On Depression & Distractions

In honour of World Mental Health Day today, we asked a member of our community to share with us his story of Depression. Have a read below:

I remember a few years ago, while in the despair of depression, I tried to explain to a friend what was going on inside my head. He responded with: "sometimes you just need to suck it up".

That response struck like a punch in the gut, a slap in the face, a complete lack of understanding of what I was trying to explain. My feelings were real and strong. The response: "sometimes you just need to suck it up", felt like all those feelings were rejected, dismissed and invalid; like they didn't count and I shouldn't be allowed to feel them and should just ignore them. 

Sometime in 2010, my desire to get out of bed to start my day became more and more difficult. At first, I thought I was fighting a cold and needed more rest but the cold never came and the need to stay in bed only got worse. Staying in bed without sleeping was the first stage for me. 

The next stage was telling work that i'd be working from home that day. Unless I had to be in the office for a meeting, I'd find any reason possible to not be there. It wasn't that I hated my job; quite the opposite. I loved my job. It was just that little things that were easy in the past became very, very difficult.

It was just that little things that were easy in the past became very, very difficult.

Completely overwhelming in fact. Getting out of bed, responding to emails, grocery shopping when it was busy- All of these things are easy most days. But when depression is settling in, they become exhausting, overwhelming, frustrating. I was becoming more and more irritable and couldn't knock myself back to normal. Simple tasks pilled up and were replaced with Netflix or reading sports just so I could avoid. But avoid what? 

Turns out, I was avoiding listening to my feelings. As a mid-30s male, talking about feelings, especially sadness or showing vulnerability or weakness isn't something that comes easily. I have a loving and supportive family and network of friends but at the time, admitting that things weren't "great" didn't just flow out. I hid those feelings and buried anything uncomfortable down as deep as I could. I tried travelling more for work just so I could be seen as "busy" but really it was so I could have lots of time on my own. I drank more and convinced myself that I was entertaining customers which would advance my career. I found all sorts of ways of distracting myself from feeling what was really going on inside. 

My version of depression did not come with thoughts of suicide or even knowing that I was depressed. It came as a lack of desire to enjoy life. I didn't laugh as much and I wouldn't allow myself to feel sadness. I tried to keep myself in a very protected bubble and neutral state. Never too high and never too low.

I've learned now that that isn't sustainable. We are creatures that are meant to feel; even when it's painful. That pain can give us perspective and allow us to feel joy and love. It's not about "sucking it up". It's about letting it out and trusting I will be ok. I will survive. I will overcome.