I could probably write a book about my struggles with depression. It has been a long and difficult journey. But since we don't know each other, and we live in an era of tweets and hashtags, I'll give you the short version.
It all started when I was 10 years old. My parents were getting a divorce and I was being tossed around in an ocean of emotions. I was angry at my father. I was protective of my mother. I was worried about the future. I was overwhelmed by change.
After a drawn-out separation period, my sister ultimately went to live with my father and I went to live with my mother. We eventually moved to separate cities. I never felt like the divorce was my fault and, in fact, I was glad to get away from my father.
But I felt sad. I always felt sad. I would stare out the window with a blank look on my face. I would stand in the rain. I would cry a lot. It was during a critical time in my life. I was going through puberty and I was beginning to develop a sense of self. I was trying to understand my identity and my place in the world.
But all I felt was sadness. I tried to hide this from the people around me. After all, it's hard to make friends as a 11 year-old when you're wrestling with deep issues and sadness that seems to be boiling over. I learned from an early age to pretend to be OK. Boys are taught to be strong and depression is often portrayed as a weakness.
The few times I would open up about my sadness, family members assured me that it was only natural (given the divorce or something mean my father had said) and that it would pass eventually. But the truth was, it never passed.
It was from age 10 that I started to feel sad every day. I woke up with a terrible weight on my shoulders. It felt like someone took the color out of the sky, and the trees, and the flowers. Instead of seeing blue and green and purple... I just saw gray. I struggled to get out of bed and feel like a part of the world around me. I lost hope and I began to daydream about death regularly.
Like a lot of people who have severe depression, I had issues with hurting myself and a few suicide attempts. My first one was at age 12. I don't share that information with most people (like my friends, coworkers, and even family members) because it is usually way too much for most people to process.
I've been lucky to have people in my life, like my mother, who love and support me through this journey. But even the most loving person will struggle to understand the illness unless they have experienced it themselves. Depression is so much more than just "feeling sad" or "lacking motivation."
I struggle with the illness pretty much every day. I've tried over a dozen different medications over the years and a lot of intensive therapy. Most of these treatments taught me how to cope with the illness - how to put one foot in front of the other and survive another day - but nothing offered long-term relief or a "cure."
But everyone is different. Some people experience depression for a chapter in their life, especially if they have been through something tragic. Others seem to have the illness hardwired to their DNA. I think it's important for people to try many different treatment options to see what works for them personally. I am hopeful that in 50-100 years we will have a much better understanding of the brain and depression.
In the meantime, I would like to help other people who are struggling with the illness. Unfortunately, I'm not a doctor, or a therapist, or a scientist, so I don't have the skills to find a cure such as a new form of therapy or medication.
My background is in market research. That means I do surveys, focus groups, and phone interviews to help companies collect feedback from everyday Americans. That means I know a lot about data and how it can be valuable to companies. I want to use my skill to raise money for the fight against depression.
That's why I'm creating the "Data Library" and asking people to donate their data to this library so we can fund FREE treatment options for people with depression. If we can get millions of people to answer a few basic questions about their household, and then license that data to companies, this could make a huge difference in the fight against depression. I believe it could save lives. So please consider taking 60-seconds to donate your data here and share our cause with your friends and family.
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