Double exposure image of a man

"Depression makes you feel so isolated, like this could only happen to you but it's just not true."

About Oliver:

Former surfer, turned stand up paddler. I am a supervisor in a successful animation studio. I’m originally from England, lived in Australia for 10 years and am currently living in Canada. I’m passionate about mental health, demystifying and spreading the word. I’m currently embarking on a series of physical challenges to fundraise for mental health.

Oliver’s Story

Oliver on a hikeWHAT WAS THE MAJOR TURNING POINT IN YOUR RECOVERY FROM DEPRESSION?

For me it came in the form of a mental breakdown at work, in Sept 2019. Depression and anxiety, I had been suppressing for several years, finally erupted and I lost all threads of mental armour. It hit hard and all forms of hope and grasp on reality fell away. I found myself standing at the top of a cliff in Sydney harbour considering suicide.

Slumping back from the cliff, I finally saw myself clearly for the first time and what a mess I was in. Suicide would only spread this pain out around my family and friends, and I could not do that. So I reached out for help from counsellors, family, friends, medication, and am hugely grateful and thankful for all of them.

It has been a long road, with several stumbles but I am pleased to say I am stabilizing and growing. I have grown massively from the experience and plan on continuing to do so.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT REALLY HELPED?

Routine of self care

  • I made a list of all the positive and negative things in my life. Then built a routine that focused solely on the positive and cut out all the negative. And doggedly stuck to it, day after day. Some days were incredibly hard but I just kept telling myself “you are not that person anymore”.
  • My daily routine now consists of a mindful walk in the morning, exercise at lunch and meditation and gratitude in the evening.

Mindfulness

  • A bit of a buzzword these days, but the principles of secular mindfulness really resonated with me. One of the pivotal points in my recovery was an eight week mindful based stress reduction course, based on the work by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I am continuing to study and find the subject fascinating.

Curiosity of knowledge

  • Knowledge is king, as they say. I figured if I was going to beat this, I needed to understand it. So I read and read, anything I could find on the science and psychology of depression, anxiety and the mind in general.

Meditation

  • This has been the biggest thing. I have meditated every day since standing on that cliff. Sometimes it is incredibly difficult, sometimes it is enlightening. But it has been a window in my day where the thoughts can come out. Let whatever raises to come up, then come back to the breath. It’s like a press up for your mind.

Support network

  • Establishing a network of family, friends and professionals is super important. They provide that outside perspective that is so important. Something that can get easily lost when the black dog shows up.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER GUYS FIGHTING DEPRESSION?

First step, is admitting you have a problem. Can’t fix something if you don’t admit it is broken. And it’s OK to be broken. Sometimes it happens to the best of us and there is no shame in reaching out for help, in fact it’s one of the bravest things you can do.

Realize that you are not alone. Depression makes you feel so isolated, like this could only happen to you but it’s just not true. It’s more common than you imagine, probably someone on your street or in your apartment block is experiencing the same thing right now. Reading stories of others’ journeys helped me.

Know that it will get better. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. For some it is further away than others but with some work, everyone gets there. And walking through that pain rather than turning away from it, gets you out into the light rather than remaining trapped in the darkness. And it’s much better in the light!

Take each day as it comes, and just try and make it a little bit better than yesterday.

– Oliver Dunn, supervisor at animation studio, mental health advocate and fundraiser, Vancouver, B.C., Canada