One thing about depression that makes it difficult to diagnose and treat is the sense of isolation depressed people feel. Depression has a “me against the world” quality to it that makes reaching out for help difficult because clearly no one has ever experienced what you are going through (or that’s how it feels). The idea that you have to throw yourself out there, even when you are depressed as a way to become less depressed and to share your journey, not matter how painful or strange? That’s why a blogger we love is Douglas Cootey of A Splintered Mind.
What will you find on A Splintered Mind?
Since 2005, Cootey has been writing to share his experiences as a man living with and through a dual diagnosis of depression and ADHD. The mission of the blog?
In Cootey’s words:
“I started out blogging about mental health in order to accomplish three goals:
- First, I wanted to overcome the stigma. I couldn’t talk about my ADHD or depression without feeling shame. The method I used to overcome this was self-deprecating humor and honesty—a method that continues to work well for me.
- Next, I wanted to reach out to others who shared my issues. My blog has reached thousands of people, many of [whom] don’t comment because the mental health stigma is strong. However, many of whom send me emails thanking me from time to time for something that I have written….
- Lastly, I wanted to train myself to be a writer. I first worked on posting regularly. Then I worked on posting within a word count limit to train myself to prune & edit my work without fear. Now, I am actually writing a book…”
Cootey’s simple blog is organized by topics in the right-hand column (including not only depression and ADHD but also family, spinning, somnambulating, and suicide) and across the top in easy-to-navigate tabs that provide a wealth of information on his journey to a diagnosis and treatment.
Tips for depression treatment
In a departure from many other blogs on depression, Cootey has chosen not to use depression medications as part of his treatment.
From the time he was a child, taking Ritalin in elementary school and Cylert to get through college, Cootey had relied on medications to manage his ADHD symptoms. As an adult, getting diagnosed with anxiety and depression continued that trend with Wellbutrin, Paxil, Desoxyn, and Zoloft. Many people searching for relief from depression can sympathize with the seemingly endless parade of medicines that made Cootey feel “loopy and disconnected.”
After developing a permanent involuntary tick while on Desoxyn and realizing that even on a maximum dosage of Zoloft he still felt miserable, Cootey took himself off his medications altogether. While his approach is unorthodox and not likely to be recommended by most medical doctors or therapists, Cootey believes that this was the only step he could take to save himself from further neurological damage.
This does not mean that Cootey is against medication for others. He believes that whatever works for each individual is what works. If it’s medication for depression, that’s great. If it’s cognitive behavioral therapy (which is what Cootey utilizes to treat his depression, anxiety, and ADHD), that’s also great. His approach is one of acceptance and exploration. A Splintered Mind offers another perspective on treatment for depression that goes outside the traditional approaches. For him, and for his readers, this approach saved his life.
The real-life struggle of depression
One of the best parts about Cootey’s approach to blogging is how real and relevant his life is.
In a recent post he writes about a two-week period where he was laid low by the flu at the same time his daughter had seizures and required an overnight hospital stay. He talks candidly about how his “depression and ADHD contribute [to the problems he faces with depression that] makes coping more difficult, and [ADHD that] adds to the chaos.” The blog goes on to offer advice for coping strategies that go beyond just telling yourself that things will be okay.
Again, in Cootey’s words:
“When you find yourself overwhelmed, learn to take a moment to pause the maelstrom in your mind. Calm the anxiety. Cool the panic. Stop thinking that you’re doomed. It will all work out in the end. Just break things down into smaller steps, then put that first foot forward. You can do this.”
For people without depression, much less depression and anxiety, it may be hard to see how this advice could help. For those who know the everyday struggles of seemingly insurmountable daily errands and duties, this “first foot forward” approach is a highly relevant and useful reminder that not everything needs to be done all at once.
Honesty and openness
Cootey is honest and open about his physical struggles and weaknesses, knowing that there are people in the world who are feeling the same as he is.
He shares these struggles as a way to connect to people and to share his unlikely triumph over physical and mental setbacks. In another post, Cootey posts a picture of his pigeon-toed feet to celebrate the moment when he was able to get out of bed.
All of this is his way of saying that we don’t have to become our weaknesses. We can choose to be more than our challenges. We can laugh in the face of adversity:
“We all have our setbacks, and they can be discouraging, disheartening ordeals. I post this photo of my bathrobed, foot-curled glory because at the nadir of my weakness, I began to laugh instead of feel sorry for myself. Taking a photo was how I chose at that moment to claim my life back.”
A Splintered Mind may not be for everyone, but Cootey’s voice is a refreshing example of how one man chose to face his depression, and it’s why Douglas Cootey is a blogger we love. For a look at another distinctive perspective on mental health, check out Depression Marathon.