I’m an ordinary guy who suffers from episodes of Major Depressive Disorder. In this, I’m no different from, as I now know, millions of others. Millions of men, women and children suffer through the stultifying darkness, the bleakness, the unceasing pain of loneliness. They experience the numbing despair, the loss of self, the erosion of hope.
Too many suffer in silence. Too many are without support. Too many are lost in the blackness that surrounds them. Too many die by suicide.
For a long time, I too suffered in silence. The suffering was so exhausting, so all-encompassing, that I saw no way out of the melancholy. I sought end, end to suffering, end to pain, end to life.
When I awoke, I was faced with an unexpected reality. I could no longer remain silent. Silence, as I so closely discovered, would lead to death. The sad fact is, it does for far too many.
I began to speak. I spoke to doctors and counsellors and peers. I spoke to my son. I spoke in blogs and tweets and Facebook posts. I spoke in journals and in support groups.
I shared my story in all its ugliness and its newfound hope. I shared days of continuing struggle and days of success. I shared.
Throughout, I’ve been challenged. I was tagged in a tweet and, through that simple act, became a supporter of Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day. I saw a tweet from Healthy Minds Canada and, by responding, became a guest blogger, a relationship that has spanned some fifteen months.
Wherever possible, I shared my story. I wrote to Sigma Fighters, to The Recovery Letters, to Men Tell Health and many more. I deliberately showed that a man can be open about his illness, that this is not an act of weakness. I challenged my inner sense of shame.
I saw a tweet from CASP and participated in the 2016 World Suicide Prevention Day campaign. Sadly, my resources are limited and I don’t have the ability to participate to the same extent this year.
I’ve engaged in public speaking, volunteered to appear in videos and attended receptions showcasing mental health.
I’ve done all this because it helps to fuel my recovery. In this I’m selfish. There’s no desire for self-aggrandizement, self-promotion. Only a desire to heal and to promote, in a small way, the healing of others. I’ve received so much support, have been taught so many coping tools, that it’s only fair that I share with fellow strugglers.
At times, I’ve received a tweet or email or comment thanking me for sharing. Always, such acts fill me with humility, gratitude and surprise.
For all of this, I’ve been called advocate. I’ve resisted this. In my mind, an advocate is a public figure, a firebrand, someone outspoken. I’m none of these. I’m an ordinary guy, doing ordinary things to help himself, and others.
I may advocate, yes, but I’m not sure that I’m an advocate.