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It's time I tell my story without fear of stigma or judgment. Frankly, I don't care what anyone thinks any longer. Hiding my almost three-decade struggle has led to a roller coaster life of dizzying highs and crushing lows.

I have fought with everything I could muster to overcome depression. But as I grow older — I'm 54 now — the battle has at times become more desperate. Relationships have been strained to the point of breaking. I have fallen short in my career and lost friends. I have walked the line between being a good parent and a parent doing just enough to provide for my girls, including my wife.

Fighting off the darkness and self-loathing takes so much energy I often have nothing left for life. My guitars gather dust hanging on the wall, begging me to play just a few chords to alleviate the pain. But I can't seem to do it. It's something that makes me happy, and I don't deserve happiness.

That's the way depression makes me think.

I need constant distraction, so my thoughts don't crowd my head. This is the only way I can concentrate on a task. It keeps busy the part of my brain that is constantly screaming.

Medication has long been part of my life. I have whittled the pills down to just two — well, three, but one is for evening only — and want to keep it that way.

Nothing worked for a very long time. Nothing. Depression comes and goes. Nothing terrible needs to happen for the darkness to envelop my mind. On a beautiful summer day, enjoying our backyard with my wife, I can swing from chatting and laughing to quiet and sullen and utterly sad.

Then the mania can show up: fast-talking, pacing, spastic hand movements, and bouts of creativity and focus. But the switch can turn off, and the motivation disappears.

I have been in the public relations and media fields for many years, enjoying public success and equal public falls. Sometimes I have been very good at what I do. Other times not at all.

In February 2020, I went to Key West for a bachelor party weekend for my brother-in-law. Three weeks later, the world shut down. I will not blame the pandemic for my disease going next level. But every day I sat at my desk at home, trying to do something, and got a little worse until I reached desperation status.

I was terrified to be awake, but didn't sleep well. Poor sleep is my one guaranteed trigger, and after days of that, things begin to become hazy. I can get anxious.

Why would I put this out to the world?

Easily answered: I'm not the only one. Not by a long shot.

Although the world seems to be more "tolerant" or "understanding," we have a long way to go.

Mental health still has a stigma that keeps people from admitting their situation, leading to silent suffering and even self-medication.

It's real. It hurts. It destroys.

Michael Martino

Michael Martino Credit: Michael Martino

But the clouds can lift. Recently, I underwent transcranial magnetic stimulation treatments, and it had a positive effect. I am feeling better these days. But like the changeable weather we have grown accustomed to, a squall can come roaring in at any time and ruin a great day.

Until then I will keep my head clear and focus on being prescient and well. My family deserves it.

I deserve it.

This guest essay reflects the views of Michael Martino, a Long Island-based public relations professional and former spokesman for former Nassau County executives Edward Mangano and Laura Curran.

This guest essay reflects the views of Michael Martino, a Long Island-based public relations professional and former spokesman for former Nassau County executives Edward Mangano and Laura Curran.