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educator, mental health advocate, social entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, author, writer/contributor, program executive, and radio host
Value --- whether it’s personal, family, financial, moral, or spiritual --- is pursued by everyone. It can be a driving force, an artificial projection, or sometimes used as a weapon to diminish, demoralize, or devalue someone’s contributions. Notwithstanding, the issue with assessing value is that it’s an artificial evaluation of worth based on an assessor’s assumptions, which doesn’t always reflect intrinsic or extrinsic value.
Depression can have various sources, such as psychological (irregular brain activity), physiological (a chemical imbalance), situational (a specific event), or periodic (certain time periods). As a result, it can sometimes be difficult to identify, treat, or resolve depression, unless the source is identified. Moreover, the willingness to seek treatment can be adversely impacted due to inappropriate projections about someone’s personal strength or mental fortitude by improperly associating negative terms to describe an individual’s bona fide medical condition, such as labeling someone as weak or crazy, respectively.
Individuals effected by certain types of depression tend to question their value. Oftentimes as a result of external forces that put into question their worth due to bullying, culture, comparative value, meanness, or someone’s amusement. There are also internal negative factors that affect someone’s valuations, which can be amplified by ongoing personal attacks, situational factors, or internal considerations that lead to a breaking point for pent-up struggles.
If you asked someone who almost took their life, “Are you glad to still be alive?” Numerous individuals will respond in the affirmative. Unfortunately, too many times, individuals are lost not because there was a desire to die, but instead there was an urgent need for the pain to end ... right now!
Can you imagine living a life that the days are always dark from the inside out, your situation isn’t getting any better, and there isn’t any hope that things will change? Even if you can’t, you can surmise that this wouldn’t be a pleasant feeling. Now consider the additional stress of wanting to share your feelings, but are worried about being evaluated, judged, chastised, called names, or worse during your most challenging times. These are some of the reasons that individuals affected by depression suffer alone, don’t share their feelings, and sometimes sadly choose to have an untimely ending.
For me, my depression caused me to question my value, along with feelings of disillusionment, desperation, defeat, and despair. However, it also led to an unexpected discovery that I wouldn’t be forced into submission by not being true to myself by being culpable to unethical / questionable behavior or being bullied by senior executives without any means to properly protect myself from these unprovoked, unwanted, and unnecessary attacks.
During the worst period in my life, I pushed myself to continue to make forward-progress to explore different opportunities, which led me to discover my true passions that I might not have ever discovered. Steven Pressfield might have described my period of enlightenment the best on an episode of Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey. During this show, he described resistance as a negative force that occurs on the way to self-fulfillment. He also said that the closer someone gets to the achievement of their goals, the more resistance that will be experienced.
My transformation began at the beginning of my dissent into a deep depression in April 2012. At first, I withdrew, didn’t want to do anything, or talk to anyone. Then, I had an overwhelming and unexpected urge to write. Writing was something that I previously considered; although, these early feelings weren’t as strong. All I knew is that I had to write; it was something that consumed my soul.
In May 2013 at the onset of my writing journey, I didn’t have a plan, but my “inner-voice” drove me to write. Writing became and still is one of my biggest comforts. Without it, I might not have made it past the months following my near-suicide. The most important thing I did during this challenging period was to release my pain to prevent from doing anything that would lead to self-destructive behavior.
Writing led me to redefine my personal value. The more I wrote, the more others identified with my journey and the stories I shared about humanity. After working with at-risk young men --- some of them inmates, I realized that the majority of the things I did, enjoyed, and was passionate about were related to teaching and helping others.
During my self-discovery to recapture my desire to live a fulfilled life, I remembered a Happy News Telegram received from my first grade teacher – Mrs. Powell – who wrote “Stacey is my right arm! He helps everyone and is an inspiration to those children not as gifted.” If my mother didn’t keep this note, it might have been lost and along with it a jump-start to help identify my life’s passion and purpose. Thankfully it wasn’t lost because after reading this note, I realized that I’ve always been a teacher; teaching is something that I’m passionate about and driven to do. These days, my teaching manifests itself through my writing, speaking engagements, teaching in college classrooms/jails, and mentoring.
While others’ tried to diminish, demoralize, or devalue me personally, along with trying to have me behave in ways that are inconsistent with my morals and values. I affirmed my value(s), which in-turn allowed me to redefine the meaning of “happiness” for me. I used to believe that happiness is tied to monetary gains, rising to executive levels, and hanging-out with so-called friends. Now, I understand that my value isn’t related to any of these things; instead, it’s simply driven by my commitment to unconditionally be the individual that I want to be, my ability to help others, and knowing that my contributions have helped or led to someone having a better life.
Over the last few years, I lost a lot of financial value, material things, and in so many ways reductions in my self-esteem; however, I didn’t lose myself, my values, or my commitment to try to do the right things not just for me but also society.
Depression is a disease that isn’t always understood, can have debilitating effects, and is sometimes a preventable silent killer. Although, depression does have a benefit in that it can help to identify that something is wrong. This discovery could be something psychological, physiological, situational, or periodic. Although, for me, depression was the catalyst to recognize that I wasn’t in environments, situations, or circumstances which allowed me to live my best and fulfilled life.
Difficult times can cause individuals to surrender to the pressure by withdrawing, acting inappropriately toward others, or to engaging in personally destructive behavior (e.g., alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.). Notwithstanding these possibilities, depression can also drive action for individuals to determine the source(s) of issues to develop a strategy to identify, manage, and resolve anything that might negatively impact someone’s life.
The most valuable lesson I’ve learned from my battle with depression and recovery after a near-suicide is that any unexplained changes – sudden or not – in someone’s behavior(s) should be examined. At times, individuals who experience a personal storm might not recognize the warning signs to take action(s) for themselves; therefore, others should make a commitment to keep a watchful eye for any changes in someone’s behavior(s) that appear to be atypical. The worst thing that can happen and sometimes the biggest regret(s) are from individuals who noticed something that appeared to be uncharacteristic and dismissed their concerns about these changes as being just a phase.
Please don’t let your thoughts after someone’s dissent into destructive behavior or an untimely demise be ... “I knew something didn’t seem or appear to be right with them. I wish I would have given it more consideration, had a conversation, or simply asked a question that might have saved their life.”
Anyone who needs assistance should contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org or
A collection of Mr. Young's articles and interviews about depression are available at: www.slyoung.com/depression.html
Additional information about Mr. Young’s journey to overcome his depression and near-suicide can be obtained in his book “Choosing to Take a Stand: Changed me, my life, and my destiny”.