Patient finds a way out of the dark hole of depression

Scott Wood’s life was crashing until a visit to his family doctor brought him back on the right track.

His spiral into a deep depression started in 2009 when he witnessed a head-on collision between a small car and a rig truck on Highway 33 between Swan Hills and Whitecourt during a spring storm.

“The girl died while we waited for the ambulance. I was very much alone on the scene dealing with a really catastrophic situation. I was alone for 20 minutes before another vehicle showed up. The rescue crew had to take the legs off the boy to get him out of the vehicle,” describes Scott.

When he arrived in Whitecourt, he turned to a bottle of Scotch to get the scene out of his mind. “I’m not a huge drinker so that was probably something I should have twigged right away,” says Scott.

He continued to withdraw from friends, family and work in order to deal with the depression. He would find excuses not to see his friends or to network with colleagues.

“I felt like my whole world was all of a sudden just outside of my reach. I couldn’t make anything work. It took me a long time to realize that the accident was the trigger,” he says.

Scott was having a very bad weekend when his emotional state became a crisis. He told his wife and two sons that they needed to take him to the hospital. Instead, they convinced him to call the City of Edmonton help line to get resources for suicide.

“I spoke with someone and she was amazing. She talked with me for several hours and got me down from being highly agitated to being still not well but at least I wasn’t in crisis. I went to a counsellor for a month and a half. She gave me some exercises and I was feeling so much better,” he says.

However, his performance at work had suffered and his boss didn’t understand the depression Scott was going through. He lost his job and more stress from life changes added triggers to start another spiral into depression.

“All of a sudden I was crashing and I could see it. I was suicidal again. I realized I needed a lot more than I had gotten from my first counsellor,” says Scott.

He had used food as a crutch and decided to lose weight before his battle with depression after noticing his poor appearance in a mirror.

“I looked like I was looking for a place to go have a heart attack and die. My wife said I hadn’t looked well for a long time and I had to lose some weight. I made the decision to change my relationship with food,” he says.

His weight loss didn’t stop his mind from turning on the negative thoughts.

“I’m having all this success and yet I’m lying in bed at night thinking about ways I can off myself. I think I was expecting the weight loss to make me feel better about up here. But I was still feeling depressed and defeated. The weight loss wasn’t doing what I hoped it would – it actually exacerbated the depression. This is what led me to the fact that I needed to talk to my doctor and get help. I did and it saved my life,” says Scott.

Dr. Stanley Mah at Grandview Heights Medical Clinic diagnosed Scott with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and recommended he see Sue Perry, a PCN mental health coordinator, who worked in the clinic.
“That’s when my world began to change. The sessions with her were incredibly eye opening. My family is pretty well adjusted and they don’t really understand the darkness that I face some days. To have someone recognize and understand the depth of my misery was really heartening,” he says.

Sue encouraged him to register for Changeways, a group workshop that teaches participants how to use cognitive behavioural therapy. Joining this group was a huge step for Scott since he had to get over fear of telling his story to strangers. What he found was confronting his issues in a larger group provided the help he needed.

“I made great connections. I was nervous for the first two or three but after that I was actually looking forward to it. It was during that period that I made the decision to commit to making a change in my career,” says the 52-year-old.

Scott realizes he will have good days and bad days. When his distorted thinking pops into his brain, he uses the tools from Changeways to get his mind on a more positive path. His relationship with his sons has improved and his wife continues to support him.

“My new normal is a lot different and I’m not going to let myself go back to that dark place. I know now I can ask for help. I thank God for the PCN because I learned I can get back to a more normal life,” says Scott.