The Course of Reason

Reaching Out: An Atheist’s Experience with Depression

October 20, 2011

There comes a time, every now and then, when you just have to write on a particular subject.  You find yourself neglecting school work to write because what you want to write feels more important than the reading assignments for the week.  There are bigger things in life than school assignments, and this feels like one of those things.  You hope that this message will reach the right ears and that it will make a difference, no matter how small that difference may be.  I’ve struggled with it for the better part of the past two years, maybe even longer.  I will not go into the details as, I wish to keep most of that private and two, the main focus of this article is not on myself but the struggle of depression in general.  Suffice to say, that my depression once warranted a trip to the hospital.  I am now on the road to recovery though it is still filled with bumps.  I consider writing this piece to be a part of the therapeutic process.

I cannot stress the importance of speaking about depression.  Whether it is divulging all of your personal stories or just letting it be known that you have depression, it is important to speak out.  There is still a level of stigmatization surrounding depression.  It is an illness, yet it is much more difficult to discuss a mental illness than a physical one.  People understand what it means when you say you have a cold or flu, yet many are unsure of how to react to someone saying they are feeling depressed.  They may have the best of intentions but are simply unable to help in any way because of a lack of understanding.

This goes into my next message: Reach out to others.  It does not have to be your friends and family.  I understand how difficult it can be to reach out to the people close to you.  To tell them you are depressed is a challenging task.  I’m sure it often feels as though you are a burden on those close to you.  You do not want them to worry.  You want them to be able to enjoy their lives and not bring them down because of how you are feeling.  I do suggest that you do what you can to reach out to them, however, as they do want to help.  Even if it’s the simple act of coming to your house for the day to spend time together to help keep your mood stable,  friends and family should be included, not excluded from the recovery process.  Still, if you find it difficult to reach out to friends and family, how about a stranger?

Reaching out to strangers is an option, especially in the age of the internet.  I have made use of the Depression page on Reddit to communicate my feelings to like-minded people.  Being told that a complete stranger cares can be a boost to get through the day and focus on getting better.  I myself want anyone currently battling depression to know that I am here.  You can find me on Facebook or look up my e-mail address.  Get in touch with me.  Let me know what’s going on.  I’ll provide what help I can.  I know how difficult this struggle can be and I want to help.

Finally, the atheist/secular community should come together as a group to assist each other with depression.  Several of my friends who have been there for me when the depression takes hold, are from this wonderful community.  Proving that we do care about our fellow humans.  I want to work with those in this community to create support networks for those battling depression.  I cannot even begin to overstate the value of support networks, especially when those networks are comprised of like-minded people.

I’ll end this piece first off, by saying “thank you” thank you to those who have been there.  Whether it be for my own struggles or helping others with depression.  You have made a difference in the world.  Second, to those still fighting depression: Don’t give up.  There are those who care.  I care.  We want to see you get better and we will help you get better.


This post originally appeared on the Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers of Waterloo blog.

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About the Author: Chris Burke

Chris Burke's photo
Chris Burke holds a Bachelors in Environmental Studies: Honours Environment and Business from the University of Waterloo. Next he will be working towards a Masters of Environmental Studies in Sustainability Management. He's an active member of the Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers of Waterloo student group. In his spare time he enjoys reading and playing music.




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