Watch for signs of depression — and reach out

By Wayne Addison

Depression is so hard to understand. It’s not something you can see, but it is very real and affects many more people than we all realize.

It is quite normal in life that everyone feels sad from time to time. But if emptiness and despair have taken hold of your life and won’t go away, you may have depression.

Depression makes it tough to function and enjoy life. Just getting through the day can be overwhelming. But no matter how hopeless you feel, you can get better.

I love the Christmas season, but we all need to realize that not everyone looks forward to Christmas. I am so fortunate to know so many people in our community who seem to have become part of my family, but some people are not surrounded by wonderful families.

Many people have problems during the holidays and are overcome with sadness when remembering the loved ones not with us. For others, it’s going to be the first Christmas without a particular loved one or friend. Then others have no one to spend these times with and are besieged with loneliness.

Like everyone, I have experienced severe sadness. I lost one of my heroes and mentors to a murder. I lost the other one to cancer. I lost my brother-in-law and my son’s best friend to horrible traffic accidents. Then cancer came again and took my ultimate hero, my dad, W.B. Addison.

Other than trying to be the best father and husband in the world, I strove to be the best son to my mom and dad. Losing Dad was horrible, but for some reason I recently found myself with a feeling that was actually more devastating than all those events.

It seemed that emptiness and despair were taking hold on my life and would not go away. It was becoming tough to function and enjoy life. Just getting through the day was becoming overwhelming. Oh, I still made my little jokes and I was still able to call the auctions, but I noticed myself feeling low and sad on a regular basis.

I can’t remember how many times I would just leave my office and drive to the park, sitting and wondering what was going on with me. I found myself putting off tasks that I had never put off before.

Since I have worked helping people overcome their problems, I began to realize that understanding the signs, symptoms, causes and treatment of depression is the first step to overcoming the problem.

So many people came forward when my granddaughter was diagnosed with spina bifida. I was feeling overwhelmed by the generosity but soon began to realize letting those people help Brynlee was not only the best thing for the Addison family, but also a good thing for everyone who helped. I learned that I need to let go of some tasks and realized that asking for help is not a bad thing.

Yes, I’m a guy with a big voice. I’m a guy who is constantly in front of a crowd doing auctions and other events. Who would ever think a guy constantly in front of a microphone could suffer from depression? It is important to remember that depression very much varies from person to person. And like I said, we all have everyday struggles and sadness from time to time.

I was very fortunate. I feel just a little change and assistance were beneficial to me. I’m beginning my 35th year of being a probation officer. I’m afraid depression has been a major issue for many of the people I deal with. I know helping them work through their depression was partially to blame for my own issues, but it is so difficult not to be affected.

Many of my clients have lived a difficult life resulting in drug overdoses and being in fatal accidents due to reckless behavior.

I’ve also dealt with many people who have ended their own lives through suicide. Trying to reach out to help someone is the reason for this column. I’ve never felt suicidal, but depression is a major risk factor for suicide. The deep despair and hopelessness that go along with depression can make suicide feel like the only way to escape the pain.

If you have a loved one with depression, take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously and learn to recognize the warning signs. When you are extremely depressed, your problems don’t seem temporary, they seem permanent. But with time, you can feel better. Especially if you seek help and accept support from others.

If you are reading this and feel these symptoms, please take the time to seek help. You owe it to your family and friends, but most importantly you owe it to yourself. Life is a wonderful gift. We are only here a short time, and none of us want to feel low and depressed during that time, so seek help and hopefully you can find yourself again.

Remember during this holiday season, many people are struggling, and a small act of kindness can mean so much.

Wayne Addison is chief probation officer for the Hancock County Probation Department. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfield