"Becoming educated about mental illness taught me about my life and living better."
by Michael E. Reagan, Jr.

MikeReagan_personal-story.jpgI wish my breakthrough moment wasn’t when I thought "I'd pay good money if I could feel better." I am cheap, so the path became clearer once cost was no longer a concern. After I decided to get help for my depression, one challenge was telling a receptionist why I wanted therapy. I had never told anyone I felt depressed. I hated having to leave work early for counseling sessions and how some questions about feelings left me reaching for the tissue box.

But what kept me returning to therapy was my sense of relief when I climbed the stairs to the office. However embarrassed I might have felt, I was unburdened after talking. Therapy helped me learn how my loss of interest in everyday activities, intrusive thoughts, and rumination were symptoms of depression. Thanks to my therapist (a term I had trouble saying at first), I learned that if I wanted to get out of depression, I had to leave behind my downbeat mindset.

Self-Help Books…Really

More burden-lifting took place with self-help titles, the ones I had previously scorned as lightweight books. They described what I had been experiencing far better than any work of literature I had read. Becoming educated about mental illness taught me about my life and living better. I learned that trying to hide what was going on in my life was one reason I felt I was "going crazy in the first place.

A mixed medicinal cocktail turned about to be my best cure. Although I didn’t like the idea of medication, I gave it a try. Combined with therapy sessions and homework with self-help books, I noticed I was feeling better. After a while, I considered tossing distorted ways of thinking.

It turned out the rest of humanity wasn't scrutinizing me and my errors. People had other things to do, such as go about their everyday lives. Becoming open about my reading took longer. I might have left a Harry Potter book out in plain view, but not so with books on depression. I hid those as if they were porn.

A Fine Decision

What I can say now is going to therapy was one of the finest decisions I have ever made. A difficult phone call more than 15 years ago made many happier events become reality. I'm not going to say I've been awesome ever since. I've done plenty of stupid things and fallen plenty of times. The difference is that I try to focus on the recovery instead of reliving the crash landing.

Maybe a bill for all the sessions and books could be tallied up. I don’t view them as an expense, but rather an investment in my living better.


Michael E. Reagan, Jr., a graduate of the University of Maine at Orono, lives in Lewiston, Maine, with his wife and son. Twitter birdy.JPGFollow him on Twitter @MichaelReaganJr