Chasing the Dragon

I am thankful for those of you who read the honest and sincere sharing of my innermost thoughts whether they are in a Facebook post, website post, or in a book.

This post will be no different. In fact, this will likely be the “gutsy-est” post I have written. My hope is that this post will clarify the suspicions that others have felt or known about me. My hope is for this post to resonate with at least one person so they may feel less alone in this ever-changing and chaotic world we are mired in.

So, here we go…

Upon waking, I silently ask the Universe, “Is today the day I will feel well-rested, have an enthusiasm for life, and the heaviness I feel in my soul will leave me alone?” I anxiously await a positive reply.

However, the answer I always receive is a resounding, “Not today.”

This pattern repeats itself – every day!

A month ago, I was called into the Human Resources office. Technically, my manager came into my office (I work in HR), closed the door, and sat down in a chair across from me.

Shit. Here it comes.

I knew the day was coming; I just didn’t know when. I also didn’t know how bad the fallout would be from my actions – or more accurately, my inactions. Briefly, my neglect of a project I was responsible for had significant, but not catastrophic consequences.

I came clean and took responsibility for my rapidly declining performance and behavior. I rightfully assumed ownership of the mess I created.

My manager delivered her discipline in the most respectful and professional manner. “I want you to contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Tonight. Get the help you need. You have five free visits; take advantage of them. Starting tonight.”

I lost control of my emotions and began crying. Right there, in my office, in front of my manager. I was severely broken and I couldn’t patch myself back together anymore.

The harsh reality was, and still is, that I NEED help. So, I did as I was directed, wanted, and as I needed to do – for a very long time. I spoke with an EAP representative that night.

You see, I have avoided confronting a deep-rooted problem I’ve had for nearly 35 years. I always thought I could fix myself, by myself, and I hid behind a false bravado. For decades. I realized my figurative mask had worn too thin and exposed my true reality that lurked beneath the illusory life I had been portraying.

Upon my first visit with a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (from the EAP program), I received an unsettling diagnosis and a thorough explanation which I reluctantly agreed with.

I am clinically depressed. I am in no danger of causing harm to myself or to anyone else, but I have a serious medical condition.

An appointment with my primary care physician, later that same week, yielded the same diagnosis: Clinical Depression. My doctor prescribed a medication: Lexapro, an antidepressant as a supplemental treatment for my appointments with a therapist.

What now? What happens next?

With three therapy sessions now under my belt, I have learned a lot about myself. With many more sessions scheduled, I am hopeful to understand the root cause of a very recognizable pattern of behavior in my life.

As early as high school, I have chased after external circumstances to bring me happiness and something outside of myself to provide me with a sense of fulfillment and meaningful purpose. I’m constantly searching to be “high on life.” And once the novelty of new life experiences fades away, I hit incredible lows.

Pardon the cliche, but the alternating peaks & valleys – highs & lows of this rollercoaster ride of life has finally caught up to me.

I’ve reconsidered past events and decisions of my life, through a new lens and from a different perspective. Please bare with me.

I transferred to an out-of-state college from an in-state college after my freshman year – I “needed” to broaden my horizons. I’m not sure how I survived the peaks and valleys of college and borderline alcoholism. I worked for a business after college and made a ton of money and drove a fancy car. I lived a materialistic lifestyle until I lost it all. Highs and Lows. With no practical work experience, I somehow became a sea lion and dolphin trainer and worked on the pristine beaches of the panhandle of Florida. I saved sea turtles and I saw glorious sunsets every night. I was high on life!

Life was good. Until I blamed external circumstances for my unhappiness and I quit. Who does that? The clinically depressed. I hit the valley floor.

I became a marine mammal trainer at the world-renowned Mystic Aquarium. No facility in the world had one trainer working with four male California Sea Lions on a stage and presenting a show to thousands of people. I was on an elite team. I was high on life. Until I blamed external circumstances for my unhappiness, and I quit. Who does that? The clinically depressed. I hit the valley floor. I joined the Beluga Whale team – Mystic Aquarium was one of a handful of facilities in the world which housed Beluga Whales. Again, I was on an elite team. I was high on life!

Life was good. Until I blamed external circumstances for my unhappiness, and I quit. Who does that? The clinically depressed. I hit the valley floor.

Most recently, I abandoned a career that I loved – dog training. I was a respected and sought after member in my community. I was a Master at my craft. I had more potential within me and opportunities to become elite. I was high on life! Until I blamed external circumstances for my unhappiness, and I quit. Who does that? The clinically depressed. I hit the valley floor.

Those are just a few examples of the professional decisions I have made that have checkered my past.

The personal demons that haunt me are too numerous to count. I have battles with shame and low self-esteem which prevents me from speaking with my family for months at a time. Self-centeredness lead to my inability to recognize a sibling’s unbearable grief in losing a father-in-law. I’ve self-sabotaged countless friendships and other meaningful working and personal relationships. To those, I am truly sorry!

I’ve learned that searching for and finding happiness from an external world is like chasing an elusive dragon. I know it is a bad habit, I recognize when I’m “doing it again” but I can’t stop myself. Over and over again. And when I catch the dragon, the ecstasy is short-lived and soon after leaves me wanting more. Volunteering for four Extreme Makeover: Home Edition projects is a perfect example. 

I always want the thrill and the ecstasy of reaching a destination and achieving a goal. Somehow, I’ve lost, or never had, the ability to enjoy the journey along the way. It’s a “Thrill of victory; agony of defeat” cycle that I am stuck in.

The dragon has followed me to Vermont and taunts me every day. I can’t justifiably blame my current state of unhappiness on external circumstances. My point is that I have no excuses to make (blame) for my persistent state of dis-ease. I never experienced childhood trauma. There is no identifiable trigger that caused my diagnosis.

Dragons appear in all shapes, sizes, and with differing destructive capabilities (powers). Alcohol. Painkillers. Cocaine. Heroine. Toxic relationships. Materialism. Arrogance. Self-pity. Anorexia. No matter the root cause, dis-ease afflicts a lot of people.

I know that many of you are chasing dragons too. Some of you are silently masking your demons. Others live daily as I used to – struggling to fight the dragons by yourself, but obvious-to-others, are losing the battle. While yet others have embraced their brokenness and have sought the help they need. I have been through all phases of this painful journey. I understand what you are going through and are living with. You are certainly not alone.

Please, don’t give up!

I have felt both short and long-term grief and I have lived with depression for decades. They make my experience unique to me and your struggle is uniquely yours. My point is that the root cause of Clinical Depression is, for the most part, unimportant. However, getting the help you may need is critical!

I am forever grateful to all the people who once played an important part of my life, to those who I may have unintentionally hurt in the past, to those who have tolerated/endured my destructive tendencies, and finally to those who are currently supporting my recovery.

As many of you have come to expect in my blog posts, where’s my underlying message – the thought-provoking nugget of inspiration?

I don’t know. I don’t have one at this moment.

Maybe those are my words of wisdom. Maybe, being comfortable in saying, “I don’t know” is enough. And it is okay to not have all the answers. It is okay to be broken and it is okay to ask for and receive help.

I don’t know how to fix myself. I don’t know how long the medication will take to work, or if it will work at all. I don’t know if I will ever wake up with a zest for life and a true appreciation for all the good things I have in my life. Simply put, I don’t know A LOT!

Living with Clinical Depression is not easy. I’ve learned that a “fake it-till-you-make it” attitude is not an ideal path to navigate. For dragons will always find, taunt, and tease us.

You are not alone, my friend. Feel free to email me at if you need an understanding fellow dragon-slayer to share your experiences with.

Be Kind. Be Thankful. Be Significant.


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