Your Inbox Is Full

I am sitting on the sofa, answering emails tonight. I get a lot of emails. There’s no way I could answer them all, but I still try to read every word.

This past year most of these emails have centered on one topic. I’ll let you guess which topic. Hint: it rhymes with MOVID-19.

A lot of these messages come from children, which surprises me. The idea that a child would voluntarily write a guy like me, who doesn’t floss regularly and still watches “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” just shows you how upside down the world is.

I also receive a lot of physical stuff in my postal mailbox from kids. Right now, there are several handmade pictures stuck to my refrigerator, all from children who I’ve never met.

One of my favorite pictures reads: “Mister Sean! Luv U!” The drawing shows a bearded guy (me) riding an elephant, carrying what appears to either be a bazooka or a telephone pole. I’m not sure what that’s about.

But amazingly, the overwhelming majority of emails come from people who suffer from depression. In fact, that’s why I’m writing this. Because depression is something few people talk about. In fact, you probably don’t even want to be reading about it right now. I don’t blame you.

When I was a kid, nobody ever talked about depression. I don’t even think it was in the dictionary. It certainly wasn’t said out loud.

But depression is a real disease, just like colon cancer, or Parkinson’s. And looking back, I realize that I indeed had it. I won’t go into my life story, but depression is what killed my father, and it sort of hangs around.

So I was a gloomy kid after he passed, and I spent most of my teenagehood beneath a cloud.

One time I remember standing in the corner of a crowded party, watching other teenagres mingle, laugh, and dance like spastic armadillos, and I realized that I wasn’t like them. That same night, my date had such a good time at the punchbowl she ended up ruining my truck upholstery with the contents of her stomach.

Before I dropped her at home she said to me, in a moment of pure gin-induced honesty, “You know, you’re the saddest boy I ever met.”

It crushed me. I went home and looked in the mirror to find that she was absolutely right. You could see it in my face. I looked like a bloodhound, minus the AKC registration papers. It was a wake up call.

But by my mid-twenties, a miracle happened. I somehow kicked the black snake of depression. For the first time since forever I felt sunlight again. My life became moderately hopeful. I even started playing the Florida Powerball.

It was during this period of newfound happiness that something else remarkable happened. I naturally gravitated toward people who were depressed. I don’t truly know why. You’d think I would have avoided them, now that I‘d found relief, but I didn’t. My heart went out to them.

I had a friend, for instance, who was suicidal. I never let him out of my sight. For two whole years I stuck to him like gout. He couldn’t get rid of me. I had no idea how to help him, but I knew that as long as we were together he would know he wasn’t alone.

“You can talk to me,” I’d always tell him. And he would. Every word he shared with me was a gift. He eventually got on meds, and today he’s a father of three. Don’t misunderstand me, it wasn’t because of anything I did. All I’m saying is that I was fortunate enough to see his liberation. I know he will read this. God bless you, Justin.

And there have been more like that. I remember once walking into work when I was about 25 and my coworker, Anna, was in the restaurant kitchen bawling. It was Christmastime. The worst time of year for depression.

At the time, the restaurant was hosting a big party. There was a live band playing music and people were dancing the Mashed Potato. But Anna didn’t look like herself.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

Anna looked at me with a face that seemed 500 years old. “My mom hung herself in the shower.”

Her words were a kick to the chest. I sat beside her and she cried so hard that our manager made her leave. I’ll never forget that day as long as I breathe.

Today, after a very hard life, Anna is a nurse, and has a nice family. She will also be reading this. Hey, Anna.

And then this COVID mess happened.

Depression-wise, America fell into the proverbial pit. That’s when my inbox got out of control. For some reason I was getting messages from people all over. People who held the weight of the world on their backs. I would cry at my computer screen reading their words.

I don’t have to tell you that since the pandemic, clinical depressive disorders have skyrocketed. One out of every three Americans is affected right now.

I’m ashamed to say that I don’t know how to respond to these emails. Even this column feels like a pathetic attempt.

Still, I firmly believe that words are not dead things. They can be powerful if you let them. And they can change things.

So I hope these words will travel across the right wires and land in front of the desperate person who needs to know that someone cares. And, believe me, someone does care. As long as I’ve got a beating heart behind these ribs, I will always care.

So whoever you are, wherever you are tonight, don’t keep your mouth shut. Find someone to talk to about what you’re going through. And if you can’t find anyone…

Drop me a line.

34 comments

  1. christina - November 17, 2020 7:19 am

    Your words have reached out like a warm hug and made us feel less alone in our struggles and pain. Go Mr. bearded guy

    Reply
  2. jeannie - November 17, 2020 8:56 am

    Thanks, Sean, for bringing depression out of the closet, or at least opening the door. I’m not so sure we’re ready, yet, for it to be in the open, but you’re helping us to face it.

    Reply
  3. Meredith Smith - November 17, 2020 9:31 am

    Sean, I never know if you see my emails or not. But you just wrote the most meaningful column that I think you have written yet, and you have written some great ones. I am not depressed but I know a couple people who are, and you are right ~ it is a real thing. The fact that you reached out to your entire readership is the most kind thing I have ever seen. Thank you. You are a wonderful human being.

    Reply
  4. Jennifer Marsden - November 17, 2020 10:14 am

    It’s okay to not be okay.

    Reply
  5. Jackie - November 17, 2020 11:24 am

    Thank you for taking the time to reach out. Sometimes it’s the smallest gesture that can turn a persons day around. This past year has had much sadness, but underneath the layers of unexpected craziness that you couldn’t possibly believe (well maybe you could) that I’ve been dealing with I find blessings and hold onto them like a tight hug! Thank you! & sending a hug!

    Reply
  6. Te Burt - November 17, 2020 11:27 am

    I hesitate to msg seeing as how you don’t have time for what’s already in your inbox. I admit, I don’t understand depression. Not that I haven’t been. A violent family life, a child given up for adoption, being socially maladjusted, rarely having that loving connection with a man, I’ve been depressed. I concluded the only way to write decent poetry was to be clinically depressed! Somehow, I woke up, dealt with it, fought my way through it, became too selfish to give in. COVID lockdown hasn’t bothered me. I’m retired, the age to be at risk, and never worried once about getting it, or disliked staying at home. Home is where I love to be. Friends drag me out, kicking and protesting, to party, have dinner, go dancing, play pool, go “I don’t need a thing” shopping. I’m lucky. I grew up strong. I became stronger. So did you.

    Reply
  7. teresasnipesmecom - November 17, 2020 11:30 am

    You are a good soul. For those of us who watch others with depression and can’t understand it, we are grateful to those like you who rush right in and confront the hurt. Thank you from those of us who just don’t know what to do.

    Reply
  8. Rhonda - November 17, 2020 11:41 am

    You are a star in the night sky. A tiny glimmer in the middle of a vast black sea. Its those little lights that pull you through til morning. There is comfort thinking that someone you don’t know cares. There is no pressure to be anything in return. Its like the love of a dog. They don’t know how to be anything but sincere. You don’t know how many nights sleep won’t come and the brain won’t quit. Then the email box dings and just for a few minutes the hurtful thoughts subside and you can look at those twinkling lights in the sky with a little less dread. Maybe you aren’t a writer first. you are a healer who heals through writing. A friend by nature. What a wonderful gift to share. The only thing better would be one of Jamie’s pound cakes!

    Reply
  9. Eliz - November 17, 2020 11:47 am

    The struggle is real. Thank you for trying to shine a light on it.

    Reply
  10. Sonya Tuttle - November 17, 2020 12:20 pm

    Having been there a few times in my life, I know a person can’t fight this alone. My salvation came from talking with a doctor and crying. I am a melancholy person, so I need meds. Praise God that this has saved me. It happens to many who don’t know there really are meds to uplift a spirit. Elavil is what made me laugh again.

    Reply
  11. Elizabeth (Beth) Brown - November 17, 2020 12:26 pm

    Sean, I never respond to things like this, but today I am…..this is one of the BEST ones ever. I read your emails every day as part of my morning meditations…….then I go to the Psalms….. thank you for your heart of caring…….I feel your passion…..I always want to be a better human after spending a few moments with your “ words of wisdom.”
    Thank you……..some of this black cloud has lifted.

    Reply
  12. Steve - November 17, 2020 12:31 pm

    Sonya is correct. And when those times come, you gotta ride thru it hard, and get to the other side, because God does Love you and He is and always will be in charge. Knowing He created us for something special, even if we may not see the end result YET, makes it all worthwhile!

    Reply
  13. Shirley Lieberman - November 17, 2020 1:06 pm

    Thank you Sean for all your words which enter my heart every morning. I get up and after my prayer time I read your blog.

    Reply
  14. Steve Winfield - November 17, 2020 1:10 pm

    Look.
    The doctors & meds DO WORK.
    Please get help.

    Reply
  15. Jane - November 17, 2020 1:35 pm

    Thanks. Depression runs in my family. I grew up among people who suffered their whole life with this disease. There was no cure then…no pills..no therapy. But somehow I escaped. It makes me feel weird sometimes. How did I escape? I have no idea.

    Reply
  16. Jan - November 17, 2020 1:38 pm

    Rhonda is so right … you are a tiny but very bright star shining in the darkest night sky. Thank you for caring, for loving and for shedding light on a difficult but necessary topic for discussion. There are people who care and can help. We all need help in one way or another!

    Reply
  17. Laurie Ulrich - November 17, 2020 1:41 pm

    I don’t think it’s “coincidental” that right now I’m reading Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer and our chapter for this week is about depression. He points out that only someone who has been there can truly empathize, and your column this morning gives credence to that. Your words ARE powerful and can change things, and your own experience IS a powerful tool as you reach out to those around you. You’re really one of God’s angels on this earth~

    Reply
  18. Melanie - November 17, 2020 1:42 pm

    Thank you Sean. If I may…understand if you do not want to post.
    https://www.nami.org/Support-Education
    The National Alliance on Mental Illness might be a place to start if someone doesn’t know where to begin. I have had depression nearly my entire life. Millions of us are out there yet feel so alone. I can not begin to tell you how wonderful you are for writing this ❤️

    Reply
  19. Susan - November 17, 2020 1:53 pm

    Thank you, Sean. Depression is real. Like diabetes, one is never cured. There are peaks and valleys. Counseling, medication, faith and exercise are a few things that can help. The biggest help is having someone like you, Sean, acknowledge it, own it, and truly understand where so many of us are.
    You couldn’t possibly answer every email. This post was answer enough.

    Reply
  20. nebraskannie - November 17, 2020 2:30 pm

    Your experiences mirror so many others, including mine. There is relief out there and I know for a fact that having someone care to listen without judgement is a big part of it. Many ways to get that relief, but the main thing is to let others help when you’re too sick to care for yourself. I’m so glad I found your blog…

    Reply
  21. Fleming Straughan - November 17, 2020 2:46 pm

    Keep writing
    It’s a blessing every day
    Some days a joy to share
    Others a trip to happier times
    And sometimes-where’s the tissue?
    God Bless
    Fleming

    Reply
  22. Pam Phelan - November 17, 2020 3:19 pm

    Hi Sean: First I’d like to comment about yesterdays post. I too enjoy Nat and Bing and all the Christmas songs of my parents era. And I can never put up my little tree without having my 1950’s – 60’s Christmas CDs on. It made me feel a kinship with you, that you enjoy the same type of Christmas music. Oh, and that we are both dog nuts!!!!
    I love reading your emails every day. Gives me something to look forward to. Yours is not an easy job, trying to write something new every day when you can barely get out of the house these days, but you are doing a TERRIFIC job, and there are thousands of people out there who agree with me. I pass on your name to my good friends, so they can enjoy you also.
    Please have a sweet day ahead, and know that you are deeply appreciated!!
    BIG HUG – Pam and Dollie (Dollie being my furry rescue dog who is the light of my life)

    Reply
  23. Tracy - November 17, 2020 3:28 pm

    What an eloquent writing and what a very kind man..i am humbled to exist in your lifetime 💞

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  24. LInda Everett - November 17, 2020 3:51 pm

    Sean, it has indeed been a terrible, depressing time in all our lives, with no end in sight. One thing that this virus has made me see, is how spoiled and complacent we all were before this year. If and when we do see the light at the end of the tunnel, I will forever treasure all things this great country has afforded all of its citizens. We are extremely blessed to live in America, the Land of the Free! I turned on my Alexa this week and asked to hear some Gaither gospel music. A song came on immediately that I have never heard before. The name, “God Has A Plan.” Very timely and very true. God bless you Sean, you keep us focused on what is important.

    Reply
  25. Sam Smith - November 17, 2020 5:37 pm

    Good on ya’, Sean. We all need to do everything we can to help others.

    Reply
  26. Steve E Rafferty - November 17, 2020 5:41 pm

    My Mom suffered from clinical depression most of her life and was passed down to me.Ive been on meds for 27 years and doing well.Your article shines a light on the black dog of depression that stalked Winston Churchill and Mike Wallace at least were in good company.Your description of the restraunt party when young lady was asked to leave hit me hard im glad she’s doing well.

    Reply
  27. Linda Moon - November 17, 2020 5:49 pm

    My inbox had some trashy junk in it today. I got rid of it. I never get rid of your columns in my inbox, Sean of the South. Words from big hearts can change things. Talking and listening are ways to care, and I sure do care about you. So, here’s my line: I still watch “Rocky and Bullwinkle”, too. Kindred Spirits, we are!

    Reply
  28. Patricia Gibson - November 17, 2020 6:21 pm

    God bless you ❤️

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  29. Ann - November 17, 2020 8:19 pm

    Just realizing they are NOT ALONE…can begin to help many people…keep writing Sean…you are a true “ encourager”

    Reply
  30. Laura - November 17, 2020 8:27 pm

    This really hit home. My BFF of 60 years is bipolar and her husband has been in treatment for lymphoma all through covid, it has not been an easy year. I call and leave lots of messages and send regular texts hoping she knows I am here whenever she needs me.

    Reply
  31. Suzanne Moore - November 17, 2020 8:39 pm

    Sean, you are a godsend. Of the four children in my family, I am the only one who does not suffer from clinical depression.One of my brothers committed suicide. Using your experience and your voice to reach out to friends and to strangers has undoubtedly saved many people. God bless you

    Reply
  32. Mim E. - November 17, 2020 11:36 pm

    Agreed. (((Sean)))

    Reply
  33. Beryl - November 18, 2020 1:12 pm

    I am one of the two out of three Americans who is NOT depressed. I’m not special. I have met and cultivated a relationship with depression before. I take actions that keep me from depression. The most important one…doing for others. It truly is better to give than to receive. I meditate, exercise daily (moderately) with variation, eat well, do creative activities, connect with certain people in person (mostly outside), and all others on Zoom or FT. We are social animals. When we isolate ourselves from others we create a separateness that becomes not only physical but emotional. This is a slippery slope that gravity is happy to help us slide down. The mind is a trickster which can be controlled. It takes awareness to notice when it is not serving us well. Notice what makes you agitated. Are you watching a news cycle over and over again? Why? It’s built on fear and this is an emotion best saved for emergency situations. Notice what you spend your time thinking about. Are you rerunning “what if” scenarios? Why? The past is done, the future isn’t here and you just missed an incredible sunset, a bird in flight, a baby laughing, a dog’s high jinx, the miracle of your next breath, the first taste of coffee in the morning, an opportunity to breathe deeply, and teaching yourself something. The opposite of depression is elevation. Look up from your device right now!

    Reply
  34. Peggy Thompson - November 18, 2020 1:56 pm

    Thank you for caring & giving a hug to so many in America today! I hope this has helped & saved many but even if just 1 is a a miracle! Thank u♥️

    Reply

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