Depression, its not for everyone, but anyone
By Dan Lacey – Life Coach
My name is Dan. By day I am a Technical Account Manager, by night I am a Marriage Celebrant, a Life Coach and a fitness fan. Day and night, I am a father, a husband, a bit of a geek and depressed.
My experience with depression started early in 2012, following the death of my father.
Dad passed away following a battle with bone cancer. My role in his care during this time took a huge toll on me physically and mentally, and I fell into a depression driven by grief and exhaustion. It took approximately three months off work to get “right”. Upon my return to work, my focus was to get back to normal, back to the old me; little did I know.
Over the next two years a further six close family members passed away. I dealt with each of these losses the best I knew how. Feelings of loneliness, loss, anger and resentment all had to be processed and learnt from.
I am fortunate to have an amazing wife and family who I was able to lean heavily on and take heart in knowing they had each other. This allowed me to experience my grief, and work through the complicated emotions and thoughts, and process their affects.
Fast forward two years, (the “prescribed” period to get over grief) and I felt I was in a good place. I had had a couple of job changes as I looked to find the fit with the new me. I was in therapy with an amazing psychotherapist and I was still trying to get back to the old me.
At this time I was working as a retail manager. I really enjoyed my role. My team were great, the store presented good challenges and (corporate bullshit aside) it was an enjoyable job. Yet something wasn’t right. I felt like I was acting the whole time, being someone, I didn’t really believe.
Seven months into the job, things were going well. The team were coming together well and the big issues I encountered when I began were behind us. The store was running itself. The weight of the role was lifted……and quickly replaced by the weight of real life. Almost the instant that I subconsciously acknowledged that work was in a good place, my body took over and began to send me messages that I was not.
The seriousness of my depression became apparent when what I believed to be a half an hour sit-down at the beach turned out to be a five-hour disconnection from reality. No awareness of the world as it came and went around me. Not noticing the multiple missed calls and messages while I sat. My mind shutting down enough to rest, enough to allow me to see the trouble I was in.
This was the beginning of a seven month break off work. Financially, a break we could not afford. Mentally, it was a break I couldn’t afford to not take.
My depression this time was different, it wasn’t the result of grief, or an event or circumstance. This was coming from somewhere internal; a physiological response to how I was living. My GP likened it to corporate burn out.
Today, ten months after I returned to work and the real world, I am in a much better place. I have moved from just being, to barely existing and now I’m on my way back to living.
Words of Advice
Based only on my experiences, some advice I would give to someone experiencing depression or helping someone with depression is this.
1. Space can be extremely powerful.
By space, I mean distance, freedom or relinquishment.
Talking and interacting with people, no matter how mundane, can be extremely taxing and exhausting to someone with depression. Time away from people, events and situations where you are forced to be your “normal” self can be invaluable. Your recovery could possibly take all the mental strength you have. Review all your commitments and consider what is important to continue with at this time and what can be relinquished.
2. Consider the individual when choosing treatment.
Depression is not simply depression, there are so many variables that will affect how it presents itself and how it needs to be treated. Depression occurs for many different reasons and an individual can be impacted by multiple causes at once. Treatment needs to allow for individuality. What worked for one client may not work for this client and treatment methods may need to change as a client moves through their recovery.
3. Take care when using absolutes.
Particularly around time-frames or norms. These can be damaging when we fall outside of these, and they can close you off to other realities. For example, I once received this statement from a health professional “it takes two years to get over grief”. In my susceptible state this absolute statement became my new reality. It failed to allow me to realise that the timeline was indeed fluid and it also restricted my view of what recovery looked like. It implied you got over this and moved on; there are many other ways to process grief.
4. Allow flexibility in treatments and find people you trust.
There is a lot of lip service given to mental health and recovery in our society and finding the right support you need at the time can be difficult.
Surrounding yourself with appropriately trained people who have your best interest at heart and also who you trust is important and can also be difficult to achieve. Your GP, Therapist, Coach etc should all have a flexible approach to your treatment and be prepared to work with you.
A well-meaning friend can be invaluable as a support person but may not have the insight necessary to help you recover and may inadvertently be offering you damaging advice. Seek advice from the layperson or “DR Google” with extreme care.
5. Telling people you have depression can be confronting for them as well.
Some people will simply not be capable or want to understand what you are experiencing. Be honest with your friends and let them know the impact depression is having on you. Be prepared that this information can be confronting for some people, and they may withdraw from your life; allow them to do this in peace and without judgement. This withdrawal could be part of their own self-preservation or one of many other reasons why they are not able to be part of your recovery.
6. Medication and talking are both useful.
Medication may be necessary, but this shouldn’t be a substitute for talking. The medication helps while you are taking them; the talking helps once you have stopped. Understanding the cause and effect of your depression and coming up with a plan to counter this in the future allows you to continue to grow and heal long after the medication is out of your system.
As a friend, family member, support person or coach of someone with depression, do not assume you can’t help because you haven’t experienced it or been trained in it.
As a friend, being available, present and accepting will often be enough. As a coach, traditional questioning, empathy and listening will show you where you need to go. You may never be the same again. This may not be a bad thing.
My two biggest challenges were being completely true to myself and challenging my beliefs, often about my perceived strengths. I continue to work on learning and growing. I no longer look at it as recovering or trying to get back to the old me. The power lies in finding the true me, depression and all.
This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.
A 43-year-old father of three, husband to one. Dan is a manager by trade, a Coach by choice and a Marriage Celebrant by chance.
Coaching professionally is something new to Dan, growing and developing people is not. Through his own experience with depression he has had to challenge his own beliefs and now views the world through a different lens, with a different perspective. A perspective he appreciates and owes to depression.
Dan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org