This post is a modification of an email I sent to younger family members a few weeks after I was diagnosed. Unlike most posts, it’s full of advice. I took the liberty because we face similar family histories of depression and because I changed their diapers so I get to boss them around.
The first good thought I had after the shock of diagnosis was that I would write this email.
This email is meant to help you guys deal with depression (which is way more common than we think) or avoid it completely (which is totally possible).
I’m currently suffering my fourth or fifth major episode. I’m not the smartest person on this email chain but I’m no dope either. It’s shocking to me how bad I had to get before I started to think something was wrong, that I had to be totally incapacitated, unable to work or look for work, before I realized that I needed help.
This email is to encourage you to be nice to yourself. There are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself – like we should wear sunscreen because skin cancer in our family is even more common than red hair.
First and foremost, I want you each to believe that your happiness is important. Prioritize it. Cultivate habits that you enjoy. Practice your hobbies. Don’t let them fade with age.
Wherever you go in life, keep in touch with friends and family. Build or join communities within every new city.
If you find yourself reaching for the bottle to handle stress, to get to sleep, or to relax at the end of most days, talk to someone. Alcohol is a depressant.
I strongly recommend a regular meditation practice. Ten minutes a day of focusing on Love, or your breath, or a positive image is an incredibly powerful tool. It makes us kinder, happier, and more resilient to life’s challenges.
This email is to encourage you to seek help. Getting treatment during or after your first or second episode drastically improves your chances of recovering fully, and never having to put up with this shit again. Asking for help (and then asking again) is not a weakness, it’s fucking rad.
Whatever you’re worried about, whether it’s grades or work or drinking too much or personal relationships or anything – don’t beat yourself up about it. Try to treat yourself like you would a younger sibling. Ask what’s wrong and strive to have the courage to face it.
Don’t expect to be able to fix your problems by yourself.
Let’s be the first generation that isn’t ashamed of this stuff. The first one to be proactive and not hide from each other when we’re feeling our worst.
And always remember: your family, we don’t love you because of what you do. We just love you.