"Don’t give up on yourself, you are more resilient than you think."

About David Daigle:

I’m a first-time father to a smart, energetic and curious 4-year-old boy. I work as a communications advisor and freelance graphic/web designer. I enjoy spending time with my close network of friends, being in the great outdoors, fishing, bushcraft, toxophilite, woodturning, listening to 90s music, and reading science-fiction novels.

I recently launched a crowdfunding/GoFundMe Campaign: “A Mental Health Book by David J. Daigle” to self-publish my story about suffering from and surviving major depression and anxiety.

David’s Story

WHAT WAS THE MAJOR TURNING POINT IN YOUR RECOVERY FROM DEPRESSION

It all started when I was going through a stressful period in my life. I kept ruminating about my financial situation, issues with my relationship with my partner, stresses at work, my new realities as a father, and my health and longevity.

Worrying all the time, made me unable to fall asleep and soon severe insomnia set in for months – that was tough. I took some time off work, and spent it walking for miles across the city, desperately trying to tire myself out so I would be able to sleep. During this time, I was absent from home and away from my wife and then 10-month old son. I felt irritable, had stomach issues, and lost a lot of weight.

Every time I crossed a bridge during those long walks, I thought about ending my life. I was so scared and I had never thought of such horrible things before. I felt completely broken. I stopped seeing close friends and gave up all of the activities or hobbies I had always enjoyed.

The major turning point came, when a close friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go for a hike. I figured that the hike would most certainly help tire me out. While we walked down the long snowy trails, I told my buddy how I was feeling and that I had so many dark thoughts running through my mind all the time. I didn’t feel like there was any positive future in sight and confided in him my ongoing thoughts of running away or ending my life, even though that’s not what I wanted to do.

Thankfully, my friend, who himself had gone through a turbulent time in his life, contacted my sister and told her what shape I was in. She also had gone through a period of anxiety and depression herself but had fully recovered – she knew I needed help immediately.

My sister called our father who then drove hours to be with me the next morning. He had unfortunately also dealt with our mom’s depression and he knew that I was deep in it. When my father showed up that morning, I was so happy to see him and it made me feel relieved and supported. He truly listened and helped me realize so many things. Soon after, I voluntarily checked myself into the hospital, started taking medication, underwent therapy and gradually recovered.

I promised myself that if I was lucky enough to return to my old self, that I would write my personal story and try to help others recover from depression. Now that I have almost fully recovered, everyone around me knows that I’m on a mission to be an advocate for mental health support.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT REALLY HELPED?

Talking to someone

  • Today, a lot of young men have been taught to be tough, don’t cry and to hide their true feelings and emotions. So when men start feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, worthless and depressed, they can isolate themselves and become susceptible to negative thinking and feelings, which can lead to severe depression and sadly, even suicide.
  • When friends or family members ask you “How’s it going?” you might respond with “Everything is great, super, couldn’t be better…” and the conversation moves onto other topics. Don’t make fake talk! I know you might feel like you can handle it on your own, but honestly, talk to someone. People around you don’t always know what you might be going through and they certainly won’t know what is going on in your head or how you are feeling unless you let them know.  
  • Be honest and speak to someone you trust when you start feeling down, alone or if you start losing hope. Your friends will be there to help you even during the tough times in life. You don’t have to feel alone and never think you are a burden. They might need your help too. No one has a perfect life. Everyone experiences difficulties.

Getting professional help

  • Find a counsellor or psychologist that you feel comfortable talking to. At first, it might feel strange to talk to someone you don’t know, trust me I know. During the first few sessions, they will ask questions about your past and what is happening in your life.
  • When you are depressed, your mind wanders in circles around negative thought patterns all day. During counselling, we worked on my cognitive distortions, specifically “thinking traps” that many people experience when going through a depression.For me these included:
    • Labelling: calling yourself names, in my case when I made an error or a mistake I would call myself a “dumb ass”.
    • Fortune telling: trying to predict the future, I kept on about never getting out of my depression.
    • Catastrophizing: imagining worst-case scenarios.
    • Overgeneralizing: believing when something didn’t work the first time, and then assuming it will never work the next time.
    • All-or-nothing thinking (“black and white thinking”): believing there are only one or two outcomes, good or bad, and nothing in between.
    • Ignoring any positives: focusing purely on the negatives in any situation, in my case even if I was able to work, I kept focusing on past mistakes.
    • Personalizing: taking everything personally.
    • Always using ‘should’ and ‘must’: these deadlocks people into thinking that everything must be done in a certain way or follow strict rules that you yourself have put into place. This puts you in a constant pattern of living with regrets, which keeps you feeling down and depressed.   

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER GUYS FIGHTING DEPRESSION?

The key is to recognize the early signs and symptoms. Don’t try to be tough and think that you can handle it alone. If you are in a depressive state you will need professional help, period.

Make it a point to go see your family doctor, they are typically the “first responders” when it comes to their patients suffering from depression. Physicians might give you a depression screening questionnaire (like the Self Check here on HeadsUpGuys) to help gauge your mood, feelings.

Listen to the advice of your doctor, your situation is unique but they’ve helped other patients who were depressed and be open to a combination of different treatment options. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was really helpful for me to get out of my negative mindset, those “thinking traps”.

Finally, take the time to rest. Get yourself away from anything stressful, don’t skimp on healthy eating or activities, and maybe if you can, take up some mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness can help you appreciate and perceive living in the now and present moment, not dwelling on the past or worrying about future outcomes that you can’t predict or control.

Don’t give up on yourself! You are more resilient than you think – you will one day be done fighting to regain your life.

– David Daigle, Communications advisor and freelance graphic/web designer, and father, based out of Gatineau, Quebec twitter 

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