This brilliant young man, suffered from depression for 12 years. Finally he got so tired of keeping the depression a secret that he decided to tell everyone he knew in one fell swoop, by making a video (below) and posting it on Facebook! The video went viral! He has been asked to speak on talk shows and radio shows in Ireland. He is an eloquent spokesman for people who suffer from depression, or any mental illness. I was fortunate enough to speak with him and recorded this interview.
Samina: Hi Doug, so wonderful to be speaking with you! Just wanted to get your okay. I’m going to post your interview, this interview on my blog bipolar1blog and on the HuffPost blog I am now blogging on. Is that fine?
Doug: Yes. Brilliant!
1) Samina: Great! After suffering from depression for 10 years, what made you make your video and put it on FB?
Doug: I suppose for me, it was a weight off my shoulders. I was living two different lives, and no one knew what I was going through. That alone was hard, having a secret for so long, without your best friends or your extended family to know, that’s a hard thing to do, even my best friend. I just wanted to let everybody know, it scared the hell out of me! I thought it would be easier if I put it on Facebook. I work in social media and marketing, so I thought I’d make a video and put it online. For me, telling everyone was harder than making a video, and putting it on line. It was easy to make the video, tell my story, press post, close the laptop and walk away. So then I told everyone, my friends knew, colleagues I’d met online, everybody, people I’ve met throughout the years, various clubs and teams, everybody! It was an easy way for me to tell everybody. That’s why I did it, I needed to get the weight off my shoulders, I needed to tell everybody, not just a handful of people! It was easier, I felt better that everybody knew, not just my close friends!
Samina: Right, you told the whole world, basically, literally the whole world! Everyone knows now!
Doug: Yeah. Yeah, that’s scary, but it’s also amazing, that message reached everyone! That the message traveled from Ireland to America to Canada, to Australia, wherever, basically everywhere.
Samina: Yes, amazing, everywhere!
Doug: Yes, that people have taken comfort in it, that was a great thing, that it may have helped others. It took one video for four minutes to help somebody else, then that’s amazing as well.
2) Samina: Were you feeling better at the time when you made the video?
Doug: Ummm, no, I’m still on antidepressants everyday. And today I went to see my psychologist. And I’m still with him, I’m seeing him again in two weeks, and two weeks after that. This is a journey for me. I wasn’t feeling better but I was feeling more comfortable and somewhat confident in myself, that I knew that this was the right thing to do for me and it was my next step. It may not be the right thing for other people, but I feel it can’t make it any worse to talk about it, so I hope that’s the case. So I’m not better, the video has made me, maybe, better, and it’s my next step, and I’ve taken that step. Now, I am discovering what my trigger points are that bring me down and being more confident within myself and kind of accepting myself for who I am. I’m so happy I did this because I needed to move forward and help myself.
3) Samina: It’s sometimes the case that young men have a hard time accepting that they are sick because it means admitting weakness. I had a little brother who couldn’t accept that he had bipolar disorder and eventually he got so depressed that he committed suicide. Huge, giant loss in our lives, he was 26 years old. Young men have a difficult time admitting they are sick, or ill, or imperfect. It is a time when you are supposed to be young and strong. Evolution has sort of imprinted that on your brain, society accepts it of you, and now, because of your video, it’s going to make it easier for other young men to come out and talk about their mental health issues and seek help. You’ve become a role model. How does that make you feel?
Doug: Yeah if that happens, that’s amazing! That’s such a hard won feeling. But it’s not just young men, and you’re right what you say about young men and evolution, we are meant to be young and strong, we are meant to show a strong exterior. It’s not ok to not be ok. I just think women are so much braver than men in this regard, to open up like they do. Their friendships are so much deeper. They get more from their friendships than men, men just don’t talk to other men. I went 12 years without talking. I can’t be the one preaching but… But if it helps men, that’s brilliant!
And regarding your brother, it’s so sad to hear, 26 years old. In Ireland they say and you said it yourself, I don’t like the expression “commit suicide,” you commit a crime, and what your brother was going through, you just don’t know, feeling so much pain, and fear. And it’s just something that, some people refer to it as a selfish act, it’s not! You’re not thinking about anybody else, you can’t think about anybody else! You’re thinking the world will be better without you. It’s just such a horrible place to be! And I just think, as hard as it is, we need to talk about it, because if we talk about it, we’ll find out, it’ll help. It may not help everyone, but it’ll help. I just don’t think it can make it worse.
Samina: Talking definitely helps! All my friends have always known that I have bipolar 1 disorder and like you said, we’ve always talked about it.
Doug: That’s an amazing thing. Such a brave thing!
Samina: Now I have a blog so everyone knows (laughing.)
Doug: My friend, Éanna Walsh, has a blog about bipolar, I shared it on Facebook. He started blogging without two or three years after being diagnosed, I told him he is so brave!
Samina: Oh good, I’ll have to take a look.
Doug: Yes, my friend’s a great hulking Irish guy, he’s in phenomenal shape, he’s so intelligent, just so brave. It’s so amazing that so many more people around the world, like yourself, are writing about your feelings and putting it out there.
Samina: Yes, you know I never wanted to be the spokesperson for this illness, but that’s just what happened…
Doug: Yes, that’s amazing! I’m not the poster boy or spokesperson for this illness, but if it helps… I just hope this helps.
Samina: I think you are now, you sort of unintentionally made yourself the spokesperson for young men, and it’s a good thing, a very good thing!
4) Samina: You said you’d been suffering from depression for 10 years. Can you tell me how it began? And if you don’t want to answer this one, if it’ll take you to a bad spot, you don’t have to answer it.
Doug: No, I’ve left myself open for the last two weeks. I don’t mind answering any questions, I would have told you if I did. When I was 15, I developed an eating disorder and I lost about 6 stone (84 lbs!!!) in 5-6 months. Then my parents became aware of it, and I went to the doctors and nutritionists, then I went to a psychiatrist, from that point on I started seeing a psychiatrist weekly and found out that this was a little deeper than just an eating disorder. One thing about having body dysmorphia was I was going through something I couldn’t explain. I was in a dark place, I didn’t like myself. I had an amazing family, I had everything I ever needed. I felt really privileged. Plus for me, depression isn’t when things aren’t going fine, it’s when everything is well but I just couldn’t see that. A lot of people said what depression, you’re great at school, or you’ve got great friends and family, and I play sports, and I’m sociable and I’m popular, whatever. But, that doesn’t come into play for a lot of people, it certainly didn’t come into play for me. Just having a hard time, kind of pushing myself into a corner, alone and it’s dark and you just don’t want to get out of bed or meet your friends, it’s just a battle. And the last ten years it just got worse, wondering when you’re in that corner, there’s only one way out. That way will really scares you. But it’s a solution. And I just had to shake myself off, pull myself out of that dark, dark place, and I had a moment that I have to ring my doctor, that I’m not ok anymore.
Samina: Good for you! You realized it! And also when you have the flu and you feel bad, people don’t say: Oh why do you feel bad, you have a beautiful home, you have a beautiful wife/husband/children, you have a wonderful job. Just look at how many wonderful things you have, why do you feel bad? Well it’s because you have the flu! And the same thing goes for when your have depression, you feel bad because you have an illness called depression, all those wonderful things don’t take away the effects of the illness!
5) Samina: It must have been so difficult. How did you cope with it as a teenager? As an adult? Did you have a support system? Did you confide in anyone at all? Were you seeing a doctor? You know you might have even lost weight because you were in a depression, people lose weigh because they don’t have an appetite.
Doug: No, I had an appetite, I just didn’t keep my food down (laughing.) Yes I had the support of my mom, and my dad and my sister. They knew I was feeling depressed, they took me to the doctor. So I had great support. That was amazing to have such great support.
Samina: That’s great, some people don’t have that.
6) Samina: It is being discovered that the immune system may be intimately involved in the development and the continuance of mental illness. Are there any autoimmune illnesses in you or your family?
Doug: Yes. I’ve been diagnosed in 2012 with something called Crohn’s disease.
Samina: Wow! The intestines and your brain are so connected!
Doug: I don’t know much about it, but my father had asthma when he was a child.
7) Samina: What would you say to a young man who is suffering from depression now, but who is afraid to talk about it?
Doug: I’d tell him firstly not to be ashamed, don’t have any kind of shame. It’s ok not to feel ok (!) And if you’re not talking to someone, I’d highly recommend either some family or a friend, or someone they work with or maybe even someone they don’t know that well and see occasionally. Just to talk about it and seeking professional help will help. In America or anywhere where they have health organizations, I just think it is so important for young males and females to talk about it.
8) Samina: How does it feel to be open about your illness, with all your friends and family? How have most people reacted?
Doug: It feels amazing! I don’t regret it for one second! It’s such a weight off my shoulders. Everybody’s reacted so positively! The response has been overwhelming at times, but so heartwarming that I don’t have to hide from my friends and family and can talk to my friends and especially mom and dad. My mom and dad were there for all the 12 years, but now they can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel is on! Now that everybody knows, we’re not alone anymore. We can help each other and we know what each person is going through. Feel the support and the love.
9) Samina: You have automatically become a mental health advocate, do you realize that?
Doug: (Laughs) No not really! But it’s ok if people see me as that.
Samina: So, where do you go from here? A book? A blog? A movie?
Doug: (Laughing) Yeah, a movie would be great! From here, it’s about me, about getting through this, and getting stronger every single day, and in the meantime. on my journey, being contacted by people doing TV, or speeches, or radio, or speaking on the News. Well that’s amazing because if I can help myself while helping other, well, that’s what I want to do.
10) Samina: Physical exercise, good nutrition, meditation, therapy, good friends, and of course medication all help with depression and mental illness generally. Phew! It’s a full time job! How many of these are you in favor of doing?
Doug: Everyday I take medication, I do a lot of exercise, it helps me, it might help others or it might not, but it definitely helps me! Going for that run, or going to the gym, lifting weights, relieves pressure, or if you’re down or anxious or mad about something, going to the gym and letting off some steam really helps. And medication, for me it helps, but it’s not for everybody, it’s sort of trial and error, some of them affected me badly, some didn’t help me and some did help me. And some people don’t agree with medication at all, But for me it’s definitely helped.
Samina: Yes, medication is good, of course, and yes it may take some trial and error, but the right medication helps a lot!
Doug: And nutrition, if you eat well, you feel well and that’s going to help.
Samina: And do you meditate at all?
Doug: I use an App called Mindfulness, I think it’s called Mindfulness, that’s the name that came to mind, if it’s not, I’ll get back to you. It’s a mediation App, it takes 5 minutes a day, 10 minutes a day, I use it a couple of times a week, and it’s good.
Samina: I use an App called Headspace.
Doug: Oh Headspace, Headspace, Headspace, Headspace, that’s it!!! I don’t know where I got Mindfulness from!
(We laughed and laughed and laughed.)
Samina: And those are all my questions. Would you like to add anything.
Doug: No, I think that covered it all.
Samina: Thank you so much. It was so lovely to talk to you. I’ll post this on my blog, send it to the Huffington Post, and post it on your Facebook page.
Doug: Cheers, brilliant!
Doug’s Facebook Video.