Stigma Fighters: Jean-François C. AKA Dysthymic Dad

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Stigma Fighters: Jean-François C. AKA Dysthymic Dad

Double Depression.

That was my first mental health diagnosis, at age 40, two years ago, almost to the day.

I didn’t believe it. Men don’t get depressed… that’s a woman thing, right? Too much touchy-feely stuff leaves you touched in the head. Better to just buck up, suck it up buttercup, and move on.

Yep, mental illness stigma was alive and well within me. Maybe even a touch of chauvinism there too.

Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars.

Double Depression? No thanks…I’ll pass.

But…what if?

IF, then it figures that mine would be a double… I never do anything half-way. High-performer, reach for the sky, give it my all and then some, perfection or bust…if I was going to get depression, you’re damn right I’d go big or go home. On the rocks? Make mine a double. My depression is bigger than your depression, so there!

Meds? Nope, not for me… I’m not depressed, I just have burnout. A badge of honour, burnout is. Yeeesss, Yoda. Means I’m a hard worker. It’s more “acceptable” than depression.Gimme two weeks off, and I’ll get back to the grind in no time. The Force is strong in this not-so-young Padawan; I’ll never give in to The Dark Side.

Turns out my family doctor oughta be rebaptized “Dr.Summeroff”. Turned in the work BlackBerry smartphone in mid-June, didn’t lay my hands on it again until September.

Having the summer off sounds like a blast, doesn’t it? It wasn’t. When you’re in the midst of Depression’s grasp, there is no enjoyment of, well, pretty much anything. My outings into the “real world” consisted of doctor’s appointments and counselling sessions.

Sure enough, my diagnosis was later confirmed by a psychologist: Persistent Depressive Disorder (dysthymia) coupled with a major depressive episode, aka Double Depression, and just to make things even more fun, General Anxiety Disorder. Label me PDD+MDE=DD…oh, GAD!

Stigma, silence and shame are why I never knew about a family history of anxiety and depression. It’s only several weeks into my forced “vacation” that Mother fessed up to being on “little pills for (her) nerves” for the past decade-and-a-half, and that her mother had been briefly institutionalized and given shock therapy in the late 50s, for what we today would call a severe case of  Postpartum depression. She had 11 kids… can’t say I’m surprised PPD reared its ugly head. Leave her alone already, Grandpa!

I started medication post maternal confession, and haven’t looked back. I’ve since recovered from the major depressive episode, and I am now learning to manage life with a chronic form of *milder* depression and anxiety.

An important part of my recovery journey has been to open up about my mood and anxiety disorders. My diagnoses have been, in some way, a blessing in disguise, giving me a window into my past and reigniting my passion for community advocacy. This has led me to creating The Men’s D.epression E.ducationN.etwork (TheMensDEN.ca), and being behind the proclamation of June 10, 2014 as “Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day in Ottawa”, a first of its kind in Canada.

However the future unfolds may be beyond our control, but by working on raising awareness of mental health conditions, by tackling the silence and shame, every day Stigma Fighters are moving the yardsticks closer to normalizing conversation about mental illness. I have every confidence that our efforts today will lead to a brighter tomorrow.

Be well.

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If Jean-François (J.-F.) Claude were ever prone to put pen to paper to publish an autobiography, biochemistry and genetics have already chosen the title for him.

Who knew his high-school nickname of “Mr. Mood” was a precursor of things to come… 25 years later.

Diagnosed with Double Depression in 2012 at the tender age of 40 – with General Anxiety Disorder later thrown into the mix, just to keep him perpetually on his toes – J.-F. Claude has turned adversity into advocacy for men’s mental health.  He is the founder ofTheMensDEN.ca (The Men’s D.epression E.ducation N.etwork), a blog and Web portal to online information, resources and e-toolsfocussed on depression in men. J.-F. was also instrumental in the enacting of a City of Ottawa Proclamation of a Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day on June 10, 2014, in the week leading up to Fathers’ Day.

When @DysthymicDad manages to free himself from his Twitter following, J.-F. also volunteers with Partners for Mental Health’s Community Action Team in Ottawa and, more recently, its Speakers’ Bureau.  His day-job as a manager with the federal government is what pays the bills.

On the home front, two Hearts and a Diamond led to eventual membership in the parents’ Club, a young lady and master bringing energy in Spades to the household.  A curtain-climbing kitten named Cuddles helps J.-F. keep The Black Dog at bay, despite the canine-like qualities the Ragdoll breed is known for.

You can reach J.-F. at TheMensDEN@Bell.net.

By | 2015-02-17T11:48:23+00:00 June 28th, 2014|Categories: Brave People, Stigma Fighters|0 Comments

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