The plan was to be a traditional family. Colin would work. His wife would stay with the kids. They would be so happy. But the plan fell apart. Big time.
After a promising start and a good run, it all came crashing down. In the span of a month, Colin lost his farm, his equipment, his home, his calling, and his marriage. “I went a little wonky,” admits Colin. “I started behaving in ways that were completely unlike me – destructive behaviour: drinking, poor sleeping, poor diet, angry outbursts, isolating myself. Now when I look back, I was depressed.” And while he never reached the point where he thought about killing himself, Colin says that at his lowest point he would have been ok with dying and have his life insurance pay out to support his kids. But Colin didn’t die, nor did he give up. He got back on his feet, literally, by speaking to thousands of people each year throughout Alberta about depression, assuring men that they are not alone and things really can get better. Despite being a religious man and a lay minister, it wasn’t just his faith that helped bring Colin back from the depths of depression and self-destructive behavior – it was his children. “Things got really simple for me,”Colin explains. “And I had to ask myself: what really matters?” A big part of the answer was the desire for his own children to see that their father was really a good and decent man.
Even as his world crumbled around him, Colin had established enough of a relationship with his children before things went downhill to help him know that it was time to start picking up the pieces. “If I hadn’t bonded with my kids when they were young, my relationship would be different with them as adults,” says Colin. “I made a conscious decision when they were young, that I wanted to be in a different type of relationship with them than I had with my own father. I wanted to be engaged in every aspect of their life.” Without his kids, Colin thinks that the situation would have continued to get worse and may have even led to his death – whether at his own hand or indirectly through his lifestyle. Today, Colin shudders at the thought of what could have happened. “I would have lost the opportunity to see my son play football; to see my daughter’s excitement in making a difference in people’s lives; to speak at my other daughter’s wedding. I would have missed a lot.” In a strange way, however, Colin is also grateful for what this experience has taught both him and his children. “My children have learned that you can recover from adversity; that you can get up again,” he says. “Regardless of what happens, my kids know what I did to my life back together.”
His message for other fathers? “You can”t ignore your depression and be a good dad,” he says, stressing that men need a good support system in their lives to recognize and deal with the signs and symptoms of depression. Ultimately, men who are dealing with depression – major or minor – need to understand that they’re not alone and things can get better. “Other men have faced this and there are people who care about you,” concludes Colin.