Birding, depression and COVID-19

Time to be truthful: I suffer from major depressive disorder, I won’t go into specifics other than to say just that. It is estimated that 16.2 million Americans suffer like I do. Think of that for a minute… 16.2 million. That’s about 5% of the total American population as of 2018. And, this is just major depressive disorder, not taking into account other emotional health maladies like bipolar, postpartum or persistent depressive disorder for example.

There are numerous ways to treat depression, among them medication, which I take daily. But medication does not do the trick entirely, and finding the right combinations for individuals is still so much a crap shoot. Neuropsychology is still a budding science, an imperfect science, and this country severely lacks appropriate numbers of psychologists to treat all of those affected. Try to get an appointment, and prepare to wait several months or pay cash. Many cannot surmount the barrier to entry to see a proper psychiatrist to get any meds, let alone effective ones. Many suffer in silence without medical treatment at all.

Another way to treat depression is through changing personal behaviors by way of what is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT for short. CBT teaches real-world coping skills to handle the day’s traumatic events, including altering the thought process and also physical processes. It includes things like diet and exercise, and daily routines. This is what I have tried to practice since my last partial hospitalization in 2015. I’ve ridden the emotional roller-coaster most of that time, and my keeping busy, keeping focused, is the best solution.

Last year, I decided to fully retire and tried to start my own business again, this time as a firearms instructor… I know, I know. It didn’t work out, and I spent the entire summer and fall, from June through November, couch-surfing and playing video games. I got back into more consistent counseling and joined a couple of therapy groups, which helped, but not so much.

Tonight, as I write this, I can say that I am both happy and glad to be alive. I can say with certainty that for the first time in my life, I don’t want to die. And what did that? Birding. Getting off my ass, out into the fields, and chasing birds. What is the most important treatment of my depression is also my rediscovered passion. And now, with the outbreak of COVID-19 and some advocating for strict house “arrest,” my very well-being, along with 16.2+ million others, is severely threatened.

I cannot stay indoors and not get into the wild. Many are of similar vein. We need to feel the rush of cold air on our faces, dirt beneath our feet, binoculars in hand or whatnot, chasing birds that we know and love. I, we, cannot sit on a couch all day long, in the house all day long… it threatens our very existence, perhaps even more so than the virus. Getting out and about is central to my handling my depression, which is with me each and every day. It never goes away, but is rather mitigated to some degree through activity. Activity I cannot, will not, surrender. Unless, of course, you’d rather have me die a different death.

And that is why, for me, i choose to adhere to Governor DeWine’s order; to get my outdoor exercise and fresh air and birds. He has stated that he wants people to visit parks, to be outdoors in natural surroundings, but also to be using social distancing, something that birding at Magee Boardwalk probably cannot provide unless in the middle of January, but being at Summit Lake or Mentor Lagoons on any give weekday can.

This is why I bridle at the suggestion, by others, that we fully quarantine ourselves, not going outside at all. I, and others, need to be out. And, if I am getting into my car in my garage, am not getting out anywhere except at a sanctuary or other natural environ, well then who am I harming? No one else. Telling people with major depression to stay indoors at all costs is just another death sentence for many, and I am going to be curious what the statistics will show following the pandemic. Demise by suicide and not by pandemic – there will be casualties, collateral damage. For us, it’s all just as dangerous. Please take that into consideration when pushing an agenda that, for many, does more harm than good. When thinking of people, please think of all people. There is more at play than just COVID-19 for many of us, there are no totally right answers, just as there are no absolutes.

For further consideration, please read this article. Thank your for listening. With consideration for all, we shall get through this, and be stronger because of it.

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