"You are NOT your depression. It does not define you."

About Paul:

A photo of Paul Simard giving a TED Talk

I am the father of three girls. I work with individuals and organizations to go beyond the edges and into “dangerous conversations”, where meaningful transformation becomes possible, all with a view to then turning that transformation outwards in service to the communities in which we live. Through this, we not only reclaim our sense of self, but our sense of community, both of which are necessary to fully experience what it means to be human.

I am a trained men’s guide and group facilitator, a TED speaker (The Mythical Man), writer and the founder of huMENity.

WHAT WAS THE MAJOR TURNING POINT IN YOUR RECOVERY FROM DEPRESSION?

The most important discovery for me was less about “recovering” from depression, which in my experience is a bit of a “false god”, but rather into reframing my relationship with depression. The depression I was experiencing was a signal about situations or decisions or other pieces that were going on outside of me, but that I was internalizing. When I became curious about those experiences, when I allowed the depression to “talk to me”, I was able to lift myself out of the feeling much more quickly.

I still experience depression, but through what I have learned, I now have a relationship with the depression that allows me to imagine a way out and beyond it.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT REALLY HELPED?

Again, the biggest shift was in my relationship to the feeling of depression. I was able to do that through the support of a men’s guide, who helped me to also explore a wide range of tools that could help me to support myself in being ready to navigate those moments when the feelings of depression would return. Some other things include:

  • Mindfulness/meditation: I have developed my own daily practice, where my day begins with meditation on a shakti mat, which is a mat that offers a kind of acupuncture experience that allows for a deeper release of stress from the body.
  • Time in nature: ensuring that no matter the weather, I dedicate at least one hour a day to being outside, going on walks, being in parks or spending time in the nearby forests.
  • Regular walks and exercise: movement is medicine, and through a combination of myofascial release, calisthenics, foot and hand strength exercises and the walks mentioned above, I hope to keep my emotional body in balance through a strong yet gentle routine for the physical body.

Additionally, maintaining my commitment to seeing a therapist who is supportive and my men’s guide, as well as always keeping a community close at hand, have all supported me.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER GUYS FIGHTING DEPRESSION?

I think it is important to first start with extending yourself some grace, to being clear that you are NOT your depression. It does not define you.

It is also important, in my experience, to navigate the moments when your depression is present with the support of a coach or guide, or a therapist if you can find one that aligns with you.

Finally, focus on small things that you can count as “wins” in your day to build off of – celebrate the cup of coffee you made for yourself, or the 2 minutes of meditation you did, or the 5 conscious breaths you took.

– Paul Simard, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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