Diagnosed with major depression by a psychiatrist when I was forty years old, I had to find a therapist who could help me. The physical side of the illness pounded me: sleeplessness, fatigue, and the inability to concentrate and be productive at my job as a lawyer. But also the psychological dimension: feelings of low self-worth, chronic sadness, and negative thoughts about my ability to recover and be happy again.
A friend recommended me to the man who would become my therapist for the next twenty years. Jerry was a psychology professor at a local university. From the Bronx, he has a wonderful, salty sense of humor. Not only was he brilliant, but he was also warm and engaging. I felt at home, and we quickly bonded.
During this dark time in my life, I felt isolated. More often than not, I felt lonely and didn’t know anyone with depression that could understand what I was going through. Jerry did. He became my closest ally, who was with me every step of the way as I dug my way out of the dark cellar of depression. It took time. And patience that was tough to come by as I slogged through depression for years. But his strong and kind presence saw me through. He gave me insight into what depression was and the ruminative, distorted thinking that the disease would churn out. Jerry called this “crooked thinking.” I learned to recognize such thoughts as not part of who I truly was but as part of the illness. It gave me a distance from them and made it easier not to identify with them. This opened up the possibility – and hope – that I could let go of these destructive thoughts and embrace more realistic, positive ones.