Depression can be a dark place

Bonnie Belec
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Seek help and take recovery day by day, St. John’s man advises

For more than 25 years, Darren Fancey has been pulled towards the black hole of mental illness.

Depression is a terrible place to be, says one man who has experienced it. He’s urging depressed people not to be afraid to ask for help. — Image by Thinkstock

At times the 46-year-old has managed to avoid it. Other times, he’s fallen through.

“I think everybody knows what depression and anxiety is, but the true depths of where that can lead you is something most people don’t understand,” said Fancey.

“It’s physical. It can be physically a challenge where you feel like you are in a hole. You might lose your appetite, your enjoyment for normal stuff, and it’s a terrible place to be.”

Fancey,  a computer technologist in St. John’s who works with the provincial government, contacted The Telegram this week in response to a letter to the editor in Saturday’s paper by Lisa Tucker, who outlined her experience with the mental-health system as a result of her husband’s battle with depression.

In an interview with The Telegram, she expressed frustration about not being able to get the proper care and treatment for Harris, her husband of 18 years.

Tucker said it came to a breaking point about a year ago when Harris said he didn’t want to die, but couldn’t live with the extreme depression anymore. They went to the Health Sciences Centre for help, where Harris was admitted to a locked psychiatric unit.

Eastern Health says secure units are necessary to provide a safe and therapeutic environment to patients.

Tucker said her husband didn’t see a doctor for three days.

The health authority says there is a psychiatry resident, family practitioner and psychiatrist on call  during off-hours.

Tucker said a lack of treatment facilities for chronic depression in the province has her fearing her husband will have to try to get help at the Homewood Health Centre in Guelph, Ont. — a 312-bed facility offering a range of mental-health programs.  

Fancey, who has been episode-free for about two years, said the Tuckers’ story is familiar and one he’s heard before as a member of Better Days, a support group for people with mental health issues.

“Speaking from experience, there is no welcoming place to go if you are seeking help. What is available is facilities for people in crisis mode,” he said.

“Essentially, if and when you seek help, the greatest help out there is walking through the front doors of the Waterford Hospital, and that is not something everyone is prepared to do. It’s a facility that is just antiquated and should be condemned, and one way or the other you are stuck in there, or let out without the help you need, and that’s the two scenarios. And neither one of them is positive,” Fancey said.

Health and Community Services Minister Susan Sullivan told The Telegram Monday the province has hired a program manager to oversee the replacement of the Waterford Hospital and a request for proposals has been sent out.

“When we talk about what it is we’re able to do in order to help out, I think we could say government is stepping up to the plate and we’re doing a fairly good job, from our perspective,” Sullivan said.

“We see so many more patients than we ever used to. We receive about 20,000 referrals to community services in a year. We’ve got about 3,000 admissions and about 10,000 calls to our crisis line annually,” said the minister, adding there are several initiatives in the works to address demand, including new addictions centres.

Being part of the Better Days group, Fancey said he has seen people at different stages of their illness.  

He said it is easier to help the people crawling down in the hole and the ones crawling out, but for the ones firmly inside the hole it is more difficult.

“At that point, you don’t even necessarily want help. You have trouble finding anything positive. There’s no enjoyment at that level, there’s very little keeping you together and you are not the person you normally would be,” he said.

“I can speak fairly comfortably and freely about this today, having a lot of it behind me,” said Fancey.

He said it takes a long self-journey and a recognition of what is happening, why, and what the triggers are.

“The recipe for me is medication, peer support, mental exercises, a number of things in my tool kit I use that has come from self-discovery. For the people in the hole, it takes more of an effort to smell the air, listen to music, because at that point you don’t feel a lot,” he said.

“I remember the last time I came out of an episode, the first thing I enjoyed was a cup of tea and it tasted good. At that point it was a step up.”

Fancey said when he started looking for help, he received some but it was short and unsuccessful. By the time he was enrolled in university he had been seeing a psychologist, was misdiagnosed by general practitioners and ended up back in a dark place.

“I can’t say my recovery experience has been any more, really, than the past few years, because before that it was just dead ends. But I’ve truly had help in these recent years that nailed down, ‘Here’s what is wrong with you, here’s what you have to do about it,’” said Fancey .

He credits Better Days for his recent success.

“I was roaming around the system, any number of psychologists, any number of medications, any number of attempts at recovery, but I finally found the recipe for what I need to keep myself together,” he said.

During his last relapse he said he made some mistakes in his treatment that he is now profoundly aware of.

“It’s a journey in knowing what you can do, and people stumble, and I stumbled. This is longest I’ve been without any real episodes, so I’m hoping and praying  it’s behind me. Its a daily thing — I’m aware of it every day — but you know when you’re heading down that path, when you are seeing the blackness, and you have to work to say, ‘OK I’m not heading down that path,’” Fancey said.

 

 

Organizations: Waterford Hospital, Health Sciences Centre, Homewood Health Centre Community Services

Geographic location: Guelph

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Recent comments

  • Darren Faney
    December 12, 2013 - 09:02

    People have been asking about Better Days: betterdaysnl.org Next meeting is Jan 6 at Dominion on Blackmarsh and every second Monday thereafter. We are just peers and supporters but it's an amazing group of people. I wish I could do some bragging about some of them but confidentially is a promise we make. I'm happy to be accepted there.

  • RANDY from the ROCK
    December 11, 2013 - 17:08

    "10,000 calls to our crisis line annually", we have a crisis line. I never see any advertising on that.

  • Willa
    December 11, 2013 - 14:34

    Congratulations to Mr. Fancey for his great success and for speaking out. It takes tremendous effort to get to a better place when depression takes over. Great article. I've not heard of Better Days before. Is there contact info?

  • Another businessman
    December 11, 2013 - 08:46

    These so-called depressives are an impediment to business. Too many people claim mental health problems as an excuse to get out of employment or even as to why they're in prison. Our society is getting too lenient on people who abuse the system. I would never hire anyone who indicates this kind of personality. I want people who will work for me without crying about how they're hard done by. I also resent paying taxes so these people can lounge around on my dime. Get off the meds, pick yourself up by your own bootstraps, make yourself useful and then you’ll feel better.

    • francis
      December 11, 2013 - 09:29

      appropriate monicker…. .. ever heard "there by the grace of God go I".. guess not if your' too busy flogging crap, i suppose if you should find yourself in the same position, you'd just get one of your "boot strapped", wage slaves to fill in for you while you see a team of doctors and make plans for an obnoxious all inclusive to get your rocks off, and blow off some steam in a third world gated shangrila… why would someone with your attitude even bother to read such a piece let alone waste your supposed "valuable" time to make such an inane, uninformed and offensive comment?

    • Been there.
      December 11, 2013 - 09:51

      @Another businessman - you are ignorant (in both senses) as you have obviously have been blessed enough to have never suffered from a mental illness. But for the grace of God go you.

    • Herb Morrison
      December 11, 2013 - 10:25

      Note to anyone struggling with any form of mental illness. Pay no attention to the garbage being dumped on you by what what appears to be a heartless individual, who identifies himself as "another businessman." The fact that this individual seems to lack the kind of intestinal fortitude, displayed by Mr. Fancey, to stand up and be counted, choosing instead to cower behind a pseudonym; while, at the same time, dumping his load of what can best be described as abusive "crap, " (apologies to those who might find my explict language offensive,) on a whole group of people, who are courageously attempting to battle some form of mental illness, speaks volumes as to the amount of out and out ignorance which those of us who either have done battle with some form of mental illness in ther past , and those still must do battle with mental illiness on a daily basis today, might encounter as they struggle for freedom from this crippling affiliction. The social stigma, which is still attached to Mental illiness is preventable and efforts must continue to aleviate this social injustice, which is inflicted on people already struggling against mental illness.

    • Leah
      December 11, 2013 - 10:48

      To Another Businessman: I am in my mid-sixties and have suffered with extreme depression for well over twenty years. It is pure hell on earth. Do you really think for one second that any of us, who are unfortunate enough to be struggling through this on a daily basis, would choose to live this way, if we could just "pick ourselves up by our bootstraps" ? Please do some research before making such harsh comments about something you obviously don't know one iota about. For some of us it is a chemical imbalance in the brain (which would probably last permanently, and would require the help of medications); for others it's probably trying to cope with the overwhelming grief of watching a loved one suffer and pass away; maybe others have been laid off from their long-time jobs and therefore cannot now afford their mortgages or rent.....and the list can go on. Your are correct with regards to some instances, I'll admit that; however, you are heartless and unknowledgable in most cases. I hope you will never have to live in the bottomless black pit of depression. Thank God for your blessings.

    • Janet
      December 11, 2013 - 11:23

      dun·der·head ˈdəndərˌhed/ noun informal noun: dunderhead; plural noun: dunderheads 1. a stupid person. But I digress. Would you tell a person with a broken leg to pick themselves up by the bootstraps and run?

    • Kent
      December 11, 2013 - 12:15

      @ Another businessman.... I see you are a graduate fo the Tom Cruise School of Psychiatry? Like any other illness such as diabetes, lupus or cancer; you simply can't will yourself to get better when you have serious depression. In any event, it is clear to me you are too far gone for any kind of reasoning; so I will leave it at that.

    • Darren Fancey
      December 11, 2013 - 17:52

      Thank you all for your words of encouragement. Another Businessman - I am very successfully full time employed. I feel bad for you and anyone who might work for you. Estimates are 1 in 5 will have to deal with a mental issue, so when you go to work tomorrow, look at your co-workers, if four of them look fine - it must be you. Debbie, Kent, Janet, Leah Herb, francis and Been There - thank you all so much. Too bad "Another businessman" got the first post but it's great to see these roses growing in his bull$&&t. Great stuff.

    • Jayne
      December 11, 2013 - 23:40

      Mr. Businessman…I think you comment just to be a sh-t disturber. Surely, nobody is that stunned! But just in case, let me educate you on one point. You cannot refuse a job to someone because they have a mental disability. It's called discrimination. You might want to google Human Rights.

    • Denise
      December 17, 2013 - 03:31

      I had a supervisor with an attitude like this who would humiliate me in front of co-workers and customers. It sent me to a very dark place. The best thing that ever happened to me was going out the door of that building and getting help! No pay cheque is worth it.

  • Debbie Jefferies
    December 11, 2013 - 06:14

    Really great article. More and more people are opening up about depression which is helpful but there is still so much to be done.

    • Daily Struggle
      December 23, 2013 - 01:39

      Yes it is certainly time for mental illness to be viewed in the same light as any physical illness. Those suffering from a mental illness are definitely viewed in a different light by employers, co-workers, health care workers, and even family members. I have been trying to deal with depression for about 20 years now and, believe me, it is a daily battle. Throughout this battle I have been fortunate enough to maintain a full time permanent position as an educator (over 30 years now). Some days going to work is easy and natural, but other days it is impossible. Some mornings I wake up feeling helpless and unable to bring to mind any plausible reason to get out of bed. I get panicky and know the best thing for me that day is to rest. I guess you learn over time how to deal with it, but it can still cripple you at any time. Thanks for sharing everyone.

    • Daily Struggle
      December 23, 2013 - 01:40

      Yes it is certainly time for mental illness to be viewed in the same light as any physical illness. Those suffering from a mental illness are definitely viewed in a different light by employers, co-workers, health care workers, and even family members. I have been trying to deal with depression for about 20 years now and, believe me, it is a daily battle. Throughout this battle I have been fortunate enough to maintain a full time permanent position as an educator (over 30 years now). Some days going to work is easy and natural, but other days it is impossible. Some mornings I wake up feeling helpless and unable to bring to mind any plausible reason to get out of bed. I get panicky and know the best thing for me that day is to rest. I guess you learn over time how to deal with it, but it can still cripple you at any time. Thanks for sharing everyone.