I don't make it a secret that I suffer from depression. Since discovering, understanding, and learning how to manage my depression, I've done my best to create a dialog in my personal social circles regarding mental health.
My first bout of depression started some time during my time as an Engineering student. I wasn't having the same success in University as I had enjoyed in High School. I feel this contributed to my my initial downfall. As I repeatedly fell short of my expectations, negative self-talk took over. Once I realized something was wrong, I brought up my feelings with my girlfriend (who is now my wife). She was very supportive and encouraged me to seek professional assistance.
I visited the University of Alberta's Counselling & Clinical Services. I began seeing a psychologist and began taking antidepressants. It took time, but I eventually realized that ultimately, my chosen career path was NOT the one really wanted. Withdrawing from University was an incredibly difficult decision. First off, I was worried about being a disappointment to my parents. Secondly, I wasn't sure what the hell I was going to do with my life, since for as long as I could remember, I was going to be an Engineer. That was how I had self-identified.
My parents were very supportive of my decision. I am very thankful for that. I took time away from school, spent some time in the workforce and found a new path.
Nearly two years ago was my second major depressive episode. It was also when I realized that depression was something I'd always have to be aware of. This bout was brought on by feelings that festered as I grew more and more dissatisfied with the work and environment I was in. I recognized the signs of what was going on early enough so things never got out of hand - but I was in deep enough to need to start medication again. Through the medication and counseling, I was able to identify what was causing me the stress, anxiety and other negative feelings that resulted in my depression. I worked on methods to help me cope with what I was feeling. I shared my diagnosis with my manager, in hopes that it could perhaps create a positive dialog in the office. Unfortunately, that plan backfired. Yes, I was given tools to further help me - but, the office culture did not really change, nor did a useful dialog form. It was at this point that I realized that if *I* wanted to be treated differently and if *I* wanted to be able to discuss my struggles in an open and accepting environment at work, *I* would have to take up that torch and carry it.
Today, I've been in a new job for half a year. I enjoy what I'm doing now - the decision to join the company I'm currently with continues to prove to be an excellent choice. In fact, when I caught wind of the Not Myself Today campaign, I took the opportunity to share the campaign with my supervisor, resource manager and the VP of HR. The VP encouraged me to write about the importance of mental health in the workplace on the company intranet and also added her voice to the importance of mental health issues in the workforce. I will be a volunteer with Partners for Mental Health, and will continue to speak about what I have experienced, what I hope people would do for others in my situation, and to encourage those who think they need help to find it.
Talking about my struggles is often hard. Especially in a more professional setting. But it is worth it if just one person seeks help, no matter the cost to me.
I suffer from depression. I always will. My mental illness is really no different than having diabetes. I have to make the right choices to prevent complications from consuming my life.
This has been my story (so far).