Connor McCracken

Each day this October, HeadsUpGuys is sharing stories from men who’ve overcome depression while we raise funds to keep our website resource going. By the end of the month we will have gathered one of the largest collections of depression recovery stories from men ever.

Depression affects millions of men every year, and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Unfortunately, a lot of guys buy into myths about depression being a sign of personal weakness or that real men don’t ask for help. Though they couldn’t be any further from the truth, these myths prevent men from reaching out to build the necessary supports to successfully fight depression. This is where HeadsUpGuys comes in, and where we’ve connected with men, their supporters and professionals – breaking down the myths and providing guys with the tools to get better.

Since launching in June 2015, HeadsUpGuys has quickly made a huge impact:

• Over 140,000 website visits from all around the world – (US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Philipines, India, and Pakistan)

• Over 21,000 self-checks completed

• Over 50 sites linking to us as a valuable resource – (Partners for Mental Health, Bring Change 2 Mind, The University of British Columbia, Movember Canada, Movember US, The Mighty, Anxiety and Depression Association of American, Guard Your Health, and the International Suicide Prevention Association)

If our mission strikes a chord with you, we’re asking are supporters to help raise funds as part of our campaign/fundraiser to Keep HeadsUpGuys Going.

Here’s a sample of some of the stories we’ve collected. To see more, visit our site.

1. Joel Robison

“I’m a 32-year-old Canadian photographer who specializes in creating conceptual storytelling portraits that allow us all a chance to see into another world. One of the projects I’m currently working on is an ongoing series called “What It Looks Like,” where I ask people who have experienced depression, anxiety or other mental illnesses what their experience looked like when they were at their low point and when things started to feel better. I then create a blog post with images that I’ve created illustrating these experiences using the visuals the person used.”

headshot of Joel Robison


What was the major turning point for you?

“I think my major turning point was being honest both with myself and with my family and friends. For a long time I’d been pushing things away, hiding my emotions and pretending that everything was OK, but it was getting to the point where I was afraid I’d drifted too far and I wasn’t going to come back. I wrote an honest blog post just telling people where I was with my mental health and that was really the turning point — it was like deciding to go back and climb back up the mountain.”

What are 3-5 things that really helped?

“Being honest: Telling people how I was feeling and when someone asked, to tell them the truth. It really helped to just acknowledge things as they come.

Going outside: Spending time outdoors, moving and getting sunlight was really helpful, it gave me something to do that was getting my mind off just the same things.

Saying no: Learning to say no to people and to myself really helped. There were days when I just wanted to sit and not do anything, and I just had to say no, I wasn’t going to waste the day.”

What advice would you give to other guys?

“Reach out, I feel now more than ever we’re in a time when people are both extremely connected but also extremely isolated. There are so many platforms for people to use to connect and talk about things they are struggling with. Find a friend or family member who will just let you talk or share or spend time with you without having to say anything. Those things are important, stay in contact with people.”

2. Adam Hague

“I am a self-employed conceptual artist/photographer from Brunei. The majority of my works are self-portraits incorporating surreal concepts with very real issues. I’m also currently doing wedding photography full-time.”

headshot of Adam Hague

 What was the major turning point for you?

“The major turning point for me was when I realized I was going through a cycle of going to bed unhappy or unsatisfied with my day, and then dreading waking up the next day because it was going to be a repeat of the same situation. It felt like I was trapped in a cage that wasn’t even locked — a cage that I could actually exit from, I just didn’t know how or was too scared.”

What are 3-5 things that really helped?

“Loved ones: No better cure or comfort in this world than knowing I have the support of my loved ones and close friends.

God: I’m not the most religious person and I try not to talk about religion too much. But I’m a strong believer that ‘if God intends good for someone, he inflicts trials.’

Photography: I use photography to channel my frustrations and emotions. Sometimes it’s easier than talking.

Sports/Keeping Active: I find long runs at the beach to be very calming. I also enjoy doing Crossfit; it helps me discover my abilities/potential that I never thought possible. I’m grateful to the crossfit community at ‘Crossfit 673 Jerudong’ and ‘Team Believe.’”

What advice would you give to other guys? 

“Never put yourself in a situation where you have to shoulder the burden alone. We are human, we are meant to have feelings. Talk to someone about what you are going through.  Find positive things/activities to do and channel your energy and emotion into it. Depression is not a sign of weakness… ever!”

3. Jonny-Noel

“I’m a singer, songwriter, and co-producer who was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia.”


What was the major turning point for you?

“At the time I was in a very toxic work environment that was continuously out of my control, while at the same time I was in a relationship that was extremely unhealthy, emotionally abusive and one night turned physical — which was the instant end for me and the beginning of the end of the darkness I was living in. The 2008 recession hit and I was unable to just quit the horrific company I was working for as no one knew at the time what was going to happen.

One day I had this realization that people all over the world were suddenly in very turbulent, if not devastating, economic situations and there was nothing I could do to change that. I then thought to myself what do I have power over? The answer, my outlook, my own well-being, my happiness. I was a happy person and I really disliked the way I had been feeling for months on end. I realized that despite the negative things that were happening to and around me, I’m the only person in the world who can decide the way I feel when I wake up and go to bed along with the way I react to things. The sudden knowledge that I’m the only person who was able to hold the key to my own happiness was extremely enlightening and freeing. I haven’t looked back ever since that day. I returned to the way I was before this very dark time in my life and as a result became a better man, friend and son.” 

What are 3-5 things that really helped?

“Focus on the positives: Focusing on the positives in my life and remembering how many people I have around me who truly care.

Talking to others: Talking to those I trust and love after this realization. Talking about what I had been keeping locked up inside allowed me to own my part in reaching a dark place while simultaneously cemented my devotion to my own happiness.

Learning to move forward: Learning from mistakes and experiences, but not bringing them with me. I can reflect and/or talk about the negative experiences I have lived through but I don’t feel attached or bound to them. I focus on the way I handle/react to things, knowing that difficult stresses of life are also positive learning experiences. It’s how you pick yourself up from mistakes, let downs, and tragedies that is really important.

Friends: Surrounding yourself with people who are truly friends. Through thick and thin, good and bad. I can’t express enough how important it is to really know who your actual friends are.”

What advice would you give to other guys? 

“Talking. I think communicating to someone about what is going on with you is vital. Talk to friends or family members and if you feel like no one can understand, then go and speak to someone professionally. I’d even say start with a professional. There is not the potential of shame or judgement that some may feel comes with talking to friends and family.

There is nothing wrong with getting professional help and in no way does it make you weak or less of a man because you needed to seek guidance to prevent you from drowning in darkness. I also believe facing and taking responsibility for your part in why you feel the way you do is very important. I’m not saying it is anyone’s fault, but in my opinion, understanding and accepting you have willingly played a part in why you have reached this dark place in your life is a very important step.”

4. Matt Hunter

I’m a Canadian technology entrepreneur, social activist and artist. I love nature, truth, books and great friends. During my days, I help people improve their sex lives and relationships through my platform cambyo. We share honest stories from peoples’ intimate lives and connect people with vetted sex and relationship coaches who are a great fit for them.”

Matt Hunter

What was the major turning point for you?

The major turning point was actually opening up to someone, in my case it was my mom. I silently struggled by myself for many months. She immediately told me that this was a normal thing and took me to a bookstore to buy me a CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy] workbook. Once I understood this was a common human occurrence and that there were solutions, I was able to get to work.

What are 3-5 things that really helped? 

CBT: A CBT workbook entitled “When Panic Attacks.”

Common Human Experience: Actually acknowledging that I was depressed and anxious instead of thinking I had just gone crazy. So basically knowing it was a common human experience.

Major Life Decisions: Being able to make decisions to shift my life to one that was more aligned with my authentic self. In this case, it meant quitting my job and becoming an entrepreneur.

Taking Care: Meditation, exercise, eight hours of sleep, plenty of nature and great nutrition are all important inputs for me to feel good.

What advice would you give to other guys? 

Open up to someone who can help you with this. They won’t think you’re weak, they will want to help. Suffering (especially of this kind) is a very common thing, don’t feel ashamed to acknowledge that you’re dealing with this. CBT, mindfulness and wellness can really help, at least that’s what worked for me.

5. Connor McCracken

“I’m a photographer and student who has been a mental health advocate for years because of my own experience, but recently I have been focusing on a project of mine called Project Pilgrim. Project Pilgrim is a Humans of New York style photography blog that’s goal is simply to get people talking about mental health.”

Connor McCracken

What was the major turning point for you?

“In my second year of university I was forced to drop out of school because of the depression and anxiety I was facing. I had never felt something like that before and so I headed home from school and sought out the help I needed. I was treated with CBT and even though I still am struggling, without that treatment I would not be where I am today.”

What are 3-5 things that really helped?

“It’s OK to ask for help: When I left school nobody knew I was struggling. Once I left I told people why and they were all very supportive and understanding. I wish I knew that it was OK to ask for help and talk to others while I was struggling.

Keep talking about it: Something I have found once I finished treatment is that everyone expects you are suddenly cured. By continuing the conversation around mental health, you can not only support yourself by letting others know how you are doing, but you can also educate people around you who may not know what it is like to be depressed or anxious.

Accepting it’s not your fault: Even after all of the great work I have done with mental health around B.C. and Canada, sometimes it is hard to see that I am no weaker or less manly than any other guy who many or may not be depressed. One of the major things that helped me was accepting that what I was going through was not my fault and that there is very little I could do to prevent myself feeling this way.”

What advice would you give to other guys? 

“Forget about what everyone else thinks. No one else knows how you feel or what kind of struggles you’re going through on a day-to-day basis. Don’t let others put you down about your mental health issues and instead lift up others around you so that we can all begin to feel better together.”


Someone asked me once, “What’s the worst thing about your depression?”

I honestly could not answer them without blowing through a plethora of different answers. Maybe it was the unexpected crying while driving home from work, or the physical inability to do menial tasks like brushing my teeth. I can’t forget the challenges of choosing an outfit I don’t hate myself in when I know I’m just going to have a meltdown and stay home anyways. How about the amount of times I’ve pushed people away because I just want to be by myself, followed shortly by the uncontrollable sobbing that comes from being totally and utterly alone?

These were the struggles that were all too real and present in my everyday life. I couldn’t just pick one thing that defined my worst moments. Yet, then I thought about all of the times I’ve doubted myself and second guessed major choices in my life all because I can’t trust my thoughts anymore.

You see, my brain was taken hostage a long time ago, and I’ve progressed in life seeing the world through a slightly different lens than most people. There’s not as much sparkle in my stars or blue in my skies. Most of the time my life just feels dull and lacking any true joy, as if I would even know what that feels like in the first place.

No matter how lucid I may feel, I can never fully think critically about my life and the people in it without having a negative bias around it all. It makes it incredibly hard to justify changing jobs for the fifth time in five years, moving to another town every year when my lease is up or breaking up with my high school sweetheart because I think I know deep down inside I never really loved him. How can I know for sure when every day my mind is battling itself, between truth and imagination?

The problem with my depression is I am all too aware of what it does to me, and I think that’s what makes it worse. The simple fact that any thought that crosses my mind now has to be critically analyzed to ensure it’s not some depression-ridden, imaginative lie I’m trying to perceive as real, creates even more negativity than before. There’s only so much reassurance I can coax out of other people before even they begin to doubt my choices.


Going through life like this feels daunting and hopeless. It takes every ounce of my energy for me to make a decision and be completely OK with it. Sometimes, something as simple as what I eat for dinner can send myself into a spiral of regret. Not knowing whether this regret is justified or not, makes me feel even lower.

Depression is simpler when you’re just sad all of the time and you don’t know why. This is the way doctors seemed to describe it before they realized it’s an actual medical problem that needed to be addressed. Before long, I learned my brain functions on a level a few pegs lower on the totem pole of happiness than other people, and the only remedy is to dump serotonin in there like you’re putting out a fire.

I always just thought it was a phase I would grow out of, but as I learned more about my condition, I realized it is going to take years of work and medication to even bring myself to a comfortable level of existence. Knowing that, and already being in the depressed state that I always am, you could imagine how not excited I was to begin this journey.

So if you were to ask me today what the worst part about my depression is, I could confidently tell you it’s the inability to trust my own judgment. It’s the inability to decide whether to leap toward change or back away slowly. It’s the inability to definitively say yes or no.

Without feeling like my mind is my own worst enemy, I’d probably be sitting happy on a couch somewhere, wrapped in the arms of the man I love, enjoying the bliss of being comfortable in my own life. Instead, here I am explaining to you what makes me hate my depression the most, and you know what? I’m not entirely sure if it’s true.

Image via Thinkstock.

The haze is waking up and knowing something’s not quite right today. 

The haze is not seeing clearly, not able to focus properly.

The haze is feeling disconnected from everyone and everything.

The haze is not knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing in life, why you live where you live, whether your worthy of the boyfriend you love. 

The haze can come on gradually or it can hit you like a ton of s**t. 

One day/minute you feel content that the decisions you’ve made to get you where you are today are the correct ones,

that you have wonderful friends and family who love you, 

that you’re a chatty, smiley and energetic person. 

The next minute it takes over like a dark cloud that has been waiting ominously on the horizon.

The haze is here.

The energy is sucked out of you. 

You have to force that smile, but it’s not the same smile. 

People say, “what’s up?” “cheer up,” “are you feeling OK?”

Sometimes it takes someone saying these things to make you realize you’re engulfed in the haze.

Things you’re normally good at, you normally enjoy, the things that make you you, feel forced, fake and unnatural. 

The haze makes you question whether you’ve ever been a happy, carefree person, if you’ve ever been good at your job, a loving girlfriend or a good singer. 

The haze is toxic. 

The good thing is the haze clears. Always. 

The bad thing is… it comes back. Always. 

With daylight savings time fast approaching, many people with mental illness find it hard to cope with the shorter days and the lack of sunlight. I admit, I am one of those people, sometimes. Mostly, I look forward to the fall because the shorter days and colder weather bring me a certain level of comfort that summer and spring do not.

First, I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything when I am in bed at 5 p.m. in pajamas, binging on Netflix. It’s dark and cold out there. What’s there to do anyway? It’s a rationalization that helps me cope.

In the summer, when it’s warm and light out until 9 p.m., it’s harder to hear the neighbors barbecuing, laughing, drinking, splashing around in their pool and having fun until late at night. During the winter, they are inside. It’s quiet. Nobody seems to be doing anything. It makes me feel like I am not missing out on anything.

When blizzards and snowstorms come, wrapping myself up in a blanket and watching television shows or reading a good book is all there seems to be to do. Everyone has gone into hibernation. They are just like me now. Except this is my reality most days, year round. For them, it’s temporary.

Nonetheless, when people ask me what I did over the weekend, I can say, “Nothing really. I saw some movies,” without shame.

They reply, “Yeah, it was good weather for that,” or “I know, I stayed in all weekend, too. This weather is awful.”

Except, I am thinking, “The weather is perfect for my mood disorder.”

I can slip away into a fantasy land of television characters or delve into a great book and lose myself. I forget I have depression. Not totally. Of course, there is that nagging feeling always with me, but for a few hours, I can escape.

I don’t do this so easily in the summertime. I feel I should be out doing something. The weather is so nice. The sunshine beams through my window almost as if to mock me.

I can back out on plans more easily in the winter, too. I have anxiety about driving at night. So the shorter days give me an excuse to cancel plans or at least cut them short. Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to glorify isolating oneself. It’s good sometimes to get out, see people and do things if you can. I am just saying, the winter season leaves me with less guilt about the things I cannot do.


My doctor thinks it’s odd that I have seasonal affective (SAD) more so in the summertime than the winter. I figured there were some others out there that might feel the same and relate.

Netflix, anyone?

Image via Thinkstock.

Being depressed isn’t anything new for me. I call it my “default setting,” because it seems like I hit a peak of mania for such a short time and then drop into depression immediately after. I read a bunch of self-care tips, do the meditation stuff and the breathing exercises, but when depression comes knocking, I can barely remember to drink enough water, let alone keep myself on a regimen. No matter how little I feel like taking care of myself, I always put forth the effort, not for myself, but because I don’t want my husband to worry more than he has to.

We were buying groceries and I asked him to pick up band-aids as I went to inspect toothbrush options. He gave me a puzzled look and asked why we needed band-aids in the first place. I rattled off how I am an accident-prone individual with a new pair of shoes that would soon give me blisters. He picked up sparkly band-aids and put them in the cart, telling me that he just wanted to make sure I wasn’t self-harming again.

I looked down at my arms. The scars are only barely visible, and most of them are from a long time ago, but I can see them and I know they’re there. I knew he meant well, but the fact that he felt he had to stop and make sure that I wasn’t buying bandages to cover up my addiction to self-harming behaviors made me sad. I deal with my depression spells in the best way I can, but I never wanted them to become someone else’s problem.

Each time I feel a depression wave coming, I isolate myself. I stick in headphones, turn on my playlist for bad days and I hope this time won’t be so low. I tell other people all the time that if they feel like they can’t find their way through their depression to reach out and talk to someone. But for some reason, whenever I feel that same way, I can’t listen to my own advice. I bottle everything in until it all comes out-streams of tears, ugly crying at 3 a.m. because of something that happened years ago and I was thinking about it.


In the end, my husband listens to my sadness and as he put it “tries to interject some happiness to the voices that tell me I’m not worthy of laughter.” I’m learning that blocking myself off isn’t protecting him from my emotional roller coaster — it’s just making him worry more. I may not want to talk about how I’m feeling, I may not want to invest time in my own self-care, but I know that if I just let myself be open about how I’m feeling, it might not get better right away, but I don’t have to fight the darkness alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Everyone has good qualities. Qualities others see and envy. Qualities they wish were their own. I was talking with a friend of mine the other day, and she said something that haunted me. She said, “I wish I had your brain.”

I know what she meant. I’ve got academic cleverness, book smarts and that’s what she’s envious of. I didn’t really have to try in school. I was a natural at learning. That’s the quality she wished for herself. What she said, however, really stung me  because I am at war with my brain every single day.

No, you don’t want my brain.

Do you really want a brain that thinks panicking is the appropriate reaction to even the tiniest of problems? Do you want a brain that perceives every strangers laugh or smile as being directed at you in malice? Do you want a brain that tells you all day, every day, how you aren’t good enough?

Do you want a brain that requires constant medication just so you can masquerade as mentally stable? Do you want a brain that tells you to jump every time you cross a bridge? Do you want a brain that uses its powers of logic to argue the world would be better off without you? Do you want a brain that is convinced all your friends and loved ones are staying around out of pity or duty rather than because they actually love you? (This is regardless of how many times those loved ones tell you otherwise.)

Do you want a brain that thinks so strongly that the world is bad? Do you want a brain that makes you struggle to see the good even when it stares you in the face? Do you want a brain that tells you all your good qualities are meaningless or that you are only pretending to have any at all?

Do you want a brain that tells you all the sadness you feel is just ungrateful, that other people have it worse and that you deserve to feel awful as a result? Do you want a brain that says you deserve to struggle? Do you want a brain that will never let you forget any mistake you ever made?


Do you want a brain that struggles to sleep at night but is exhausted throughout the day? Do you want a brain that tells you every relationship mishap you’ve ever had is exclusively your fault, that you don’t deserve love and that you’ll never find it? Do you want a brain that struggles with depression and anxiety?

I have good qualities. I know that somehow, even if my brain makes it difficult to believe. Maybe I even have qualities worth being jealous of. You can be jealous of my imagination, my creativity and even my great bum, but don’t ever tell me you’re jealous of a brain. Because I’d swap it in a heartbeat for one that works.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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