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Asking for Help: Alex’s Story

February 26, 2020 alexszczesny

Asking for Help: Alex’s Story

February 26, 2020 Alex Szczesny
Treasure every moment

Rates of depression are on the rise for millennials, increasing 33% since 2013. It is estimated that 5% (over 6 million people) between the ages of 18-34 have been diagnosed with depression. Several external factors help contribute to this increase, such as relationship troubles, a tough family life, difficulty finding a job or other anxieties.

For as forward-thinking as we’ve become as a society discussing mental health, there’s still a bit of a stigma over seeking professional help. For me, there was a bit of a tough situation where everything came to a breaking point.

How it started

While getting ready for the birth of my first child, I was laid off from my job. I had a wife who was five months pregnant, a mortgage to pay and no way to support my family.

At first, I handled things head-on. Not wanting to mope and feel sorry for myself, I continued to work out and follow all my usual routines. I was getting interviews and call-backs, but never the job. I was so sure I was close to something.

I felt trapped in a vicious cycle of getting my hopes up for an interview, making an excellent first impression, only to be ignored. At this point, I would have gladly accepted a “no” from someone to acknowledge the fact that I existed and didn’t dream up our meeting. I swallowed my pride and began a temp job with long, inconvenient hours.

My son was born shortly after this, yet I felt incomplete. Here I was on the happiest day of my life, holding my first child, but my failures were still haunting me.

I switched from my temp job to a full-time position that was infamous throughout the area for high turnover, high stress, but also decent pay. While I knew I wouldn’t like the new gig too much, people kept telling me to separate my professional life from my home life. That’s how I was going to try to convince myself to be happy.

Rock bottom

Work was now the leading cause of my anxiety. I felt foolish by complaining over not having a job to complaining about my job. My life was a never-ending loop of dreading going to work, hating every moment and then going home to bed and starting the whole process over. I would cry thinking about my son’s future and how I would never be the father I wanted to become.

Anxiety was weighing on every part of my mental well-being. I was complaining to my wife non-stop, which is unfair to someone who was going through her separate stresses and struggles post-baby.

In my eyes, I was a total failure; as a father, husband and in my career.

It was at my desk that I had my first ever panic attack. Both of my arms went tingly and numb. My breath grew shallow. My vision became blurry. My head was spinning. I had to escape. There was no way out.

This was it. Something had to change.

Getting help

I went into my first counseling session with an open mind and a strong determination to take control of my life. It was uncomfortable sitting on the couch of a total stranger, sobbing uncontrollably, but it was a necessary step to get better.

My counselor did a fantastic job of analyzing my situation and providing small, practical tips to handle my negative emotions. One of the things my counselor stressed was the need for “me time, we time and us time.” This concept is making a priority to focus on my happiness as an individual, a couple and a family.

At home, my wife and I did our best to go on dates, have meaningful conversations and enjoy our time with (and without) our baby. We were on opposite work schedules, so we knew our time together was important and should be treated as such.

At work, I was more motivated than ever to come out on the other side. While I still couldn’t stand a single moment at my job, I had the tools to deal with the stress and improve my mindset when things started to feel like “too much.” Still, I knew if I was going to feel good about myself again, I needed a change of scenery.

Thankfully this story gets to have a happy ending.

I found a position that seemed perfect. Replacing the self-doubt, anxiety and “noise” that would accompany me throughout the application process and interviews, I was calm and confident in my abilities. Everything felt right with this one.

For one year of my life, I had two jobs that caused me to feel horrible about myself and doubt every decision I have ever made. I had the lowest of lows and the ultimate high; I became a father.

Nearly one year to the exact day of starting on this downward spiral that I thought I could never pull out of; I started my new career.

I couldn’t have done this alone. I needed someone to help me improve the different parts of my life that were slowly crumbling under the weight of this depression. I won’t even allow myself to think about what might have happened had I not received help.

With the added importance of mental health issues in today’s culture, getting professional assistance is crucial. I wish it didn’t take me hitting rock bottom to make this choice. I knew it was an option the whole time but never reached out. I am very grateful to my counselor because I feel like a whole new person. I have a fresh perspective on life, career and family. These gifts will last a lifetime. 

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Alex Szczesny

Alex is a father, husband and Buffalonian, in that order. He has loosely based his life around his favorite hockey team, with varying results. You can find him endlessly quoting Parks & Rec and showing pictures of his son & dog to any interested parties.

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