To being Brave and Bold with Depression – An Everyday Champion Post
Two years ago I started crying. It didn’t stop for 7 months. Literally. There were days when I was hiding in my own home desperately avoiding contact with other people. I would sit on my bed after the kids had gone to school and stare at the wall or lie on the couch crying. Seeing as I had what I thought of as a perfect life with two great kids, a wonderful husband, a beautiful home, and a thriving business, I knew that something was going wrong in my brain. Sure enough, that fall, I was diagnosed with Depression. Was I surprised? Not in the least. I have been dealing with pre-menopause for 13 years. It started early for me – when I was 32 years old. It’s been a long haul and quite frankly I’m surprised Depression came so late. Yes, I am convinced this is part of menopause. It tracks with my menstrual cycles too regularly. And I have met too many women over the past few years that are going through the exact same thing. I am hoping that there will be more research into menopause and what it does to women in the years to come. There is a sad lack of information for women out there, most of who think they are going crazy.
At first I went with the conventional treatment and started on anti-depressant medications. What a disaster! You have to understand that as my doctor puts it, I have an extremely slow metabolism and therefore the half-life of medication in my system is 4 times that of the average person. I was taking a quarter of the smallest dose available and one pill had me high as a kite for two or more days. We tried several different anti-depressants before realizing this was not the course for me. I couldn’t function in daily life. So what to do now? For me, the answer was simple. Admit it and start talking about it to anyone who would listen. They don’t call me Chatty Cathy for nothing after all! Talking is the fastest way to combat all the irrational thoughts that are swimming around in your head.
It is interesting that my daily job is to make sure every one of my employees is living a happy, well-balanced life at our company. So I have been extremely open and honest about my depression with them and it has actually made it easier to deal with. I know many people are ashamed of Depression and try to keep it secret but that just causes stress, which in turn can trigger depressed episodes. Sure there are days when I sit in my office and sob but my co-workers aren’t afraid to come in and give me a hug and help cheer me up.
Another method I use to combat the depression is babies. Yes you heard right and no I do not mean I am having them. One of my employees had twins this past February and I have found that I get great joy from holding and playing with them. It’s my shot of natural serotonin, which we all need to help elevate our moods. Whenever I am down I go and hold them for a few hours. What an incredible difference it makes in my day!
Two years later I still cry. A lot. But that is never going to change. I was a crier before Depression hit and I’ll still be one after it is gone. Yes, I fully believe that once menopause finally hits, Depression will go away.
The long and the short of it is that Depression can hit anyone at any time in life. Please don’t keep it a secret. Find what gives you a natural hit of serotonin and find your inner Chatty Cathy.
Talk to someone about it. Talk to a lot of people. It will help. I promise.
Cathy is one of my former employers. Alongside her husband, she operates a marketing agency – a really good one at that. The year I worked there the company took us to New York for our Christmas party. When they told us about the trip at one of our staff meetings I almost peed my pants. Cathy organized the entire trip. In the summer, Cathy organized a day of mini-putt in the park. The twist – we had to make our own mini-putt holes (in teams of four) and then, later on in the day we played the course as an office. As she states above, Cathy is responsible for making sure the staff are happy and well looked after; she does an absolutely incredible job at her job.
I remember reading Cathy’s post about sharing her diagnosis of Depression with her staff. I remember thinking that it takes an incredibly strong person to share, not only with their friends, but their staff that they have been diagnosed with Clinical Depression.
Mental illness is the unmentionable disease. It’s one that people like to avoid discussing which is funny as 1/5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. And mental illness knows no race, sex, age, hair colour, or religious affiliation. It can affect anyone at any time in their life. Cathy, a woman in good physical health with a stable home and work life, is a perfect example of this. She wasn’t expecting Depression. She hadn’t planned for Depression to rear its ugly head and consume her thoughts and being for 7 months without reprieve, but it did. And she had to deal with it.
Cathy’s experience with medication is sadly, not a rare one. Medication is never a perfect science; it takes a lot of trial and error and then some. And in some cases, like Cathy’s, medication is not the answer. Instead she decided to talk about it with anyone and everyone. And sharing, being open and honest, and speaking out about Depression has helped Cathy. Furthermore, she knows what can give her a natural hit of serotonin – babies. Cathy has devised some creative, yet useful coping techniques that work for her.
Mental illness is a disease. It has genetic underpinnings, just like heart disease. It has been linked to stressful early childhood environments, just like heart disease. It can also be caused by a neurochemical imbalance in the brain that we have no control over. It is not because the person is weak. It is not because, as we once thought, due to sinning or the work of evil spirits (yes, in the middles ages it was thought to be the work of the devil). It is because the person has a disease. A disease that is affecting the mind, but also the physical body and soul. A disease that can be chronic, unrelenting, and challenging for the person and their family. But it is a disease that can abate, that can be managed with certain treatment, that can teach people incredible things. Even in disease there can be periods of great wellness.
Cathy is bold. She is brave. She told her story without fear of the repercussions. Did her employees abandon ship? Of course not. They loved her more. They helped her more. If only more employers would be as open and honest as Cathy, our working life would be such a better one.
Thank you, Cathy, for sharing your story with us. You are truly an everyday champion.