Full Circle: Rose Petals
The readers write about depression and anxiety

Last month, I wrote the toughest story I’ve ever written. It was a feature about depression and anxiety. Illnesses I’ve battled for most of my life. I wrote it to help others – people who might think they are alone and have no way out. Well, it seems to have worked.

Between emails and Facebook comments, we had hundreds of responses just in the first week or so. Many readers called my story “a much-needed voice.” I wanted to share just a few of their voices.

“Did you hear that sound?” one reader wrote. “That sound was doors and windows opening throughout your readership and people saying, ‘Thank God. Fresh air, at last.’ Thank you for validating these issues for so many people who did not understand what was wrong, and others who did not want to acknowledge a potentially stigmatizing illness. In opening your own ‘door’ to help others, you have gifted so many of us.”

Another said, “It may have taken you 70 years to come to the place where you could write this, but it’s the bravest piece you ever penned. So many people are thinking, ‘Oh, now I get it.’”

And this: “I always love what you write. You bring forth many emotions. Today, you brought a flood of tears for you and so many other frightened souls.”

Can you keep depression hidden? This comment from a woman who served as my personal assistant for two years: “I took it for granted that you suffered from artistic angst. I knew you had deep dark secret places, I took it as grist for the mill. I am surprised by your pain. I have no words. This was courageous.”

And this: “Wow, this story could save a life.”

But enough about me. Here’s what readers told us about their issues:

“I too have suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and depression for most of my life,” one writes. “I read your story and, in many ways, I felt as though I was reading my autobiography. I’ve tried to explain to friends why I can’t join them in certain situations, only to be laughed at or scorned. So I have become a pretty good actor. I put on a smile and pretend that I’m happy to be in a noisy, crowded room. Sometimes it works.”

“I went through a similar childhood, with similar issues and confusion,” another writes. “I experienced all the shame that went with it. But somehow, I managed to suppress almost all the horrible memories of my childhood by the time I was in my twenties. Twenty years later, I was on a business trip and had my first adult panic attack. It was completely paralyzing. I felt like I was going crazy.”

“I cut the trip short, came home and quickly sought the help of a psychologist. The results were remarkable. In a little over a year, I managed to ‘cure’ myself and gain valuable insights that would help keep me safe and secure. You are right   – there is a way out.”

Finding hope: “I have a young nephew who is the sweetest child. He’s never been a problem to anyone. I thought he was happy, but there are signs of depression that we see. We feel like failures not being able to get him out of this funk. Your story gives me hope that there are professionals who can help where we cannot break through.”

And more hope: “I have suffered with depression as well. I remember feeling that something was wrong from a very young age. I have improved my life with meds and therapy and have much to be thankful for. I have struggled, but I try not to feel sorry for myself because I know others have far worse problems. As you mentioned, our society is afraid of mental illness and there is a strong stigma surrounding it. But your article brings me hope.”

I sure hope so.

July 2016
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