MENTAL ILLNESS: PHIL’S STORY
A letter from Phil:
Hi, my name is Phil McQuillan. Recently, I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. I had been battling it for a few years, but I did not recognized what it was until it was almost too late.
I am an Account Manager at Erb Transport based out of our Mississauga office. Those of you who know me, know me as a happy, always smiling, pain in the butt kind-of guy. What you didn’t know about me is, while I’m smiling and joking on the outside, I was screaming and anxious on the inside.
Roughly two years ago on Valentine’s Day, I was in the office working and I was feeling faint. Working in transportation is a tough gig. My heart was pounding out of my chest, I had the sweats, and I couldn’t focus. I thought, “Well here it goes, I am 36 years old and I’m having a heart attack”. I took myself to the hospital (I’m pretty, not smart) and they did all their tests and blood work. After 11 hours of sitting there I was told it wasn’t a heart attack, that it had been a panic attack. I had never had one before, so that was all new to me. As time went on I felt better and things just got back to normal. I dismissed it as a one-time affair.
Fast forward to 2018, I am now in the sales department. The job is dreamy, the people are amazing, my bosses are supportive, I have a great house, great wife, incredible dogs (even though they’re jerks), and life is great, right? But I couldn’t get myself out of this cloud I was under. I would go about my days as a dedicated, happy, confident co-worker, while inside I felt like I was dying. In my personal life I would get home and be the supportive husband and doggo dad, but I couldn’t get myself to do the simplest things. Vacuum the floors? Nope. Put the dishes away? Nope. Cook dinner? Nope. It wasn’t that I physically couldn’t do them, I mentally couldn’t. I felt alone. I felt worthless. I have all these great people in my life, but I felt no one cared, (which they all do and did) but my mind was telling me otherwise.
Now, I am going to tell you something that not many people know, even the people who’ve supported me through this, and isn’t the most comfortable thing for me to say:
I knew I couldn’t live with this pain anymore. I felt that it didn’t matter if I was here or not.
I was ready for this; I was ready not to be here anymore. I had accepted it. But for whatever reason, I had a moment of clarity. I’m not sure what it was that brought it on. I have had a lot of friends in my time whom have committed suicide due to depression, and I was reminded of the pain that was left behind when we all found out. No one knew what they were going through, and everyone wanted to help, but it was too late.
I didn’t want to be that story. I texted my best friend and broke down. I, for the first time, spilled my guts. That was my first step. I then told my wife. This whole situation put a strain on all of my relationships. I then told my boss. I knew that to get the help I needed I would need support from my work. I will say this: a lot of people have a lot of different things to say about our company, but the support I have received, not only from Dale and Marty (my direct bosses), but from the company as a whole was overwhelming. I felt safe, and as though I could battle this the way I needed too.
I went and received the professional help I needed. I was put on anti-depressants and started therapy. It took some time to adjust, but they are working. I took a month off of work to get my mind back in the game. I worked on myself to get me back to the Phil that I know.
When I got back to work, Marty, Dale and the sales team did everything they could to ensure it was a comfortable transition for me. They don’t know this, but, the support I got from everyone, personally and professionally, saved my life.
It’s a long and ongoing process; I will have to work on this for the rest of my life. But I am prepared because I have people who care.
Now I know this is a long read, and you’re wondering why I am telling you this.
I am telling you this to raise awareness. To let you know it’s real and you’re not the only one.
We work in a very “manly” industry. Everyone’s tough, so it’s scary admitting something like this. You think that because everyone is tough, if you admit something like this it will affect your standing in people’s eyes, it will affect your position in the company. I know the feeling because I felt it, but let me tell you something: you’re allowed to be sad; you’re allowed to be vulnerable. If you feel you need to speak with someone, please do it. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength. In my experience, I was surprised and overcome with comfort knowing that after I had admitted what was going on, my boss was behind me; my co-workers were behind me, the company was behind me. Growing up in this industry, I know that the stigma that used to be “manly men work in transport”; but the industry is changing. People’s minds are changing. It has never been more evident to me than it is now. I am thankful for that, and you will be too.
If you feel you have no one to speak to: I am here for you, whether I know you or not. I have your back. I know what you’re feeling. I’ve lived through it and have come out the other side.
Just please know, you’re not alone.