Industry Vet Greg Dumas on Mental Health:'You're Not Alone'

I love basketball. Have my entire life. I’m not much of a player, but it’s never diminished my enthusiasm. I’ve always been a fan. This year, two NBA players were courageous enough to publicly reveal and discuss their own struggles with depression. One was Demar DeRozan. The other, Kevin Love. This was not without precedent. They weren’t the first, and won’t, likely, be the last. NBA godfather and Hall of Famer Jerry West is among the illustrious names who’ve done likewise. Think about the death by suicide of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. They successfully hid their pain for many years. Then, suddenly, without a cry for help, ended their lives. The takeaway: mental health is complex and misunderstood, a battle waged by many, typically suffered alone.

Their statements struck a chord with me. I’ve been fighting depression for many years. The forthrightness and honesty of these players, their willingness to divulge something so personal, to reveal vulnerability with no other agenda than to help others, was something I found stirring. It’s inspired me to tell my story.

Depression, for all I know, might have been with me all along. A darkness I might have attributed, simply, to being human. I didn’t know what it was. I only began to note its impact after some major life changes. I’d become aware of the fact that I was slowly withdrawing from the business and social networks that I’d spent a lifetime building. The signs were there, but I only noticed them in retrospect.

For example, at trade shows, I found myself incapable of attending industry events, parties and especially dinners with a large group. I had developed a habit of backing out. I’m too tired. I have to catch up on emails. The excuses were endless.

During the day, I dutifully donned a mask. I laughed and joked, conducted business as usual but suffering inside. My anxiety worsened with the passage of time, and I retreated further.

Over the years, my personal and professional network contracted. My life in self-imposed isolation had narrowed my circle of contacts to a few close friends, and the nuclear family—my c******n, in particular, as they felt safe to me. I still wore the mask, but many saw it as paper-thin. I was too busy, aloof, or, worse, consciously pulling away. Connections to my extended family also weakened. The inflection point: I literally packed up my family, moving us all from a thriving beachside community in L.A. to Central America. A disappearing act. Escape was the goal. Self exile.

My daily life was a contradiction. Dread, omnipresent, while clinging to the hope that tomorrow might be different. I sought psychiatric help, and cycled through myriad treatment options. Initially, they worked, taming my anxiety and dread. However, the relief was finite, and, in the aggregate, the medication seemed to be making things worse.

I put on weight while, on the inside, I felt numb, shut down, empty. Yet I was more anxious, even hostile. I decided to get off the prescribed medications. A terrible experience, resulting in an escalation of anxiety, worse than it had been before.

Predictably, my family, who’d been weathering the storm with me all along, were hit hardest by my depression. I am not one who lets love in easily. I am often moody, down, or both, and that’s tedious and difficult for a family to manage. My anxiety puts me on edge. I’ve lost my temper in public, turning minor conflicts into major sources of embarrassment. I have difficulty socializing with other parents, and school events can be traumatic for me.

I explain that, every single day, the goal, for me is the same: To feel better, if only incrementally. If only just a little bit. I want to be well, look hopefully upon the future, set goals, accomplish things again. Life has amazing things to offer. I don’t want depression crossing all that out.

Easier said than done.

I was, meanwhile, trying to get a new business off the ground, and things were only getting worse. Crumbling. Feeling hopeless. An utter failure. Disappointing everyone. Each day worse than the previous. An abyss full of suffering and despair. No escape.

I knew it would help to talk about it, get it out, but it wasn’t easy. I reached out to friends, but found none too interested in listening. The stress of launching a new business did not let up. On the surface, I evinced confidence, competence, trademarks of a normal life. Yet, the truth is, I’d bottomed out.

My life was over. However, suicide was never an option. I was still reeling from the pain of my close friend dying by suicide less than two years ago. His goal to escape depression by giving up on life only resulted in pain and turmoil for everyone who loved him. Finding his lifeless body after spending so much time trying to help him was a severely distressing event. I love my family too much to subject them to such trauma. Suicide is a horrible, selfish act that would cause more damage than I had already caused.

There was no choice but to meet depression head-on and keep it from completely taking over my life. I made a conscious decision to share everything with one friend. This was an enormous risk and never felt more vulnerable. It worked. He encouraged me to speak with other friends. Those friends helped even more. The downward spiral began to slow down. I started to feel hopeful again, but it wasn’t over. I needed more help.

The help had to come from professionals with my trusted family and friends supporting me. I interviewed several therapists and finally found one that made me feel comfortable. After months of intensive therapy, I started seeing a psychiatrist. She finally found a medicine regimen that works for me.

Therapy and medications didn’t solve my problems. My problems were now worse than before, but I was slowly developing the strength and fortitude to better manage the chaos that had become my life. Every day is a challenge but the hope for a better tomorrow keeps me moving forward. There are many days when I come up short, and depression wins. However, overall, I seem to be winning, and I am feeling better than I have in years.

Yet, it’s a fight, and one that takes place daily. I am confident that I will ultimately beat depression. Time. Patience. Perseverance. They are my allies. Some, more hard-won than others. I try to to acknowledge each success, knowing that giving oneself a pat on the back is a good thing. When something doesn’t go as well as I’d like, or fails, outright, I do my best to view it in context. As a successful entrepreneur, I experience failure, missed opportunities and bad tidings. It’s unavoidable, a regular part of the game, and there’s no way it’s going to keep me from growing and expanding my empire.

I often think about my reasons for discussing my depression, publicly. It’s not something that comes naturally. Broadcasting vulnerability feels like an admission of weakness. However, just as some NBA players have openly shared their stories of depression with the hope of helping others, I’ve elected to do the same thing. Nobody should feel like they’re alone. There are so many resources for getting help. I advise people to speak with family, trusted friends, go to a support group, or do all three. I have an incredible therapist and that’s helped a lot. I recommend finding one, as much for the conversations as the prescriptions.

If you’re suffering from depression, you, doubtless, want and hope to feel better, even if it’s just to steal the occasional glimmer of hope. Just know this: You’re not alone, and hope, as surely as the sun will rise in the morning, endures. 

Greg is a 23-year online veteran, free-speech advocate and well-known online industry leader. He started his career launching one of the first recurring billing sites in 1995 and went on to found numerous online companies. He also has become a popular figure in the domain industry having been a part of some of the biggest domain sales at the time. Greg currently own several online companies, including DatingOffers.com. He is from Los Angeles but lives in Panama with his family.

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also can provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.

Written by: Greg Dumas

Originally published on: https://avn.com/business/articles/technology/greg-dumas-780673.html

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