3 Key Points in this Episode:
- You can go decades and not realize you need help for depression and anxiety.
- It is often scary to admit that you need help.
- Getting professional help is one of the best ways to free yourself from depression and anxiety.
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Let’s get started with episode 102 and part-2 of the mini-series Depression in the Workplace. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to part-1 where I interviewed Dennis C. Miller about how to be a leader with depression please listen to episode 101 first.
Today, I am going to share with you my personal experience with depression. Please keep in mind that this podcast is designed to offer you information only, you must make all your own personal and business decisions and I highly recommend that you consult professionals. This is true in business but is especially true when making decisions about your health.
For some of the long-time listeners, you have heard bits and pieces of my story. The reason I am going to share my story is that I want people to understand one thing.
The longer you wait to get help the more damage you can do in your life and when you get help the impact on your life can be wonderful.
My mother and father were dating for 5-years. My mother did not want children and was told by a doctor that she had a health condition that would prevent her from ever having babies. This was good news to my mother.
Roughly one month later she was pregnant with me. Even when consulting professionals it is always prudent to get a second opinion. My father and my mother broke up before I was born, and my mother moved across the country to live with my grandmother. I never met my father and I guess he didn’t want children either.
I spent the first two years of my life living with my grandmother and I called her “Mum” to the day she died when I was 7-years old. To say that my mother and I have not had the best relationship would be accurate.
My father leaving and never meeting him created abandonment issues and when you combined that with the nature of my relationship with my mother you got an angry little boy.
My mother suffers from depression, anxiety, and I believe some other mental health issues and from the few stories that I have heard about my biological father, I believe that he too suffered from some mental health issues. So, when you combined the environment I grew up in and the genetics I received from my parents you get a person that is susceptible to depression and anxiety.
As I grew older, I was high functioning, getting good grades in school, I had lots of friends and I held down multiple part-time jobs. In grade 12 I had three jobs and negotiated with my principal to only go to school part-time so that I could work. The principal agreed and I received credits for my work that I applied to my high school diploma.
At 17 years old and my high school diploma a sure thing I started making plans to move as far away from my parents as possible. I grew up in New Brunswick on the Eastern seaboard above the state of Main and I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on the West Coast.
Now to be fully transparent I was also dating a girl who lived in Vancouver and that was a big draw. Sadly, people often are attracted to what they know and this girl who I was dating was not mentally healthy. In fact, now looking back I believe she may have had Borderline Personality Disorder. We got married at 19 and divorced at 21. It was a nightmare relationship for both of us.
I wasted no time and started dating my next-door neighbor. She had two kids and I always wanted to have a family of my own, so it seemed like a perfect situation where I was the missing piece. The problem was I was a mess and I was young, so I had this constant war inside of me, part of me wanted to be a family man and have the family I never had, but part of me wanted to party and have fun as a single man.
The next four years was a disaster that ended with my daughter being conceived, me proposing marriage, and a year later us getting divorced and I found myself a single dad, addicted to hardcore drugs, hanging out with bikers, and potentially being charged with some serious crimes.
By the grace of God, I woke up one day, it was 4 am and I visited some biker friends and for the first time, I saw what everyone else saw. These men had nothing of substance in their lives, the only thing of value they had was their Harley’s and since I was going much harder then they were I knew at that moment that what I was seeing was my best-case scenario. A lengthy prison sentence, being killed by a rival, or dying from a drug overdose was more likely for me.
So, I turned on my heels and walked out of that apartment and out of that life. I looked up into the sky and said to God, “I’ll do it your way to the best of my ability from now on.”
It took some time but eventually, I negotiated my freedom from the bikers, resolved matters with the police and the courts, got clean and sober and started the 15-year process of rebuilding my life and raising my daughter. Again, by the grace of God, I met a wonderful woman who I married, and we are about to celebrate our 13th anniversary.
Life has not been easy though. Over the last 15-years, I have always had something challenging to deal with.
We lived in Vancouver so seasonal depression was a challenge in the winter, we had the struggles of starting our business, we had financial reversals, one example was when the worst drought in the history of the Vancouver area caused us to lose all of our money and put us deeply in debt while we tried to keep our employees going and our business alive.
We have had other serious challenges, for example with raising my daughter and having to fight for custody, dealing with my wife’s chronic health problems, recovering from my accident at work where I almost died from falling 20-feet off a building and having a crisis of faith that caused me to question the religious beliefs that I was raised with and the religion we are a part of.
So, what I am trying to convey here is that my life has had a lot of ups and downs. There has always been something significant to deal with and overcome. Nothing has been easy and for many years I never really had a break or an extended period where we were not dealing with something that was physical, emotionally, or spiritually taxing.
This is significant because it explains how a 39-year old man, who from an outsider’s perspective appears to be very successful and really have it all, could have depression, anxiety, and unresolved emotional issues from his childhood and not even know it.
You see from an outsider’s perspective all they saw was a man who made some serious mistakes in his early 20’s, recovered from that, and now has a good marriage, a nice family, and a successful career which includes being an award-winning sales professional, an entrepreneur, and heck I even was a minister for 5-years and did outreach work with a prisoner who was being released from prison and needed help integrating back into society. I mean from an outsider’s perspective I had it all and must be blissfully happy.
The reality was, although I was happy with having a beautiful family and being successful in business, I was really struggling with my weight which was causing some physical health problems but more significantly I was struggling emotionally with my mental health.
After the break, I am going to tell you how success leads me to discover that I had depression and anxiety and what I did about it.
This episode is sponsored by:
This episode is sponsored in part by the Build a Better Business Blog.
Go to jamieirvine.ca/blog today for in-depth articles that will help you build a better business.
Success Leads to Discovering Depression and Anxiety
We are back from our break, now before the break, I was telling you my story and I promised I would tell you how success leads me to discover I had depression and anxiety and what I did about it.
In August of 2018, I had a week of holidays planned with my wife. My daughter was visiting her mom for the summer holidays and my wife and I had decided to take our dogs, Baby and Oreo and go camping with our holiday trailer. This was a bonus week off and a reward for doing such great work all year.
The problem was I was mentally melting down, I didn’t want to go, I was totally stressed out and this was very confusing to both my wife and to me.
Why was reacting this way to a week off work?
My mind was racing as I tried to figure out what was going on. I remember being in an absolute panic and going through every aspect of my life. There had to be something causing this anxiety.
As I went through every aspect of my life, I discovered something that had never happened before. I didn’t have any serious problems to cope with. For the first time in my life since I moved away from my grandmother’s home at the age of 2-years old, the women I called “Mum” who had loved and nurtured me and made me feel safe, I was not faced with some massive problem.
- Everyone in my family and all my friends was happy and relatively healthy.
- My career was on track and my work was both fulfilling and financially rewarding.
- We were virtually debt free with the only a few years left on our mortgage.
- My spirituality was on the rebound.
- My physical health was improving, I was active and healthy.
I should have been happy, I should have been ecstatic and yet I was depressed and full of anxiety. Childhood memories started flooding back to me and resentment and anger was building within me. I had no appetite, no desire to do anything, I felt like I was in a deep dark hole and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get out.
My wife and I went camping but I only made it four days and we came home early.
“What the hell was going on?”
After we got home from the camping trip, I went and saw my doctor.
I couldn’t believe what my doctor said:
“Jamie, you have depression and anxiety, you’ve had them for your entire adult life, you just didn’t know it.”
My success and years of hard work had systematically repaired or removed all of the major problems in my life and for the first time I had a chance to acknowledge that the feelings of anxiety and depression I had grown accustomed to and attributed to all of the external pressures and stress of living my life, was actually coming from a chemical imbalance in my brain and trauma I experienced as a child being raised in the environment I was raised in.
My doctor made some recommendations, gave me some new tools to help me cope, and I have been following those recommendations rigorously and using the tools every day since September of 2018.
The result has been incredible.
It took so many years to understand that the anxiety and depression I was enduring was coming from within me and was not being caused by external things going on in my life. Sure, those external pressures contributed to those feelings, but they were not the cause of them.
Since then I have been working hard to work through my childhood trauma and let go of the resentment I feel toward my parents and the religion they raised me in. It hasn’t been easy, but the rewards have been tremendous.
The point of my story is this.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know that I was suffering from depression and anxiety that was caused by my genetics and the environment I was raised in as a child. I didn’t know I needed help, but the signs were there.
In fact, several years before I got help a doctor suggested that perhaps it wasn’t just seasonal depression from living in Vancouver and all the rain we got. I dismissed the suggestion and the doctor didn’t pursue it any further. Looking back to that time in our lives my wife and I must admit that we were scared to admit that maybe there was a bigger problem and we feared the stigma of the diagnosis and the treatment that might be prescribed.
How long would I have suffered had I not received that bonus week off at just the right time?
The reality is that since that time my brother’s marriage has ended, my best friends’ marriage has ended and his mother has died, my daughter and my wife have both been diagnosed with separate chronic illnesses and the economic climate has caused a contraction in my income.
Would I have attributed my depression and anxiety to those challenges that my friends and family are experiencing and failed to understand that I needed help myself?
Most likely as this was the pattern of my entire adult life.
People who are suffering from depression and anxiety need help. They need help getting help and it is everyone else’s responsibility to tear down the stigma, tear down the fear, and do all we can to help these people get the help they need.
People with depression and anxiety can be very high functioning. I am proof of that but imagine what those people can do to change the world if they get the help and the tools, they need to treat depression and anxiety!
I would like each and every one of you to do an honest evaluation of first yourself, then your family members, and finally your employees and co-workers.
Is there someone in your sphere of influence that needs help?
If there is, I encourage you to take the first step of just expressing how much you care about them and take the second step of educating yourself about the signs of depression and anxiety and how to get help for yourself or someone you care about.
For one resource go to jamieirvine.ca/depression2.
This concludes episode 102 and part-2 of the mini-series.
On Tuesday, we are going to continue our 4-part mini-series entitled, Depression in the Workplace with part-3 where I interview Michele Molitor who will talk to us about helping employees with depression.
Talk to you on Tuesday.
This podcast is sponsored by:
If you are hiring a new employee, I highly recommend that you use the Screen2Fit recruitment platform by Pro.File.
I use FreeeUp to find high-quality freelancers to help me run my business and you should as well.
Every business needs a website and I have used Gerrit and Trackstar Web Design since 2012 and so should you.
I use Process Street to create systems in my business and I highly recommend that you use Process Street as well.
Thank you for listening and I look forward to talking with you soon.