Wednesday, 3 October 2012
"Everything Old is New Again"
"Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one." ~ Bruce Lee
In honour of Mental Illness Awareness Week I am very happy to be able to share another snapshot of struggle, strength, and recovery from someone else very dear to me. Here's his story.
My name is Greg. I have known Kristin since she was a little girl. Our families have been close through thick and thin for forty years. I am so proud of my daughter #2 (inside joke) for stepping up and offering this wonderful opportunity for us to get this off of our collective chests. By sharing our experiences we let each other know that we are not alone. In fact, we are a major portion of society. Here is my story.
After my father died, my sister and I cleaned out his house. Among his other prescriptions we found a bottle of antidepressants. This came as a surprise to us because, after all, he was our dad. After going through my own bout with depression, I realize it should not have been a big shock. There are millions of us past, present and future that suffer this debilitating disease.
I’m 67 now and my critical time came in my mid thirties. As I think back on it I probably was showing symptoms as early as my teen age years. I did extremely well in elementary school, but starting in junior high things really started to tail off. I simply could not apply myself and no amount of self encouragement seemed to help.
Anyhow, life carried on. I got a job rather than go to university. I changed jobs frequently. I just couldn’t get interested. I never had a problem getting a new job as I was good at selling myself. So I became a salesman and stayed in sales the rest of my working career. I met Gail and we married. We had two wonderful children, a great home in Kamloops, B.C., and I thought that all my shadows were behind me. However, I believe I always thought in the back my mind that all my good fortune was simply good luck and not my hard work and skill.
Then, starting around 1979, a series of unfortunate events and personal disappointments set me into my spiral of depression. I won’t go into details on everything that occurred but they involved the economic collapse in Canada, and especially Kamloops, having to renew a mortgage at close to 20% interest, and finally loss of employment.
My first symptom was insomnia. I could go three or four nights with little or no sleep. I tried to solve that problem the worst way possible, with alcohol. I tried strenuous physical exercise to the point of running marathons. No luck there either. I could not relax and wound up tighter within myself. When I got another job, I could not sit still in business meetings. I wanted to jump up and scream. In short I felt like the whole universe was crushing me. At a certain point I thought seriously that with my life insurance my family would be better off without me.
One has to appreciate that this was the late seventies and early eighties that all of this happened. There was very little sympathy for mental illness for anyone, but especially for a man. There was no such thing as stress leave. As a matter of fact, if your employer knew of your condition you would likely be fired. You simply had to keep up a facade and hope that somehow you could just“cheer up”.
Fortunately we had a kind and understanding family doctor who had actually read studies on depression. He referred me to a psychiatrist but more importantly put me on a regimen of antidepressants. Compared to today’s sophisticated medications they were extremely crude. For two or three weeks I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I told my doctor that I thought I was better with the depression as at least I could function. He told me to bear with it and compared it to a diabetic needing insulin. Slowly, slowly I began to see the light at the end of the long tunnel. Life began to come back to me. I was on medication for about five years and then back on for short times as symptoms reoccurred. The medication and most importantly the love of family and support of friends has given me the life I have enjoyed for the last 20 years.
By telling my story I hope it is some help to those who must take this journey. No depression is the same. Mine was cured with medication and support and to a certain extent, the passage of years. I hope that yours can be too. But if not, keep fighting and never give up.
Thank you, Greg (Dad #2)!
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