Publisher’s Corner

JB Lester

Being Thankful For Peace of Mind

In November, we celebrate Thanksgiving with a meal and spending time with family and friends. It is a good time to reflect and consider what you are thankful for. By the time you get to my age, 68, you realize you are thankful for so many things as you look back across the landscape of your life. For me, the list is almost too long to list: family, friends, job, education, health, joy, love… I am so thankful for all those who loved and have stuck by me even in the toughest times. And I don’t mean my two brushes with death, once with a heart valve replacement and more recently beating prostate cancer. Perhaps my biggest challenge in life was depression and anxiety in my young adulthood. I imagine many who read this column either are currently suffering from depression or anxiety or has done so in their lifetime. It is extremely common and yet it doesn’t get the big headlines like other medical causes. Up to 40 million people suffer from depression and anxiety in the U.S. alone. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable yet only 37% of those suffering will seek treatment. Children and teenagers are suffering more than ever and yet with therapy and medication there is more hope than ever before. For me it was a dark time in my early 20s, a prime time for the onset of anxiety or depression. I had no idea what depression and anxiety were. I didn’t know anyone in therapy in the mid 1970s. It hit me hard. I became a recluse and agoraphobic, living in my mother’s basement for 8 months. I feared being in public, or anything that made me feel trapped or out of control. I experienced my first panic attack when I was 22 and that set off years of anxiety that affected my relationships, my work and my health. I wish I had someone to tell me to get therapy or perhaps try medication. I read numerous self-help books and learned about my condition. Through that knowledge I began to gain power over my anxiety and depression and slowly made my way back out of the doldrums. I went back to college, started a business and learned to handle my anxiety. You never cure anxiety, but you learn to manage it. I still am not the most social person and I have serious stage fright, but depression and panic attacks are a thing of the past. Acknowledging my fragility was quite a revelation. I was able to work it out on my own, but I know most people should ask for help. It took me years to overcome and control my anxiety, and in that time I probably lost out on many opportunities and relationships. Therapy and medication probably would have helped me deal with the suffering much sooner. I came out of it all a much better person, with a much greater understanding of mental illness and empathy for those around me who also suffer. So many of you know about depression and anxiety. Anxiety and depression that goes untreated can lead to self-medication in the form of alcohol and drug abuse. Please seek help if you suffer. And help someone you love seek help. As someone who has been down the rabbit hole, the view from the meadow is much brighter. I am thankful that my journey brought me back from the darkness. I hope someone else’s journey will, too. Never give up on tomorrow, no matter how bad today may be.

So Very Thankful, JB Lester