CEOs and Depression: A Hidden Problem

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Cedar Knolls, NJ – I have kept a deep secret from my friends and professional colleagues for my entire life.

The secret that I kept was the tremendous emotional abuse and depression I suffered as a boy as a result of a father who had a severe personality disorder and who was extremely abusive to my mother, two brothers, sister, and me. I didn’t know this about him as a kid, but I learned about his mental illness decades later. My mother became clinically depressed as a result of his behavior toward her. I grew up with a very poor self-image because I never felt that I did anything right. I always felt blamed for everything that went wrong. My father would even blame me first if the faucet in the bathroom leaked, saying, “It wasn’t leaking when I was using it. You must have done something to it.”

I often fought with him in an attempt to protect my mom. A few times, I literally chased him around the house with a butter knife. I actually wanted to kill him. He provoked such rage within me because of his complete lack of emotional empathy and his irrational thinking. I know that I could have easily ended up in prison for killing my dad and I would be another statistic in our criminal justice system. For some reason, I didn’t kill him, but we fought all of the time. He once kicked me when I was on the ground in the back yard. I don’t remember why, but I do remember my brother Danny screaming at my father to stop. His abuse was devastating to me and everyone in my family.

Perhaps it was because I felt so ashamed or feared being rejected or not understood. But now, I have decided to share my story with the hope that it will inspire others to pursue their dreams and live a meaningful and productive life. That in spite of how difficult your life may be and the current circumstances you find yourself in, there is a path forward for you to make your life happier and more successful. This is not about some quick tips to change your life, but rather about my true journey from feeling hopeless, despondent, and a failure, to transforming my life into one filled with much joy, happiness, and success.

I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was a very cold, clear night on Friday, January 29, 1971, when I asked my parents to drive me to Fair Oaks Psychiatric Hospital in Summit, New Jersey, to be voluntarily admitted. I screamed out loud for my parents to “take me” because I could no longer cope with my depression, anxiety, and stress. Having recently quit working full time during the day in a warehouse and having recently dropped out of attending college in the evening, I was fast falling into despair. As a twenty-year-old man, I felt that my life was spinning out of control in a state of hopelessness and helplessness. And I was terrified.

My despair felt like I was carrying a thousand pounds of mental stress on my head while riding on a rollercoaster that was only going down the tracks and never up. There was no relief at any time, further sending me into the darkness. I felt so depressed, tired, and discouraged. I couldn’t find a way to get out of this feeling of hopelessness. I could no longer cope with my life.

Upon arriving at the hospital, two men in white uniforms came out to the car and walked me into the hospital, just like they did in those old movies. I don’t remember much, but I do remember being escorted to a locked patient unit and having a nurse ask me a number of questions about my medical and family history. I had a private room with a bed and some drawers. Any objects, like my belt, razor, lighter, etc. were taken away before I entered the locked unit.

I later found out that this locked unit was where they put patients first to make sure they weren’t suicidal. But in spite of my sense of despondency and hopelessness, I never ever thought of giving up. Not once. I knew that life was precious , that I wanted to make something of myself. I was not going to give up. I was determined to get the help I needed, whatever it was. I cared too much to quit. No matter how messed up my life was, I wanted to make something of my life and have a positive impact on others.

Dennis C. Miller
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Dennis C. Miller is a motivational speaker, author, leadership coach and CEO. Dennis’ new book Moppin’ Floors to CEO: From Hopelessness and Failure to Happiness and Success has recently been released.

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