Something you should know about me. I was a bit of a Hermione Granger keener through most of high school. Like that Gryffindor know-it-all, I had the answers to everything, to which my 90-plus grades can attest. I was so smart, in fact, I could sometimes beat my brilliant Irish Grandma at Jeopardy!  Maybe you’re wondering what this has to do with depression? Nothing, actually. Hermione Granger’s are too destined for greatness and just don’t have the time for depression.

I loved high school. Sure, a few bad things happened to me – like my parents splitting and Mom leaving the family, my troubled brother going to jail and the passing of both of my Grandmas – but I dealt with them accordingly: by not dealing with them. I refused to let emotions control me like my weaker party-going pot-smoking peers would, because I didn’t want to turn into them. Instead I escaped into my homework, extra-curriculars and videogames, which I perfectly enjoyed, according to my repressed memories.

You could say I was numbing myself to traumatic experiences (and you would probably be right). But would Hermione Granger let SADNESS or GRIEF derail her dreams of becoming a globetrotting Auror? I had big dreams of becoming a blockbuster filmmaker and creating my own Harry Potter franchise. And these dreams would power me – along with a seemingly bottomless well of Grandma’s piss and vinegar – through not only high school, but most of film school.

It wasn’t until my mid-20s that things started slowing down. Despite those A plus-plus grades, I could only manage to find odd jobs, like copy writing for the Yellow Pages and making a fairly soul-crushing, and insecurity-fuelling hair-transplant infomercial. Not exactly glamorous dreams incarnate, and they barely paid the bills. And as my need for financial stability rose, I seemed increasingly less excited about pursuing those dreams. Long ago, I’d stopped writing in my spare time, with voices telling me I was running out of good ideas. I would never be the next JK Rowling. I even lost interest in playing Tomb Raider when I felt like procrastinating, preferring to have pessimistic conversations with myself, like this one.

What The Hell Is Going On-01-02

A typical late night conversation with myself. All art credit to Joey Matthews

Luckily my inner Hermione told me this was just a FUNK, or a bit of a RUT to navigate. To get out of those I’d just need to shake things up, go back to school and get my Masters degree. The film I made there would eventually lead to Survival of the Fabulous, a documentary that would take me around the world. Despite these kinds sorts of experiences, the voices reminded me they were only flukes; I’d eventually be exposed as an artistic fraud. No accomplishment was ever good enough, because something was always missing.

What The Hell Is Going On-02-03

When nothing is ever good enough…

I’d come to realize that something was romance and the promise of love, which could instantly cure my humdrums. Let’s flashback to high school. Remember how I was so driven to succeed – possibly because I was a chubby geek deeply in the closet – I was mostly oblivious to the relationships everybody else was having around me. When I moved to Toronto and discovered boys, boys and more boys, I realized what I was missing out on all these years. After a few stiff rejections, I decided to transform myself physically, because then I could finally find the happiness eluding me.

And eventually I would find it – usually an attractive guy, way younger than me. I’d fall hard for my paramours and the whirlwind of emotions gave me energy highs I hadn’t felt since high school, addicted, quite literally, to the influx of neurotransmitters like dopamine. When it ended – and it usually did within a couple weeks – I’d be devastated. These heartbreaks – and the consequent loneliness – made my inquisitive mind desperate for answers. Why am I single, when nobody else is? Could I actually be unlovable? My closest friends couldn’t understand why superficial flings seemed to consume every ounce of my passion and then despair, which would persist for months.

What The Hell Is Going On-03

Before wonder, there were boys. And lots of them.

Over the years, I almost snapped out of this listless – romance cycle. I knew depression and addiction afflicted my family. When my grandmother on my Dad’s side passed, it triggered in him a depression so debilitating he had to quit his job. Depression also motivated my uncle to kill himself when he was 36. But I convinced myself I must somehow be different, even special. Hermione Granger, the most powerful wizard of her generation, had two magic-free Muggle parents, after all. Fueled by this DENIAL, and a glutton for experience, some other distraction – a new boy or a new idea – would swoop in and snap me out of malaise-mode. A project would get off the grounds, and I’d be so busy I wouldn’t have time to wonder about my inner demons.

Something changed in the spring of 2014. I’d successfully navigated a competitive writing TV program and managed to get an agent – considered a badge of honour in our business. I even won a prestigious apprenticeship – which landed me an upcoming internship in the writing room of Rookie Blue. But that was months away, which meant plenty of time to get stir-crazy, when the seeds of doubt blossom into ugly despair. The voices told me I’d screw up, put my foot in my mouth. The senior writers would realize I’m not only talentless and shallow, but I’m too needy and too obnoxious to survive in this business. As darkness set in, I knew exactly what to do. I grabbed my phone and downloaded all the dating / hook-up apps.

Pretty quickly, I found a new boy and this one cuter than any of the others before him. In spite of landing this seeming catch – replete with the magical make-out sessions and spontaneous road-trips – something still felt off and he could tell. Why did I complain so much? Why couldn’t I could ever relax and smell the roses? He couldn’t understand why I viewed everything through a pessimistic lens.

That’s when it dawned on me. I’d seen these symptoms in my Dad before, but I thought by estranging myself from my family I could avoid contracting his demons. Objectively speaking, I had a great job opportunity and a smart, handsome boy – my personal holy grail – validating my existence, yet I still couldn’t be happy. WONDER helped me realize I wasn’t just going through a RUT or a pre-working FUNK. Nor was it SADNESS or GRIEF.

It was time to call a spade a spade. I might be on some kind of spectrum. Whatever I have might even be clinical. And if I wanted any hope of keeping this boy in my life, I had better do something about it.