I’ve met an incredible young man. His name is Danny Baker and he lives is Sydney, Australia.
He is 24 years old and has recovered from depression. His depression was so serious and so crippling that it almost killed him. He abused alcohol and drugs in an effort to try and deal with how he felt. Thankfully he eventually got the right kind of help and is well on the road to recovery.
Instead of just getting on with his life, Danny realized that depression was a common problem and that young men were the least equipped to deal it.
So he decided to do something about it.
Last year he founded the Depression is not Destiny Campaign which aims to inspire suffers of the illness to never give up on happiness.
In addition to that he has just published his first book: ‘The Danny Baker Story – How I came to write “I will not kill myself, Olivia”‘which you can download for free on his website.
As the mother of a 2-year old little boy I’m incredibly passionate about what Danny is doing. I believe we are failing our young people because we are not educating them on how to manage their emotional lives. We are particularly failing young men when we don’t teach them how to express their emotions healthily. Instead the feelings they can’t handle are expressed in anger, violence, depression or suicide.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death on 15-24 year olds.
I mean just stop to think about that. Our children feel so bad, they want to kill themselves.
We are doing something very wrong and it we need to change.
Which is why I’m supporting Danny and I hope you will too.
Please read my interview with Danny and forward it to whoever you think may benefit from reading his inspiring story.
1. How old were you when you first realised you were depressed?
I was almost 20 when I was first diagnosed, but in hindsight I’d been depressed for at least nine months. It started when I was 19, but because I didn’t know anything about depression, I didn’t realize that what I was feeling – constant misery and vehement self-loathing – were symptoms of an illness. Then one day, I found myself standing over the edge of a bridge wanting to jump. I later told my mum about it and she insisted I see a doctor. That’s when I was first diagnosed and realized I was suffering from depression.
2. What help did you get?
I initially started seeing a GP on a regular basis and was taking antidepressants. The medication was helpful, but it didn’t fix everything. My mum wanting me to see a psychologist, but my GP gave me some bad advice and said I didn’t need to, so for the next year, I didn’t. Then a variety of things precipitated another breakdown and I found myself suicidal on a daily basis – then I saw a psychologist, who over the next couple of years was able to lead me to recovery.
3. What was your lowest point?
This is a difficult question to answer. There were so many lows, many of a very different nature. In total my depression last for approximately four years, and was fraught with alcoholism, drug abuse, medicine-induced psychosis, near suicide attempts and multiple hospitalisations; the alcohol cravings were awful, many of the depressive episodes were close to unbearable, and the psychosis was just flat out scary, because I lost complete touch with reality. But if I had to pick a day, I’d probably pick one in particular from November 2010. Below is an excerpt from my memoir The Danny Baker Story – How I came to write ‘I will not kill myself, Olivia’ and found the Depression Is Not Destiny Campaign (available for free on my website) which describes it in detail:
Woke up feeling ghastly. Dad drove me to uni for my exam. Silence all the way.
He dropped me off. I dragged myself to the exam room in a soulless, debilitated shuffle. When I got there I fell to the floor, sat slumped against the wall. My classmates talked to me, asked me questions, but still . . . nothing.
We got called in.
‘Ten minutes reading time, starting now,’ the announcer said.
I tried to read. I understood the words on their own, but put together they made no sense. I flicked through the exam. Not much of it did.
The exam itself began. I reread questions I knew I’d studied for, but in the moment the answers were a blur. I felt like I was in a trance. The world seemed a black hole. A vacuum of agony. I couldn’t see any escape. The only possible salvation seemed death.
I scribbled down a few answers before the end of the exam.
‘How did you go?’ one of my friends asked. But I just shook my head and shuffled spiritlessly away.
I pulled myself into the streets. It was pouring down with rain. I had no idea what to do next. “Should I go home? Go back to uni and study? Go to a coffee shop? Call a friend? Get smashed at a bar?” Every possibility seemed brutally unbearable. The only one that didn’t was killing myself.
As you know, I’d always thought suicide was selfish, because even though it might’ve given me peace, I knew it would’ve left my family in ruins. But right then, on what was, unquestionably, the worst day of my life to date, I started to think that maybe I was wrong. I started to think that perhaps I’d been too narrow-minded.
“Because I swear,” I vividly remember thinking, “if my family knew how depressed I am right now . . . if they could comprehend the gut-wrenching severity of the pain I’m in . . . I swear they’d want me to put myself out of my misery. I swear they’d want me to end it all and finally be free.”
It was a dangerous revelation.
“Does this mean I can die now?” I thought. “Guilt-free and with my family’s blessing?”
I stopped walking, let the rain pound down on top of me.
“Can I do it? Can I really kill myself? Jump in front of a speeding car and join the rest of the road toll casualties?”
I stood at a right angle to the road, watched the cars zooming by.
“Is this really it? Can I really end it all right here?”
My mind was a warzone. So much conflict. But eventually there emerged a definite answer.
“I can’t do it”.
It’s the answer I’d always reached, but this time, the reason was different.
It wasn’t for me.
It wasn’t even for my family.
It was for those less fortunate than me.
“Regardless of how depressed I feel right now,” I thought, “I know that I’ve been tremendously blessed: with a loving, supportive family; with First World privileges; and with the opportunity and the ability to do whatever I want to in life. Regardless of how I feel right now, I have had a lot bestowed upon me, and I have to use my good fortune to help others who aren’t as immensely privileged as I am. If I kill myself, Open Skies [an NGO I’d founded to create sustainable change in Third World Countries] will disband. All the charity work I’d planned on doing will never get done. I’d be abandoning all the people I have the capacity to help. And no matter how much pain I’m in I just can’t do that. To whom much is given, much is expected [my motto]. I can’t kill myself. Not now, not ever.
4. How did you turn the corner?
At the end of the day, I just refused to let depression be a permanent feature of my life, so I fought with everything I had to beat. I got sober, diligently took my medication, committed myself to therapy, read self-help books, made challenging situational changes in my life, and made sure I always ate well, slept well and exercised frequently. And over time, I was able to empower myself with an acute level of self-awareness and an extensive, refined psychological skillset, and combined with the lifestyle changes I’d made, I grew to understand my triggers so well that they failed to be triggers anymore – or if they were still triggers, then I’d learned to structure my life in such a way as to avoid them triggering me. In other words, I was able to make a full recovery.
6. What’s your life like now?
It’s great. I’m happy and healthy and in a position where I can help thousands of other sufferers through my Depression Is Not Destiny Campaign. I feel so blessed.
7. What would you say to other young men with the same problem?
Get help. The social norms of manliness suggest that reaching out for help is “weak” and that we should deal with our problems on our own – but that’s just stupid. Depression is an illness, and the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can recover and get on with your life. I speak in detail about this in a recent guest post I did for The Good Men Project titled Attention All Men – Time To Soften The F*ck Up.
Danny’s book is also available on Amazon.