GUEST POST: Coping privately while living publicly

In recent weeks, I have been  featuring a series of guest posts about depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses. My hope is to convey how many people face these challenges by providing a platform for others to share their stories. Today’s post is by Blake Ells, a writer, radio man, rock ‘n’ roll fan and publicist based in Birmingham, Ala. Learn more about him at blakeells.com or follow him on Twitter @blakeells. 
Should I write this? Should I not? The only thing that prevents me from sharing my story is that you’ve probably heard it. Having begun radio at 17 and being quickly propelled to eight-hour daily shifts on one of the largest sports radio stations in the country by the age of 22, I’ve never had much of a private life.

When I came home on July 1, 2008, and found half my things gone with no explanation, it was paralyzing. I didn’t eat for about 36 hours, but I still had to go to work, be on air, try to tell jokes. One of our co-hosts was on vacation that week, and I was having to fill that role. The starvation nearly made me pass out on air, and I was told I had to get someone to run the board long enough for me to go force something in my stomach. Coping with my wife leaving me was debilitating.

I lost 60 pounds over the next six weeks. I left my house to go to work daily, and I came straight home, daily. The first time I tried to leave for another reason, I had a panic attack that literally brought me to my knees.

I saw a doctor, but only with the intent of finally trying to solve a lifelong reflux disorder (which I still have). As I sat in the office, I saw a poster on the wall that listed ways to self-diagnose depression. “Not sleeping? Not eating?” Yeah. Yeah. All of those. So I told him, and he said, “I’m not particularly worried about your weird reflux thing because you’ve lived with that your entire life. I’m worried about your crippling depression.”

Over the next two years or so, I’d unravel the mystery of why I lost half of my silverware, I’d lose what I thought was my dream job and I’d have my house hit by the April 27, 2011, tornado. I stopped taking the pills (I was on Lexapro) because I was having to take on so many part-time jobs and side hustles to pay the bills I had been abandoned with that I couldn’t even stop to notice anything irregular about my own well-being. So no, I’ve probably not ever really recovered. But I’ve learned how to cope with it now on my own, and it’s not as frightening.

In a lot of ways, I was also hesitant to share this because at its core, it isn’t quite as dramatic of a personal triumph as some others. But the story is my own. Being surrounded by people and knowing that you’re able to entertain folks doesn’t mean you can’t feel alone. I still do. Often.

Would you be willing to share your experience with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or other mental-health illness? Email me at cjATcarlajeanwhitleyDOTcom. I’d love to share your experience as a guest post.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Insecurity

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *