Recommendations for Reducing Depression While Recovering from Potentially Deadly Accidents and Diseases

Interesting, exciting and productive intellectual work can help reduce feelings of depression and lessen the need for drugs while undergoing treatment and rehab.

A former U.S. Marine and fellow outdoor writer who always prided himself with being a self-sufficient individual, let a foot infection go untreated for too long. The result was a life-threatening infection that will result in amputation of the foot and a recovery process that will take months.

I have had several near death experiences, some of which I describe in my book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife. I also had a serious accident where my wife and I had significant injuries. Although not directly caused by the accident, I also looked after my wife, Thresa, for a year while she suffered and ultimately died of pancreatic cancer.

My involvement with health-related issues had begun years before when as an independent journalist, I covered the first four International Conferences on AIDS and met hundreds of people who would later die from the disease. I wrote four editions of Plain Words About Aids, which were among the first books published on the subject.

My writer friend did a Facebook post where he took responsibility for his unwarranted pigheadedness which kept him for seeking treatment. Part of the reason for not having his foot treated was because, he thought, those who knew him would belittle him for not being manly enough to take a little pain and get through it. This post stuck a cord with me when I thought about all those who, “had a little chest pain,” or “had been feeling a little strange” and did not seek help for what turned out to be a heart attack or stroke. This was a soul-searching examination of his life, which is always a difficult thing to do. I replied to him as follows:

We who are now of "a certain age," to borrow a term from the French, have earned the right to live our lives as we damn well please; and you have too. Yea, something sometimes is going to get us all. Hang in there, and do what you can when you can. This recovery business is not easy, but we writers have an advantage. We can, and should, express ourselves as you did so eloquently in your post. That is good writing guy, you still got it. Do your writing, do your hunts and adapt your methods as needed; but get things out there.

You are not alone, and you do not have to be; however macho that might seem to be. Learn to accept help with grace, and thank people for it. Ask strangers if you need to, and that is going to be particularly tough for you. Don't give a hoot about what other people might think. Life is not a graded exercise. It is about you giving help to others when they need it, and accepting help when you need it without being shy about it. You are going to go through a painful hard time, but hang in there. Keep fighting and tell others about it. That is what we writers do after all. We write about our lives to help people get through their own typically far worse problems. At any stage you will not have to look far to see people who are in far worse shape that you are. We live, we strive and we die. That is common to all of is.

The trick in getting through this is to somehow satisfy ourselves in the process. Do that and you can make it through pain, therapy and recovery to get back into the woods and fields where you belong.

I have a specific writing-related suggestion that might help. This surgery-rehab period is the time to start on a long writing project that is interesting enough that you will look forward to working on it. For example, have you written a novel? If not, now is the time to start one. Your recovery might even be in it through one of your fictional characters. How about song writing? Ever done that? Poetry? Plays? A screenplay? It makes no difference what in particular, but take on something that is new, exciting and has you looking forward to working on it every day. The more different it is from what you regularly do the better.

My recommendations for him to use this period to stretch his intellectual horizons were for someone who was already an established writer. What I suggest for others is to consider starting their own businesses, regardless of their age or wherever they might be. With the Web anyone with access can investigate and actually start an on-line business and sell products and services worldwide.

This activity provokes intellectual excitement, research, perhaps restarts interests in something that fascinated the person decades ago, but he never got around to doing more than, “Someday I would like to do that.” Now is that “Someday.” When laid up for some time and needing something productive to do, take on some challenging intellectual work. Do something other than watching depressing news stories on TV and worrying about the potential consequences of an illness.

My most recent business book, “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife,” shows how to select a business that can be done from hospital bed. This business can provide income, entertainment for you and in various ways help others with their lives. All of us have something of value to offer to others. This may be our childhood toy collections, our ideas or our life experiences. Or, perhaps you can conceive of a new product, process or invention while in bed. Anything is possible and will keep you mentally stimulated and less prone to the physical and mental downsides of depression.

My book is available in softcover from or your local bookstore and as an e-book from electronic booksellers worldwide.

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is a registered Professional Geologist in Georgia. He is or has been a member of several writers’ organizations including the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association (GOWA). He is the author of 18 books with his most recent title being “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” He has been a radio host and does public speaking on work and environmental topics with appearances in the U.S., Europe and China. He is an active blogger and the producer of over 725 YouTube videos on outdoor and business topics.