Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Post I Can't Seem To Title, So I'll Tell You It's About Depression

Sad.

Depressed.

It is how I feel at the moment. This is not about the fact that ISTE is over and I'm bummed that my friends have scattered to the four corners of the country.

I suffer from depression and this is the first time I have written about it publicly.

It is something I constantly battle with and for the past two years, I've been hit with some depressed episodes during ISTE. My dark times coincide with high levels of stress, terrible eating, dehydration, and hot weather. San Antonio last year and Atlanta this year have been perfect spaces for me to feel terrible. Despite my best efforts, my sad friend takes over.

One of the reasons I have not said anything about my depression is that I feel like so few people seem to understand it. Last year was an amazing year from me. I was the MACUL and ISTE Teacher of the Year. I was speaking all over the country and I was able to see all of my friends, but everything fell apart for me and I became an anxious mess in San Antonio. This year in Atlanta, I was coming off another amazing year where 20 Time ruled my world and I hosted a TEDx Conference. I even did an Ignite session where I sang a cartoon theme song and the audience sang along. It was wonderfully received and the kind words made me feel great. Despite these amazing years filled with so many reasons to make me smile, I fell into despair.

For a couple of days I could feel an episode coming, but was battling valiantly to stave it off. Sadly (pun intended), it took over in the middle of the night. Part of my depression is anxiety. I get anxious thinking about my depression and how it makes me feel and how it is going to impact the people I care about. That anxiety makes me more depressed, which brings me more anxiety...

It truly is a fun ride.

Here is a cartoon I found that explains how I feel.



Another reason I have been scared to say or write anything is the fear that people will no longer want to work with someone who is "crazy" or "unstable". Would anyone want to hire someone who deals with depression? I'm not sure the answer to those questions, but I feel like I have to speak up in the hopes this helps, not only me, but possible others dealing with the same feelings I am.

At 4AM, I woke up in a tailspin and knew I needed to get out of it. Over the years, I have learned to cope with my bouts of Depression and decided to get a jump on this one. There is a clip I love to watch that reminds me of the piles of good things and the piles of bad things. It is from Doctor Who and my favorite episode entitled, "Vincent and the Doctor". After defeating a monster that almost killed Vincent van Gogh, they decide to take Vincent into the future to show him how important his life would become in the hope of changing his dark future. 



Here is what the Doctor tells Amy when they get back and realize that Vincent has still taken his life. 



I'm not comparing myself to Vincent, so please do not worry. I love this clip because it reminds me of the beauty of the world around us in what we do. So often we view ourselves as such failures in our jobs and have such anxiety of how the world views us, we can lose perspective. Maybe we are all misunderstood geniuses. It also made me think about how crucial it is to let people know how important they are so we can add to their pile of good things in an effort to make it bigger than that other pile. 

This clip led me to another by my friends at +SoulPancake


The video explains the science behind the fact that if you compliment someone, it will actually make you feel better. It seemed crazy, but it has worked for me ever since I saw this video and I try to compliment others as much as possible because of this clip. After watching it very early this morning, I wrote my letter in my head and felt good, but I wanted to share it here. (Sorry this is such a long post with so much media, but it's important to me.)

Dear friends (You know who you are and this includes my family, and most importantly, my wife),

I want to take a moment to thank you for all of your support and love over the years. Despite some of you not knowing about my sadness over the years, you have stuck by me and have always been supportive when things were not going my way. You have always had a smile and a warm embrace waiting for me when you could tell that I needed them. 

You have pulled me into the sunlight when all I wanted to do was hide in the darkness. My happiest moments are spent with you being goofy and just being me and I will forever be indebted to you for that. You have met me as a new friend, but treated me like an old buddy. Those little moments of kindness you do not remember are the things that get me through the toughest days. You have all added to my pile of good things while the world and my own brain try to add to my other pile. I hope I have done the same for you. 

I love you all, 

Nick

Watching these videos has made me feel so much better already. Truly, writing this post has lifted a huge weight off my shoulders and I feel ready to take on the world. So, please do not worry about me, I hope all of you will take time and add to the pile of good things for the people in your life. I will continue with my battle knowing that I have people who love me  and are ready to support me.


I'm going to leave you one last clip that has +Wil Wheaton explaining why it is awesome to be a nerd and here is a post from Wil that helped me understand Depression in a different way. 

39 comments:

  1. This is an incredibly powerful piece, Nicholas. Beautifully written and brilliantly articulated. As someone who also suffers from depression, and am having a very similar post-ISTE experience, I truly appreciate your sharing it. Thank you.

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  2. Thank you for this post. I work at a therapeutic school where many students struggle with depression and anxiety. I strongly believe that the more people are open about these challenges and bring them into mainstream conversations, the easier it gets for others to talk about facing those same challenges. Especially, especially for people who are successful adults - you can give hope to young people that they too can grow and learn to cope and beyond coping, thrive. So anyway - thank you for sharing this, so much, it's more important than you can know.

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  3. Wow. Such a poignant piece and one that should be shared. Depression is real and, as you have articulated so well, overwhelming to all it touches. I pray that you continue to get the support you need. I realize I was only a 2 hour passenger on this trip through life with you, but in that time you managed to bring me more laughter than I have seen in a while. Hang in there. Thank you for sharing. May it help others in the same spot.

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  4. I've read other pieces about depression, trying to explain it to those who don't have to deal with it (or it's evil twin, anxiety). I've never read a piece that uses so many great mediums to communicate not just the intellectual realities, but also the visceral. (BTW- that's my favorite episode too.)

    Well done!

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  5. Thank you for sharing. I suffer from Fibromyalgia and depression and it creeps in and takes my energy and makes it hard to be the teacher I know I am and want to be at times. I appreciate your honesty.

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  6. Well done, Provenzano. Big fan of yours for quite a while, and seeing the grace and strength you display through this is inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Sending good thoughts from Central Oregon. Thank you for your work and for such powerful and brave words. http://instagram.com/p/p88jOtK_r7/

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have been on anti-anxiety medication for years which has greatly helped me battle my monsters of anxiety and depression. But for so long I was reluctant to take medication because of my own misunderstanding of the disease. The images and thoughts you've shared really capture the essence of my own struggles. I hope that others who are struggling will read this and realize that it isn't something that they can control with willpower. And whether it's medication, therapy, exercise, a hobby, or lots of hugs, I hope they find their umbrella. I, myself, will be bookmarking this post and the videos.

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  9. Hi Nick,
    It was great to meet you in person at ISTE and thanks for helping with our podcast, "What's your One." I wanted to let you know that you are more than VanGough to students, colleagues, and Principals like me. Your "One" is inspiring and we will stand by and with you. While I cannot understand what you are going through, your words and sharing helped; I respect you more for sharing your story. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help, and in the meantime know that you are valued. We love "the whole Nick."

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  10. Nick, thanks for being a honest and writing a terrific post. I also suffer from knowing the same friend as you. I met this friend in a disastrous head-on collision one year, three months ago. Since that time I have made it a point to work on my personal and professional lives for the better. Acknowledging this friend was the first step. I commend you for your bravery and honesty. After meeting and listening to you at MACUL this year, you have inspired me to become a better educator and have shown me "the light." Continue to be a positive role model for all of us! As a fellow metro Detroit teacher and twitter friend, you rock! Lean on friend near and far and they can be your help and inspiration :) Let's make our common friend a friend that we can leave behind.

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  11. Thank you for sharing your story. It is important. The cartoon is one I will save. It shows so well what it is like to face debilitating anxiety. Your voice has been heard and has helped others. Thank you.

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  12. Thank you so much for sharing. That was a brave post and your vulnerability is why people are so drawn to you.

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  13. I can really relate to this post because of the combination of teaching with depression and anxiety. Going through high school with these mental illnesses definitely influenced how I interacted with my teachers and peers. My best teachers were the ones that understood the impact these illnesses had on my schoolwork, and wanted to help me in any way possible. The reason I want to go into education is because of how my teachers were able to influence me for the better (usually) and change the way I viewed the world. When I look back on my high school experience as a whole, I find a few positive moments that stick out in my mind. The majority of these moments have my teachers linked to them, because of how they helped me through them. High school is not easy, but I want to be one of those teachers that make it worthwhile.

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  14. Hey friend. I totally understand. One of the reasons I left ISTE early. You see my anxiety triggers my dysautonomia. So the sickness and the trying to fake that I felt OK was too exhausting. Add to that I had other really upsetting stuff I was dealing with. When I think back on ISTE in the past I'm so thankful for those nights were a few of us just sat on the couch and watched TV. Or last year when we wondered around the city. It was a grounding time for me. The thought of karaoke the other night caused me to shake. The ballgame was that quiet I needed.
    I think teachers suffer from this more than most professions bc we not only have to be "on" for 8+ hours a day but take on everyone elses troubles as well. Add to that kids are exhausting no matter what age.
    I'm so thankful for your friendship. Know that if you need an ear, I'm here. Love you friend. Xoxo

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  15. Sending you peace and thanks for writing this post. You continue to inspire! I was in the audience for your Ignite and you truly did knock it out of the park. I hope telling your story helps you because it has surely helped countless of others.

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  16. Your courage is inspiring, Nick. I am grateful that you shared this. I appreciate your friendship very much, sir.

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  17. Thank you for your honest, Nick. I love and adore you and I admire how human you are. Thanks for beating the Simpsons arcade game with me, for showing up for me without knowing that it's exactly what I needed, are for staying gold. Always.

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  18. Nick,

    I respect you even more after reading this honest post. You are making a positive impact on the world (as seen in these comments). Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for your vulnerability. Thank you for helping all of us remember that everyone we know is fighting a battle that we know nothing about and we must always choose kind. Thank GOD for you, Nick! You inspire thousands of educators and students to take risks and people are drawn to you because of this.

    Peace,
    Michele

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  19. Funny how we make ourselves believe that our problems are so unusual no one else can understand them. Ever since I wrote my post on my social anxiety I have felt much more open with sharing when I am having trouble with it. I often tell people I have big shoulders, but sometimes our shoulders aren't big enough and we need others to help. If you want to talk, I'm always around.

    Here is a link to the post I wrote: http://wmchamberlain.blogspot.com/2013/01/i-hide-my-disability.html

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  20. Thank you for your honesty and your willingness to be vulnerable. I often feel like "everyone else" seems to have it together (with umbrellas,) and I'm the only one who feels NOT. Not together. Not capable. Not confident. And clearly not with an umbrella. I mentioned to my husband only this morning what a different world it might be if we all stopped pretending and just let ourselves be ... ourselves. What a great thing you did for yourself today ... and for so many others too. Score one for the good guys.

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  21. I think one of the best things about this post-- and what is happening to our network -- is that WE are becoming REAL to each other and sharing the deeper parts of us that for so long we kept hidden -- and tried to sustain the "super" everything -- when so many of us truly wish to just crawl into a corner and say "stay away, I need to be alone for a while."
    Thank you so much for sharing this post and being vulnerable. Please know that you are NOT alone -- and this does not affect how any of us will see you -- except to respect you even more.
    Big Hugs!
    Jennifer

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  22. Thank you for sharing, Nick. Showing honesty and vulnerability lets us see more of what makes you tick, and helps us to understand you and others even better. You are a great role model for others with this post - and countless others! - and embody all that I ask of my students - just show me YOU. I (and MANY others) will accept you for YOU. Please let others know when you need a smile or a booster - we are ready and willing, as that is what makes this wonderful world go 'round.
    Peace to you and yours,
    Joy

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  23. Hey bud- please know that if you need anything at all, just reach out. And don't be ashamed to reach out and ask. Looking forward to seeing ya again as soon as possible.

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  24. Love you, Nick! Thanks for your vulnerability. I have struggled with bipolar depression in the past and I know I have to be very careful about my mindset and where I allow my thoughts to go (as you know from reading Awakened!) as well as the amount of obligations I commit to. Not actually registering for the conference or attending any sessions helped keep things manageable for me this year. :) Hanging in the blogger's cafe and chatting informally with you all in the evenings was exactly the experience I needed. Thank you for being present with us at ISTE and also for sharing this.

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  25. Thanks to all of the beautiful comments from everyone. I have been reading these as they have come in and every one of them have brought a tear to my eye. I can feel the love and support and I really appreciate it. The response has been overwhelming, but I'm happy knowing I have helped others think about Depression and it's bestie Anxiety. I'm here for you all in the same way you have offered to be there for me.

    Hugs and high-fives,

    Nick

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  26. Stalking you :), meeting you and learning from you at ISTE was one of the highlights of the trip for me! You are a truly gifted educator whose transparency makes us all better! I look forward to working with you this year and continuing to grow together. You matter!

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  27. From a fellow sufferer, thank you for articulating this so well!

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  28. Hi! My name is Golriz, and I'm the creative director at SoulPancake. Thank you so much for sharing your experience so honestly. That takes a lot of guts. At SoulPancake our entire mission is making 'stuff that matters' so it means the world to us to know that our content affected your life in a positive way.

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  29. Nick, this was a beautiful post and I appreciate your candor. I love the Doctor Who episode you reference, and think of this episode often. My wife struggles with depression and I with anxiety, yet o think both of us understand the overlap. Thanks for sharing, I'm better for it, and if it's even possible, I think far more of you for it as well. I wish you peace

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  30. The only "crazy" thing about your experience is that we don't all admit to it ourselves. Fear and anxiety have gotten humanity to where it is right now (for better or for worse) and most of us spend the majority of our time trying to pretend we don't feel it. Imagine what a huge conference like ISTE would be like if we were all completely honest about how we were all feeling all the time? If we could all be completely real and transparent imagine what our kids could experience. You're a good man to have been willing to voice your struggle so honestly and openly. Clearly you have hit a nerve with many people. And as someone who has struggled with anxiety (sometimes debilitating) and panic attacks for over 20 years I know the power of coming out of that dark closet. It's a freedom that you can't imagine. I commend you for taking such a brutally honest step and sharing it with the world. In the end, it's all weather. It passes through us and around us but isn't us. Keep up the good fight. -Your fellow Evernote Education Ambassador, Rob van Nood.

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  31. Nick, I will start by saying it was a pleasure meeting you in person at ISTE. After watching you deliver your Ignite session, I knew you were a genius. You have a beautiful mind and exude the passionate heart of an exceptional teacher who speaks about things that matter in life. You're not crazy or unstable and all of us human have issues we deal with in our daily lives. I have never been treated for depression or any other mental condition, but maybe I should. You see I struggle with the memories of being to combat and being scared for my life; not knowing if I was going to make it from one day to the other. I've seen and experienced things the average American citizen hasn't. This doesn't make me special, but it gives me a different perspective to understand where you're coming from. People in general assume having a mental illness is an unrecoverable condition, but I firmly believe it takes courage to write (talk) about your personal issues. The courage you have shown in writing about your struggle as a human being lets me know you are a genuine individual who wants to make a difference in this world. It was refreshing to read this piece about yourself and to learn more about you. Keeping it real and being comfortable with who we are is the first step to owning the human dimension. Take comfort in knowing you have an awesome group of friends and supporters; we care and are here to help. Have a great 4th of July weekend!

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  32. This really helps me better understand the depression that some of the people I love suffer. Thanks for your courage in writing this. I look forward to meeting you later this month at #GTAMTV.

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  33. I can't wait to use this media with my students during our community meetings! It will have such a tremendous impact on stabilizing their perspective during such a rocky time for them. Being 11&12 can be hard but increasing the amount of gratitude we out out into the world and recognizing that our good piles and bad piles isn't a zero sum game will elevate us all. Thank you for the positive change you created in me and will create in them.

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  34. I'll always be here, friend. Thanks for the post.

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  35. Thank you for your openness and courage in writing about your depression. I think it will touch and encourage a lot of people. Many people are affected by anxiety and depression - if not themselves, a friend or family member suffers from it, so it helps to know what to do and that they are not alone. Keep sharing!

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  36. Thank you for your openness and courage in posting this. So many people are affected by depression and/or anxiety - if not themselves, then a friend or family member, so it helps to know what to do. Keep sharing! It's time we bring emotional issues into the light. You're not alone!

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  37. (I've had my comment eaten twice; hopefully third time is the charm...)

    Thank you for writing this. I share your struggles with depression and have only in the last couple of years felt somewhat comfortable discussing it. But I've come to realize that it is important that we do, so people understand that it is an illness, not just a "sad feeling" that can be brushed away with comments like "turn that frown upside down."

    I have also appreciated the writing of Wil Wheaton, who has discussed his history. Another you might like is Jenny Lawson (@TheBloggess) at thebloggess.com. In addition to being hilarious, she has also written very movingly about her depression.

    I look forward to meeting you in person at GTAMTV!

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  38. Thank you for this poignant, courageous, and inspirational post! Opening up this type of dialogue will be cathartic for those who have been struggling in silence for fear of being stigmatized. Kudos!

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