The Point of Light: A Daughter’s Perspective
Clare Foley knew that her father, Dan, had a good handle on his depression when he was able to embarrass her at her track meets again.
“He’s a people person, but when his depression was at its worst he became very isolated,” says Clare, who was part of the College of St. Benedict track team. “I was in college when he really got more on top of his depression for the first time. We’d be at my meets and he’d go out of his way to talk to the judges. You’re not supposed to do that, but Dad would talk to them for 15 minutes.
“It was really embarrassing, but looking at it now, it was just a sign that he wanted to talk and be more open to more people.”
Dan taught 5th graders in Northfield, Minn., for 36 years. The entire time, he was battling an invisible foe – clinical depression. Though he knew something wasn’t right, it took him years to finally see a doctor. “Like all good men, I waited until it was terrible before I got help,” Dan says.
Clare says that, on the surface, most people wouldn’t have thought anything was wrong with Dan. But those who knew him best – his wife and their four children – saw a different side of him at home.
“I have a lot of memories of him laying on the couch — like, talking to him on the couch and him just laying there,” Clare says.
Sapped of energy, Dan let depression overtake his internal monologue, creating an alternate reality that he couldn’t see past at the time.
“When I was at my worst,” Dan says, “I just assumed that nobody would want to talk to me – ‘I’m a loser, I’ve screwed up so many times in my life, and people aren’t going to like me.’
“Now, if you told me you were thinking like that, I’d say, ‘No, that’s ridiculous!’ But at the time, it made perfect sense to me.”
Being a public figure in a small town made it difficult for Dan to seek help, even once he admitted to himself that he needed it.
“The counselor I saw for a long time was in sort of a complex of offices, and every time I walked in there I would think, ‘I wonder who’s seeing me? I wonder what they’re thinking about me?’ But I just had to go. I knew that I was a hurting unit and needed to talk to a professional. At some point, I realized that being this depressed was not normal, even despite how I viewed myself as this person unworthy of help.”
After years of medication and talk therapy that helped him manage his symptoms, Dan started going to Face It in 2012. He thinks the group was the final piece to the puzzle of his recovery.
“It wasn’t until I looked at issues like shame and inadequacy, relationships, energy, really being involved in life, that I really started to get better,” Dan says. “Face It did that for me.”
The change was quickly evident.
“I definitely think that since going to Face It he’s got a new sense of purpose,” Clare says. “He’s telling his story and helping other people understand that there is hope, that Face It can be a point of light for them because it was a point of light for him. By sharing his story, he can help others while he’s helping himself.”
And by tackling his mental health challenges head-on, Dan is modeling behavior that has had a positive effect on his entire family.
“I feel like it’s easier for any of us to admit when we’re struggling and talk about it more openly,” Clare says. “We have a lot more conversations and now we’re not as concerned about what other family members might think.”