Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Depression: Time To Come Clean

The celebrity dam is likely to break when it comes to revealing what has been a disorder of shame - depression. When stars like David Letterman and Clara Hughes come forward and openly talk of depression, other celebrities are likely to jump on board or off it, as the case may be, sharing stories of their strife. As a person who has suffered with depression for half my life, I hope dozens of stars come out to shine a bright light on this mysterious ailment.

I certainly don’t want anyone thinking that I don’t appreciate the efforts of the famous to come clean. On the contrary, I know how difficult it is to admit that one experiences depression. What I worry about is that celebs will start using this as their excuse d’jour. Oh, did you hear, after telling the world to suck it and flipping off the press and dropping trow in public, (insert star’s name here) admitted it was because of depression. That would just be insulting to those truly battling the condition.

This guy looks how I feel when I'm depressed.

Other than folks believing that since I’m depressed I must be a prime candidate for suicide, the real reason I rarely speak of my affliction is embarrassment. It’s likely the reason many people avoid full disclosure. There is a stigma one faces since most people are ignorant about depression. For the record, I don’t run around the streets in my underwear howling at the moon or my neighbours. I rarely throw anything against the wall and it’s even rarer that whatever I did throw has broken; usually I throw things when watching Leafs’ games so, you know the source of much of my depression. What I’m trying to say is that I’m as normal as the next guy or gal with just a few minor difficulties with which to cope.

Symptoms Checklist

It is not easy to admit that one has a ‘mental disorder’. I hate that term. According to, depression is a serious medical condition with a variety of emotional, cognitive, physical and behavioural symptoms. Still makes me sound like I’m, well, crazy. I have to admit that sometimes I feel that way. I feel most frustrated when I know I’m depressed but can’t do a damned thing about it – like right now. No, Virginia, there is no switch I can flip to end my depression. The veritable cry of ‘snap out of it’ is useless to a depressive. I don’t think of depression as a disease or something that’s curable. I believe that depression is a condition one must always manage.

Please go to for a lot of great information to either help yourself or someone else. I may not agree with everything on this site, but it is a great place to start.

If you even have an iota of suspicion that you suffer from depression I urge you to seek help. The best help you’ll find is by talking with your physician. They can guide you through steps to help you battle depression. Doctors are likely to prescribe medication to help in your fight. There are many different anti-depressants available so, come clean with your physician about everything so you get the right match.

I find it difficult to go the drug route. I’ve been on two separate anti-depressants, both of which totally screwed with my sleeping patterns, and worse, gave me night terrors. I believe that the more creative the person, the more horrible the night terrors they experience. Not to toot my horn (which I really hate doing) but I think I’m a pretty creative guy – read my book Afterlife and I think you’ll agree. I won’t describe any of the images I saw during my terrored slumbers – suffice to say, I’m finding it difficult to want to try a third anti-depressant. Don’t let my experience stop you. There really is only one way to find out if medication is going to work for you and that is to take it under your doctor’s supervision.

Meds often help you ‘fake it until you make it’. For those reading this who’ve suffered with depression, you’re likely very familiar with that term. My wife and I entertained guests last weekend and they were likely thinking, how the hell can he say he’s depressed. He looks and sounds fine. But, if only they’d been a fly on the wall before and after their visit. The energy it takes to ‘fake it’ is exhausting. I likened it to having run a marathon while getting kicked every so often.

Going to bed or, once you’ve actually gotten some sleep, getting out of bed, can be very difficult. I’ve spent nearly forty-eight hours awake and never more than six hours asleep during my current bout of depression. You’d think that would be awesome for a writer, having all that time, especially in the dead of night, to write. One problem with that is the symptom of depression that hurts me, and likely many others, the most - a total lack of interest in what you are usually most passionate about. So, when my depression has ebbed and I sit in front of a blank screen, I see that as a wonderful opportunity. Depressed, I could care less about writing. You’d have to know me to understand just how horrific that statement is. I love writing. I must write. It feeds my soul. Unless I’m depressed and then I just don’t care. Hell, I don’t really care about much in a depressive state.

I think I speak for all those depressives out there when I ask that those closest to us please, please have patience. Telling us to snap out of it is a joke. Cheer up. Think positively. Really? We never would have thought of that. We know you’re trying to help but the best thing you can do is listen. Listen to your spouse or loved one, your friend or neighbour or coworker. Recognize that they are finding it difficult to talk to you about their condition and be sensitive to that. Allow them to lead the conversation. Ask questions, don’t point fingers.

My wife is the best person I know and she handles my depression so beautifully that I feel better just knowing that. She celebrates the little strides I’ve taken knowing they’ll snowball into larger gains. This piece is one such accomplishment. I actually smiled after writing this, not so much as a pat on the back for good work, but for just writing it. Another big accomplishment, I forced myself to eat lunch. Trust me, these are huge gains for me.

Where so few people knew of my depression, now, I’ve put it out there for all to see. I sure as hell didn’t do this for your pity. I hope you learned something and that you’ll continue to search for information about depression. The statistics regarding depression are staggering. 1 in 10 people in Canada will experience depression in their lifetime. It’s time to end the silence and talk about it.

Step one, talk to your doctor.

Step two – well, that’s up to you.

There is no shame.


Danielle La Paglia said...

Thanks for this honest and open post on a subject most people don't want to talk about it. I hope others are willing to discuss their condition and seek the help they need.

And *high five* for getting something written.

Jax said...

I fight more with my anxiety issues than depression, but the former often leads the latter, so I get it. I don't do well on meds, though it's been decades since I tried that route. I just don't want to risk that again. I do find that keeping away from certain foods, finding ways to keep active and even attempting to keep a schedule can be helpful. But it's not the end all be all of an answer.
"Get over it" is the worst thing to hear. Ever. It's not like I don't know that some/most/all of my anxiety is silly. If it were rational, it wouldn't be so much of a problem.
Thanks for sharing, Ian. It is nice to hear from someone else who struggles to keep moving. It is exhausting.

kerri.lewis said...

Thanks for your courage and honesty Ian. I too have played the medication roulette wheel. Currently I take two anti-depressants, morning and evening. The second one helps to counter the nasty side effects of the first. I also had psychotherapy for two plus years. Therapy helped me to challenge imbedded negative thoughts built over a lifetime that contributed to my mental health issue. I am eternally grateful to my therapist. One strategy that I have found to be incredibly support is to talk about my experience. It helps me to feel like I am in control of my illness, rather than letting it control me. Thanks for shouting it from the rooftop Ian! You may never know it, but if you can help one person, isn’t that what it’s really all about?

Ian O'Neill said...

Thanks so much for your all your comments. I really am speechless (or writeless if that makes any sense). Copy the URL for this blog entry and send it out there. I just want people to get engaged about depression.

Jax and Kerri, thanks for your bravery.

Danni, thanks so much for your support.

John Wiswell said...

I agree that there should be no shame. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Ian O'Neill said...

Cheers, John. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post Ian.
My fried is a manic depressive, always has been, always will be, and she's one of the most generous and loving people I've ever met. She's someone I aspire to be for her many great talents. I myself suffer from hormonal depression and the best day of my life was when I went and sought help. Depression is not what people think it is, and I'm glad to see you 'coming out' and proving it. :)

richard Ellis said...

This is an exceptionally cool piece you wrote. Very frank, de-mystifying and very inclusive. You should be extremely proud of what you've done here, as there is no doubt it already has helped people.

Ian O'Neill said...

Thanks Richard,

Your comment is much appreciated.

I hope you'll all continue to spread the word. Use the share button and get this blog post out there.


T. James said...

Ian, a truely honest, and courageous piece. It outlines the grity reality of depression in such a personal way it will speak to anyone, sufferer or relative, who seeks to make sense of their experience of this misunderstood condition.