike Wallace, William Styron, Art Buchwald, Robin Williams, Patty Duke, and Brooke Shields. Their reputations were still in tact, so maybe depression wouldn’t be the end of mine.
These people “came out” to help others. Abraham Lincoln wanted people to know that his melancholy was a “misfortune, not a fault,” and that his humor, his jokes, were the “vents of [his] moods and gloom.” Surely Lincoln’s heightened sensitivity made him the empathetic leader he was.
British Prime Minster Winston Churchill referred to his deep melancholy as his “black dog.” It was the teacher of perseverance. “Every day you may make progress,” he wrote. “Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”
Without Lincoln and Churchill and the others, then I’d think I really was going crazy, that I was the nut ball my twin sister called me in the fourth grade. They were missionaries of truth about mental illness, which is what I want to be.