Thank you Mike.
Around a year and a half ago I had to close my business due to the same reasons. Seeing someone I look up to writing about this experience gives me a lot of perspective. I think it’s quite important to speak out, as it helps other people dealing with it realizing it’s not “uncommon”, or feel less alienated.
Things are going much better now, but for half a year this was the only content in my home page. As I said, reading you made me feel less “alien” for writing that. I’d like to recover it from the internet archives again, so other people can read it:
I hope you understand this. On my side, the prospect of publishing what you’re reading is utterly terrifying, but I hope it to be an act of catharsis for me and an exercise of understanding for you.
Some close people (and not so close) already know it or guessed. I’ve been dealing with severe clinical depression for approximately the last 16 years of my life. Sometimes it was better and other times worse, but I managed to push through it while I kept doing my thing.
Creative outlet has always been very important to me throughout my life, in part because I always liked creating new things, in part because “creation” and self-expression was some kind of personal therapy. I could let steam out and mitigate those negative feelings by finding shelter in the work I was doing (I loved it). I guess that’s what led to what happened in the beginning of 2014, when after almost two years of continuous output, I could not design anymore.
As the last months of 2013 rolled by, I lost all the interest I had in everything design related. Suddenly, I could not sit at my desk anymore for more than 10 minutes straight. The mere action of trying to sketch, draw, or design anything would make me start sweating, turn my stomach upside-down, and trigger a panic attack and posterior breakdown, which made really difficult to produce anything consistently.
Soon, this extended to my personal life and I started to find it really difficult to wake up and go through my morning routine. I was lucky to work with some awesome people, and when I explained them what was happening, they guaranteed me a leave from my job. For the last months I’ve been trying to recover by conventional therapy, coaching and continuous adjustments to my lifestyle, which are proving to be fairly positive, but I still have work to do.
While I see the light at the end of the tunnel regarding my personal life, I still cannot design, and I think that falling into the trap of trying to produce any kind of output is dragging me down further and preventing my full recovery.
Stigma, guilt and regret
One of the worst sides of this affliction, is the stigma it carries with it. People (almost) never talk openly about it, finding understanding is really difficult, and the fact of carrying it with you in secret only adds to the weight of the situation. You start feeling like an impostor. You’re wearing a mask. You have to hide your feelings for fear of losing it all and you expect people will find out some day and then point at you and start commenting God-knows-what. It will be the end of your career.
Part of these feelings come from the fact that depression lies to you, all the time. Depression sits down comfortably on your shoulder and whispers in your ear that it’s not good enough and whatever you do it will still never be good enough. It will tell you that all the accomplishments you made in your life are worthless. It will do everything possible to convince you that all the compliments you receive for your work are not true, and that last project you just finished could as well the last one you execute, because you were just lucky and won’t be able to pull it off again. If you listen to depression long enough it will start telling you that no one really cares about what you do and will even make you believe that you have no friends.
My Catch-22 is this: Now that I wrote about it, I don’t have to be afraid of not having any kind of output and just disappearing for a while. On top of that, no one will have to find out anything anymore, because I chose to let go and say what I feel. I am more important than my career, and I’m not perfect.
I also wanted to talk about this, because I know there are more people out there who go through similar experiences but don’t (can’t) say anything because they’re afraid of not behaving in a correct way and damaging their professional image. I know, because I met a lot of them personally during the last months.
So that’s it. Edokoa will close for now. I hope that it will come back sooner rather than later and that’ll be bigger badder and better, but right now I have to deal with other stuff.