“I am now the most miserable man living,” wrote Abraham Lincoln to his law partner in 1865, three weeks before his 33rd birthday. “If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth.”
Abraham Lincoln struggled with depression throughout his life. In his time, it was referred to as “melancholy.” It is believed that his depression was caused by a combination of genetic factors and life experiences. Lincoln experienced many traumatic events in his life, including the death of his mother when he was nine years old, the death of his sister when he was ten, and the death of his two sons, Eddie and Willie, while he was president.
Lincoln’s depression was often characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair. He would sometimes withdraw from social interaction and spend days alone in his room. He also had difficulty sleeping and concentrating. At times, Lincoln’s depression was so severe that he had suicidal thoughts.
Three elements of Lincoln’s history — the deep, pervasive sadness of his mother, the strange spells of his father, and the striking presence of mental illness in the family of his uncle and cousins — suggest the likelihood of a biological predisposition toward depression.
During his life, he frequently suffered from what was then known as “melancholy.” In today’s terms, it would be known as depression. He had two “nervous breakdowns” or major depression episodes.
President Lincoln had a family history of mental illness. An uncle, Tom Lincoln, according to court records had a “deranged mind.” Lincoln’s parents were born in Virginia, crossed the Appalachian mountains, and came to Kentucky in the late 18th century. They were all prone to deep depression.
Tracing the mental status of Mr. Lincoln, one discovers that he maintained suicidal thoughts. At one time a neighbor, Mentor Graham, related that “Lincoln told me that he felt like committing suicide often.”
He had two major depressive episodes (i.e., nervous breakdowns in mid-19th century parlance) that were well known to the public. Yet, he rose to become the president of his country.
He had both successes and failures in both his personal and professional lives. He was physically abused in childhood. He had heartbreak and financial setbacks. He experienced the death of loved ones including his children. He lost the elections. He was suicidal.
He also married his sweetheart, educated himself, won election to the Illinois state legislature
In his first published political speech, Lincoln wrote, “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”
Despite his struggles with depression, Lincoln was able to achieve great things in his life. He was a successful lawyer and politician, and he led the country through the Civil War. Lincoln’s ability to overcome his depression is an inspiration to many people today. Some ways he coped were:
- Work: Lincoln found that working hard helped to keep his depression at bay. He was a voracious reader and a skilled writer. He also enjoyed practicing law and campaigning for political office.
- Humor: Lincoln had a great sense of humor, and he used it to cope with difficult times. He often told jokes and stories, even in the midst of the Civil War.
- Friends and family: Lincoln had a close circle of friends and family members who supported him through his struggles. He especially relied on his wife, Mary Todd, for emotional support.
Lincoln’s depression also shaped his presidency in some ways. For example, his belief that all people are created equal may have been influenced by his own struggles with depression. Lincoln understood that everyone has different challenges to face in life, and he wanted to create a society where everyone could have the opportunity to succeed.
Lincoln’s story shows that it is possible to achieve great things even when struggling with depression. If you are struggling with depression, please know that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you cope and manage your condition.
Despite his depression, Lincoln was able to achieve great things in his life. He was a successful lawyer and politician, and he served as the 16th president of the United States during the Civil War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest presidents in American history.
Lincoln’s story is a reminder that even the most successful people can struggle with mental illness. It is also a reminder that there are ways to cope with depression and live a productive and meaningful life.
If you are struggling with depression, please know that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you, including therapy, medication, and support groups. Please reach out for help if you need it.