Jason Smitka
Jason Smitka's Story

Sometimes life throws curveballs that lead to depression. The death of a loved one. The loss of a job. The end of a relationship. Other times, however, depression sinks its teeth in for no apparent reason at all. Depression that seems to come from nowhere can often be the most difficult to overcome. It tends to be like a black cloud that follows you everywhere you go.

That’s how it was for me. I felt depressed almost as far back as I can remember, and I had no idea why. Although I was great at hiding it over the years, depression just seemed to be my standard operating procedure. I can recall struggling with depression as far back as middle and high school. Although I excelled academically and athletically, depression was always there dogging my steps. I was always very active. I played baseball. I swam. I was in ROTC. I served in student government. Still, though I gravitated through all those social circles and knew pretty much everyone I went to school with, I was never able to form any real or lasting friendships. That was how my depression showed its face. It was always there whispering in my ear, telling me I didn’t deserve to have friends.

I followed in my father’s footsteps after high school and enlisted in the US Air Force, representing the fifth generation of men in my family to serve in the military. My experience in the Air Force was almost a mirror image of high school. I outshone most of the airmen I served with, receiving recognition, medals, and even early promotion up the ranks. But despite that, and despite the fine family heritage I had become a part of, I felt no joy. That was my depression. It always made me feel like an outsider looking in.

After the military, I worked by day and went to college by night. I looked for jobs with limited social interaction. I filled up pop machines. I worked in an assembly line. I sprayed wood preservative on decks and fences. Although most people who know me would describe me as extroverted and gregarious, I spent my college years purposefully avoiding people because in secret I felt depressed all of the time.

I graduated college summa cum laude, earning a bachelor’s degree with a double major in business and management. After college, I took my first job in the financial industry, where I would remain for the next twenty years. It’s kind of funny. I was depressed and miserable and not wanting to talk to anyone at all, but I took a job in one of the most high-touch industries there is. I thrived in the financial world, becoming a top advisor in a very short amount of time. There I was at a young age making the kind of money that put me right up there with the 1%. I started my own firm. I bought a beautiful house, an awesome car, and a closet full of tailored suits. I took trips to exotic locations and put some great stamps on my passport. I rubbed elbows with wealthy, powerful people. I married a kind, beautiful, nurturing, hilarious woman. I started a family. In other words, I had everything I thought I wanted in life. Nonetheless, my depression grew worse than ever.

The Way Through: The End of Depression - Jason SmitkaAfter a fight that lasted more than two decades, my depression finally drove me all the way to the edge. I was at the Ritz Carlton in Orlando. My room was twenty stories up. I found myself out on the balcony looking over the rail, trying to figure out a good place to land without hurting anyone below. That was the real turning point for me. As soon as I got home from that conference, I found a therapist. And I didn’t stop there. I spent a solid year researching everything I could find on depression. I poured through clinical studies. I devoured book after book. I interviewed trusted professionals. I watched documentaries. Finally, a pattern began to emerge. I discovered what I believe to be the true nature of depression, and I identified a practical means for defeating it. I put all of that research into practice, and I’m thrilled to say that because of the way I live now I haven’t had a single symptom of clinical depression since January of 2018. My journey towards the end of depression is what inspired me to write my book, The Way Through: The End of Depression. I took all of that research and boiled it down to a practical, step-by-step approach that anyone can use to beat depression without medication. If I can do it, anyone can. Sometimes we just need a map to steer by.

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