Kyle, a professional chef, has always loved to cook. However, when he cooked for his girlfriend at home, he would get incredibly self-conscious about how the food tasted. The weight of his depression caused him to second guess his skills and eroded his self-esteem. Kyle struggled with depression for most of his life, but when his girlfriend encouraged him to seek treatment, he knew it was time to get the help he needed. This is Kyle’s depression treatment experience with Brightside.
25 years old • Chef • Patchogue, NY • Brightside member
I’ve had minor depression for most of my life, and it’s always made me feel a bit disconnected from the people around me. I couldn’t quite understand how to talk to people. I was afraid that if I didn’t say a neutral opinion (or if I said something a bit strange or liking something others don’t), they would hate me, and I’d lose all my friends.
“I’ve had minor depression for most of my life, and it’s always made me feel a bit disconnected from the people around me.”
Depression affected every part of my life
My depression gradually became much worse over the years because of some personal trauma. When that flared up, I had trouble enjoying anything. I would sit at home, desperately wanting to enjoy doing something. Still, nothing ever seemed fun—even the things I loved doing. A new book, a video game I loved playing, a gentle jog on a mild spring day, a good cleaning day in the apartment–all felt pointless. It felt like it didn’t matter, so why should I even bother?
“It felt like it didn’t matter, so why should I even bother?”
Instead of doing any of those things, I would mindlessly play on my phone. I’d waste time on Reddit, Facebook, or watch Youtube videos I didn’t care about or already had seen. I would lie awake at night because it felt weird to go to sleep and start a new day, still not having accomplished anything during the day I was presently in. Suddenly it would be 4 am, and I still didn’t feel happy, but I simply couldn’t stay awake anymore, so I would fall asleep.
“Depression affected every part of my life, even in minor ways. Everything I did was harder than it should have been.”
Depression affected every part of my life, even in minor ways. Everything I did was harder than it should have been. The weight of depression is so immense that it made me tired all the time. I was so emotionally exhausted that even if I felt good and wanted to go do something, I couldn’t. I kept thinking to myself, “I’m not sleeping enough” or “I need more coffee” or “I’ve been working hard lately.” But, no matter what I did, I was just, tired. I didn’t want to go out with friends, I didn’t want to go for a walk on a beautiful day, I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to sleep, but no amount of sleep was ever enough.
My girlfriend encouraged me to seek help
I sought help for the first time because I met a wonderful woman—my girlfriend, Alex. We have been together for two years now. We talk about a lot of things that have happened to me and how I feel day-to-day. She is the one that helped me through breakdowns where everything has gotten to be too much for me, and I just needed to cry in the shower for an hour or two. She also has depression and anxiety, and we both talked about seeking help. However, we both worked in the service industry and were afraid of having weird side effects or changes in our behavior at work (which I now understand was a completely unfounded fear, but most depression and anxiety fears typically are!). However, since we were both quarantined at the beginning of the year, we figured we would give it a shot together. She signed up first, and a week or so later, I finally decided that I needed to get the help I deserved, too.
“This was the first time I tried to get help, and I wish I would have done it years ago.”
This was the first time I tried to get help, and I wish I would have done it years ago. Brightside was really appealing to us. The fact that it’s all online made us feel really safe since we could do it from our bed without having to make appointments when we’re feeling up that we know we’ll never actually go to when we’re feeling down again.
Brightside helped me regain my confidence in the kitchen
I felt my symptoms improve about two or three weeks ago when I felt at ease for the first time in… well, I can’t actually remember the last time I felt at ease. For once, I could just do something and feel good about having accomplished something. Things stopped being such a chore and just felt like tasks.
“Things stopped being such a chore and just felt like tasks.”
I have always loved to cook, but whenever I’d cook for my girlfriend at home (or really anyone I cared about), I would get incredibly self-conscious about how the food tasted. I would often make the food poorly because I’d over-tweak things. Ever since my treatment, I’ve found the same confidence at home as I have in a professional kitchen. I know I’m a good cook—I’ve worked so hard for nearly a decade to be where I am, and I can finally feel that in my own kitchen without having to be in autopilot “work” mode. Something else I’ve realized is how, for a long time, I would listen to music that I liked before I felt the weight of my depression, and I listened to it because I used to like it. Before I sought treatment, I’ve realized that I wasn’t listening to the music because I still loved listening to it—I was listening to it in hopes that I could feel the same things I felt when I heard it before my depression. For the first time in over a decade, I can feel the music I love again.
My Brightside doctor makes me feel supported and secure
The thing I like most about Brightside is the fact that everything takes place online. My biggest fear of physically going into a doctor’s office was being judged. I was terrified of being told that I was crazy. I was scared that I would feel trapped in that room with the doctor, and even if I got up and left, I would have to walk past a receptionist who might be judging me. After that, I was afraid that I’d have to drive back home sobbing while trying to find the energy to go inside and eventually lay in bed for the rest of the day. Even if I managed to go to the doctor and take it seriously without trying to make bad jokes to hide my anxiety (which was always my go-to), there was a 95% chance that I would fill my prescription once and never do it again because I’d be scared people were judging me.
“The thing I like most about Brightside is the fact that everything takes place online.”
The ability to talk to my doctor online is a fantastic thing. From the first time I spoke with Dr. Behrens, I felt so secure. I knew if I felt nervous or scared at any point in that Zoom call, I could close my laptop, push it to the edge of the bed, and watch TV in the living room as if nothing happened. I never did that, but knowing I could “leave” the appointment but still be in my own home was fantastic. Merely being in my own bed, in my own room, with nothing stopping me from leaving, made me feel so safe.
Dr. Behrens has been incredibly helpful and supportive, mainly because I’ve had a very rough year (but who hasn’t, it’s 2020). I’d message him telling him about things that have happened in my life, like my dad getting colon cancer or putting down my 18-year-old cat, and he’d be there for me. When I’d fill out my check-in with notes about how I’m finally able to “sink” into a moment and enjoy myself, Dr. Behrens would reinforce how good that feeling is—especially in these times. He is just so kind and understanding.
“Knowing that a trained professional is there to help me at the tap of a phone is such a relief.”
I know that I could message Dr. Behrens at any time, and he would respond as soon as humanly possible. Most days, if it isn’t in the middle of the night, he replies to me in minutes. Knowing that a trained professional is there to help me at the tap of a phone is such a relief. It makes me feel like I’m never truly alone with my depression if things got bad.
I still have a way to go, but everything seems easier now
I can’t even begin to say how much better I feel these days. I still have a ways to go, but everything is so much easier now. Last week, my girlfriend and I went to the beach just before the sun came up to watch it rise over Lake Michigan. It was a magical moment that we got to share. Before my treatment, I wouldn’t have had the energy to go there that early or have had the mental grounding to just sink into that moment and enjoy it. I would have been too busy worrying about other things to grasp how beautiful that moment was and how lucky I am to enjoy it with the person I love.
I also feel like I can keep my apartment clean consistently, rather than just when I have my “good” days when I would spend the whole day deep cleaning. That simple act leaves so much more time to have fun every day. I don’t look at a mess or something I need to do and say to myself, “I don’t want to do that, I’ll do it later.” Instead, I do it without hesitation because now it’s easy for me.
“…my depression was keeping me from being as “me” as I really wanted to be.”
I’ve had a lot of challenges with my recovery as well. I was so afraid that antidepressants would change who I am as a person. I didn’t seek help for a while because I didn’t know how much of my personality was ‘me trying to hide my depression’ versus how much was actually me. Since then, I’ve realized that all of it was me—if anything, my depression was keeping me from being as “me” as I really wanted to be.
Take it from me—it can be so much better
Lately, I feel fantastic. I have so much energy to do what I love, and my personality can shine through like it did when I was a child. I don’t fear that people will stop liking me because I happen to like a TV show others don’t or disagree with them on a topic. I also feel like I can express my affection so much better. I recently reached out to a friend that I’ve had for about 6-7 years to tell him how much I value our friendship. We’ve always been pretty close, but not enough to really say something like that. I reached out to tell him how much I appreciated him and that I was happy that we remained friends long after we stopped working together and after I moved away. I was thrilled to find out he had the exact same feelings but didn’t want to say anything because I always seemed reserved, and he was afraid of making it weird. Expressing my love for my girlfriend without just saying “I love you” is also fantastic. It’s little things here and there, but being able to show affection without words or without saying the same thing over and over is beautiful.
“I have so much energy to do what I love, and my personality can shine through like it did when I was a child.”
I wanted to share my story because I thought it was important to tell people that things can be better. There is no reason to be scared to get the help you deserve because there is a bright light at the end of that dark tunnel, and there is no shame in hitching a ride. Any doctor can tell you the benefits of antidepressants and therapy. However, hearing it from someone who has experienced depression, suicide attempts, horrible lonely times, awful panic attacks, and over a decade of feeling empty inside every day—that’s how you know that it is real. It can be so much better. You can be happy, and you deserve to be happy, and Brightside wants to help you.
Personal essay by Kyle M.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Kyle. For more member stories, check out Marnie’s story, Christina’s story, and Joe’s story. If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, you are not alone. Talking about these illnesses is the first step towards destigmatizing the topic of mental health. Get connected with one of our doctors today to figure out if Brightside is right for you.