Travel with the Depression: My Battle with the Black Dog

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It comes as a surprise to people who don’t know me well to learn that I’m not actually that happy. At least, not most of the time.

A good friend of mine recently expressed her surprise when I told her how I can spend entire weekends in bed with the lights out and still not feel like I’ve rested. How I can sometimes let a week pass without having a single meaningful conversation with another human being.

How, and I’m loath to admit it, there’s been periods in my life where all I’ve wanted to do is go to sleep and never wake up again.

You always seem so happy,” she explained, “When we chat and in the way you write“.

I tried to explain to her that the me I post here on these pages and I try to portray to most people is how I want to see myself. That happy-go-lucky adventurer without a care in the world is the man I so desperately want to be.

If I look back over some of the best experiences of my life, that black dog (as the Roman poet Horace first described) has always been trotting faithfully along behind me. Look at the smiling face in those photographs and he’s always been there – the lingering doubt and self loathing that has tarnished and colored almost every moment of my adult life.

man with tulips
I was, in all honesty, miserable on this particular day in sunny Seoul.

The smile so often falls off of my face as soon as the flash has faded.

In the beginning

cute kid
A younger, happier Aussie (not yet) on the Road

I couldn’t tell you when I first started to feel the way I’ve come to feel most days. I don’t know when the wild, extroverted, and completely shameless kid I was growing up changed.

At times I think that depression has been a relatively recent addition to my life. After all, I wasn’t diagnosed with it until early 2010. But if I look back over the last ten years of my life, there’s that old black dog again.

It was there when I told a crowd of crying friends and relative strangers I wanted to kill myself while I threw up into the toilet at a college party in 2002.

It was there when I’d call in sick to my three day a week job in 2006 because I couldn’t bear the thought of having to be seen by people.

It was there when I’d turn down invitations to go out and spend time with friends because I was too damn tired of plastering on a smile and pretending I wasn’t exhausted.

So while I was given a label to put on it when I moved back to Sydney in 2010, I think I’d known something was wrong for a long time.

I’d always thought that maybe I was just a naturally ‘down’ person. Maybe it just a character trait that made me cry more easily than most. Maybe I was just naturally inclined to be tired regardless of how much sleep I got.

When I look at my life objectively, I see no reason for the way I feel. I have a wonderfully supportive family with whom I get along well and know would be there for me in a heartbeat if I needed them; I’ve got more friends than I can count; a job that I enjoy; no major health issues; no money worries; and I live in a country and a time in history where the world is literally there for me to explore if I so desire.

I’ve loved some remarkable women, made some unforgettable friends, and done more in the past five years of my life than most people will ever do in a lifetime.

When I first stopped and realized just how good I had it and compared that to the feelings of sadness, isolation, self loathing, and exhaustion that so often accompany me about my day – I realized maybe it was more than just a few character quirks.

I went first to a doctor and then to a therapist.

I’d like to say that after nearly two years of travel with depression that I’ve made some progress, but the truth is I’m no farther along the path towards happiness than I was when I scored a 29 on the K10 test.

Truth? I scored higher when I retook the test midway through last year.

Hitting Bottom

There have been a few dizzying, soul destroying lows throughout the years. I’ve done some stupid things in the hope they’d make me feel better.

For me, the lowest point came in May last year.

I’d returned from Korea after my midnight run and the break-up of a relationship I never should have gone into. I was staying with my sister, unemployed, and the weather was miserable.

I was on the phone crying my heart out to Lifeline when my brother burst into the room asking if I wanted to kick a soccer ball around. I’d never let one of my siblings see past the walls I’d put up. I couldn’t tell if I felt ashamed or relieved.

He came back into the room a few moments later with the phone in his hand and my mother on the line.

Three days later I got a call at 2am after I’d posted a typically emo song lyric on my Facebook wall. My other brother, worried about me but unable to tell me himself, woke my sister up in the middle of the night and had her call my mother.

I’d been staying in Armidale with a friend and like a homesick kid, my mother had to come and get me.

I’d never felt so utterly helpless in my life, but knowing that my family cared so deeply about me helped. I wasn’t fixed, but I gradually began to claw my way back out of the lows.

I wish I could say I hadn’t slipped back in the months since.

How travel with depression has affected me

In a lot of ways, depression is a self perpetuating problem. It’s an exhausting process to wake up every day and wish it was time to go back to bed again.

I can’t even begin to explain how exhausting it has become to put on a smile and play the part of a happy person almost every day now for as long as I can remember.

That’s not to say I don’t have days, or even weeks, of genuine happiness. Those periods are the ones that get me through the troughs.

The tiredness and self loathing take their toll. You take sick days because you’re too damn tired to get out of bed. You say no to that invitation to go out. You take the easy path through life because the idea of failing would be one blow too many to an already fragile ego.

I lost my job in Korea last year because I was too caught up in my own sadness to focus on my work. I took sick days so I could stay in bed. I struggled to stay awake in classes despite getting a full night’s sleep.

Some of the best trips of my life – China in 2008 and the US in 2009 – saw my moods bounce erratically between happiness and utter despair. I’ve cried myself to sleep more often in my 28 years than anybody, especially an Australian man, should in a lifetime.

I’ve had otherwise promising relationships come to a premature end because I was so happy to find somebody who liked the man I couldn’t bring myself to like that I lived solely for them. I’d pin all of my happiness on a person to the point that I forsook friendships and other passions, and then I’d be inconsolable when they inevitably cracked under the pressure of being my whole world.

I don’t begrudge them their decision. Nobody wants to love somebody who can’t love themselves.

I self sabotage. I did the easy course at University. I take jobs with the least likelihood of failure. I fail to pursue promising romantic options because I’m afraid I’ll only fuck it up.

Drunken irishman st paddy's

I drink. Not often, but a lot. Alcohol has been my partner in crime since it first came into my life at 17. At first it only made things worse, but it got to a point that it was my way of maintaining the mask. In Korea I’d drink 3 or 4 nights a week until I became ‘that guy’ who everybody knew about town. I loved it.

Hell, I still look back at those days as some of the happiest in my life.

But there would always be the hangover. The day of utter self loathing and panic attacks as I worried that I’d done something stupid. The fallout from girls kissed or arguments started. The fights and the near misses.

The nights I don’t even remember.

I don’t have it as bad as I could. I’ve never self harmed or seriously contemplated suicide. I’m not alone in my battle and I know it. My family and my friends are always there for me if I need to vent, need to cry, or just need to hash out my feelings.

If anything, it’s been my decision to keep so much of this close to my chest.

What to do?

The laundry list of problems above might indicate that I’m resigned to being this way for the rest of my life. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Remember that happy-go-lucky adventurer I mentioned earlier? The one most people see? I intend to someday be that guy in more than just action.

I’m not going to look back at my life at 70 or 80 and realize I’ve squandered most of it on boozy regrets and self pity.

We only get this one chance to live our lives and I don’t know when it is I might die – but when I do, I don’t want it to be knowing that I wasn’t all I could be in this life. I don’t want it to be a lifetime filled with ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’.

I recently listed my 2012 Resolutions and amongst them were several aimed solely at being the person I want to be.

Already I’ve started a new course of medication and I intend to start seeing a therapist again soon. I’ve never given one more than two weeks. It’s time I respected the process.

I’ve started running again. I’ve run three times in the past week and while I’m nowhere near the level I was at two years ago, I’m slowly seeing signs of improvement.

I’m trying to eat healthier and I’m forcing myself to say yes where I would usually prefer to say no. I was out four nights out of seven last week socializing and meeting new people.

Anthony from Man vs Clock is a man I have a great deal of respect for and, in part, I credit him with nudging me in the direction I currently find myself headed in. His post It’s Ok not to be Ok was a slap in the face that I needed, and I’m going to be borrowing another page from his book:

I’m going to quit drinking.

suit up drunk man
Bye bye beer. I’ll suit up without you.

This is a big one for me. Like everybody else, I’ve made the promise before when I’ve been hungover only to renege on it a week later. I do have a lot of good times when I drink – but if I’m serious about getting better, I need to realize that drinking so much is only making things worse.

Not only because it’s a depressant or because it has worsened problems in the past, but also because it’s been a way for me to pretend I’m ok for too long. It allows me to fake confidence and that means I’m not developing any of my own.

For far too long I’ve made promises to myself and I’ve put them off.

“Oh, I’ll start exercising again on the weekend when I have more time”.

“It’s ok, I’ll eat pizza tonight and start my diet tomorrow”

“I’ll visit the therapist next week. It’ll be ok”.

“I’ll quit drinking after the next party. Oh wait, no, after Christmas. Can’t not drink at Christmas”.

I need to do this. Not just so I can be happier. Not just because I want to be that person so many people believe me to be.

But because I can’t go on being this tired and miserable for the rest of my life. Because the idea of still feeling this way in a year – let alone ten – terrifies me.

I’m never going to be the person, friend, partner, father, or writer I know I can be as long as I have this hanging over my head unacknowledged and untreated.

Ten years of trying to manage it on my own have taught me that it’s not a battle I can win without help. No more excuses.   Sharing this is my way of making myself accountable.

Wish me luck.

If you want to know more about depression or want to help in the battle against depression, you can find out more from excellent sites such as Beyond Blue, The Black Dog Institute, and Lifeline.

If you’ve dealt with your own demons in the past, how did you start on your road to recovery? Any tips or words of wisdom you’d care to share?

 

 

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144 comments

  1. Hi there,
    I can relate to your story. I went to see a Dr about depression because I felt that I had a problem with this. And it was only a few weeks ago, and they told me that I didn’t have depression. I just took the beyond blue (depression checklist), and I scored 40, and that was a honest assessment of how I am feeling and what I have been like the last 4 weeks. I am not sure what to do next. However, I did enjoy reading about yourself- keep moving forward and take control of the black dog- cheers

    • Hi Nikki,

      I’m surprised that the doctor was so quick to dismiss your request for help. In the past, I’ve found doctors were all too quick to prescribe a low dosage and recommend you seek therapy.

      If you’re really concerned, I’d definitely recommend speaking with a therapist. A doctor can’t tell you he won’t refer you to one, so pick somebody out nearby and talk to your doctor about being put on a mental health plan. That will get you free sessions for the first month, unless it’s changed.

      Exercising and staying active socially are both good options too. It is hard to motivate yourself, but you’ll notice the benefits really quickly. Very few things work as well as a good cardio workout like a run or ride.

  2. Hi Chris! Maddy here. Just came across your post whilst doing some soul-searching. Are you my long-lost twin? I can relate to every word of this. Guess what score I got on the K10 test? Yep. Just wondering how you’re doing these days? (Apart from spearheading the sexiest 2 calendars ever to be printed!) Maybe we should start some sort of inspirational website for travel bloggers with depression…

    Maddy 🙂

  3. I can’t believe we’ve never met in person, because I feel like I know you! And in many ways, we are traveling down a similar path. I will tell you that I have gotten better after a number of years with my depression. It’s been gradual and there have been times when it’s felt like no change has happened. But if I look at the challenges I handle now that I couldn’t have handled in my 20s I can see how I’ve grown. Give yourself credit for all the amazing things you’re doing – living in China for one thing! Doing things so out of the ordinary is harder for people like us. Give yourself credit for living an extraordinary life despite the disease. I also think quitting drinking is a great idea, but remember to be easy with yourself if you have slip-ups, okay? This is a great and important blog entry, by the way. I bet you’ll help some people with it. 🙂 Love, Jennifer

    • Thanks 🙂 It really is a shame our paths never crossed in Busan. It was just an awful time in my life, truth be told.

      I’ve definitely been strengthened by the sometimes challenging circumstances I’ve put myself in by choosing this lifestyle.

      As for this article, it got a really fantastic response when I first posted it. Lots of friends got in touch, classmates approached me about their own battles, and even a few complete strangers. It was absolutely humbling.

  4. Thank you so much for writing this beautiful, brave and inspiring post. So much of what you wrote really resonated with me. I have gone through bouts of depression on and off during the past few years, including when I lived in Seoul, though I never acknowledged it as such until a couple of months ago when I hit my lowest point in a long time. The moments of self-loathing, especially after drinking, the weekends spent almost entirely in bed only to get to Monday and still feel exhausted…I really hear you. Posts like yours are so encouraging to me. It’s reassuring to read about someone else’s experience because I feel less isolated and self-critical knowing other people have gone through the same but are coming through it. I’m sorry you’ve gone through these difficult, dark times but admire your courage in writing about it and taking steps to become the man you want to be. All the best to you.

    • Such a small world that we’ve both struggled with depression while living and working in South Korea. It’s not an ideal place to deal with such things between the local attitudes, the alienation you feel being away from home, and the transient nature of friendships and relationships there.

      Weirdly enough, China has proven an excellent tonic for me. I’ve really been lucky here.

      I hope someday you’ll feel the comfort I feel at this point in my life. Touch wood it stays that way, haha.

  5. I’m confused. I love that you have written in such raw emotion and such a personal touch and I get what you are saying, I cried when I read this and I don’t know if it was because it was so touching or because everything you said I related to. The feelings, the saying ‘no’ just because can’t be bothered and having to put on a smile because if you don’t people will look at you like your a mental case and see you as someone to be tread around carefully. But I’m not depressed -that I know of, and I just connected to this post in so many ways. Thankyou.

  6. An incredibly brave post, I have the utmost respect for your honestly and vulnerability. I struggled with depression for 3 months during an incredibly dark time and required medication so that I could get through the day without crying- that was my bottom.  Since then, everything I knew as my life has changed and for the better. I can’t imagine having to  endure that dark feeling for years. Thank you for being willing to share your demons- we all have some.
    – Mary

  7. hi., I’m writing from Cornwall in the UK. We just went through winter and that black dog has been licking my face right through! Injuries that have stopped me surfing/running etc…financial struggles/broken heart! Realised I had to get back to travelling somehow (even if just occasionally),…. found your blog and was just thinking that you were miles away from my life in terms of problems to overcome….then saw this post. BOOM! You have helped more than you can ever know …just through your total honesty and generosity of spirit. Thankyou so much for giving me the feeling that maybe I’m not drowning after all. If I met you in a bar I’d buy you a great big pineapple juice 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words, Antonia 🙂 I’m glad reading my post could help you to feel a bit better about your situation.

      Re-reading this entry two months of medication, self reflection, and exercise on – it’s hard to put myself back in that headspace. I’ve had a really wonderful two months and I’m at a really happy place in my life. Hopefully knowing that I could come from somewhere so dark and feel so good in so little time is a comfort 🙂

      Would be happy to chat some more sometime if you like. You can add me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CWBush) or just shoot me an email at CWBush83@gmail.com

  8. […] To Brenden, Ross, and Craig – thanks for being fantastic team leaders and helping to make my time there so pleasant. Brenden in particular deserves a huge high-five for his wonderful support with my battle with depression. […]

  9. Wow. Very inspiring. Although I wouldn’t say I was really depressed, I’ve had my own drink-everyday-all-week-long stages in my life – I’ve done some really naughty and nasty stuff. Good luck with ending your drinking habits! You know what they say…

  10. Thank you for being brave enough to post this.  I think that it is really important for other people suffering from depression to read what you have written and realize that they aren’t the only ones out there.  I went through a period of clinical depression.  I just tried to take it one day at a time and not try to think to far ahead into the future…time makes many things better.  Things will change.  Keep up the running and good habits.

  11.  Quit drinking man ? are you insane ??  specially this time of year  when everybody is tanning , enjoying the holidays ? lool. Me and my bros do this every year :  we  do abeach villa rental and spend a week there  drinking, playing rugby,  making  traditional  aussie BBQ , no Gf’s , wives , just for a week , and then we go back and  turn into  responsable  gentlemen again  lool

  12. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the funeral of a friend I’d known for a number of years who had also suffered from depression and he had tragically taken his life. I believe this is something that affects a lot more people that is realised and the more people know about depression and it’s effects, the more people will understand it.

    I wish you all the good fortune in the world.

    • I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. I definitely think that more people being open about it will make it easier for those of us who don’t find it so easy to talk about our problems.

  13. I shed a few tears reading this – it hits close to home, and you wrote it in such a moving and personal way.  Wish I had more profound comments to add, but suffice it to say that I felt very moved reading it, and thank you for writing it and sharing your struggles.  

  14. Depression is a very fashionable word nowadays. Many people confuse it with apathy or simply not being in the mood of doing something. Therefore, in our case, when we say we are depressed (and truly are), people tend to minimize our condition. Depression takes you to dark places, ones you couldn’t even imagine existed. I have been struggling with it for 12 years now. It started slow, ignited by a failed exam, then every spring, like clockwork it was there – couldn’t find the strength to smile, was on the verge of crying for no apparent reason, the loneliness was bone crushing. And at some point I almost thought I was living a double life – the real me, sad and lonely, and the “me” for family and friends. Nobody knew of my condition, I managed to mask it so well that even I thought to have been done with it. But then I moved out on my own and it came back crashing down. It didn’t help that I was in a relationship with a beautiful girl and had performance anxiety (another stress factor, which keeps on going to this day).I was walking on the edge of suicide and only the thought of my Mom mourning me her entire life stopped me from taking this radical step. Then at some point I realized “enough is enough, I can’t live my life like this”. So I sought out professional help, I got to understand myself a little better, learned to believe in myself. I’m not cured of this, and yes, I have yet to have sex (full intercourse) with someone, and I’m 30. I realize that it’s all in my head, and that is why it’s so dangerous. But I have faith that things will get better, I need to believe that, otherwise I’m doomed.
    I hope that this comment was not TMI, but just wanted to let people know that you are not alone, we all have our problems, and there is always help!
    Chin up Chris, us, your readers have faith in you and if you need a pep talk, I’m just an email away 🙂 (I’m really good at pep talks, even though I don’t follow my own advices :)) ) 

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement, mate. Definitely not TMI, at all. I think sharing goes a long way towards breaking down not only the walls we put up ourselves – but also the social walls that make it such a taboo subject.

      I was in a similar space to you re: sex for a long time. I can relate to some of what you’re feeling, for sure.

  15. I can SO relate to this. Like you, I have battled depression my entire life. I have gone in and out of therapy, medications, tears, happiness … finally, at 32, I decided I wanted to take charge of my life. To own my feelings and emotions instead of just passing them off, making excuses, delaying the work I knew I needed to do. I know we don’t know each other, but I am so proud of you for making the decision to do what you need to do to take charge of your life. It wont be easy, but it WILL be worth it. You have an amazing support group here. And if you ever do want to bounce ideas and feelings, you have a new friend in me. You WILL come out on top and owning this. 🙂 xx

  16. You got some balls man!  I don’t know you, but I know it takes guts to put this out there.  Nice work!

    Listen, I won’t pretend I have any clue what this is like.  I work with depressed kids and I have seen them struggle, but I really can’t put myself in someone else’s shoes.  

    The thing about drinking is that there is no balance to it. The higher you get, the harder you crash.  It brings out the best and the worst in us – and that can be scary.

    I suggest you get as far away from the madness as possible.  Change your environment.  Best of luck to you – you’ll do great!  Props for a fantastic post!

    • Cheers mate. The decision to cut booze out of my social life hasn’t been hard just yet, but I’m only into week #2. I’m still confident it’s a good move in the short term. Maybe even long term.

      Travel has always been a great short term treatment for me. I’m hoping to find some strength on my own so I can enjoy travel at its face value rather than as a sometime cure.

  17. Wow what an amazingly honest post that I’m sure more people relate to than you might have thought initially. Travel is often high highs and low lows — and attracts people with that type of personality. Knowing you want to change is the biggest step. I am guilty of many of your bad habits. Good luck!

  18. What a beautiful post, Chris. You seem to have described perfectly the way so many of the people who have commented feel – but also explained it brilliantly for those who didn’t understand.
    It’s amazing to see so much support from all your readers (this one included!). I hope that helps with what lies ahead for you. Good luck!

  19. Complete and utter respect for you, Chris. I would imagine that was not an easy thing to write about. So personal and raw.. I’m totally moved by your story. Can’t wait to meet you in person tomorrow. Virgin drink on me! All the best, ‘mate’! 😉

  20. Amazing respect mate. My mum is basically at the same stage as you and has finally opened up to us all! Very close to home and good stuff reaching out.

  21. Thanks so much for being open about this and sharing something so personal. For those of us who deal with depression (either experiencing it ourselves or having a loved one who does), it can be so isolating and we can feel such judgment. I am sure that this post will be an encouragement to so many as it was to me. Thanks again. 

  22. Hey man, it takes courage to write posts like this and open up.  I’ve had bouts of depression overseas as well.  It’s tough dealing with it when you’re not surrounded by a support network.  Anyhow, I’ve sometimes been able to snap out of it by being really careful about my thoughts and body posture.  Travel keeps me motivated in a lot of ways – hope it does for you as well. 

  23. This is such a powerful post, Chris.  As a fellow blogger, traveller and someone who works in mental health, I wish you luck, but also thank you for sharing your very raw and real story – sharing your journey to recovery helps you, and it also helps so many others.  Well done, and hang in there!

  24. Chris, don’t have much to add that others haven’t mentioned already, so just echoing their thoughts. Really respect your honesty and bravery in putting this out there!

    Sending you positive vibes and hopefully we will catch up again in Sydney sooner rather than later!

  25. Chris I have to applaud you for the honesty and guts it must have taken to write that post. Depression or “the black dog” is such a taboo for so many , and it takes people like yourself sharing their experiences to open up others perceptions.

    So many things you mentioned rang an unfortunate bell for me too. The self loathing and ongoing battle with sleep; the craving to curl into a ball in bed in the dark and allow the world to pass me by is a sometimes daily battle. A counsellor once told me to be honest with how I feel; stop the smiles if you dont feel like it, be yourself. I’m not sure about you but that really helped me alot, however it weeded a few of my so called friends and family out as they wanted me to “snap out of it” and stop talking about it.

    WOrds of wisdom from Man Vs Clock re alcohol are so true, it is such an easy cycle to get into and makes me feel so much worse. I have had a couple drinks the past few nights and it magnifies the mood I am in. I love that you have made yourself accountable by posting this, great idea. I am considering giving up alcohol too for the foreseeable future.

    Thank you for posting this, it has made me realise that I am not the only person that has these feelings and thoughts.

    Paul (Man Vs Clock’s favourite cousin)

    • Thanks for the kind words and the ideas. It’s true that putting on the mask – while it helps making other people more comfortable – it’s not really addressing the issue.

      I hear you on alcohol. Half of the time it’s awesome and the consequences are bad, and the other half of the time it’s just a bummer.

  26. I can’t believe how many people feel this way but present a completely different facade to the world. Thanx for talking about it – and making it OK to talk about it! Good luck in your resolutions!

  27. I can’t believe how many people feel this way but present a completely different facade to the world.  Thanx for talking about it – and making it OK to talk about it!  Good luck in your resolutions!

  28. It’s great that you’ve had the courage to post this – it’s hard to bare yourself for an unknown amount of strangers to scrutinize. My brother has struggled with and continues to battle depression and I know it’s an issue that most people would just rather not talk about or think about. The average person doesn’t know what it’s like to live with something like that, so I’m sure your opening up will help people understand the people they know or meet who also struggle with this.

    Best of luck with everything. I think the decision to quit drinking is a fine one, I see so many people who hide behind alcohol in various ways.

    • I found it much easier to post this on here than I have to talk about it in person. Some friends took me out last night after reading this and I had a lot of trouble opening up to them about it. So strange given how  easily the words fell out of my mouth when I wrote this.

  29. CWB, I just read it will sitting in a tree fort bar in Kampot. Unlike many readers and friends the post doesn’t surprise me. I suspected long before we ever met, to me, the big step forward is you stripping away the blinders to look the black dog in the eye. That’s big and long overdo, but I know if you keep being honest with yourself you’ll eventually make the black dog heel. Plus you and I have too many more adventures ahead for a toothy canine to derail things.

    Continued progress,
    Beaker

  30. *hugs* I know how it feels like, Chris. I have touched the bottom about twice and I always know I will have that propensity to fall deep down easily again. With my therapist/psychiatrist I could figure out what triggered it and what are MY personal triggers, but I know when it pokes its head at me…it is very scary. Usually remembering all my blessings and great travel memories help me when I’m on a down day. I also learn that taking myself away from friends is the worst I could do. True, you feel miserable, but eventually I found that friends *will* make me feel better by the end of the night, so I;m not pretending by then. Being lone is the most dangerous when seeing the black dog, I know, so just try to blend in. Takes a lot of will power but eventually, we can feel better. I hope your journey ends on a high note and you can look back and admire how strong you were — because you are!! People that haven’t gone through depression don’t realize how much it hurts and how much strength it takes to be where you are at today — you can do it Chris! If you ever need to talk, please know you have someone here, someone who KNOWS what it feels like, someone who fell in twice, but oh only twice *knocks on wood* It CAN be defeated! And help is definitely needed, do not EVER feel that seeking it shows weakness — the opposite, it takes a LOT of courage to seek help. *hugs* my love

    •  What a lovely comment. Thank you so much 🙂

      The hardest part, for me, is forcing myself to be social when all I want to do is go home and go to bed early. I just hate being around people right now – which is odd because all I want is for somebody to give me a hug, lmfao.

  31. I lost my job and my home, and nearly lost my marriage too, through bipolar depression.  What helped was a generous helping of cognitive behavioural treatment, followed by a few years of experimenting with various mixes of medications.  I’m on a cocktaiol that works now (finally!) but the cognitive therapy was the key foundation for my successful remiossion.  Good luck mate!  You’ll do brilliantly.

    • Thanks for sharing your story mate. I’m sorry to hear you lost so much. I’ve had a few relationships end because of it, but nothing quite so drastic. You’re a brave guy to keep going despite losing so much.

      I’ve tried CBT and haven’t found it suits me, but it’s in vogue in Australia and a requirement for free therapy – so I guess I’ll have to give it another shot, haha.

  32. I’m so pleased that you finally hit the publish button on this hun.  I know you struggle but when you get down days, remember that you are NOT alone. Even if everything else feels like it’s going wrong, you have an immense support network both on and offline.

    I wouldn’t say that I’m through it but after sharing my life (and almost ending it) after 12 years with depression, I definitely feel like my smile is winning against my frown.  I still get horribly down days but there are mostly outweighed with ‘ok’ days and I’m working on those ‘ok’ days becoming ‘good’ days. You will get through this.  The fact you want to change makes a huge difference.  You’re recognising that it’s not ok to feel like this and that you don’t deserve it anymore; those are huge steps in getting better. You’re recognising that drink doesn’t help so you’re stopping that too; that’s massive.  

    I know you’ll look back on this post in months/years to come and know just how proud you can be of your personal achievement as much as we are already proud to call you our friend =) xx

  33. I remember the first night we met at Travel Tribe/Massive. However you may have been feeling that night, I liked the guy I met and then saw again at Cafe Ish.

    I’ll be wishing you luck and praying for you as you’re taking on some changes and action steps this year. You never know what someone is going through unless they share. No matter how happy someone may seem, there’s almost ALWAYS something (or many things…) going on in the private world. Your family, friends, and friends around the world all want the best for you and we’re here to support!

  34. Kudos to you for taking this step of sharing! I can’t possibly imagine what it must be like for you and what it took to write this post and sharing it. But one thing I know for sure is that you have a group of supportive travel community here that is cheering you on. We for one are rooting for you. Stay strong!

  35. Hey Chris, just wanted to say I really respect you for being able to open up and admit this to pretty much this World. Shows that you are already on the right path man.

    For me, I am nearly opposite from you in some instances, and for the longest time I ached to have something, like your little black dog, beside me. Up until now, I never talked about my past, but writing my blog has helped me open up about it, and for a long time I thought I couldn’t feel. My parents have been gone a few years now, but I completely ignored it, lied to people and told them they were living in Maryland when others would ask where my parents are, and I never visited their graves. I always beat myself up for not being able to feel anything about it, like I put it out of my mind, and I always wanted to cry, but couldn’t. And how you said you would stay in, I would always go out, looking to drink and party, hoping to feel some attention, feel something. But now that I have started traveling, it has really helped me open up, accept and realize everything, and be more comfortable with it. 

    Travelers like you are really helping me break down my barriers, and I am sure this post will touch a lot of people as well. If I can do anything to help you along, always let me know, or if you ever just want a good chat. I’ve been through a lot myself, and never really talked about it, so I respect you highly. I really hope you the best for your journey, and I am sure you will become the gnarly ginger bearded dude you always wanted to be.

    •  It definitely seems like we’re at opposite ends of the spectrum. I feel more keenly than I’d like and you less so. Have you ever spoken to somebody about it?

      It’s amazing what an effect travel can have. I know that I’ve been at my happiest when I’ve been traveling, but I’d like to get to a point where I’m happy at home and happier away.

      • I’ve never spoken to anyone about it Chris, hell, only a few friends know a decent amount about me, but writing is making me more comfortable. You’ll get there one day man to be consistently happier, stay strong and happy travels and non-travels!

  36. Chris, This is a courageous piece. I hope you found the writing of it a therapeutic as the readers of it will. It’s enough that you are willing to put yourself out there, but it also is going to possibly help others who have depression but haven’t quite been able to put their finger on what is bringing them down yet.

    Best of luck to you. You have the strength to accomplish anything you want.

    • Thanks mate. It was definitely cathartic to get it all down on paper. I may have been just a little misty eyed as I typed it out.

      I do hope it encourages other people – particularly Australian guys – to step out and let it be heard. Far too many suicides in this country that could have been avoided.

  37. Nice one. My experience blogging has shown the more honest you are, the more you open up, the more comments that article gets.
    I have those anxiety issues as well. Drugs and alcohol, beyond a shadow of a doubt, make it worse.

    I’m sure you’ve studied up on bipolar depression? Extreme highs and lows? Actually, many bona fide bipolars have achieved greatness because they’re so driven. Mike Tyson, Nina Simone, Heath Ledger, MANY artists – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_bipolar_disorder

    “All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low.” – John Wooden

    Have you ever tried strength training? You’d be amazed at the mental transformation. I’d be happy to send you a simple 3 day / week program for guys with normal genes not on steroids. You know how to get at me.

    • I’m familiar with the disorder, but I’ve never considered myself a likely sufferer. I don’t really get much in the way of the manic phase. The occasional upswing out of sadness, but never an extended period of energy.

      I’m doing running three times a week at the moment, but I’d love to incorporate some strength training. Would be great if you could shoot your tips over to me.

  38. Thank you for writing this. The fact that you are able to is a good sign.

    The black dog and I have a long history, and I’m in therapy again now. Depression is a sneaky, lying bastard but there are lots of things to learn from it. I really do encourage you to find a therapist that you trust to do some real work with. And if you’d like a book list, I have a few to suggest as well. Also if you haven’t seen Hyperbole and a half, she has an amusing and spot on entry about being depressed for “no good reason”.

    Be well. All the best to you.

  39. Thank you for writing this. The fact that you are able to is a good sign.

    The black dog and I have a long history, and I’m in therapy again now. Depression is a sneaky, lying bastard but there are lots of things to learn from it. I really do encourage you to find a therapist that you trust to do some real work with. And if you’d like a book list, I have a few to suggest as well. Also if you haven’t seen Hyperbole and a half, she has an amusing and spot on entry about being depressed for “no good reason”.

    Be well. All the best to you.

    • I loved that entry! It does go to show that even somebody as successful and apparently zany as her can be a sufferer. I’d never have picked it.

      Such a shame too. Her work was always such a source of amusement and happiness for so many, but she clearly needs to take some time to get her head straight. I hope she’s doing ok 🙁

  40. My best friend has depression. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that depression has no ‘type’ of person it affects and can have no symptoms that are obvious from the outside. When my best friend first told me about how she’d been feeling and what she’d been thinking it was a HUGE wake up call for me and for her family too. We all love her so much and had absolutely no idea. She was always the smiley, happy-go-lucky gal, always up for a drink and a laugh, except when she wasn’t and it was the wasn’t bit that I never got to see.

    You (and she) are incredibly brave to face the black dog head on.

    Best wishes.

    •  Thanks for sharing. It does make you wonder how many of your friends, family, or even acquaintainences are suffering in silence.

      I’ve been blown away by the level of feedback I’ve got and the number of friends who have told me about their own struggles. They’ve come from all walks of life, so you’re 100% right on that.

    •  I had no idea, Gaye. I’m so glad that your ex found you, and I’m sure your husband and beautiful daughter would agree.

      I really do want to come see you guys (and everybody else in SE Asia soon). I need to finish my TEFL cert so I can come teach!

  41. Great post, it takes a lot to be so open and honest about depression. Being able to share and identify the things that build on it in, and publicly acknowledge the way forward is a huge positive step.
    Mr Man v Clock does have some positive words of wisdom about him and can be pretty inspirational at times, glad to see he’s continuing his on his travels.
    Wishing you luck in your mission
    Joanne (man v clocks former housemate!!)

  42. You’re not alone. You have so many people here to support you as well beyond your direct friends and family. Just remember when you fall down to get back up – as in, a little slip up of not eating healthy, having a drink or missing your weekly running isn’t the end of the world. Don’t let little slip ups ruin it, because they are bound to happen, we are only human. Just accept that it’s happened and keep going forward.
    I’ve battled with some similar things and when it comes to ‘bettering myself’ sorts of resolutions, the best one I can give you is don’t give up even if you mess up.

    • I’ve been utterly overwhelmed by the comments, Tweets, emails, messages, and texts I’ve received since posting this. It’s been really moving and gives me a great deal of confidence in my ability to come out of this and be a better person for it.

      I hope others reading can see what a positive reaction I’ve received and it helps them feel more confident in taking similar steps. They needn’t be quite as public as mine :-p

      You’re right about dusting ourselves and getting right back up. I’ve never let things beat me down to the point that I might do something drastic, and that small victory gives me confidence that I’ll be able to do this.

  43. EXCELLENT post, Chris. I’m so glad I met you in Sydney, even if it was at the very end of my adventure. I’ve been dealing with anxiety for as long as I can remember and I hate telling people about it because most of the time they think I’m being overdramatic. I can start crying about something and have no idea why. And you’re right, things like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, alcoholism, you’re never really “recovered.” They still enter your brain every once and a while and you go through peaks and valleys with it. I think cutting out alcohol is a step in the right direction and I should take it myself. Keep me updated!

    • The quitting alcohol thing is going to be tough! It’s become such a constant part of my social life. It just seems natural to drink with friends. Hopefully they don’t tempt me too much.

      It was good to meet you before you had to jet out. I’ve always believed you always meet the coolest people right before you (or they) leave a place.

  44. So courageous! Good on you! I agree with the no drinking idea, the 10 months of sobriety I just had really made me get to know myself and stop hiding behind alcohol in social situations. I cheated because I was pregnant, so I couldn’t drink but even though I can drink now I have only had a few (usually a glass of wine at home with dinner) I just don’t want to be “that person” anymore.

    I really am humbled by your openness on taboo topics like this and wish you could see the incredibly funny, smart & charismatic person that we all see!

    •  Aw shucks, Kiri, you made me blush! I’m flattered and humbled.

      I’m not sure I can say that I’m done being ‘that person’, but I want to get my head straight before I let something that has such a drastic effect on my behavior back into my life.

  45. I really appreciate your transparency, chris. While I have no direct experience with this type of severe depression, I’m currently reading a fascinating book on the brain called The Brain that Changes Itself. There are things you can do like learn a new language, exercise, and meditate that will actually change the way your brain works and has seen dramatic benefits for ppl who suffer from anxiety and depression. Also check out Spark.

    Best of luck to you. Stay determined. You can be who you want to be and overcome these obstacles.

  46. I don’t think you need luck. You are at a point right now where you are saying “I want to be better, and I’m GOING to make that happen.” and that is half the battle. There is a lot of depression in my wife’s family and so many of them are apt to just blame it on the world around them and not make an effort to improve their own life. Dalene had her own battle with depression in 2007 after a string of tragedies but she quickly had the attitude that she was GOING to get through it and that made all the difference I think. You’re going to be GREAT!

    •  Thanks for the words of support and encouragement. I’m feeling better about this new plan of attack than I have about my past aborted attempts at tackling this.

      Good on Dalene for taking the initiative so quickly. I wish I’d fought it a lot earlier.

  47. First time reader here, I just wanted to say how much your post resonated with me. My depression has made a recent comeback and the feelings you talk about I really get. Also the up and down nature of it- feeling really happy one day to lying in bed all day in tears.
    There is no solution, but I think the resolutions you have made are great steps on the way.
    Wishing you nothing but the best.

    • Welcome Bec! I hope you’re not a last time reader, heh.

      I’m sorry to read that you’re familiar with the black dog and are having your own struggles, but I’m glad you came by my site. I’m always here if you’d like to chat or exchange war stories 🙂

  48. What a brave post. Your honesty is just incredible. I’ve never experienced anything like this so I can’t possibly say I understand or even begin to but the honesty in this post makes it easier to grasp. I’m sure this will strike a chord with many people who read it.

    It won’t be an easy journey but I sincerely hope you make it.

    Good luck 🙂

  49. Thank you for sharing your story, Chris. Despite your troubled past, I like how you are firm (even publicly announcing) about these changes that you are looking forward to this new year! I wish you all the best with that. 

    And from what you see here, we (travel bloggers) are fully supporting you ! Stay strong and looking forward to the black dog  disappearing. :)Cheers from Brussels!PS. I know you want to stop drinking but if you ever visit Brussels, you may think about getting an exemption (just once)

    • I doubt it will be a permanent hiatus from drinking. I just need to keep my heard clear while I work through things. I’m confident I can eventually phase it back into my life on a reduced level.

      Will take you up on that. Belgian beer is unbeatable.

  50. Great post man…this paragraph alone should be the motto of everyone, not just those that battle depression…

    We only get this one chance to live our lives and I don’t know when it is I might die – but when I do, I don’t want it to be knowing that I wasn’t all I could be in this life. I don’t want it to be a lifetime filled with ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’.

    Good for you putting this out there…Doubt I’d be strong enough to do so myself…

    • It’s one thing for me to say it, but the real battle is going to be living it. I’ve had many false dawns before – but I’m hoping putting this out there will mean I’m more accountable and more likely to follow through.

      And thanks for the kind words.

  51. I sympathize with your plight and also your family’s. My brother committed suicide when I was 16 and he was 19. It seems that you have a decent grasp on your situation and this post had to help as it seems kind of cathartic. Traveling and blogging about your trip and feelings is a great outlet for your feelings and a good way to share with people who care about you. Good luck with the fight against the black dog.

    • It was certainly cathartic. I’ve been better these past few weeks than I was earlier in the year (or for much of last year), but it still felt good to get it out there. All of these amazing words of support have been unexpected and much appreciated.

      I’m sorry about your brother. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been for your family, or how hard it must have been for him to come to that point 🙁

  52. Great post mate. It’s great when you wade through so much Internet shit on a daily basis to then find something as open and honest as this. Finally a travel blog post to read without feeling like I’ve wasted my life on a list of “what to see in X and Y”.

    Raw humanity. Can’t beat it.

    • Thanks mate. Very kind of you to say.

      I’ve always been happy to put myself out there, but this was something else entirely. I’ve never been quite so open in such a public forum.

      I’m not sure how travel related it was, but I’m glad people could connect with it. It’s been a bit of a labor of love (?) for me, haha

  53. Brilliant post Chris and good on you. Sounds like you are already well on the road towards the life you’d like to have. I personally had some anxiety issues when I was in my late teens, and was housebound for a quite a while, but when I got through it and was able to travel that background certainly helped me to live life to the full. Shop around for a counsellor that you like and you’ll get there for sure. 

    • I can relate to the anxiety. I had a mammoth struggle with it when I was in my late teens/early twenties. It was actually a much bigger problem than my depression for quite a while, but I was able to find the right mix of medications and therapies. It certainly wasn’t fun.

      Travel certainly helps a great deal. It’s a magical thing to be able to meet so many like minded people.

  54. I can relate to your battle with depression and [in a way] the alcohol abuse.  I have been fighting depression since 2003 when my mother passed away (though perhaps I’ve been battling depression since 1994 when my father committed suicide) and for about three or four years, I turned to alcohol to fill that empty void and to men for the instant emotional gratification.  It was by far a very bad decision, but I certainly do not feel ashamed of what I did.  I learned from it in so many ways and when I look at where I am now, compared to where I was (emotionally) back then, I know I’ve changed and grown for the better. 

    I think for so many people – including myself – depression is going to always be a constant battle.  Not every day is going to be sunshine and butterflies, and you know what?  THAT’S OKAY.  We are allowed to have bad days, bad moments, and moments when we just want to stay in bed all weekend.  What’s important is how we bounce back from those bad days and bad moments.  Do we use it to push us forward and grow from it or do we let it consume us and sink us? 

    Thank you for writing about your battle with depression.  I believe there’s still this very strong stigma attached to it and it’s such a shame because so many people in this world are battling depression and they don’t speak up about it because they feel ashamed or alone. 

    • Wow. I can’t even imagine how it must be to have to deal with what you’ve dealt with.

      A lot of my shame had come from simply not being able to justify being depressed. I wasn’t abused. I have a wonderful family and I’ve never really wanted for anything. It’s hard to tell people you’re depressed with a straight face when everything seems ok.

      Looking forward to chatting with you some more when we do a Bite with a Blogger 🙂

  55. Bro, if I didn’t love you before – I certainly do now! You’re definitely a lot more awesome than you are aware of. I consider myself all ballsy and open, but I would have really struggled to share that and it was also well written and powerful.

    I was totally moved and when I seen I got a mention, I was pretty much blown away. If I can help you in any way with your new challenge, you know I’m only an email away. If you believe that alcohol is doing you no good, then sack it off. Simples. Some people just shouldn’t drink, most of these people aren’t aware of it though.I’ve had many an awesome social life since taking the challenge, actually – New Years Eve was one of the best nights of my life and I was stone cold sober. I’m really sad that you use the word “self-loathe” when you’re blatantly an extremely lovable person.*Big, baldy man-hug*I have every bit of faith in you 🙂

    • You’re killing me, mate. A grown man getting all teary eyed about another guy telling him he got teary eyed. Chuck Norris would be livid, haha.

      Thanks for the very kind words and for the inspiration in the past. You’re the best mate I’ve never met, haha. Hopefully get to have a few sober nights out in SE Asia later this year.

  56. Well done for breaking the silence surrounding depression & the blues. It’ll help others in similar situations to read your story and remind them they’re not alone and that there are opportunities for change and feeling better. Kudos to you traveller!

  57. Really respect your honesty Chris. I went through something very similar from the age of about 18 – 24 (I’m now 26) and I still get huge anxiety about small things. Giving up drinking will help (I gave up my weekend drugs) definitely and running helps a huge amount I promise.

    I think it’s really brave of you to publish this and really hope that you find some happiness. You’ve definitely taken the steps in the right direction and sometimes that’s the hardest part.

    Good luck 🙂

    • Thanks for the advice 🙂 I’ve toyed with the idea of quitting drinking for so long, but I’ve always argued (with myself) that it would mean the death of my social life. I’ve just got to work hard on being social without drinking.

      • I dont think it will mean the death of your social life. Once you learn how to manage your drinking you will probably find it will improve your social life. My last relationship was with an alcoholic who said the exact same things about his “social life”, but in the end it destroyed our relationship because he would black out and become abusive. 

        I think depression is a really common thing in our culture, but most people try to hide it which just makes them feel worse. It is really brave for you to write this post. 

        • I honestly think the ‘I won’t have a social life’ excuse was just a cop out I used to avoid confronting the issue. I know I can have fun sober – I’ve done it in the past – I just need to do it more often.
          Thanks so much for the kind words 🙂

  58. If you need a good therapist I can put you in the right direction. Congrats on putting it all out there it can be scary but it’s the first step to help. Good luck I know you’ll succeed.

  59. Gotta give you plenty of credit for writing this post mate and for making the decision to give up the grog… I know it wouldn’t be easy to have written and shared this.
    I went through a battle with depression a few years ago and it’s a tough fight. But so long as you’re making steps to become the person you want to be and chase your dreams, things will get better.Good luck my man! Throwing all my support your way.

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