Depression Made My Early Life Miserable - Now It Makes Me A More Effective Leader. By Landon Blake


Introduction

I was listening to a podcast on my morning commute. The podcast host encouraged people to talk about their struggles with depression and mental health diseases. Her hope was these conversations would help remove the stigma we have in the workplace about mental health diseases. She thought this was especially important for men, as our society has little compassion for men with mental health issues. Her podcast encouraged me to make a small contribution to this effort.

I strive to be a successful land surveyor and business owner. My struggles with depression haven't made this impossible, it has made me more effective.

My Depression Started Early - As Early As My First Memories

There is a long history of depression and mental illness in the families of both my parents. My inherited depression started very young. It has been there as long as my first memories. As a young boy I was isolated and withdrawn. I was shy and lacked good social skills. I had no friends. My depression worsened as I got into my teens. By my mid-teens, I was deeply depressed and often thought of committing suicide. By my late teens I was struggling with not only a desire to end my life, but a desire to cut and burn myself. My daily life was miserable and filled with overpowering negative emotions. I didn't know what depression was, and I didn't understand that I was dealing with it.

Help Arrives

I married my wife Monique when I was 23. It didn't take her long to identify my problem with depression. She encouraged me to go see a doctor, which I did. Although my first experience with a doctor on the topic of depression didn't go well, I persevered with help from my wife. I started to get more sleep, exercise regularly, and taking a small-dose of an anti-depressant medication. I learned what depression was and how to manage it. These actions changed my life. My daily suffering ended. I no longer wanted to end my life. For the first time in 25 years, I felt calm and in control of my emotions.

My depression was not cured. I still have bad days. I still deal with anxiety sever enough to cause physical sickness. I still have flashbacks of sexual abuse and a desire to self harm. But these events are rare, I know what causes them, and I know how to deal with them (using help from my wife, my friends, and my family).

I started to get more sleep, exercise regularly, and taking a small-dose of an anti-depressant medication. I learned what depression was and how to manage it. These actions changed my life.

Lessons

What are the important lessons from my personal experience about men and depression? I will list five (5):

  1. We need to recognize that depression severely impacts some boys and young men. Anti-social behavior is a clue there may be a problem.

  2. We need to teach these boys and young men what depression is, and how to treat it.

  3. We need to take swift action to avoid unnecessary suffering and to prevent suicide.

  4. We need to make sure that depression in men is treated as a disease, and not as a weakness.

  5. We need to make sure men have the support they need to get help for their depression. That takes courage, and if handled poorly by the medical profession, a man may not continue the treatment process.

We need to teach these boys and young men what depression is, and how to treat it.

How Depression Has Made Me A More Empathetic Leader

My struggle with depression has made me a more empathetic leader. I understand how debilitating mental illness can be, and the massive suffering it can cause. I now work very hard to give special care to my team members that deal with depression and anxiety. I work hard as a boss to avoid putting them in situations that trigger their negative emotions and anxiety. These workers are human beings with a severe health problem, and they deserve the same concern as a person struggling with cancer or paralysis.

These workers (with depression) are human beings with a severe health problem, and they deserve the same concern as a person struggling with cancer or paralysis.

I believe my empathy and understanding of depression allows me to host great team members that might struggle in other less hospitable and more stressful work environments. The result is my organization benefits from their skills and talents, and I earn their respect and loyalty. That empathy I have also makes me a better human being.

I believe my empathy and understanding of depression allows me to host great team members that might struggle in other less hospitable and more stressful work environments.

Conclusion

I consider myself to be a hard worker and I strive to be a successful land surveyor and business owner. My struggles with depression haven't made this impossible, it has made me more effective. Landon Blake is President & Senior Land Surveyor / Land Planner of Redefined Horizons, a small business focused on the production of quality media for land surveyors and GIS professionals. This media includes written articles, podcasts, and videos. Redefined Horizons distributes its media through four (4) primary media channels. These channels are Digital Surveying Magazine, contributions to the OSGeo Journal, and the Footsteps column of the American Surveyor Magazine. Redefined Horizons is owned by Landon and is based in Stockton, California. www.redefinedhorizons.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/landonblake

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