“Like can be like any long trail run, there are usually ups and downs. That brutal climb usually is followed by a downhill, you may groan, stumble but you swear and carry on. Sometimes you question it all and almost stop.”
The day is dark – its mid-April and its snowing and freezing rain outside and my mood is grey too – seems a good day to reflect on another dark (much darker day).
A tale of my darkest days
“When you are in the darkest hole and the blackness closes in, when depression has its claws in you, you have one choice. To break the hold, to see the light, to clear your mind you have to make a move. You need to raise a foot to kick a hole in the darkness till it bleeds daylight.”
Its me. The Canadian runningdad. Runner, dad and Depression survivor and advocate for healthy, active living and for mental health. I have talked before about my journey in life as a dad and my tough time dealing with a period where I battled depression. I, however, was never brutally honest or detailed about my darkest days. I am not sure why it has taken me so long to share. I am fairly open about my story. It has been quite a while now and I feel so far away from that dark point in my life. Maybe by sharing more it will help others, perhaps by opening up more it may help me.
So here it is.
My marriage had broken up. I was having difficulty transitioning to being a dad (I learned later that maybe this could be called male post-partum depression – but not sure), was now dealing with living in an apartment alone, seeing my daughter every second weekend and working at a job that stressed me out and I had no interest in.
I was becoming more and more depressed. I went through the motions at work and home and tried to keep busy and positive. My joking around at work became more sarcastic and negative – even my running was providing me little joy.
At my apartment, I felt alone and isolated. I had no family nearby (or even in the province) and have no real close friends I live close to or did things with. I would get home from work and it would be quiet and lonely. I felt no sense of purpose or direction, no reason for going from one day to the next. Paying child support, having to move into an apartment and buy a car to pick up my daughter from daycare pushed me financially and stressed me out. Netflix stopped keeping me distracted and conversations on the phone were not enough. Food lost its appeal. Social media kept me connected with people but was not enough.
I knew things were going downhill but did not know what to grab on to, to stop the slide.
After our initial separation, my ex and I got along well enough to sit in a friendly manner and work out a divorce but that was still stressful, tiring and tough.
It just kept getting darker in my mind. I looked for reasons to get up. I took a few mental health days from work.
I loved my daughter but found being a dad hard, tiring and ate into what little time I had to relax/enjoy. Now when I had my daughter I had to do everything by myself, could not find a babysitter even to go to the store…it was tough. People have it tougher – I am simply telling you how I felt.
The darkest day
The memory is blurry – you would think it would be crystal clear as a pivotal point in my life but its not. It was a weekday – I can’t remember if I had taken some time off from work or if I had been in to work the day before. Getting up in the morning had become a battle. The distraction of work and routine no longer —distracted my mind enough.
I can’t remember if the really dark thoughts crept in during the night or early morning. I just know they did. Things went from feeling shitty about life to really questioning why I was around. My mind told me that the world and my daughter were better off without me – that I had no direction, purpose or anything to look forward to. All I could see was a lonely, monotonous, dreary existence where I constantly struggled and got nowhere – working at a job I cared little about and living somewhere I did not want to be – far from friends and family.
I reached a point. I went from thinking about how pointless things were to really thinking about how to end my suffering. I had friends and family but no one close. I rarely saw my parents (once a year if lucky) and most friends were at a distance and seldom met in person. I had made some poor choices, not been honest with myself and although generally tried to be a good person, had my faults, mistakes and regrets. I could see no reason for being around, living. I started thinking about how to end my life. Not just the topic, but how I was going to do it.
I was being a coward. I was running away from my life and problems. I know that and I knew that then – but I wanted out. I thought about all the ways, — sorry this gets dark– hanging myself, jumping off something, carbon monoxide etc. I did not just allow a quick thought to go by – I was really considering the options and weighing out what was possible and what I had the guts to do. I stayed in bed. I did not go to work. It was a very, dark horrible place of self-pity, thoughts of killing myself, despair, listlessness.
Because I am anal retentive and was still just unselfish enough to not want my manager to worry – I emailed and said I needed the day. I had moved. I was up. I was not safe but it had made me think. I did not have a history of mental illness, I did not have anxiety or deal with depression before this – but like in running, the mental aspect was always toughest for me.
I knew I needed help. Besides the likelihood of me being successful with a suicide attempt were slim – which as also depressing at the time. The only thing that saved me was reaching out. It was a simple action – but it was enough. The responses and tiny or big gestures from friends and family and from the social media community —-people will never know how much they did for me.
Reflection and Recovery
You can read on my blog about how I recovered and used friends, family, counselling, meditation, a life coach and everything I could find to fight my way out of my dark place. I got out. I battled hard, really hard and spent time looking at why I had gotten there, who I was and wanted to be and the reality of my life.
Where I am now
I am in a much better place now and have tools to fight off any depression and am so much stronger. For me the dark grip of depression and a mental health battle was a short-lived one. It is not something I struggle with daily. I am lucky.
This blog is not one where I offer tips – check out some other very personal blogs from this skinny runningdad for tips and how I battled. This is simply more detail on a very dark day. Perhaps it will help others realize they are not alone, that talking and taking little steps away from the abyss is all they need to do to keep going.
Keep reaching out friends, defeating depression is about doing something, breaking free of its grasp, moving forward and finding a positive purpose in life. You are never alone.
Find the positive in yourself and life.
Live, love, laugh and carry on.
Run on friends!