“A brief look at my journey with depression.”
Depression Sets in: The Depth of Despair
This is the second blog in a series on depression, particularly my own personal experience with it. I’m asking that you not post sympathy- or empathy-type comments in reaction to it, because that’s not why I’m blogging. I’m doing this to bring awareness to the issue, and to bring hope to those who struggle with it. I have real solutions that I’m going to be offering over the next few weeks.
My name is Mike MacKinnon. I’m a personal trainer serving Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington, Brampton, Toronto and the entire GTA. I offer weight loss coaching and life coaching services as well. My mission is to help you to become the very best you that you can be! Therefore, I want to talk frankly about depression, because it holds more people back from excelling than many of us might realize.
By the time I was married (in the mid-90s), my depression and anxiety had become a serious problem. I would isolate from my wife and family, and each day was a struggle. I felt as if there were a black cloud over me, that something bad was always about to happen, even though I didn’t know what that “something” was.
This is where I learned about anxiety, and was diagnosed with what today would be called GAD, or “Generalized Anxiety Disorder.”
My marriage had failed by the early 2000’s, and even though I had stopped drinking in 1995, I had never bothered to do the personal work necessary to move beyond my depressive state. Things slowly worsened, until, in September of 2007, my doctor committed me to the Psychiatric Ward of a local hospital, for suicidal ideation. Apparently, I was worse off than even I realized.
This began a new cycle of medication, but also prompted me to seek help outside of pills. I began to do some emotional and mental work, long overdue. I began to see a therapist, and joined a group that helped me deal with what was bothering me. They gave me an awesome framework that I still use today, while also including everything else I’ve learned. I embarked on a journey of healing and recovery that I remain on today. I expect to be on for the rest of my life, and to be honest, I welcome that.
This journey is both wonderful and challenging, and I’m constantly learning new things about myself.
Through my struggles, I learned something fundamental. I learned that I can be reasonably happy, even in the midst of depression and anxiety.
By 2012 I gave up my medications entirely. On the highest dosage of Cipralex (an antidepressant) that my then-Psychiatrist was willing to give me, I sunk in to the deepest funk I had ever experienced. I didn’t communicate with anyone for 4 straight days. I was paralyzed.
Note, please, I DO NOT recommend you do this without consulting with your doctor. It’s what I needed to do, but it’s not necessarily what you need to do. And for those of you who believe that antidepressant medication is useless, and that people should never use it, I have a message for you. Unless your business card reads “MD” after your name, you should really keep your opinions to yourself. They could kill someone. I’m sorry if that comes off as harsh, but that’s my opinion.
Chasing a Solution
After ascending out of that particular pit of despair, I threw the pills away, fired my Psychiatrist, and decided that I was going to finally learn what I needed to in order to beat depression/anxiety once-and-for-all. I began to study Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Reality Therapy.
More importantly, beyond just studying these modalities, I began to apply them to my life. I began to USE what I was learning. The journey has been nothing short of amazing. What I’ve learned has transformed who I am, and has also allowed me to help many others through their own personal struggles.
Today, I still go through bouts of depression. Why you hadn’t heard from me for several months is not because I have been isolating. It’s because I’ve been doing self-care. I’ve been taking care of the things that absolutely need to be taken care of, while shelving the things that don’t. And I’ve done this to ensure that I have enough energy for me, for my dogs, for my parents, for my friends, for my clients, and for all others who rely on me for help.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing with you what I’ve learned. I ask that you please not post sympathy comments on my blogs. As I said earlier, I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m looking to share with you what works for me, in the hopes that you may find some peace if you struggle with depression and anxiety.
If any sympathy posts do appear, please do not be upset but I will be taking them down. Focusing on sympathy is to focus on the problem. As a wise man once wrote, “When I focus on the problem, the problem increases. When I focus on the solution, the solution increases.” This blog is about solutions, and that’s what we’re going to focus on!
So, without anything further, let’s get to it. Stay tuned for my next blog: “Depression: Recognizing the Signs.”