Today’s guest is someone who reached out to me because of the podcast. I was moved by his willingness to share his story with us.
Andreas is still living in Canada where he grew up. His mother passed away when he was twelve after a four year bout with cancer. At the age of 16 Andreas left home to strike out on his own.
He was working for a company for a number of years and putting in very long days. Sixteen hours was normal and not unusual for him to pull all nighters. He moved to a different department in the same company and found that he was not receiving the support that he had previously. This put him under immense pressure. The pressure built until one day he woke up and told his wife, “ I can’t go into work. I just can’t do it anymore.” Andreas called in sick because he was physically incapable of continuing.
Within a few weeks he resigned his position. “I had attached too much self worth and identity to my work.”
For most of his life Andreas felt that he suffered with a low grade, mellow type of depression. He tried suppressing it by throwing himself into his work until he collapsed.
He went for help. For about six months he was on medication and seeing a therapist. At that point he felt he was on more stable ground.
Around that time his best friend, Craig, committed suicide. Andreas’s first reaction was shock. How could that have happened? Craig was the kindest, gentlest soul. My daughter called him Uncle Craig. At first we just told her that he passed away. But she kept on asking, how, how, how? So one day we all sat down and told her that he had committed suicide. She looked at me and said, “Daddy, you’re not going to do that.” Right then and there he knew he wouldn’t.
Andreas took a look at how he was living his life. He didn’t exercise and he was just shy of 300 pounds. This was just a slower version of suicide.
“I joined a gym and went three times a week. In the beginning I just lifted weights. Slowly I became more fit and added more things to my repertoire.”
This eventually led to my running. I lost 100 pounds and now do 3 marathons including the ultra.
“Sometimes we need a tragedy for a wake up call. Instead we should really notice the small things in life and remember every day. Don’t wait for that tragedy to happen.”
Today Andreas coaches people in losing weight and in running. He is passionate about it and how it improves the quality of life.
Andreas went through various stages trying to process Craig’s suicide. He had been close to him and had spoken to him just a few weeks earlier.
The first emotion was shock. Anger followed -” How could he do this to me?
Confusion was next: “I had spoken to him and he was having a rough patch at work, but nothing seemed overwhelming. He was so kind and gentle. It didn’t add up.” The next emotion to rear its head was guilt. “ I had spoken to him. I was his best friend. We planned how we would spend our retirement time together. And I hadn’t been aware enough to see it coming.”
“Eventually I came to the conclusion that it was the decision that he made.
I couldn’t hold myself responsible for it.”
“One of the things I want to get out there is to be aware of signs of depression. Urge them to talk, to get help. If they won’t open up to you, then enlist some friend. Sometimes a spouse, a lover, a parent, are too close to the situation and the person needs an unbiased ear to talk to.”
Andreas says that his depression still comes and goes, but it doesn’t seem as intense or stay as long. He would like to see the area of mental health spoken about more so that it will be more readily accepted and looked at as a normal blip on a person’s marathon through life. “The price of not dealing with mental health issues is too high to ignore.”
His advice to someone who is close to a person suffering from depression or other mental health issues is to be persistent in urging them to go for help. Gentle persistent persuasion. And if you aren’t successful call in other friends.