Depression is more common than you might know.
It's the mood disorder that we can't see with our eyes, but that can be as devastating as any serious physical disease.
If you think about it, you probably know someone who has been diagnosed with depression.
As many of you know, Chief Meteorologist Chuck George has been away for a while.
It's because Chuck, like millions of other Americans, has been diagnosed with depression.
He has been in treatment for severe depression.
As Chuck continues his journey of healing, he has recognized the power he has to reach out to help others.
"I want to share the story for two reasons," Chuck begins. "One is because I really need to heal myself. It's kind of a final process in what I'm going through. And another is because I want people to know that they're not alone. I thought I was alone for a long time. And I know I'm not now."
As you might imagine, coming out of deep depression isn't a simple task.
Depression is a very common mood disorder that can range from mild to severe and, in serious cases, to having suicidal thoughts.
There are many causes.
As Chuck knows, family history is a powerful one.
"My family tree is full of suicide, of depression, of addiction. They're all interrelated and my family tree is just packed with it, and I never thought it would happen to me," he says.
"And I wish that my parents hadn't died so young from depression and addiction."
Behavioral health specialists say depression and addiction often are linked.
Tucson psychiatrist Dr. Richard Rhoads says what becomes an addiction starts out as a way to try to cope.
Rhoads, who is the University of Arizona Medical Center South Campus Behavioral Health Medical Director, is not involved in Chuck's treatment.
"People with depression might feel hopeless or sad and they might turn to drugs or alcohol or any other kinds of compulsive or addictive behavior to manage those feelings or address those feelings," Rhoads says.
Rhoads says a serious loss can trigger a severe depression episode.
Chuck recently lost a cousin to suicide.
"When he was growing up he was like my little brother, and that event and that funeral unleashed something in me," Chuck explains.
"Depression is cold and it's dark and it feels like something on top of me. Something literally on top of me.
"I, four weeks ago, was catatonic. I remember sitting, and the sun rose and set and rose and set and rose and set and rose and set again while I stared," Chuck says.
Chuck says he lost his voice, his vision.
It was the scariest thing that has ever happened to him.
There were signs long before that though.
Chuck says he just hoped it would go away.
"I just thought, get over it. Get over it. You know you've got a great life. What's wrong with you? And people in my life would tell me that too. And God, if I could I would," Chuck says.
Which brings us to what not to say to someone who is dealing with depression.
"I grew up with people telling my mom and my grandma and my grandpa just get over it. Snap out of it," Chuck says.
Rhoads explains, "The depressed person is not trying to be depressed and if they could get out of it on their own, they would have already."
Chuck says with all the illness in his family he is the first who has been able to get the help he needed.
"I feel blessed. I also, to be honest, feel burdened. I didn't want this, but I have it," Chuck says.
He says accepting that fact has been, what he calls, a very big deal.
Now he has the proper tools to deal with it.
And he wants others to know there are treatments.
"Absolutely. Yes," Rhoads says. "There are many good treatments for depression.
"Talking, in general, tends to help with depression - either working with a therapist or working with a doctor. And then for moderate to severe cases of depression medication is also used, maybe in combination with talking or therapy or on its own," Rhoads says.
Rhoads says patients need to recognize the signs.
As with most illnesses, it's best to get to it early.
Chuck now knows how to recognize the early signs.
Both he and Rhoads say there's no guarantee a patient won't relapse.
Rhoads says depression is complicated, but the early signs are there.
"You can't stay focused, or you're having a hard time feeling good about your accomplishments and who you are," says Rhoads.
Chuck is ready to return to the job he loves.
He says he has learned to stop judging himself, learned to give himself a break as he works to overcome what he recognizes as his toughest obstacle.
"I learned in treatment that I don't have to be ashamed. And that's such a relief. It's a process and I fight off the shame moment by moment. It's not something that just went away," Chuck says.
Chuck will be going back into the public eye, back on television, as he continues his journey.
Some might wonder what to say.
"I think I would be fine with somebody saying to me, 'Hey, I hope you're doing well.' That, to me, gives me strength," Chuck says.
And Chuck is stronger now in so many ways.
"I'm always going to have depression, but it's not going to be in front of my face. I'm learning how to take depression and move it to the side," he says.
"I wish that so many members of my family hadn't died from this, but they did," Chuck says. "And I'm still here and I'm still standing and I'm going to fight it."
Chuck's plea is that people reach out for help.
There are several agencies in Tucson.
Rhoads says the Crisis Hotline is a good place to start.
The Hotline number in Tucson is 622-6000.
The toll-free number is 1-800-796-6762.
Rhoads says there also are places that take walk-ins.
He says one is the Crisis Response Center at 2802 E. District Street.
Another is the Southern Arizona Mental Health Corporation (SAMHC) at 2502 N. Dodge Boulevard.
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