Do you ever sit alone at night and wonder why the world doesn’t know you are alive?
Do you wonder if they would even care if they knew you were alive?
If only people really cared.
Do you put all the blame for your stress and anxiety on your job?
If only you could find a new job.
Do you find yourself becoming sick more often with all sorts of new diagnosis?
Maybe a few ‘sick days’ will help.
Do you experience only sadness and anger?
I know there used to be happiness.
Do you want to be isolated from the world?
Are you alone in a crowd?
Get help now.
I went through depression last year. When it came to a head, it was April 2009 and I couldn’t cope any more. I was doing everything for everyone, I was active in work and community. I held positions of authority in certain places. I looked good to the public eye. Inside though, I was crashing, and crashing hard. Two emotions ran my life; sadness and anger. I could hold it together for social gatherings, but they exhausted me and it wasn’t sincere.
I knew I needed to talk to a counsellor, so off I went to “talk about my problems.” Within the first session, the counsellor tells me I have all the signs of depression. I cry. I go to my doctor, who agrees and writes me a prescription for anti-depressants.
I work in social services and I am a guy. Guys don’t get depressed right? I work with people who struggle with depression and take medication. Now I am one.
I was told to be off work, which, if it was only up to the employer would have been fine. Unfortunately, we have a third party carrier – SHEPELL FGI – that ‘manages’ all claims beyond ten days. What should have been a time for healing and restoration became a time of further frustration and increased anger. Anyone who has been through depression knows what happens to you.
I was told after an initial claim denial (for time off work with pay) and two appeals that “just because you are depressed, why can’t you do your job? Are you a risk to co-workers and clients? Are you suicidal?” Wow. I try to get help before I am actively suicidal, but that isn’t enough. I need to verbally cross that line. I need to present as a risk to self and others. Some caring system this is. SHEPELL FGI did not care. For them, it’s just about money.
It wasn’t until I completely broke down in my office on the phone with Rita from SHEPELL FGI that I was able to get anywhere. I needed to be pushed almost to the edge of despair. This was after SHEPELL FGI received a letter from my counsellor and two or three doctor’s notes supporting a leave of absence from work. It was their doctor’s who had never met me or spoken to me that made their decision to send me back to work and deny any claim. Rita finally noted from my break down on the phone that I was not in the condition to work and she was granting my leave.
Looking back, I see that I used activity to fill my void and try to find joy that furthered the symptoms of depression. This journey of depression began long before my leave from work began. It was probably a few years in the making, but I ignored all the signs by choice.
When I accepted the diagnosis, and began medication, I steadily increased from a low dose, to the highest therapeutic dose that the doctor was comfortable recommending. Combined with all other medications, I was up to seven medications a day.
In addition to trying to be a good dad and husband, I was involved in school, union, committees, politics, youth ministry, music ministry, board work, motorcycle ministry and missions work. All noble, and all things that I enjoyed, all things that I was good at, but not what I needed. I needed to have my own identity, instead of identifying myself with the activities that I was involved in. When I began to give up these things, slowly and with reason, and began to speak more openly about my experience, my hurts, my past mistakes and opened myself up to receive wise counsel, I began to heal.
Going back to work after nearly three months off was not easy. I faced a degree of anxiety, and continue to from time to time, but it isn’t the job. Instead it’s my response to the job, and my choices in life. I am now down to the low dose of anti-depressants once again. I will be off them about one year after I began taking them.
Medication is not the answer. Counselling is not the answer. Time off work is not the answer. Put them together and add a support network of friends and family and you can overcome depression.
If you are a guy, you truly are not alone. I have found many other men who have faced depression as well, though most suffered alone.
If you find yourself on the same trip to the pit of depression that I took, get help now. It could literally save your life.
Everyone has a story. Make sure you tell someone yours. Don’t go through it alone.