How Redefining 'Success' Helped Me Through Depression
Six years ago I went from being a highly functioning, productive and rewarded employee in a large corporate office to someone who couldn’t get out of bed. This happened literally overnight; I fell off the cliff after years of knowing I was stressed and unhappy but thinking that was merely the price one paid for “success” in the modern world.
Initially this was terrifying – there was no rational explanation for why I should feel like this when I had so much going for me. I rapidly slid from a general malaise of chronic tiredness, negativity and repeated illnesses, to no longer being able to perform the simplest functions like taking my children to school or standing in a queue at the shops. I was beyond exhausted and wanted nothing more than to dissolve into the oblivion of sleep. And never wake up. Yet even when I managed a few hours, it was tortured and left me more depleted and despairing of my situation and the obvious erosion of all I had worked for. I lost over 20 pounds in a month, lost interest in everything, became anxious and hypersensitive to noise and light, could no longer experience any positive emotions and even failed to feel love for my wife and children. I started to realize why some people contemplated suicide.
I was fortunate enough to find a combination of medication, cognitive behavioral therapy and small lifestyle changes that started to slowly lift the veil of darkness. Combined with the unwavering, unconditional support and love of my wife, family and friends I grew stronger one day at a time.
The experience was so profound, so visceral, and so terrifying that I vowed I would do what was necessary to never go back to that darkest of places. Managing my depression is not the same as embarking on some fad diet to shed a few pounds; for me it has meant a lifestyle change I stick to. It is a lifestyle not characterized by deprivation but rather by a new appreciation of the richness, beauty, energy and power of everyday things and experiences.
“Success” no longer means acquiring more “stuff” or pursuing a specific goal (like I was taught at school, university, in my job…), but rather about the quality and content of my daily experiences. I have found a sense of meaning and purpose in life and that drives and guides what I do.
I choose to share my story for a simple reason: burnout and depression do not have to be a suffocating and dehumanizing experience from which there is no escape; many people are struggling and much is being learned every day – there are many people who can help you find a path to recovery, to a new way of living. You may just have to dig a little deeper and want to take that first step. Just as there are many routes to depression, there are many paths out – and it has been a splendid journey.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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