How one Canadian guy used little wins to flip the script on the ‘sad snowball effect’
“Look at every positive step as a win. If you have a lot of little wins, then you won’t have any big losses.”
Nathan Grundy’s life had come to resemble a muddy snowball by the middle of January.
Huddled on his couch with a heavy duvet pulled up to his nose, the thirtysomething office worker hadn’t left his Toronto apartment in more than three days, hadn’t slept in his bed in a week, and hadn’t been to work in a month.
This wasn’t the kind of relaxing winter hibernation many Canadian guys (and all Canadian bears) need from time to time. The “sad snowball effect” hounding Nathan had started six months earlier when he first noticed changes in his mood, energy levels, and sleep patterns. “I was tired all the time, I couldn’t sleep at night, and I was easily agitated and quick to snap,” he recalls.
On the outside, Nathan remained boisterous, outgoing and energetic. “But in truth, I was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. I felt like a boat with so many holes that I could never bail enough to keep from sinking. I was so scared because I didn’t know what was happening or what was wrong with me.”
Nathan’s struggles came to a head when he was sent home from work after “falling apart.” Soon, his living room looked like “a college dorm room gone wrong, with empty cereal and pizza boxes piled high on the coffee table and old milk cartons on the floor.”
With friends checking in on him daily, with his dog, Winnie, by his side, and with the support and guidance of his employer, it eventually became clear that these were not the “winter blues” many Canadians feel from time to time. “I realized that it can either get worse or it can get better, and there’s got to be a way to get better,” Nathan explains.
He was right. The turning point came when Nathan reached out to his family doctor, who quickly referred him to a psychiatrist at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Making his first appointment “was a little win. It was just one phone call, but on that day, it was an accomplishment.”
Ultimately diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety disorder, Nathan was prescribed medication to “balance him out.” He started seeing a therapist and enrolled in a group cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) program. “The CBT helped me understand some of the root causes of my anxiety and depression,” he explains. “They have very simple exercises that help me deal with the grind of daily life. The therapist allows me to unload what’s on my mind, and asks questions that get me thinking about things in different ways.”
As part of his recovery, Nathan also picked up a wealth of easy tips any guy can use to fight off the winter blues and prevent them from getting worse. Check them out in this blog post.
Two years after that dark January, Nathan says he is “back in control of my life. I find myself thinking through situations before acting. I no longer fly off the handle or overreact to the little things that used to set me off. When I get down, I am confident that the tools I have gained, and continue to develop, will help me handle whatever life throws my way.”
And that includes the occasional muddy snowball.