According to mayoclinic.org, dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder is “a continuous long-term form of depression.” An individual may lose interest in normal daily activities, feel hopeless, lack productivity, have low self-esteem and an overall feeling of inadequacy. These feelings may last for years and may have a significant impact on the individual’s relationships, work and daily activities.
This was the diagnosis that Julius J. Cruz received seven years ago when he finally agreed to seek the help of a clinical therapist.
Cruz is a certified coach, speaker, and trainer of the John Maxwell Team—a coaching, training, and speaking business. He is a member of Toastmasters International. When interviewed, Cruz was in between jobs and related that when he was young, he was “naturally inclined to achieve.”
“I grew up in an environment where self-esteem comes from achieving something. What established my identify were the medals, my academic achievements when I was in Grade 5 and Grade 6 and this continued up until I was in high school,” he said.
“When I was working, this context of achieving self-esteem through achievements was translated into job titles—job title of being a manager, being a director. That meant a lot to me before and that was where my self-esteem was grounded on,” he added.
It was when he was working in the electronics manufacturing industry as a quality professional that he experienced the symptoms that led to dysthymia.
The company’s COO (chief operating officer) promoted him from manager to a director level position. However, the COO had to leave and was replaced by a new COO.
One of the first things the new COO did was to remove all director level positions and Cruz was the first casualty. He felt that it was a “demotion.” What made the news unbearable for Cruz was a fellow quality manager, who he knew had been competing with him since his first day at work, was the one who broke the news to him.
“Even if the official memo on my change from director to manager level was not yet released, was not yet announced, this quality manager prematurely broke the news to me during a one on one,” he recalled.
“It was quite obvious with the way she delivered the news that she was happy that I was demoted because she was competing with me since day one. And that started it all. During that time, I was very particular about positions and my self-esteem was hinged on positions, that demotion really broke my world. It turned my world upside down and it plucked away my self-esteem because this time the title was taken away from me,” Cruz said.
When that happened, Cruz said he felt like a “walking zombie” and that he could not face his colleagues because he felt that they were talking about him and he was ashamed of what had happened.
“The experience not only affected me but also my family. I was not my usual self. I was just in one corner and I was not able to discharge my normal functions like doing my share of the chores. I also became easily irritable. I had this frozen anger within me and it affected my attitude towards my son and I became violent to him for a short period of time,” he said.
It even reached a point when he decided that he would end his life. In an e-book, he wrote about his experience with depression. Cruz related that his lack of sleep and the gradual loss of his sense of being led him to lose hope about his condition.
“The hopeless situation that I sensed I was in triggered me to entertain thoughts of suicide, one of the cognitive signs of depression. I felt that no hope was left and that the best thing to do was to simply end my life. So persistent was my thought that in sheer desperation, I actually did attempt to take away my life several times,” he wrote in his e-book.
ATTEMPT TO END IT ALL
Cruz recounted that one morning while his wife was in the comfort room for her usual morning routine, he found the opportune time to end his agony. His son was still sleeping on the bed that they shared. He walked into the comfort room inside the master’s bedroom and recalled that he had “to tiptoe since the floor was terribly dusty and dirty due to months of no cleaning,”
He tiptoed into the comfort room and found his old belt which he felt was “the best tool to use for my ultimate demise.” When he got his belt, he hanged it in the “wooden structure in our bedroom ceiling which was roughly 10 feet above the floor.”
“Standing on our bed, I gradually slipped my head and neck through the loop that I made out of the belt. Sensing everything was in place, all that was left for me to do was to jump from our bed and have the tightened belt around my neck block and stop my breathing. I was ready to finally surrender to the chains of depression,” he said.
Cruz jumped but the outcome was unexpected.
“The next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor. Though I was dazed and somehow confused, I sensed that I was unconscious for five seconds only to find myself breathing again. I took hold of my neck. I felt the belt which I used to hang myself. Looking at it, I realized that a miracle had happened—it broke!” he related.
This was an eye opener for Cruz who realized that his son was still sleeping in bed and that the previous day would have been the last day he saw his father alive.
“After this last failed attempt to take away my life, God’s grace permeated my mind and gradually started to flush away the recurring thoughts of committing suicide. His love was a soothing balm to the thoughts of hopelessness that imprisoned my mind,” Cruz said.
His sister stepped in and referred him to their priest friend. It was the priest friend who finally convinced Cruz after one and half years of suffering from the condition to seek professional help.
He had eight sessions with the clinical therapist and on the eighth and last session, the therapist declared that he had overcome his dysthymia.
Thanks to his experience with depression, Cruz learned a number of valuable lessons. The first is that he realized that his “value does not rely on the worldly titles but who I am before God.”
“When I found my true value, I am now less sensitive to what people say about me. Now I find that I am very much contented with myself, with whatever that is happening around me now. That made me more stable, firm and stronger in terms of character,” Cruz said.
He added that the experience taught him to find his purpose in life.
“When I was going through depression, one of the things that I realized is that I did not have a clear ‘why’ in life. After that experience, it made me search for my purpose in life and along with other events, I was able to craft my life’s mission statement, my mission in life,” Cruz said.
The third lesson is that he became a “wounded healer” where people who learned about his experience sought him out for advice on how to overcome depression.
The most powerful lesson he learned was that actions create emotions and not the other way around.
“When I was deep into depression, I was waiting for my feelings to stir me into action. I was waiting for the good feeling to motivate me to seep professional help. But that good feeling never came,” he said.
“What I learned is that when you are in that state, you should not wait for that good feeling to motivate you into action but you should act and the feeling will follow. Actions create emotions. You do the right thing and the right feeling will follow,” Cruz concluded.