Singer-songwriter, James Taylor once wrote a song called “Down in the Hole.” Here are some of its lyrics:
Welcome down underground, hunker down a spell.
Gets to feel like home to me though I know it looks like hell.
Down in the hole, Lord, it’s deep and the sides are steep.
And the nights are long and cold, down in the hole.
Light and love and the world above mean nothing to the mole.
Down in the hole.
James Taylor has called this song his anthem to depression. He called it that because he has been there: down in the hole. Taylor knew about the hole, the hole so deep, so dark, sides so steep, with no obvious way out. He had been there. And, I have been there. Over 20 years ago, during a time in which I had been feeling down and things had not been going my way at work, I noticed that I was not myself. I felt down most of the time. I had lost interest in most activities. I was more tired and had less energy. I had trouble thinking and concentrating at work, and I was indecisive. I would be at work for hours on end and find myself having not accomplished anything at all. I was more irritable and emotional, particularly at home. I experienced a change in my sleeping patterns that I had never experienced before. I began to wake up early in the morning around 4:30, and then not be able to go back to sleep. I thought I was going back to sleep, but I never did – and as a result, I woke up tired.
All of the things that I just mentioned are the warning signs for depression — or being down in the hole, the hole so deep, so dark, so steep, with no obvious way out.
William Styron was an American novelist best known for two controversial novels, the Pulitzer Prize winning The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice. In 1985, Styron suffered from a serious clinical depression which he would later recall in his popular memoir, Darkness Visible. In that book, Styron talked about his descent into depression, his attempted suicide, and the triumph of recovery. Styron described his depression this way:
The decision-making of daily life involves not, as in normal affairs, shifting from one annoying situation to another less annoying – or from discomfort to relative comfort, or from boredom to activity – but moving from pain to pain. One does not abandon, even briefly, one’s bed of nails, but is attached to it wherever one goes.
Styron further described the madness of depression as a storm – a storm of murk. There are the slowed-down responses, the energy throttled back close to zero. Ultimately, the body is affected and feels sapped and drained. What did I do? I got help. Ninety percent of those with depression can be successfully treated, and I am a part of that 90 percent. With the support of my wife and my law firm, and the help of medication, an anti-depressant, I slowly came out of the hole and back into the light. It was not quick, and it was not easy, but slowly, I climbed out of that hole. I could not have done it by myself. No amount of alcohol or vacations or just pulling myself up by my bootstraps would have done it. I needed help.
My story is not terribly dramatic. I did not lose my job, and I was never suicidal. I was never hospitalized, but I was sick. I got help, and I got better. At the time I first had the problem, I was an associate at our law firm, Gallivan, White & Boyd, P.A. About a year after experiencing this problem, and having recovered and climbed out of the hole, I became a partner in our law firm, where I continue to work today. Depression can be treated and you can recover, be successful and productive.
If you remember nothing else from this, remember these three things:
1) Depression is a medical illness, not a personal weakness;
2) Depression is a medical problem that can be successfully treated with medication and therapy; and
3) If you or someone you know has a problem, get help from a medical professional.
Please remember that there is hope, and there is help. You are not alone.