My name is Al. Trust me when I tell you that I never thought a guy like me would struggle with depression. To be honest, I used to question whether or not depression was even a real condition. However, I have learned firsthand on a couple of different occasions just how real depression is.
From afar I look like just about every “normal” guy you would see in a coffee shop. I’ve been married to my wonderful wife for 11 years, we have four amazing kids, including an energetic set of four-year-old twins. I work as an assistant principal in an urban school, and I enjoy photography, traveling, biking, and doing just about anything with my kids.
My first go-around with depression came about four years ago and I literally had no idea what precipitated it. In hindsight it might have been stress around kids and a promotion at work, but it’s difficult to say.
My second bout of depression came on hard about two years ago and it sent me down a road of difficulties I couldn’t even imagine. I started to notice that I was really struggling at work. I couldn’t get tasks done, I was having a hard time focusing, and I started to think that I was about the worst assistant principal out there. I thought for sure I was going to get fired, even though I had always been a really good administrator.
At home, life became more difficult. Taking care of the kids was very hard, my wife and I weren’t connecting, and my energy was practically gone. One time when I was driving to a familiar location, I had to pull over and use my GPS to get me there. To make matters worse, I couldn’t sleep and I was having intense bouts of uncontrollable sobbing. I lost a great deal of weight, and I began to have frequent and detailed thoughts of suicide. It got to the point where I was unable to work. I took 10 days off while beginning to do some work with a physician around antidepressants.
During those 10 days, I had no structure and no plan for what to do with my time. This turned out to be very detrimental. As my symptoms worsened, I began to worry, as did my wife and the rest of my family. Ultimately, I decided to enter a partial-hospitalization program, where I attended regularly scheduled group sessions to learn to better manage my stress. During this time, a friend mentioned that he knew a guy who ran an organization for men with depression known as Face It. After meeting with Mark Meier a couple of times over coffee, I decided to join one of the Face It groups.
I’ll never forget the first night I walked into the Face It office to attend group. I was scared the guys wouldn’t understand my struggles and I was certain I wouldn’t even be able to speak. However, once I had a chance to talk, I think I talked for over an hour. It was the first time I was able to sit down with other men who really understood what I was going through. It was incredibly helpful.
The experience I’ve had with Face It has been extremely helpful to me. A year ago, Mark and I began to reach out to local mental health providers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area to talk about the services Face It offers. I have been able to talk directly to mental health professionals and tell them just how critical peer support has been in my recovery.
I have learned a great deal from this second go-around with depression. I’m in a leadership position at my job and at times, I worry about the perception others have about me and what I have dealt with. But in general, the more I talk about what I’ve been through, the more I realize that others battle depression too. In fact, it’s pretty common.
What I want other men to know is that recovery IS possible. It’s not easy. It takes great effort and consistency and support, but I know firsthand how that effort can pay off. They’re not alone in this fight. They shouldn’t be afraid to seek out support and talk about their challenges.
Learn about the support offerings that have helped Al and many other men recover from depression.