14 Years Later

Worth Living Founder Keith Anderson

14 Years Later – not as apocalyptic as the movies 28 Days Later or 28 Weeks Later but  I can say it was my personal apocalypse.

I was diagnosed with severe depression 14 years ago today. I had a mental breakdown and lost my career as a lawyer. All in the span of five days. Not my best week.

I was devastated, emotional, lost. My mind in fragments, my life in tatters.

It’s been quite the run since that time, the darkest of my life.

My immediate family – my mother, sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew – were wonderful. Supportive and understanding. Accepting and engaged.

The Bar Society was helpful in providing me with a list of therapists. They even called to see how I was doing. Therapy was critical. I went once a week for two years.

I would spend the next few  months confined to bed, the next couple of years quite restricted to my house. Going to therapy became the highlight of my week! After each session, I would celebrate my slow path to recovery by going out to eat. I have a long list of special restaurants in Halifax now.

Setting aside the illness for a moment, I had difficulty in trying to logically reconcile what had happened. I went from practising  law at a high level on a Friday to being in bed the following Tuesday, with my mind not fully functioning. That was tough to grasp. It took awhile for me recognize that the breakdown was set in motion years before when my father died young.

I am grateful for the breakdown, it saved me. I had been thinking of suicide and had it all planned. The breakdown put me in a safe place, with my family, not working 60 hours each week.

There were many bumps over these years. Friends abandoned me. Family did the same. My girlfriend had been cut off by me earlier due to my wanting to hide from the world as depression took control.

I lost most things – my career, sold my house on the lake, sold my vehicles, friends gone. But to focus on what I didn’t have wasn’t fair to what I did have. I had my immediate family.  I had a great therapist. I was on the path to good health. I was starting to sleep better. I was learning to laugh again. Most important though was that I was still alive!

I was making new friends who understood my depression and accepted me. I began to volunteer with some mental health groups as I slowly ventured back into the world.

I remember the first time I was asked to talk about my journey. It was at the Canadian Mental Health Association National Conference in 2008.It was so exciting to attend a conference where everyone was focussed on mental health issues. I had a true sense of belonging.

My presentation –I was given 20 minutes to speak to an audience of about 15 people.I hadn’t spoken in public in six years. I was used to speaking at meetings or in the courtroom. No problem at all. I was, actually nervous. I had pages of notes made. I read them over and over, making changes. I found it so different to speak about myself, not for a client. This was my life exposed. I got emotional at some point.  It has become a regular occurrence when I present. The topic that sets me off is not always the same. It could be talking about my father, my lost super star girlfriend. Some happy topics bring out emotions forth.

I stand now healthy, happy, and hopeful for more in life. I will always regret the loss of certain aspects of my life due to my mental illness. I missed out on many special events through the dark years. I can though say that I have had some worth living moments in recent years. To feel those moments is overwhelming in the best of ways. There will be more to come!

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