Michael Maitland suffered from clinical depression, anxiety, and anorexia so severe that it landed him in the emergency room with a collapsed lung.
In his new book, Out Of The Madhouse: An Insider’s Guide To Managing Depression and Anxiety, which he co-wrote with his father, Michael takes us inside his journey – through journal entries – from suicidal to recovery.
“I can’t really believe how I managed to get this bad. At university (2007-2010), I slowly started to notice I didn’t feel right. I began staying in more, not seeing people, and struggling with how I felt about myself. As my self-esteem dropped, so did my confidence and happiness, and I had quite a short temper at times,” writes Michael.
As his father Ian searches for answers, he looks back over the years.
“With the benefit of hindsight, I can see his oh-so-slow decline – inch by inch at a time – from when he left to go to university in 2007 through to when he collapsed in October 2012: a long, long time – five years. For a while it was so slow that we didn’t notice it. We were blind for almost all of it,” writes Ian.
Yet spotting depression is not all that straightforward. It can be messy, manipulative, devious, and rarely fits into a neat checklist.
“Michael, for a long time, did not realize he was depressed…It took him years – not months – to realize he was actually suffering from depression,” Ian writes.
Upon reflection, Ian realizes that he could have done many things differently. He could have been there. He could have gotten advice. And he could have listened.
Michael comes to see that recovering from depression is also not straightforward.
“If you’re in an awful place, it can sometimes be hard to focus your mind on change. Some people don’t want to get better, or like me, have given up completely,” Michael writes.
What Michael and Ian eventually come to terms with is that happiness does not hinge upon an outward result, appearance, or achievement.
Michael struggles in many unforeseen ways – one of which is loneliness.
“Michael’s diary entries show that loneliness is a thread that runs through his life. It wasn’t, as often is not, that people weren’t around. He just felt apart from everyone,” Ian writes.
When his wife unexpectedly asks for a divorce, claiming that Michael neglected her, Michael struggles to find a reason to go on.
“How can I just get up and keep going? It feels impossible to me. I don’t even know what to do with myself. I feel desperate. I’m now sitting here on my own and it feels like my world has fallen apart around me. My family are at work. I don’t talk to my friends. I’m lost,” Michael writes.
Helping Michael cope with his grief, which is exacerbated by his depression and panic attacks, proves transformative for Ian as well. He soon learns that what is most important is to simply be there for his son.
“Grief is very personal and phrases such as, ‘I know how you feel,’ although meant well, are really not that helpful to the one who is experiencing grief. The person saying such a thing is almost taking over as if they are the person suffering,” Ian writes.
In time, with the help of a hypnotherapist, Michael comes to see his experience from a new perspective.
Interspersing diary entries, poignant fatherly reflections, and practical, helpful tips, Out of the Madhouse is a unique look at the many facets of mental illness, the family it affects, and the often tumultuous road to recovery.
Out Of The Madhouse: An Insider’s Guide To Managing Depression + Anxiety
Michael Maitland and Ian Maitland
Jessica Kingsley publishers
Softcover, 325 Pages