Depression nearly defeated me. Here’s how I got out of the hole.

·3 min read

I checked myself into a hospital in Paducah, Kentucky, in May 2018, because I feared I would kill myself. Six months earlier I’d arrived in town to accept a newspaper reporter position. However, I thought about breaking my 19 years of sobriety nearly every day because I considered the paper to be an embarrassment. I had little else in my life, so I derived my self-worth from my work, and my work was humiliating. Loneliness and stress caused physical ailments that doctors couldn’t cure. That morning, my depression and my failure to become the novelist I’d promised myself at 19 to become had eroded my self-confidence so completely that the day ahead seemed unendurable. Nothingness sounded perfect.

I was 53, and I’d suffered from depression sporadically since I was 18. I was a suicidal man without a love interest, a job (I didn’t return to the newspaper office after I left the hospital), or a completed—let alone published—novel. For decades on and off, I’d taken one or more anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, and I’d been in therapy for years. Despite these efforts, I was nearly defeated by depression and suicidal ideation.

Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2019, with 47,511 suicides and 1.38 million attempts, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Women are nearly twice as likely as men to suffer from depression and more than twice as likely to attempt suicide, but men died by suicide 3.63 times as often as women did in 2019.

I didn’t want to die. I wanted and needed my emotional and physical pain to disappear. I needed to love and be loved, and I wanted to stop considering myself a failure because I’d had the same half-completed novel on various computers for 27 years.

In other words, I still believed life could be full of promise, hope, love and accomplishments. So, after leaving the hospital, I began to write a different novel.

Paducah, known as Quilt City, is the quilting capital of the world and home to the impressive National Quilt Museum. During my brief stint as the arts-and-entertainment reporter for the Paducah Sun, I’d written about many quilters and the museum. I combined Paducah’s most-celebrated obsession with the knowledge I’d gained from reading hundreds of mysteries, and “Quilt City Murders” was born.

When the voice of narrator Hadley Carroll, a quick-witted, irrepressible, wounded, 40-old female journalist, entered my head, the novel started to gel. Hadley is an avid quilter whose fiancé left her without explanation the week before the novel opens, and then she finds him dead, submerged in the Ohio River. Hadley and I worked through our troubled childhoods together. She whispered punchlines to me, told me what should happen next and how to resolve the mystery.

A year after finishing the novel, I married the perfect woman for me, and we are embarrassingly happy. TouchPoint Press will publish “Quilt City Murders” and my detective novel, “Hard Exit,” narrated by a depressed private investigator in Los Angeles. I’m writing the sequel to “Quilt City Murders,” titled “Panic in Paducah.”

Because I received medical care, joined an online dating site, learned to believe in myself again and never abandoned my dream to be a novelist, life gave me everything I wanted.

Although “It’s never too late” is a cliché, it’s also great advice.

Help is available, and your circumstances can improve. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800-273-8255.

Bruce Leonard has been a travel writer, a magazine and newspaper editor, a bakery owner, and a guinea pig for the U.S. Government. “Quilt City Murders” will be published Feb. 7.

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