Daniel J Vance

Jerry Bambery owns five fast food restaurants that grossed more than $12 million in combined sales last year. He agreed to this interview because he wants more people talking about major depression.

‘My first bout was in 1970,’ the 65-year-old Bambery said in a telephone interview of his first hospitalization. ‘Doctors called it nervous exhaustion. My physical energy was at a low ebb and my outlook on everything was negative.’

Eventually, with rest, and the help of psychologists, friends and family, he was able to ‘rebuild his personal foundation,’ he said.

A National Institutes of Health website states that a person has major depression when exhibiting for more than two weeks at least five symptoms, which may include feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, dramatic appetite change, sleep difficulties, agitation, and withdrawal from activities. Its exact cause isn’t known. Major depression affects perhaps 18 million Americans annually, and increases a person’s suicide risk.

As for Bambery, his depression didn’t go away, and in 1983 he was hospitalized a third time. Emotionally ‘down’ times we all experience seemed to cross over the line with him into full-blown depression when he stopped fighting it.

‘It was devastating and consuming,’ he said. ‘I was believing I had no value and all I remembered were my mistakes. Depression sucks you into a deep, dark hole. It’s a vortex pulling you in.’

The turnaround point came each time when he hit bottom and began the process of getting ‘honest’ with himself. ‘When pulling out of it, I was hanging on,’ he said, ‘and finally starting to accept one good thought or thing I’ve done that I knew had been worthwhile.’

In 2001, he became seriously depressed again. Staying at home for days, he was immobile, and ‘could hardly think to get across the room,’ he said. He felt weak and defenseless, and was angry with himself.

At his lowest point, close friends showed up at his front door and referred him to a psychologist. Until then he had usually hid and lied about his depression. By his own words, he had become a good actor.

He said, ‘If you have faith and hope, there’s always that tiny light at the end of the tunnel. I never lost that light. I knew that somehow, someway, I could turn this around and climb out, but also that I couldn’t do it alone.’

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