Episode three of the Better Meetings Podcast take us in a different direction than originally envisioned. Still to come will be the delayed interview with Paul VanDeventer of MPI. That will hopefully be along next week along with some additional episodes recorded in September at IMEX America.
This episode is the most personal one thatI have ever done, but I think it's a topic that many of us hide from and are unwilling to discuss because it's uncomfortable and can be misunderstood. I have been dealing with some depression over the past year to a point that it inhibited my ability to create this podcast, something that I take great joy in doing. There's a terrible cycle of guilt when you promise something that normally would be an easy task and you're unable to follow through.
My usual reaction is to stay behind a wall and pretend nothing was wrong. But, as time passed and I was unable to face the simple task of posting a few episodes I reached out for help. To some friends, to a mentor...even to a celebrity that I'm lucky enough to have corresponded with. I spoke with my doctor, I worked with him on medication...and I did some research to try and better understand what I was dealing with.
I found that in a given year 7.1% of American's are dealing with some form of depression or anxiety. I spoke to someone in the industry privately and learned of the challenges they had had. I began to realize that in a business where we have huge expectations placed on yes, where you have to be completely in control and never showing weakness, where a high number are type A and high performing people...I knew I can't be alone in the struggle. This podcast is my soapbox, my platform and the place where I have a voice. So I decided the conversation should start here.
That's the reason I've recorded this episode, and the conversation that I hope people might begin to take away from it. Realize that someone you know or work with may be struggling inside. Be there for them to support and help.
Open up if you are struggling and trust your friends, family and co-workers to support you. Don't feel that you're alone, you're not.
Our jobs allow us to bring people together to create wonderful experiences and events. But as good as we are at doing those jobs, we are also still human and we need to be there to lift each other when someone beside us falters.
Here are a few places I did research with information and help for those in need.
And this most important one:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
Everyone deserves better meetings. So, we created the better meetings podcast is a place where meetings and events industry professionals can gather to discuss, analyze and report on the latest trends, challenges and news from within the meetings industry.
Welcome back to the better meetings podcast.
This is not going to be the third episode that I had planned for the better meetings podcast. That episode, which will hopefully be posted eventually and hopefully soon, is a very interesting and informative interview with Paul Van Deventer of MPI. It's also not going to be the 4th to about the 12th one, which we're all done in IMAX America back in September. They discuss a wide range of topics with a really fascinating group of industry suppliers and thought leaders on what this is…it's going to be a pretty serious topic that I never really expected to talk about or cover, especially in relation to my job or to the meetings and events industry. But sometimes things appear in life and they need to be addressed and especially when they stretch out for a long enough time that they kind of derail your, your plans and your agenda for moving forward.
So, wrapped up in this show. This third episode is going to be a step one of an apology to a number of people who I sort of ghosted over the past few months while I was struggling with some challenges. The problem with that, is it adds to your guilt and that feeds the distress and frustration that you're dealing with. So, it keeps pushing you down into a state which is really not like anything I've experienced before. But at the same time, I believe in a lot of honesty and transparency in our business and with myself and the people that I know and have a relationship with. So, I want be upfront about things. And I just want to be honest about it because I think that often we hide behind walls and masks and don't really let people in to know, maybe some of the challenges that each one of us is facing. Because one of the things that I figured out through this past few months is that everybody has a certain level of mask that they're wearing. And if we can drop those once in a while and have honest communication, it could help all of us, because as I realized when I was dealing with things on if I am, then there are others. And when you start looking at numbers, which I have a couple to throw in here in a minute. Um, it's really quite staggering the number of people who in a given year maybe on dealing with some sort of anxiety or depression.
So, there's a lot of fear you hide behind because you don't talk to people about your mental state how you're feeling. You don't talk about being depressed or anxiety. Because there's a real stigma to admitting these things that it's a weakness and you need to keep it hidden. What that does is it helps keeps isolating yourself and you spend more time listening to the voices in your head that are dwelling on the failures, the shortcomings, on the things you haven't gotten done, and minimizing the successes. And so, you pull yourself back inside and lose that outside perspective, even from the people around you friends and family. Um, honestly, we're a business made up of a lot of people who are really hard driving go getter type a people. And as a part of that they also can't really admit to those weaknesses or flaws that they might feel because it opens a crack. that somebody might step past you for that next job, or event, or promotion.
So, let's just take MPI, which is an organization very near and dear to me on and say they have around 16,000 members. Well, one of the fascinating things that came out of this research for me was that about 7.1% of Americans suffer from anxiety or depressive episodes within a year. So, what that means in specifics of 16,000 people, that's about 1200 people within MPI in a given year, who may be suffering at one time with depression, anxiety or other issues that they may never show to anyone else outside.
The first thing I want to do before I go any further is, and I will say absolutely up front because it's a question that was asked of me by a couple people that I did discuss this with and that were a part of helping me begin to kind of claw my way back up to the surface of where I feel is more my normal state of mind and state of work. But there, there always needs to be the question of how are you feeling. And if anybody is feeling any sort of self-harm, or danger or issues or you're worried about someone, there's a National Suicide Prevention hotline, the number is 1-800-273-8255. Anybody who's struggling can reach out to that number and they've got trained people to try and help you. So keep that in the forefront of your mind that there are answers no matter how challenging things seem. And remember that number is 800-273-8255. That's the National Suicide Prevention hotline.
Basically I’ll kind of a give a little bit of my story because this is stretched out really not just the past few months, but a bit over this year. And as I've talked about freely in the past, I've had some health issues, I was dealing with some back surgeries and such. And one of the fascinating things to me about how this occurred in my life was I actually finished my physical therapy. I was actually at a point where one would say, I was getting better and I was back on the road to being healthier physically, to be able to do more physical jobs and work. And somehow, I just went the whole other direction. It's not something that I've ever experienced in that way or at all in the past. And yet, I found myself pulling inside I found myself not reaching out to both contacts within the industry, but certainly to friends. I found myself staying inside not going out, cutting myself off from normal things that that I would do; attending concerts or going to a movie or things like that. And sleeping a lot, spending a lot of time just in bed and kind of hiding with the covers over my head from the world. I got out to IMAX, and I did all these interviews and I felt pretty normal. Back to myself, I felt like I was making progress. And then when I got home it, it became the strangest sort of wall that I couldn't climb over and making a podcast for me a second nature. I've done this for many years. And it's really not a challenging process. I can do one in a relatively short amount of time and feel very good about the product that I'm putting out. But for some reason, it became just like a mental block just like a symbol of something that I couldn't get past. So, I would try and just not be able to make any progress on doing things in the way that I wanted to…to my standards. And in turn, then people are contacting me to ask when things will be posted. bThere are deadlines that I've blown by, there are promises I've made to do other interviews.
And all of that began to just snowball into this huge issue that went along with everything else. And it was challenging some days to simply accomplish one thing to do an hour at the desk. And I don't really know how that happened. And I don't really know how to describe it to anybody. But um, it just paralyzed me for a while. And the strange thing is, I've talked to some people since and they really on most of them had no idea unless I told them. So again, this is what made me think about the idea that there are a lot of people who may be struggling with these sorts of things and not telling you not admitting it. They've got their walls up. They're doing what they can. They're trying to keep things moving forward in a normal way, but they're struggling inside. And so that's, that's why I'm doing this podcast because again on it hit me on just like I've talked about ADA issues from having to get around with a cane while dealing with my back issues. This is something that I've personally now been dealing with over the past few months. I spoke with medical doctors, I've gotten prescriptions and use some medications. And quite honestly, I feel like a different person even today than I did yesterday and the day before it's not a linear process. It's not a quick process to get back to where your mind wants you to be. But at the same time there is progress. I look back at where I was two months ago, and I'm, I'm doing better
So that's another part of this message is there are, there's hope there are things to do, you can work through these things. And again, I don't know exactly how anybody else's would experience this, I can only speak from my personal experiences and what I've been doing. But, um, yesterday was probably the most productive day of work that I had had in in months. And I just started to feel like myself again. And I'm holding on to that feeling today and seeing how I can continue that for the next day and the next day. And so again, I looked up a lot of information about this, it may not even squeeze into this particular podcast, but I just think we need a conversation about it.
There is a help guide that I came up with online that heads Some interesting tips for dealing with depression. And I'm going to read a little bit of it verbatim here because this is kind of a good overview. It says depression drains, your energy, your hope and your drive, making it difficult to take the steps that will help you to feel better. Sometimes just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like exercising or spending time with friends seems exhausting or impossible to put into action. That is a very accurate description of how I felt some days. The catch 22 of depression recovery is the things that will help the most are the most difficult to do. And so that's where we get into some of these tips.
The first one is reach out and stay connected. It says getting support plays an essential role in overcoming depression. And I can tell you that there was a moment back in October, when I reached out privately to someone who I respect greatly in the industry and who I consider one of my mentors, somebody who, if I could model my career on what they've done, I would feel like I had been an incredible success in the business. And I talked to them privately about what I was dealing with and found out just a lot of information from them. And you know, people will sometimes talk about some of the struggles that they may have had in the past and things that they've had to work through. And I can't tell you how much that started to help. It was it was just a huge thing and there were a couple of those (things) that happened in right around the same time. And you know, maybe it was the medication kicking in, but reaching out to that person and reaching to someone else who I will touch upon in a moment on. And getting such support and love and friendship and help coming back on really gave me something kind of like a line to hold on to and start pulling myself back up. And so, stay connected, reach out to people, look for people who will make you feel safe and cared for.
Try and spend time try and go to some of the social activities. Even if you don't really feel like it. I've pushed myself into that a few times to and it usually does help find ways to support others. I had a good friend of mine. When I was unhappy at a at a point in my life about some things that were going on. Tell me if you want to feel better, go down to you know the pediatric cancer ward and (then) help those kids there. And his point which is it was well taken was yes, you've got your problems; and yes, I acknowledge them. But there are a lot of people who are struggling and sometimes that effort of reaching out and supporting other people can actually really lift your own spirits and really help you sort of come back to being yourself. So, there are different ways to stay connected and they have some tips here. I'm going to put a link into the actual posting that goes with this podcast on the this is on a website called help guide.org. So, I'm not going to just read the whole thing to you.
But tip number two, do things that make you feel good. So, do things that you enjoy and you used to…For me, that's like going out to a concert or I've been taking music lessons, because I do like music so much and I found that even through the of the worst weeks, I would still show up for that music lesson. It's still got me out of the house. And it made me be active enough to do something that I found joy in and try and get enough sleep. There's certainly some sleep deprivation issues that can come alongside this. Practice some relaxation techniques.
The third tip is to get moving. That was something that I've had a big challenge with. I was very regularly going to the gym working on my back post-surgery. And when all of this really hit it just pulled me away from that and I've had a very hard time getting back to the gym and getting that physical exercise. So even if it's just going for a walk go out for a walk and do something physical for yourself and try and get the blood pumping and your fatigue will improve because if you stick with this it does help with fatigue and sleeplessness and it gives you, it gives your brain just a good workout tovbe out and doing something physical; it will give you a mental lift.
Number four is eat a healthy depression fighting diet. Don't skip meals, minimize sugar and carbs, boost your B vitamins. And that's something I had a big challenge with too; part of my the symptoms of me being depressed and unhappy was eating very badly. So, you combine that with not working out. It's definitely impacted me physically.
They suggest number five is to get a daily dose of sunlight getting outside taking a walk on your lunch break. Just having some way to, to get out and, and that was my phone ringing unfortunately right in the middle of this, but I'm just gonna let it go. I'm getting out to get some sunlight will help you and it also helps if you're dealing with what they call seasonal affective disorder. Because the reduced daylight hours of winter can affect some people negatively. And so getting out and getting some sunlight moving around getting that exercise, eating properly are all things that will help your mental state.
Number six is challenge the negative thinking. Don't do all or nothing. Don't look at black and white. Don't overgeneralize don't label things just go look at things the way they are and don't be overwhelmed by them because you can sort of spiral yourself in. And I know I did a major of that by being frustrated that I hadn't done one thing it would stretch on and on and on. And then it becomes a huge thing rather than having dealt with it three weeks previously, when I really needed to step up and do it, but I just wasn't able to.
And then the last thing is get professional help and as I said, I've been seeing my medical doctor and talking to him about it and worked on some medications and dosage and I do believe that that has helped get me back to a place where I'm much closer to what feels like where I should be. So again, I just I needed to put this out on the table for some reason it feels like a conversation that we don't have.
One of the one of the other people involved in this conversation is a singer who I particularly like a gentleman named Frank Turner. And I mentioned talking to someone else offline. And I've talked to some other friends and people. But I've been a fan of his music for a long time. I've actually communicated with him via email a few times because he's quite friendly and loves talking to folks, and is very interested in the people who listened to his music. And I hadn't talked to him in many years. Some of it being related to what I was dealing with this year. I wrote him a letter and we got in touch, he was coming on tour. And I thanked him for a number of things, including the music lessons that I'm taking, which he had a partial inspiration behind. cAnd just to show you what a difference one person can make, I was already feeling improvement from talking to industry friends and personal friends. I went to his show in LA and when he came off the bus after the show to greet people and hang out, he came over gave me a big bear hug and said, “How are you doing?” And it wasn't a how are you doing? That was a perfunctory greeting. It was somebody who had known me for 10 years, you know, at least by email, and cared. And that caring really meant a lot. We talked for a few minutes, we caught up a little bit. We talked about music. He said, stay in touch, let me know how you're doing and I honestly believe that he meant that…and that gave a tremendous lift, just having a person who has that many obligations. And that many people who want a piece of him be willing to say, “You matter, you're important, and I care what happens to you.” And so, it's a huge appreciation to him. It doesn't diminish the fact of the other friends and other people who have all counseled me and helped me and stepped up and just said, you'll get through this and you'll be okay. And so, if you see anyone that you know who is struggling like this, talk to them, tell them they're going to be okay, and help them. However, they want to be helped. It's hard and sometimes they may not be willing to admit it. And it may take time, but, be there for each other because we're all in this business together.
And at any one time have a there's going to be some of us who have things that no one else can imagine. going on in their lives and behind the scenes, and we need to lift each other up, we need to help each other and we need to be there for each other. So, I'm going to give that phone number again, just because it is important, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255, and reach out on that number If you or anyone you know is in serious difficulty, know that, that resource is there, but also just help each other and be there for each other.
And to the people that I feel, maybe I've let down over the past few months. Again, this is a bit of an apology, and I will make more of those in more of a personal fashion. But realize that we've all got our challenges and we're all finding our way through things. And we can be kinder to each other and more helpful to each other and make our industry and our world a better place.
So, for the better meetings podcast, this is Jon Trask. And that's going to be all for today. Thank you so much for listening. I appreciate anybody who listens and I would love to hear your feedback, comments or any other information that you'd like to send right to me through the email address on the website, and I look forward to talking with you.
You've been listening to the better meetings podcast, a strategic meeting, tech production, and your source for up to the minute meeting industry news, trends and discussions. Our theme music is courtesy of Otis McDonald and Licensed under Creative Commons. For comments, suggestions or topic ideas, please visit strategic meeting tech. com or email us directly at john at strategic meeting tech calm until next time, thanks for listening.