Opening a Closed Book

Two posts back to back? Well, in the spirit of personal transparency …

I’ve obviously had a category called depression for some time. Typically I’ve written about depression as it was happening as a form of therapy—acknowledging the problem is how I’d pull myself out of the funk I was in. [Or so I thought; there are times now when I wonder when I’ve not been at some level of depression for the last few years. Anyway.]

Sometime after the first of the year, but truly and acutely the last week of February, I entered another episode of major depression. By mid-March, I was destroying all the relationships that were important to me at the time, and it was radically affecting my work as well. I never will forget a co-worker stopping and looking at me, saying, “Geof, come on … cheer up. It’s not that bad.” I remember looking at him blankly, the realization slowly dawning for me.

The crisis point was one day at work when the stress level got too high and I … well, I broke down. I shut my office and was alternately crying and catatonic for the better part of two hours. After pulling myself together, I did the hardest thing I’ve had to do professionally—walk into my boss’s office, explain the situation, and tell him that I needed time off. I worked the next day [it was our monthly program review with the customer, and my absence would’ve been conspicuous], but I took the rest of that week off and sought help.

On April 1st, I did the most wise thing I could have: walked into a psychiatrist’s office and started treatment. This coming Thursday will be my fourth visit, but I’ve got to tell you that I saw effects quite quickly. I’m aware that many folks suffering from chronic major depression struggle for months and sometimes years to find an anti-depressant that works for them; I had noticeable results almost immediately. In fact, I almost wondered if there was a placebo effect for what was going on with me, but as we’ve adjusted dosages, I’m aware that there is, at least for me, better living through chemistry.

And honestly, if I hadn’t sought help, well … the biggest stressor in life—my job—would’ve eaten me alive. It is not that I hate my job—I absolutely love what I do. I don’t love every day of it, but viewed from a perspective, I do really value the work that I’m doing and have a passion for doing it. Seeking professional help for a mental health condition was the best professional choice I’ve made in the last year—and in this last year, I’ve been heavily involved in bringing the company eight figures’ worth of business. My job does not get easier as Shuttle end-of-life approaches; rather, it gets harder. Had I not sought treatment when I did … well, I really don’t want to speculate what I might’ve done. I did not ideate in this round of depression, but I have in the past, and this low was far lower than the rest.

People view my life from the outside and think that I’m a successful guy. And honestly, I’m inclined to agree with them. Sure, I’m way fatter than I need to be, and I’m still single at 29, but I largely feel most days like I’ve got Life by the balls. But you can be that guy and also be the guy that Depression has by the balls and the scruff of the neck, ready to toss you in the nearest incinerator. It makes little sense if you’ve never been there, but if you have been, you’re nodding your head.

And if you’re nodding your head, friend, and you’re not seeking help, go. Now. I mean it. You owe it to yourself and the people that you love. Taking care of your mental health is no less important than taking care of your physical health—and I might argue that it’s almost more important, because mental health problems harm the very thing that is most important in life: relationships. Take it from me—get right.