In light of the recent announcement of the apparent suicides of Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain, I felt a need to post about my own experience with mental illness, specifically depression, in hopes of helping others who may be struggling with it.
For me depression was like I was surrounded by a gray cloud for long periods of time. I wished and waited for the sun to overtake the clouds and bring bright light into my life. Asking for help seemed like an admission of weakness and proof I was a complete failure.
The one tool that worked consistently for me was journaling. It provided me with an outlet to release the dark and dreary thoughts that were repeating over and over in my mind. It gave me the strength to give a voice to what I was experiencing and ultimately enable me to access courage. The courage to stand for all of me and the courage to ask for help. I always experienced open arms when I asked for help from family, friends, doctors or therapists. I realized asking for help was an act of showing compassion and love for myself.
Here are some journal entries I made over the years about my depression. You will notice text in italics for the journal entry from 2011. This italicized text is the response I received from having a written conversation with my depression.
JOURNAL ENTRY JANUARY 1999
What does depression feel like? Everything seems very dark and dreamy through my eyes. I
don’t feel like the same person that I was when I was in Kamloops. Work is more of a routine
than a challenge. I look forward to coming home and lying on the couch and doing nothing.
What happened to my free caring mood? Is it the Big City Blues? I want to go somewhere hot
and sunny all the time. I don’t like clouds anymore. I feel less about myself. I feel like I have
become more dependent on others to make me happy. I’m a good person and I don’t have
it even close to being bad. The only thing that sucks is everyone I know lives even farther
away. I think I had it too good in Kamloops and now things seem dull in comparison.
JOURNAL ENTRY OCTOBER 2010
They say I am depressed,
here are the pills,
They make everything go calm & chill
I have been told that depression is anger turned in,
I just need to face it & say “not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin.”
The real cure is to breathe & feel it,
Go in & out,
Try my emotions & stop with the doubt.
There is so much light around me,
the darkness can be turned away,
This will ensure my thoughts don’t continue to stay,
It is the self-talk which for me starts it all,
it becomes a strategic marketer like a fancy shopping mall.
The voice is trying to protect me, but
doesn’t see I am safe & sound,
It assumed that I know nothing &
answers need to be found.
Answers to mistakes, to errors & silly things I say,
When all it needs to do is focus on the moment of today.
JOURNAL ENTRY DECEMBER 31, 2011
Hello, depression. There is about 30 minutes left in 2011 and I wanted to thank you.
You have taught me so much in 2011 and previous years. You have shown me how I don’t
want to live my life. you have shown me how easy it can be to lose what I cherish. You have
shown me how it feels to do work solely for the money. you have shown me what it is like
to not have a social life or romantic life. you have allowed me to experience anxiety and
nervousness. you have brought thoughts into my mind that I didn’t think existed. you have
shown me what it is like to feel numb, emotionless and heartless. it has made me realize that
this is not how I want to feel. I am viewing it as an opportunity to begin living for the moment
with my heart in full force. because of this I will no longer require your services at this time. I
desire to be full of light and warmth, peace and joy. I now know I am never alone and can live anxiety free.
Thank you for the time you have spent showing me this.
What are your thoughts about this?
I am not completely surprised, however I do feel that we have become so close over the
years. It feels like you want to be rid of me and never want to hear from me. I thought we
would spend more time together.
It sounds like you really care about me. Would you want to see me live the best possible life?
Yes, of course, as down as you have been I never wanted to hurt you and see you harmed.
I know deep down this day would come. I didn’t think it would be this soon. I will do as you
wish. I will leave your aura, your body, your space and allow you to receive light and joy. you
will be able to focus better, your memory will noticeably improve. you will find no need for
medication. this is my gift to you for 2012 and beyond.
Thank you, depression. I appreciate everything you have done for me. Take care and bring
more awakenings to others you meet.
Exercise for You
- Have you or friends or family experienced mental illness?
- Write about your experience with your own mental health.
- How does this experience impact how you interact with your friends, family, work, and so on?
- What is one step you can take in the next 24 hours to improve your mental health?
Exercise for Your Team or Group
- The topic of “stress” can be an easy conversation starter, as most people can talk about their experience with stress. What is your team or group’s experience with stress and mental health?
- What steps can this group take to help strengthen the mental state of the group on a regular basis?
Help is available
If you are struggling with various aspects of your life, it is important to know that help is available to assist you. Even if it does seem like, help is there. All you have to do is ask.
In addition to the counselling services we provide for depression and anxiety, you can click here to access a variety of resources if you need assistance.
Access more resources online
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This blog post is from Lesson #13 from the book, “Engage, Connect, Grow – 52 lessons to guide individuals and corporate teams to the heart of what truly matters to them.”