By Mike Jacquart
You may have heard the saying, “You can’t keep doing things the same way but expect different results.” And yet, how many of us remain on the same treadmill and lament how unhappy and depressed we really are.
For many years, I was in denial about the seriousness of my mental health issues. I was convinced that employment, not psychological difficulties, was the cause of my problems. As I wrote in my book, Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness (with Marina London LCSW) “I was very anxious and worried – but I thought that somehow, someway I was only a job away from happiness.” In the meantime, like many men, I figured I would just “tough it out” until I found that elusive position.
After many years of serious work issues, which included terminations and resignations, the light switch finally went on that whether I was working or not, my core issues (depression and anxiety) never completely went away. I came to realize that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.
This epiphany, divinely inspired I might add, occurred twenty years ago, but it was so life changing I remember it like yesterday.
My wife and I agreed it was time for me to talk to a counselor about my struggles with depression, anxiety, and related feelings. I learned that the school district my wife worked for had an employee assistance program (EAP). Once I admitted I needed help, I had no difficulty making the initial call to set up the first appointment. Years later, I realized that, sadly, a lot of people never do this, seeing counseling as a sign that they are deficient in some way, because they are unable to figure out their problems on their own.
With my frequent job woes, it was obvious I was not getting to the root of these issues myself. What would it hurt to get an impartial opinion and determine what was behind my troubles?
After several sessions, I completed a detailed questionnaire, which led my counselor to diagnose me with “mild depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.”
The EAP counselor’s next step was to refer me to my primary physician for a medication evaluation. After his examination, he prescribed buproprion, the generic name for Wellbutrin. I was excited to learn there was something that would help me get better.
As I noted, the impact of seeing an EAP counselor proved lifechanging. I do not remember how long it took for the medication to kick in, or the dosage I was prescribed, but eventually my energy level and enthusiasm for life shot through the roof! It was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes.
“So, this is how I’m SUPPOSED to feel!” I thought. “No wonder other people are happier and enjoy life more!” All of the smiles and laughter that puzzled me in the past suddenly made sense. It is easy to assume that being aloof, and not smiling or laughing very much, is simply who you are as a person. That is what I often thought, and it’s an unfortunate mindset that probably keeps many people from seeking medical or social services.
These feelings of euphoria eventually subsided, but I retained a greater “love of life” than I had known before. I began to realize just how much my diagnosis had plagued me in the past, not only on jobs, but also in my personal life.
Peace of mind replaced my negative feelings, anxiety, and poor self-esteem. Medication played a significant role in correcting my brain chemistry. But other factors, a positive boss and work environment in my next job, where I worked for fourteen years, supportive friends and coworkers, my strong faith, and a sense of purpose in both my job and through volunteering, were also important in my journey to recovery.
This is not to say that everything after my diagnosis and medication was rosy. I relied almost exclusively on my meds to minimize symptoms. If I had it to do over, I would have sought out another counselor much earlier than I did. While depressive incidents were now rare, I had no idea why they
While I felt better mentally than I did earlier in my life, truth be told, I remained a typical male in some respects, stuck on “gutting out” any given mental health problem on my own. Finally, after a major depressive incident in 2017, and tired of trying to explain mental health issues to people who don’t understand them, I knew I needed assistance from other people with mental health challenges. A friend suggested I attend a Fresh Hope support meeting, and I gladly accepted.
The main idea is that while we all need assistance from doctors and other professionals on the journey to mental wellness, the individual with the diagnosis needs to assume responsibility as the lead person in this process. One of the most important concepts I have learned in my Fresh Hope group was how to start taking control of my thought life.
Counseling played a major role in my initial journey into mental wellness. I only wish I had sought one out sooner. Years later, after struggling with depression again, a Fresh Hope support group led me back into wellness. If my story helps even one person who has been stuck in darkness, thinking there is no hope, it will have been worth sharing it.
Mike Jacquart has a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Mike served as editor of the Journal of Employee Assistance for twelve years. For more information on Climbing out of Darkness: A Personal Journey into Mental Wellness (with Marina London LCSW) or a personalized copy of this book, contact Mike at email@example.com.