If you are considering suicide, please reach out for help. The phone number for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
Below, I share the story of my depression as I’ve experienced it so far. I’m choosing to share it for a variety of reasons:
I share my story as a form of therapy for me, being able to document the broad series of events and lessons leading to where I am today.
I share my story to provide hope and the lessons I learned to others who are working to conquer their depression.
I share my story to help educate those who have never been depressed, both in understanding what depression is and how they can help those in their lives who are depressed.
I was a happy child, enjoying life. Then some kids in elementary school decided I wasn’t “cool”. I was about ten years old at the time, in grade 5, when the bullying started. A few years of bullying in elementary school and I had lost my inner happiness. With the clarity of hindsight, I now know that was the start of my depression.
Doubt replaced my inner happiness. Even when I felt happiness, there was always doubt. Doubt that the happiness was real. Doubt that I deserved it. Doubt that others wanted me to feel it. Doubt that it was worth feeling happy about something so small. My base state of mind was doubt; my self-confidence was demolished.
I could always put on a happy face. I knew how to express happiness, even if I didn’t know how to embrace it.
Being from a smaller city, my high school peers consisted of many of the same kids I had attended elementary school with, including those who bullied me. Even though the bullying largely stopped in my first year of high school, I can’t say when exactly it stopped as I had come to expect it. I couldn’t help but assume other kids were critiquing and criticizing me behind my back, even if they weren’t. I interpreted satirical comments as attacks.
Of course, none of the kids knew this. I would put on a smile and roll with it, so I didn’t show signs of weakness.
While I struggled in high school, it was also when I started the long road to recovering from depression. With the eternal love of my family and working closely with a counsellor at my high school, I was handed the tools I needed to find my way out. It would take years of experiences for me to learn how to utilize them.
While depression is persistent, I did have some bright spots in high school, each of which gave me more knowledge I would use to overcome my depression.
In high school, I discovered my passion for technology and programming, a passion that still burns strong today. Finding a passion allowed me to experience happiness, albeit on my own. My computer became my trusted friend, programming a source of joy. I learned the value of finding joy on even the darkest days when I felt the most alone.
In grade twelve, I experienced my first taste of a fresh start. As part of a program called Encounters with Canada, I joined over 100 high school students from across Canada in Ottawa for a week. I knew not a single person going into it. We spent time exploring Ottawa, learning about Canada’s history and government, but for me the trip meant much more. That week*, I experienced true happiness*. For the first time since I was a young child, I could define myself in front of others, rather than being defined by the bullying of my past.
That trip sparked a fire inside me. I had been wanting to leave both high school and my hometown for a while, but now I needed to. I needed a fresh start.
Towards the end of grade 12, I started dating my first girlfriend, whom I had first met on my trip to Ottawa. It was a long-distance relationship, which meant it was separated from my normal anxieties at school. While we weren’t meant to be together, I learned the value of a close friend; someone you know is always there for you. With her I experienced true happiness, even if I still found anxiety and fear around my peers.
University gave me my first fresh start. I headed to university in another province, away from the kids I grew up and graduated high school with; away from the kids who had bullied me. Like on my trip to Ottawa, I was given the chance to define myself around my new peers on my own terms.
In my first year of university, I joined the school of engineering and lived in dorms. Both of those drove comradery and I felt my depression lift significantly. I started making new friends and experiencing happiness through the slog of first year engineering lectures and homework.
I headed back home after my first year at university to work for the summer for the City of Vernon doing general labor. Thanks to a bad boss that summer, I learned that while I my depression had lifted some my self-confidence was still low. By the end of summer, I had become mildly depressed.
Going back to university for the second year was different in many regards. In addition to being mildly depressed, I was no longer staying in dorms. Instead, I rented a basement suite off campus with a friend and fellow engineering student. This meant the comradery I found in first-year dorms was no longer as strong, requiring me to go out of my way to be social.
Over the course of my 5 years at university, I slowly fell back into full depression. There were many ups and downs throughout, but looking back I can see the downward trend. I slowly became more isolated, skipping classes to stay home instead and spending more time in my room alone. Additionally, I became angrier with the university and school system.
While I still take issue with my schooling and how the system is designed, that anger became all-consuming in my mind. It was a vicious cycle, the anger driving my depression and my depression driving my anger. In university, I learned how emotions can affect depression.
In the latter part of university, I started dating my high school girlfriend again. I have many incredible memories from that relationship. While at first it helped to lift my depression, my downward trend continued. I left university still dating and depressed.
The Summer After University
While in that relationship, just after the end of university, I hit rock bottom. Unfortunately, this showed me how much my depression could hurt those around me, as I know I hurt my girlfriend at the time. She struggled to comprehend the turmoil and darkness in my mind that even I couldn’t understand. We broke up shortly thereafter as I also learned that while others could help me handle my depression, the true fight must come from within.
It was around this time I had my first thoughts of suicide. I never did get to the point of desiring suicide, but I started wondering if I was headed down that path. It simultaneously peaked my curiosity and scared me. The mind can be a dark place, sometimes.
As I hit rock bottom, I confided completely in my Mom. While she was aware of some of my struggles, I had never used the word “depressed” before. I had done some research on depression and, based on how I was feeling, was confident I was depressed. At her suggestion, I visited my family doctor to explore options for help. This was one of the best decisions I could have made.
In that visit, my doctor evaluated me and confirmed that I was depressed. He was realistic about the options, being sure to explain both medication and counselling. After discussing things with him, I chose to try a mild amount of medication, and he also referred me to a counselling program provided by the British Columbia health care system. The program consists of a series of phone calls with a counsellor where they both evaluate your condition, as well as provide constructive feedback and ideas for how to move forward.
I can’t say exactly how effective the medication and counselling were individually, but combined with the fact that I was out of the stress of university, I started to feel my depression lifting. As summer continued, I looked forward to getting another fresh start when I moved to the United States to start work at Microsoft.
Microsoft and Rotaract
Coming down to Microsoft, I didn’t know what to expect. I was still feeling depressed, though significantly improved compared to the start of that summer. Things started to click for me, though, as I set up my new life. I loved the place I was renting, was on a team at work with people I’m fortunate to be able to call friends and was loving my job.
The one thing that concerned me in the back of my mind was forming a social circle. Due to the bullying, I had never truly experienced forming and maintaining a circle of friends. Usually I had one or two people I would call close friends for a period, and everyone else I thought of as an acquaintance. I wouldn’t let myself get close to them out of fear of being hurt.
At the suggestion of my step-dad, I joined Rotary International through a local Rotaract club. It would be a chance to get involved in the community and meet other young professionals like myself. Not long after joining I became the president of the club, with two other new members, Tati and Mike, forming the rest of the officers. The next Rotary year the three of us worked to revitalize the club and, in the process, I made my two closest friends.
With them I could be honest about myself and my past, while simultaneously looking forward to the future with them in my life. It gave me hope, and kept me busy outside of work hiking and just hanging out. Even if they didn’t know it, Tati and Mike were teaching me how to create and maintain a social circle bigger than one’s closest friends. I saw how they made new friends and maintained relationships with existing friends. They invited me along to social events they were going to and hosting, showing me how to be social with a variety of people.
Having two close friends, and being incredibly busy with both work and the Rotaract club, distracted me from my depression and I was enjoying life for a prolonged period. The downs I had over the course of my first year and a half in the United States felt far less daunting than my downs in the past.
Perhaps it was because I wasn’t watching the little things since it felt like my depression had lifted, but I made a small mistake in my social life about a year and a half ago. For most people, they would have been able to correct it, if they even noticed it. For me, it slowly turned into an all-consuming issue in my mind. All my social anxieties came flooding back. One night I hit rock bottom again and broke down. The same curiosity about suicide came back, albeit briefly. Thanks to the lessons I had learned throughout my life so far, I knew I needed help.
I reached out to an assistance line provided through my healthcare at work. They were quick in setting a path forward for me, including going to see a counsellor in person. A week or two later, I had my first session with the counsellor. Working with her, I could better understand the roots of my depression, as well as gain more strategies for how to handle my social anxieties. Even though I had crashed, thanks to the tools I had gained over the years, I started recovering much more quickly than in the past - a matter of weeks rather than months or years.
Coming out of those counselling sessions, I started working proactively to build a circle of friends around me, and to be more social in my life. Seeing how easy it was to fall back down, I paid closer attention to the little mistakes I made in my social life and corrected them when they happened, rather than letting them manifest into something bigger.
My work started to pay dividends, and as I made a healthy circle of friends that I spent time with regularly, my self-confidence also rose. While I had hit rock bottom, I had come back stronger and healthier than before. Beyond having a comfortable circle of friends, I started having the confidence to host social gatherings that weren’t focused on Rotaract.
This leads into this winter, where I wanted to go skiing regularly and wanted people to go with. I set up a group on Facebook and, a bit nervously, started asking people if they wanted to join in. I was nervous because for so many years I had drilled into my own head that people didn’t really want to spend time with me, even if all the evidence suggested otherwise.
Instead of rejecting me, people joined in excitedly and I’ve had many successful skiing trips this winter, with the excitement continuing. My group of friends is expanding further, and my self-confidence feels like it’s mostly normalized. Which leads to a few weeks ago, coming back from a ski trip, where it hit me that I was truly happy.
Through my entire body, into my soul, I felt happy. I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt so entirely at peace in my own skin, comfortable with who I am. I rediscovered my inner happiness.
Going forward, I know my work is not done. Through the years, I’ve learned that depression is not something I have overcome for the last time, but something I will continue to work on and be aware of in some capacity. I have confidence the lessons I’ve learned and tools I’ve gained will allow me to continue conquering my depression.
I also have a group of friends around me that will make things easier. I’m involved in events that force me out of my house regularly and, when the social anxiety is starting to nag at me, out of my comfort zone in social situations.
I have the self-confidence to know that if I can conquer depression, I can conquer anything I set my mind to, even if it takes more than a decade.
I see light, not darkness in my future, and for that I am thankful and excited. The events in my life, including my depression, have made me who I am, and I am that much stronger for it.
To Others who are Depressed
If you are reading this and either are, or think you may be, depressed, know that you are not alone, regardless of how alone you may feel right now.
I hope the lessons from my story can provide you with some tools to help you conquer your depression. Here’s a few of the biggest lessons I learned.
Always persevere. Depression is something that you won’t necessarily conquer quickly, but persistence will yield success even if it takes many years. And it is worth it.
Seek out the help you need. Confide in friends and family, speak to your doctor, or call a help line. You are not alone.
Don’t rule out medication. Depression medication can carry a large stigma, but if depression is hitting you hard, talk to your doctor about your options. While medication may not solve your depression, it could lift it enough for you to be able to start working on it successfully through other means.
Your doctor may have options beyond medication, too, including counselling. If counselling doesn’t bring you all the way out of your depression the first time, don’t be afraid to go back, potentially to someone different. Persevere.
Find those in your life who love you. Be it friends or family, find those in your life that love you unconditionally. If you think it will help, confide in them. Even if you don’t confide, keep them close.
Find your passions. With passion lies happiness, even if it’s fleeting. Are you passionate about certain types of music? Perhaps it’s an activity? Discover your passions and embrace them. Not only can they bring happiness directly, they can be a source of more people in your life who share the same passion.
To Those Who Know Someone Depressed
If you know someone who is, or you suspect is, depressed, the best advice I can give is to be there for them. Only they can conquer their depression, but simply being a friend or family member who consistently shows they care can make a difference.
Keep asking them to attend social events, even if they deny most of the time. The fact you’re asking can make a world of difference in the long term.
If they choose to confide in you about their depression, listen. If they aren’t confiding, don’t pressure them to.
If they are confiding in you and it feels right, suggest they seek help through counselling or their doctor. Your job isn’t to be a professional health-care worker, but to support them while they get the help they need.
To My Family and Friends
Thank you for being there for me, even if you didn’t know that I was depressed. Simply knowing you love me and were there for me makes all the difference in the world. I am eternally grateful to have a family with so much love in it, and to have met so many wonderful friends over the years, even if I struggled to fully embrace those friendships in the past.
To those I hurt through the years as I worked through this, and I know there’s been some, know that I am sorry. It was never my intention to hurt anyone, but I wish you the best going forward.
To my two closest friends, Tati and Mike, thank you for welcoming me into your lives, and teaching me how to be social and live a healthy life. I will forever be indebted to you.
To My Mother
I want to call out my mother specifically, as she has been the bedrock in my life from day one. She has always supported and loved me unconditionally, always there to listen whenever I called.
She always asked the right questions, causing me to think about things a different way, or confide a bit more than I was intending, but also allowing her to better understand what was happening in my life.
She encouraged I seek out help and, when I did, was there to help monitor my mental health and ensure that I was making progress.
She has devoted more time and energy to me than I could ever have asked for.
Thank you, Mom. You have a heart bigger than the world, and I will forever aspire to be even half the person you are.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed my story, and taken something away from it. This has been a long-time coming for me, and I’m excited to go forward in my life. I’m excited to have freedom from depression.