Jeremy – The Interview
Can you remember the first time that we met?
First time we met would have been September the 9th 2005, I was your youth pastor at the International Church of Prague. I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 22-year-old – actually, I was turning 23 that day – and I had just arrived in Europe to do two years of mission work and youth-pastoring at the International Church.
You live with depression, is that correct? Do you have any other conditions?
That’s correct. No, it’s mostly depression…I mean there are certain accompanying factors that I have, my depression can manifest itself in different ways. It can lead to anxiety as well but mainly depression.
How long have you lived with it?
I’ve lived with it since I was 14 years old, so 20 almost 21 years and I’ve been undergoing treatment for it since I was 28, so for almost six years now.
In general, what does a good day look like for you?
On a good day…it really looks like it would for most other people. I’m full of energy, I’m relatively full of confidence, I’m able to get up and function without any real great difficulty. I’m able to interact with other people in a way that’s confident and I feel like I’m able to approach people from a position of equal footing.
What about a typical bad day, how does that differ?
A bad day would be when I get stuck in a repeated loop of negative thinking. My energy level and my motivation to do things – things as simple as getting out of bed, taking a shower or putting on deodorant – completely crash. I’m not able to break myself out of that cycle of negative thinking so just a lot of negative internal self-talk which manifests itself externally. So no ability in my ability to interact with other people, no confidence; no real…I have no real sense of my own self-worth or my own dignity as a human being so, if I was to sum it up, I feel like I approach others from a position of being somehow lesser or inferior.
On a daily basis, do you find you have more good days than bad days or are they fairly even?
I do, I actually take copious amounts, sometimes even jaw-dropping amounts, of anti-depressant medication. I have shocked medical professionals with my dosages – of course, all under a doctor’s recommendation. I take Effexor and I started off on the standard 10-25mg dosage five years ago and they have gradually increased that until I reached a point where I was having a majority of good days. Now that’s 225mg per day.
Back when it started, how did that affect you? Were there any particular struggles?
It would have been the summer after my grade nine year in high school – so I would have been 13-14 years old, somewhere in that neighbourhood – and really I just remember this incredible feeling that my world was collapsing around me for no apparent reason. I remember that my friendships suddenly felt as though I was no longer valuable, no longer wanted and I didn’t understand why. Really the big challenge that I didn’t learn how to overcome for years, that plagued me especially in those early years, was just this feeling of being absolutely worthless and unwanted. That was really the first sign of depression that I noticed, the first major roadblock, was relationships.
Were there any coping mechanisms that you might have turned to?
Well, I think that – in terms of healthy coping mechanisms – in my university years, so really 4-5 years after it actually started, the best coping mechanism that I found – not even really realising that I had a diagnosable mental health disorder; this was the early 2000’s so mental health and especially depression in men was not something that was really talked about as, in a very sexist sense, depression was a woman’s problem – I coped very well with supportive friendships. That would have been a coping mechanism. Sort of on the more negative side, I have delved too deeply into things like video gaming to the point where my social life could disappear. Lots of sitting in front of a television or computer screen or video games console. Also sleep: I am one of those depressed people who can, if I allow myself, spend hours or even days at a time in bed.
What about some of the worst moments, what were some of the coping mechanisms for the darker moments?
There was one moment where, when I was – well there have been a couple that I remember that I think of as absolute low points – one of them would have been probably in my grade 10 or grade 11 year. Things were getting progressively worse and I remember sitting on the edge of my bed thinking I could end it right there. I was a young man so I had a number of knives around my room and I knew that my parents had gone to sleep so I had a period of some 8 hours or more before anyone would even think about coming in to check on me and I could just end my life. I was prevented, at that time, by…I called it the Hope Without a Voice, just this feeling that somehow, somewhere along the line things would get better, that it wouldn’t always be like this and I carried on.
Another really dark moment – and one of the big triggers I’ve found for my depression throughout the years – is loneliness so, at times when I had a good social circle and a good circle of friends, I was able to cope fairly well. On the opposite, when that was lacking, I was experiencing my primary depressive trigger every single day. I spent a period of 11 months living out on the west coast of my country as opposed to the east coast which, in Canada, makes a significant difference as they’re about 5000km apart – I’m actually closer, right now, to you in London than I am to Vancouver on the other side of my country. So I spent 11 months out on the west coast of Canada and I had almost no friends. I was part of a programme, initially, that was a good social contact but that programme ended at the end of the summer that I moved out for so I was essentially on my own in a new place. I remember one very dark night thinking that if I didn’t have a job that I could just disappear and nobody would even care, no one would think to look for me because my family at home didn’t expect to see me because I was 5000km away and there was nobody in my immediate vicinity who even cared enough to wonder where I’d gone if I disappeared. That was…yeah, those were a couple of really dark moments that really spring to mind.
If there was one thing you could say to someone going through depression, whether it’s encouragement or a word of advice, what would it be?
I would say hold on. You are not what you feel that you are. Depression is a terrible, terrible liar and, by that, I mean it’s a liar that tells you terrible things – it’s actually a very good liar in the respect that it makes you believe them. You are more loved than you could ever hope for. I have never met a person in my travels – I’ve been a youth pastor, I’ve been a youth worker, I’ve done a whole lot of different things and I’ve met a whole lot of different people – and I have never met somebody that wasn’t wonderful and capable and deserving of love in their own way and a lot of them struggle with seeing that. You just hold on. The biggest struggle that you have as a depressed person – at least from my perspective – is keep reaching out to people. That’s the hardest thing in the world when you’re in the middle of a dark place but you just keep reaching out to people and when you find someone you can trust, you let them know you need help, you let them know you need support because someone will help you.
On the flip-side, if you were going to talk to somebody who has no experience of it but they’re trying to support someone going through it…if you knew then what you know now, what would you say to someone trying to support, what would your key piece of advice be?
I would say that your persistence can save a life. Just because a person with depression may hesitate when you offer them your support or your friendship or your time doesn’t mean they don’t want it, doesn’t mean they don’t need it. So if you’re trying to connect with somebody who is depressed, if they don’t seem responsive, don’t give up on them just because they don’t seem originally interested because I can guarantee you they are. They’re going through a process of trying to figure out if you really are somebody they can depend on. A person with depression has often faced so much disappointment with inconsistency that it’s much easier to reject offers of friendship than it is to accept them because there’s always that fear that that person is eventually going to walk away. So you keep trying and you keep reaching out to that person. Don’t give up on them because they do need you.
If you wanted to talk to Jeremy about his condition or ask him any questions, he has given me permission to link you with his Facebook account. You can contact him here.
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Disclaimer: I am not an expert, nor am I medically qualified. This blog is based on my personal experiences only. Always seek medical advice in the first instance.