Joe Kelly Talks About His Own Battle with Depression
Several years ago, my family was traumatically touched by suicide. The best friend of one of our teenage kids took her own life.
I wondered how anyone could do that, take their own life.
Now a few years later, I'm coming forward about the story of my own battle with depression.
Before I go further, let me say this is the tough for me. Very tough. Even though I’m a “public person” with a very “public job”, I am very guarded with whom I share my private thoughts and feelings.
The reason I'm writing this is so YOU KNOW depression can happen to ANYONE at any time. Even you. Even me.
In the last 3 or 4 years, I've gone through several life changes. My own two children grew up and "became adults." My father - who was my best friend and best supporter - died. I didn't know it, but depression set it.
As my kids grew up, they both played sports. I was always going to their games, their practices. I often coached their teams, especially in the early years. My life, outside of work, revolved around them. (And, that's the way I wanted it – and, I wouldn’t change a thing if I had a chance to do it over again.)
The problem was, when they finished school, when they stopped playing sports, I was hit with the empty nest syndrome. Instead of my free time being scheduled, I was suddenly without plans.
The death of my father was unexpected. I'd never really lost someone so close to me, and I had a big hole in my heart.
Looking back at the combination of events, I think it was just kind of a "perfect storm" that knocked me off my feet.
All of a sudden, I felt alone in the world, not sure what my purpose was.
Now, I say this despite the fact that I have a great marriage with a wonderful woman, and a great relationship with my kids, my step-kids, my mom, my sisters, etc. I also have a great job that I love.
The problem, though, is that I couldn't shake the alone and empty feelings.
It’s very hard to explain exactly how I felt, other than to say I felt empty and isolated. It seemed the world was moving around me like a carousel, and I was in the middle standing still, looking out.
I think my depression started leading me down some wrong paths. I stopped exercising. I stopped caring about my diet. I gained weight and didn't really give it much thought. I made other bad choices and decisions.
My whole life, I've been very responsible and all of a sudden, I didn't feel responsible. I didn't care if I was responsible.
I'm not sure if people around me, other that some in my immediate family, know that I was depressed. I don’t think I wore it on my sleeve. Even some close family members were surprised - you don't always see depression.
Luckily, I wasn't suicidal or anything close to it, but I was on a downward spiral. I felt like I was in a deep hole and there was no way out.
I was, thankfully, able to slowly turn things around. Honestly, I turned to God. I literally found myself driving down the road one sunny afternoon, when I turned into a church parking lot. Amazingly, the church was unlocked, and empty, and I went it, sat down and prayed.
I also reached out to some trusted family members and admitted to them what I was going through. With assistance, I found a group of people going through similar issues as I was. What a blessing to find out you're not the only one going through something!
I tell people, “It’s a great feeling to find out you’re not the only crazy one.”
I'm now a little more than one year removed from "my turnaround", and my life is better, so much better.
I feel happier, I feel like I'm friendlier. (Yeah, I know I never smile….) I feel like I can allow myself to get closer to people, I feel like I can get closer to me.
My purpose for sharing this is not to gloat, or anything like that. My purpose is so that anyone reading this, whatever they're going through, can realize they are not alone.
Depression can happen to anyone at any time. Any one. Any time.
The important thing is to rustle the courage to reach out. Reach out to someone. Reach out to anyone. There are hotline numbers, call one. Don't go through depression alone. You'll find that there are people who care. You might not even know them yet, but there are people who care.
Here's the National Suicide Prevention Hotline:1-800-273-8255.
With a little luck, and maybe some work, you can feel like you’re climbing out of that hole.
If you have health insurance, reach out to your health insurance company. Thankfully, mental health is starting to be taken seriously in this country, and insurance companies are willing to lend a hand in finding you someone to talk to – a counselor, a psychologist, someone.
You can also reach out to local community groups, a member of the clergy, etc.
Heck, just go to Google and type in “Help for Depression.”
I'll say this one more time - depression isn't always something that someone wears. Don't assume that the people in your life are happy and content. Check on your loved ones once in a while and make sure they're OK. Have the conversation. Teach your children about mental health and help them realize that it’s ok for them to reach out if they’re not feeling “right.”
I feel OK today. Actually, I feel great! I honestly feel like I’m going to be OK. Thanks for reading and know that I care about you. You might not realize it, but there are probably many who care about you.