Sunday, July 21, 2013

Winning the Battle Against Depression

Winning the Battle Against Depression

   If like me, you watched Ken Burns’ amazing Lewis and Clark documentary, you were likely saddened by the disintegration and suicide of Meriwether Lewis following the Corp of Discovery’s return from their trek to the Pacific Ocean.

   Meriwether Lewis was a brilliant but troubled man whose family had a history of mental health problems. Still he took life by the horns and fought through those horrific hours and days of unrelenting depression to become an educated and highly respected man.

   Fortunately, as many health professionals have discovered, a constant diet of challenge and problem solving often forces bouts of depression to temporarily lessen.

   Thomas Jefferson noted that while on the Expedition, Lewis’ struggle with depression abated.

   No, it hadn’t.

   But the constant difficulties and tribulations of daily life during their journey made it nearly impossible for Lewis to focus on his own gnawing sadness and the adrenaline bursts from the almost never ending dangers honed him into an awe inspiring figure and national hero.

   Through the most harrowing of times he remained a calm and decisive leader, much of it likely due to the stabilizing influence of his good friend William Clark. He built friendships with the Indians tribes and created a template for what our relationships with the Native Americans could have, and clearly should have been as we expanded across the nation.

   What I found so inspiring was Lewis’ indomitable drive, his refusal to permit any difficulty to dissuade him from the task at hand. He was a man bound by honor and friendship. He had been entrusted with the mission by President Jefferson and would not let anything stop him from accomplishing that task.

   They set out in May of 1804 and spent over 2 years traveling over uncharted territory. 
   What Lewis and Clark and the Corp of Discovery saw and encountered had never before been experienced by white people. And because the United States is such a vast expanse their environment radically changed many times as their journey progressed.

   They also encountered animals, the likes of which were unknown in the civilized…

    But enough of the history lesson.

   What truly stunned and saddened me was what happened after the expedition. Lewis and Clark were national heroes. Much due to Lewis and Clark’s skilled leadership, the entire Corp of Discovery (save one who died of a burst appendix) returned home safely. The nation loved and admired them. Parties and gala events were held in their honor.

   Lewis and Clark were rewarded with huge tracks of land and positions of great power and authority.

   And why not? They had proven their ability to take complex and difficult situations and bring them to positive conclusions.

   But Meriwether Lewis’ demons were now well rested and ready to place new horrors on the psyche of the emotionally and physically drained explorer.

   Although he had kept a painstakingly accurate journal of their adventure, upon their return Lewis was seemingly unable to write the book about their expedition that Jefferson was eagerly anticipating.

   In addition, Meriwether, the man who had found a way to overcome countless difficulties and dangers had lost the ability to control his own life. Personal problems festered and grew, he lost track of his expenditures, the women he courted quickly distanced themselves from him. He became progressively unable to do his job and it soon overwhelmed him.

   He became dependant on alcohol and morphine to combat the malaria he had contracted. And his unsteadiness caused the predators to gather. He was soon accused of financial mismanaging the Expedition.

   While on route to Washington to clear his name he continued to deteriorate. While stopped in Tennessee he said his friend William Clark would be arriving soon to accompany him.

   Clark was thousands of miles away and knew nothing of this nor of Lewis’ emotional collapse.

   In an apparent emotional freefall, Meriwether Lewis put a gun to his head and... 

   ...My God.

   I think the reason this sad turn of events stunned me is because Ken Burns’ storytelling had made me know the man, as well as like and admire him.

   Strangely, we share the same birthday.

   My last blog post was about struggling with emotional issues. I usually write a new blog post ever day or so, but that one was getting some many hits that I decided to step back and let it run its course.

   If you are battling difficult emotional issues, there are techniques you can learn to take control and keep depression, anxiety and stress at bay. Since we are all different, some of these techniques will be very effective, others partially effective and some not at all.   
Learn more HERE