After my depression diagnosis and then my breakdown, I was faced with a completely new lifestyle.

Now my use of the word “lifestyle” may not be what one normally describes as such, but for  me it is the proper word.

My life changed. I spent months in bed, then several years in the house.  My few steps outside were for weekly therapy, the occasional drive after dark, and some trips to the local book store. That was my life for many years.

My lifestyle had changed.  My daily routine no longer included practicing law, with all the resources and opportunities it provided.

The pay was gone.  The medical plan was gone. The interaction with people was gone.  Without being able to work, the sense of belonging and being part of a firm was gone.

As I note, I was in a bedroom.  Now the breakdown certainly brought on my being so self isolated. But a huge part of my thinking was trying to understand what had happened. To simply get my head around the idea of practicing law on a Friday to being in bed that Tuesday was extremely difficult. I felt like I was no longer in charge of my life. Everything had changed, and I had no say in that happening, it seemed.

But In time, I realized that I simply had an illness. Depression had a devastating impact on my life, both personal and professional. Those years of darkness could be explained, I could understand. That re-framing of mind was crucial.

I felt I was in a safe place , I had an illness, I wanted to get healthy.

Troubled Character

As seen on by Keith Anderson

Once depression had taken a firm grip around my life, I spent a couple of years house bound with the exception of my trek out for weekly therapy. In time, I gained back some self-confidence and became interested in venturing out into the world. Small steps though.

My psychologist would often set certain goals for me to achieve each week. Sometimes it was something simple, such as: try to watch a movie. Another  suggestion – to meditate. I attended an early Saturday morning class to learn. My meds made me sleepy, so through the class, I found myself not meditating but sleeping. I did improve in time!

In my quest for recovery, I would learn to set my own goals.

One place that was always a source of comfort and enjoyment was the bookstore.

Not being able to drive very often, I made a deal with my niece. If she would drive us to the bookstore, I would buy the books we each wanted.

Though an avid reader, fiction had never been my choice in the past. I read autobiographies and books on the arts and sciences. But at this unchartered time in my life, perhaps fiction could provide some new stories – a place to escape. It took a few choices, some good, some not, to find my niche.

One day in November of 2005, I picked up Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin. I had heard of neither the book nor the author.  It was just a random choice of placement on the bookshelf and kismet.

It’s a short book, just 226 pages. But at that time, it was daunting. My ability to focus for any length of time was weak.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I read Knots and Crosses cover to cover. I found it compelling, intense, but with something of an additional interest. It took awhile to recognize what this appeal was.

I was beginning to learn that authors wrote a series of books based around the same characters and settings. I know the rest of the world knew this from age 16!

I soon started another book by Mr. Rankin. To learn more about the series, I checked his website. There were 10 more books at that time in this series. It was almost the New Year, so I set this as a goal for the year – to read the complete series.

After reading a few of the books, I was beginning to appreciate and even understand the main character, John Rebus, a detective with the Lothian and Borders Police in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Rebus had a mental breakdown following his military service in Northern Ireland and while undergoing Special Forces training. He then joins the Police Department. His personal relationships are challenging and not long lasting. He is solitary; focused on his work; loves his books and music; and he hides from the world by listening to album after album. So…yes, I “get” Rebus. Too well!

Now, don’t get me wrong, Rebus gave me no insight into my own difficult and troubled life back then. It is fiction after all. But the pages brought to light a certain note of irony. The random series that I chose to read had a main character that I related to rather well. Rebus’ modus operandi hit close to home.

I did accomplish my goal. By November of that year, I had read all the Rankin books that had been published at that time. I learned to focus better while reading. But the most important part – I truly enjoyed reading them!  Enjoyment was a huge step for me at the time.

Now, I can’t imagine not having a book or two with me. I have found other books with troubled characters. We are everywhere, some fictional, but more often, real!

Music, Romance, and Me

As seen on by Keith Anderson

Whether it’s the angst of Eric Clapton’s Layla, the bluntness of ZZ Top’s Legs,  or the  joy of The Beatles’ Love Me Do.… and music have always gone together.

When I would meet a woman of interest, one of my ”getting to know her” questions was “What kind of music do you like?” For many years, it was simply a question, one of many. Though some responses were certainly indicative of how short the relationship would be!

Given the role music played in the dark days of my depression and then in my recovery, that question has more relevance now. Lyrics have become very important. Certain songs are not just enjoyable, but provide some significance for me.

I met someone back in November –  let’s call her M.  The afternoon after we met, we got together at a Halifax coffee shop. We found ourselves discussing many topics, from my journey through depression to her studies at Dalhousie University. We talked for hours.

Though healthy, I hadn’t spoken with a woman one on one with that sparkle for many years, ok, 12 years! But onward I went, talking, laughing, getting to know her.

Though there are certainly differences, in particular, our ages, there is  more in common.

I quickly discovered, that one of her favourite artists is Van Morrison, Van ranks high on my list too. We know Van is an acquired taste and he is not a Top 10 hit maker nowadays. So for her to have been exposed to Van and then to like him spoke a lot about her.

So I ventured back into the relationship world with music as one of my reference points.

A few months later, I noticed a post she made on facebook, listing albums that had had an impact on her.  There was of course  Van’s Astral Weeks.  Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors was also listed. That album was huge when I was a teen ager just starting to listen to music. I remember playing it the summer I was 16. I  had just gotten my driver’s license and so cruising with Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow cranked up was too cool. Great memories!

I was both pleased and impressed, ok I was in awe, with  M’s  taste in music. It gave us more in common. It helped me appreciate and understand her better. It also made me feel comfortable in talking with her. We shared something that was important.

I presented at a local university last February. I invited M to join me and she readily accepted. As we drove the hour to the school, I suggested she find some music for us to enjoy. She chose Alt Nation, not a channel I would think to check out. The music was certainly different, but actually rather good. Something new for me to experience. Well done, M!

I was driving from Sydney, my hometown, to Halifax, about a 5 hour drive. M and I  texted most of the trip (  yes, I pulled over each time to read and respond ! ). About half way there, I thought it was time to hear some music. I turned on Classic Vinyl, and Bob Segar’s You’ll Accompany Me was playing.

“ I’ll take my chances babe I’II risk it all
I’ll win your love or I’II take the fall
I’ve made my mind up girl it’s meant to be
Someday lady you’ll accomp’ny me
Someday lady you’ll accomp’ny me

Out where the rivers meet the sounding sea

I feel it in my soul, it’s meant to be

Oh someday lady you’ll accomp’ny me”

So appropriate and timely!  Music can define a moment!




As seen on Blog on July 9, 2010

By the fall of 2007, three years after my breakdown, I was confident that I was well on my way to being healthy. So, I turned my thoughts to seeking that public voice to discus my mental illness, its impact on my life, and my recovery. I knew I wasn’t  yet capable of speaking about it, but I thought I could perhaps write something.

I emailed the National Post newspaper, which is distributed throughout Canada, with the suggestion of a first person account of what happened to me. The following day, I received a response, and was told that my story was a perfect fit of an new upcoming series, “ All About Bouncing Back”.  My story appeared in the paper on February 20, 2008, titled “How I Returned to a Life Worth Living”. My first sense of accomplishment in many years.

Then I wondered how I could use this article to continue with my advocacy. Up until this time, I had used the internet, as I recovered, to read news and sports. I went looking for websites on depression. I had read somewhere about the Canadian Mental Health Association. So, I thought I would see if CMHA had a website.

The Canadian Mental Health Association has a full and comprehensive website ( ). I first found a list of mental illnesses and clicked on “depression.” Under “signs of depression” , I read what were the signs of my life the last dozen years.  Just reading these symptoms gave me a sense of comfort. I knew again that I was not alone with my depression, it was real illness with real symptoms that other people had as well.

I was also impressed with the section on “Public Policy” which listed various reports and submissions that CMHA had presented to government bodies and agencies. This was group that was taking visible and strong positions in the area of mental health.

But the most impressive part of the site was the list of locations. There was a national office, but also provincial offices, and even local offices. I live in Nova Scotia which is a small province in Canada, small in terms of geography and population. But CMHA has a Nova Scotia Division and also eight  local offices in different parts of the province. I really felt that CMHA with such an extensive network had a handle on helping people.





So I emailed my National Post article to CMHA, Nova Scotia, with no expectations at all.  Within an hour, I received a response from Carol Tooton, the Executive Director, asking if I wanted another audience. I replied positively, but not knowing to what I had agreed. In her second email, Ms. Tooton asked if I wanted to speak at the CMHA National Conference in a few months time. The Conference was being held in Nova Scotia to honor CMHA, NS, and its 100th anniversary.  So, I went and spoke for the first time in public in five years.  It went well for me, and the audience was receptive. I then knew I was still capable of speaking in a public venue,  perhaps no longer on behalf of clients, but with my own story.

CMHA ‘s website initially provided me with information and thus a sense of acceptance. It then provided me with a means to advocate more on mental health issues.  I realize that it is a Canadian based website, but we all know that mental illness knows no boundaries and the internet knows no boundaries. I have learned about depression from this site and from sites based in other countries.

I suggest finding a site that provides the information and thus the guidance that you think you need. From that site, many benefits can arise, and your life can even be changed.


Let’s Say It Out Loud

By Keith Anderson on

I graduated from Dalhousie Law School at the age of 22, I was called to the Nova Scotia Bar the following summer. I understood “academics” well, but “life” not so much. I had a lot to learn.

One source for that learning was the practice of law.

Lawyers work in an adversarial system. We are obligated to represent a client to the best of our abilities. We “knock heads” with other lawyers to do so. We look for advantages over the other lawyer, even try to find a weakness to exploit. There may also be a certain level of gamesmanship involved at times. It is a slippery slope to then treat other lawyers and clients poorly. Words such as empathy, kindness, and even respect don’t exist in this world.

A short story. I was in the middle of an 8 day trial. Numerous witnesses, lots of documents. It was my turn to cross examine one particular witness. I knew that a certain set of questions would make this witness emotional. But I had to ask. About a half hour into my questions, the witness broke down and cried to the point where the trial was adjourned for the day.  Simply doing my job I thought.

So perhaps not the best place to learn healthy life lessons.

But circumstances do change.

I had a horrible empty life for many years, though I never considered I had depression.

The notion of a lawyer seeking help or speaking about personal difficulties – not going to happen. Then add  that I am a man – silence for sure.

I help people, I don’t look for help. I am a “fixer”, I don’t need “fixing”.  So I thought, until my life came undone.

I was diagnosed with depression on Friday, March 7, 2003. By the following Tuesday, my career was gone and I had a mental breakdown. Not my best week.

My family – my mother, sister – and I decided that we would address my depression as one would with any illness. We spoke about it openly within our family, even to my then teen age niece and nephew. We acknowledged it beyond our family too.

As I slowly began to understand depression and the impact it had had on me, I thought that if I could get healthy, perhaps I could have another chance to enjoy life.  Part of my recovery was to seek a voice. I had this deep need to explain to people what had happened to me, how mental illness played such a powerful role in my life.

I would soon discover that few men were speaking to anyone about their mental illnesses.

Most of the people I have met since I surfaced after years of darkness are involved in mental health work.  Thus most knew that I had depression or learned shortly after we met.

But there was one person who I met and I wondered what to tell. I took a breath and simply told all about my depression. The response was almost a non response, there was no concern. No stigma at all.

I have found that when I discuss my depression in public, others approach me with their own journeys. They know I will understand and not judge them.

Writing or speaking in public are akin to therapy for me. I have found that voice.

I have evolved. The world will evolve.

What’s Wrong With Me?

By Keith Anderson as seen on

I need your help.

Circumstances of late have caused and allowed me to reflect on my life.

Of course, the dark days of depression will always be a constant.

Last year, I was asked to present on my journey at a local “Let’s Walk and Talk” event in memorial of some men who died by suicide.

As I spoke I wanted to mention the length of time darkness ruled my life. Doing the math in my head, the number struck and I said it out loud – 16 years. I was even a bit overwhelmed by that number. The audience gave a collective “oh my” reaction.

After years of support and understanding from my immediate family; two years of weekly therapy; and help from two friends, I was able to get on a path to good health.  I wanted to get well too. We all worked hard with that common goal. It took years.

I now consider myself healthy and happy. But…..

I became quite active volunteering with several mental health groups. I helped in the kitchen preparing meals with one group. I was invited to serve on the Boards of Directors of two others.

I have presented on my journey at universities, corporate, and other local events. I have been part of the mental health training for the local police service the last 5 years.

I was even offered and accepted a position with the Canadian Mental Health Association where I stayed for two years.  Hey, I got paid!

I hadn’t worked since my breakdown, eight years prior. I wondered if I could function in an office environment, and whether I could make good decisions and exercise solid judgment. It took a few months, but I learned I could function again!

A couple of years ago, I met a wonderful woman, who was quite active, she is a runner and biker. So I thought it then important to get more physically fit, to match my mental fitness (and to try to keep up with her!). I joined the local YMCA. I am no athlete but I did enjoy going. The physical activity added to my good mental health too. I felt a sense of comfort in that I was taking steps to get healthier, especially as I get older.

This past winter, I was fortunate to have spent time with another woman – yes, I am ‘re-learning’ how to talk with women. That’s a topic for another blog perhaps! I have referred to her as “ the special one” in a few prior blogs. She is such an incredible woman. I would often look at her and wonder why is she with me? I was able to gain such additional self-confidence and self worth. But she is gone now. We knew it would end as she was in Canada for set period of time. She has since returned to London. But we grabbed onto those special moments together.

So when I set out this blog in my mind over the last week, I realized how active and involved I have been. It took great effort and patience though to get out of my room. I spent years isolated.

I have met lots of people, locally, provincially, and beyond. Such interesting people.

When I meet them at a conference or meeting, we have a great conversation.

Some friends are strictly online. That has been good, but troubling at times in converting that to time together in the real world. The online friends are important to me – I do not mean to diminish that.

But…..I have not made any real friends. I have no one call me…or text me. I do not go out for lunch or dinner. I have no one to discuss regular topics.

Please note though I have a wonderful life, I am happy, healthy, I have resources and means to live and travel

I read a lot. I watch Netflix. I just finished watching Line of Duty, rather good, intense, though it brought back some rough memories. I stay physically active. I laugh and enjoy my solo life.

But real friendship has alluded me.

I am in no way complaining here but merely looking for some ideas from all of you!

Perhaps I am the problem. I seem to be the common element.

So what do I do?  What suggestions do you have for me?

I am ok by myself….mostly.