What Lies Beneath
Posted on October 7, 2016
This week has been Mental Health Awareness week. What’s unfortunate is that this is now Friday, and I only just found out. Me, someone who people complain is attached to his phone and social media constantly, only just found out.
Yesterday, my friend Andrew took to Facebook Live and recorded a video (linked below) where he spoke about his own experiences with depression and anxiety. It is raw, rough, and from the heart. If you’re going to watch it after reading this, I will warn you that he doesn’t censor himself.
It got me thinking about a revelation I had this week, and about how I have prepared for the almost inevitable interview question “what’s your biggest weakness?” and what it really all meant. As of writing this, I only moments prior had watched a video that was posted about the effects of anxiety. All of this prompted me to decide to sit down and write this out.
I’ve only actually completely explained all of this to a small few people. This is the first time that I’ve talked about my story on a large scale. But I hope that with more and more stories like my friend Andrew’s and my own being put out into the public space that it will inspire more and more people who share our experience to seek help, or possibly speak out to show the world that depression and anxiety and other mental health issues are a lot more prevalent than people realize.
So here’s my story.
In 2010, I was finally diagnosed with clinical depression.
When the diagnosis came in, it was a complete relief. It explained so many things that I had been experiencing. So many thoughts and thought processes that had moved through my brain suddenly had a recognizable source.
But they all also had a cause.
I am lucky to have a family who are incredibly supportive. They always tried to encourage me to do things that I wanted to do. Always supporting me in following my dreams, whatever dreams they may be. However, I am the only child in my family. Not by choice, however. Because of this, and because of why I was the only child (which I won’t elaborate on because it’s not my story to tell) my parents (especially Mom) were very protective. Even now, we all agree that there were times where it was excessively protective. But hindsight is always 20/20.
This protectiveness resulted in some social difficulties. Also compounding the issue was that I was never a big fan of sports. While I wasn’t overweight (I was still an active child) I wasn’t exactly “in shape” as far as being successful at athletics required, and much of my class were very athleticically minded. This resulted in many, many years of being one of the main targets of bullying.
Thinking back, the bullying started around the time I was 8 years old. No matter how supportive my family was, my social environment went out of their way to tell me how worthless, useless and stupid I was. I wasn’t completely innocent of things that likely turned some people away, no one ever truly is. We all make mistakes, especially as children. However 5 straight years of this environment set the stage for what would haunt me the rest of my life.
I went to a different high school than most of my elementary school classmates. A fresh start, and the possibility of meeting a larger variety of people was exciting. However many of the same habits and mistakes found their way to my side yet again, as the initial damage had been done. Again, not being athletic meant settling into a niche that was a popular target for bullying. Being beat up in grades 9 and 10, down to having a small container of syrup thrown at my head, hitting me in the face during a Shrove Tuesday event when I was in grade 12 that earned me the nickname “Syrup Beard” (at 16, I had grown a vandyke goatee, which I still wear today). The nickname became so pervasive that while on a trip to New Orleans members of the school concert band (which I was part of, but didn’t go on the trip) took syrup and wrote “Syrup Beard” on a sidewalk. The nickname would even get yelled at me from a car while I was in my second year of college (my first foray into post-secondary schooling.)
Again, super-supportive family, but many, many voices all telling me how useless, worthless, stupid, and pathetic I was. Hard to get that refrain out of one’s head.
The black dog would continue to haunt me all through my first attempt at college. So desperate for validation from other humans, especially the opposite sex, I completely tuned out of my classes, often completely skipping the majority of the semester. What should have been a full diploma in three years became a part-time certificate of completion in four years. All because I sought but could not find validation from others.
I met my first wife in college. We were on again, off again for a while, then decided to just make the jump to marriage when she discovered that she was pregnant with our first child. My failure to complete college firmly railing at me from the back of my head, and desperately needing to look after my family, I ended up taking the only full time job that would be offered to me. A call center position. Decent pay, with benefits. It was what I needed to do for my new family.
My first wife and I were never great at being more than friends. Nearly two years after tying the knot, after much struggle and fighting, we separated, and later divorced. All while she was pregnant with our second child. It wasn’t a pretty situation, and we both agree now that we were a little uglier to each other than perhaps was necessary. But even still, I had failed yet again. That spectre kept getting fed with each failure, no matter how big or small.
The call center I worked for has a reputation in our city of taking a number of people in, chewing them up, and spitting them out. But I persevered. I took everything thrown at me, shouldered it, swallowed any shred of pride that had survived thus far and pushed on. It was here at this call center that I would meet the woman who would become my second wife, and the longest relationship I’ve had to date.
We were together a total of 8 years, between dating and marriage. For seven of those years I continued to work at the call center. I was working 40 hours a week, striving to put in my absolute best work. I was recognized by my peers as being competent and capable in my position, but struggled to move up in the company. For 9 years I struggled and clawed to gain some form of recognition, only to eventually be pushed back down, told that no matter how hard I worked, no matter how many goals they would set for me that I would over-achieve, nothing was good enough to advance in my position.
During that time, shortly before our wedding, my then fiancee began to show some signs of changing in how she dealt with things, especially me. She would become more cynical and critical. Suddenly, we would stop spending time with some people outside of work for some reason or another. We would get more and more sequestered. Over the remaining 5 years in our relationship, it would only get worse, as I would hear more and more about how nothing was done around the house, or how I wasn’t doing enough (despite being the only breadwinner in the last couple of years of the relationship), and being spoken to like I was less than she. The affection waned (quickly) to the point where the only affection shown was instigated by me. I was treated like a burden, a servant. My friends weren’t good enough for us to spend time around, and me wanting to have time with my friends was always a scheduling problem. More and more as I looked back, it has become clear that I was being emotionally and mentally abused. Reduced to nothing more than someone to make sure her life was as comfortable as it could be, and my needs and wants were not even secondary, but almost a complete afterthought. It got so bad between work and my wife that I considered taking my own life. Repeatedly. On a weekly basis. My children were what stopped me. I couldn’t leave them without their dad.
The final straw was after I had left the call center, and decided to change careers by going back to school. I still remember what was said;
“Are you sure you want to apply for OSAP? Because that’s an awful big debt to pay back when you don’t finish.”
… when I don’t finish.
I stayed in that relationship for three years longer than I should have, because she contracted an autoimmune disease called “mixed connective tissue disease” and I didn’t want to be “that guy who left his sick wife.” But after that, and then a few more statements made that simply cemented my resolve to go, I knew that the time had come. I moved out the September 1st before my first day back to college.
I am a survivor. I made the choice, and got out. If you’re reading this right now, and are going through something similar, know that you can get out too. You’d be surprised how many people around you will support your decision, and help catch you if you fall.
Fast forward to today, three years later. I did finish school, and sit here with an advanced diploma in Advertising and Marketing Communications Management. In fact, this very blog is a product of my first year of school. I won’t lie and say it was easy. I struggled from day one, and never looked back.
To this day, the spectre of all of those years haunts me. I wake up nearly every morning with this overwhelming doubt that I’m going to get any further away from feeling worthless, useless, and pointless. I am 39 years old, and for 31 of those years I have had people surrounding me telling me what a piece of garbage I am. More voices telling me how pathetic I am than the ones telling me how amazing I am. It’s a struggle to hold my head high and tell myself that I’m worth every dream I’m currently chasing. Some days I don’t do so well. But I keep on.
You can too. If any of this sounds familiar to you, if you can relate, and you haven’t sought help yet then I encourage you to please, please do so. There is help and resources out there for you. There are people in your life who will support you, and catch you if you falter.
Here’s my friend Andrew’s video. Please share this if you can. I’ll say again, this is uncensored.
Why authenticity matters.
Posted on October 19, 2015
Levi Strauss & Company, and Purina. Both companies with a long history of success.
Unfortunately for Levis, recent history hasn’t been that successful. Riding a wave of success up to and including the 1970s the brand was unprepared for what happened next. Over the next few decades, the once top brand in denim wear fell on difficult times. Revenues were down thanks to changing fashions, and a poor choice of not capitalizing on the baggy jean trend. As such, they seemed to lose the one thing that brought them to the public eye in the first place. That they were the real deal. They were there when the United States was being built. It was Levis who made the pants that were worn by workers all across the country. They were the brand of choice during World War 2 for workers who were supplying the troops. The struggle to find a place among all of the newer denim manufacturers and more popular pant styles became too much. While they’ve attempted to reclaim much of that backstory, it may be a case of too little, too late.
Purina on the other hand, doesn’t have a long backstory to fall back on. They don’t have the sort of enduring history that Levi Strauss can claim. Instead, in order to increase their brand awareness and grab onto the consumer’s attention they turned to social media. Instead of their own story, they’re letting customers tell theirs. They’re using longer posts, supplemented by pictures, and content from like-minded publications to enhance the customer experience with not only their product, but with their pet. They’re bringing families closer through their content.
Instead of building off of a long backstory that talks of how Purina came to be and what they’ve accomplished, they’ve chosen instead to shine a spotlight on the backstory of the customers who send them their own personal stories. Choosing instead to say that the stories of their customers is as much a part of their own backstory and history as it is their future. They didn’t lose focus on where they came from, like Levi Strauss appears to have done, but instead narrowed in on where their customers came from in supporting Purina.
Having a solid backstory can be very important for a company. It helps establish the values the company brings to its customers, and promotes a sense of community. It provides that sense of authenticity that customers can tap into. With the right level of authenticity, the customer can feel as much a part of the history of the brand as any product or spokesperson. Authenticity in a brand promotes a sense of community, a sense of pride. With community comes word of mouth publicity, and an increase in brand awareness as your loyal customers become brand ambassadors. Just make sure that it comes across as genuine. The best ways of defining a backstory for any company is to talk to the company founder, condense the message into key messages, and then work it into anything the company does to reach out to its consumers.
Like with anything, a good backstory must be maintained and supported. Once you let that go, like Levis Strauss did, the framework weakens. So embrace your history, and with it your customers.
Brand Social Media Audit: Boost Meal Replacement Shakes
Posted on October 18, 2015
Need a boost?
With today’s hectic schedules, who doesn’t? Which is why meal replacement and protein shakes have become relatively popular. A quick, grab and go option for busy lifestyles. Something to drink while en route to work, that you can consume while surfing those important social media sites.
So where does Boost engage with customers on social media?
The short answer, it doesn’t.
The long answer, it really, seriously doesn’t. No Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or even YouTube to promote the brand. The only showing on any of these is a posted commercial, seen on television as well. Absolutely no attempt to engage with consumers.
Boost’s target market, as indicated by their only online presence (their website), appears to be health-conscious adults who want to make sure that they have all of their nutrients with a quick drink or meal on the go. They know that their market wants something that tastes great and still provides everything they need in a meal.
They also host a program that appears to be aimed at older adults called beActive. It features a whole diet and activity challenge to get people up and moving, especially in their golden years when there isn’t work to go to, and as many errands to run, etc.
As far as influencers go, there aren’t a lot of people talking about Boost, favourable or otherwise. Just taking a quick look at a Twitter search indicates very little overall buzz about the product. There’s one picture on Instagram featuring the product, and discussion about it being for old people. On Pinterest, you have to sift through a bunch of other smoothie recipies and weight loss pins before you find anything to do with Boost. I’d post a link to a Facebook search, but why show you a page full of other things called Boost, and nothing about the meal replacements?
All in all, I believe that as far as Boost goes, no further monitoring is needed. They are so far behind the curve on social media that they might as well still be using Bulliten Board Systems and Compuserve Dial-Up.
Fear and Networking: A Brief Guide to Exchanging Business Cards
Posted on September 14, 2015
Reblogged from https://victoriacondllnblog.wordpress.com:
A lot of students are afraid of this word “Networking”.
Sitting in Orientation for the First Years of my program (Advertising and Marketing Communications/Management) I really thought about what a difference makes in one year. Just a short time ago, I was sitting where they were sitting, listening to people that I didn’t know, talk about things that I didn’t understand.
There were lots of thoughts and concepts that stuck in m head throughout my Orientation, but there was one that always freaked me out – “Networking”.
Turns out, for my whole life, I was just misunderstanding the meaning of it.
Networking, to me, was that gross small talk thing that you did at business dinners with the guys in suits before awkwardly exchanging business cards. Networking was talking to your dad’s boss at the company Christmas party, and being as polite and charming as possible.
View original post 430 more words
My meeting with Hans Vorster, Director of Communications for the Kingston and the Islands Federal Liberal Association
Posted on November 25, 2014
I met with Hans Vorster, the director of communications for the Kingston and the Islands Federal Liberal Association to discuss his role in the riding, and how it relates to marketing and advertising.
He began his career as an engineer, but ended up working at Telemedia in their Research and Corporate Development division. He explained that Communications Directors all likely have a background in Advertising or Publishing. He said that the ability to write clearly and concisely is paramount to the job. He advised that before anyone takes you seriously, you need to have between seven and eight years on the job experience.
He definitely believes that it’s a great career for social, outgoing people. He said that the most challenging part of the position is commitments to time, because things that need to be communicated don’t always happen between 9 am and 5 pm. He also said that bureaucracy can be difficult, as red tape catches you everywhere.
The most rewarding part of the job was the creative process. He also enjoyed crafting well reasoned arguments. He said that taking the time to research, getting all the facts straight, then getting the message out in a way that’s believable, while still truthful was something he always took pride in.
He definitely would take the same path to the position. He began in Media Sales, them moved into Marketing, and if given the time, he could have transitioned into Journalism with the amount of writing experience he had.
The advice he had for anyone looking to get into Communications as a career was to take your lumps when you start. Don’t expect anything but the bottom rung when you begin. Do your job well, even if you don’t like it. Continue to do your job well so you can get to the point where you can pick and choose what you end up doing.
He also stressed that it doesn’t matter how much education you have. An MBA and a college grad all start out in the same place. It’s all about how you approach the job, and how well you do what you do.
Oh look! A distraction!
Posted on March 22, 2014
Up, up in the sky! It’s a bird, no, it’s a plane, no, it’s a desperate attempt to prevent people from flocking away from a brand!
Amid all of the recent scandals, from inner thigh pilling to the Abercrombie and Fitch-worthy bone-headedness of founder Chip Wilson, Lululemon has struggled in stock value. What was once a highly revered brand is now the butt of many a joke. One set of sheer but not sheer pants later, and people who once proudly waved the Lululemon flag high are running like rats from a sinking ship. Who can blame them?
So, naturally, Lululemon step in and begin to address the concerns of their once faithful legions, right?
Instead, they launch a new casual wear line. Because nothing says “hey, we’re desperate for more business” than a new line of clothing. They’ve been having enough troubles with their original line of clothing, why produce a second one? This decision has to be one of the best laughs I’ve had yet while reading MarketingMag.ca. Here’s an idea, if it’s broken, then fix it! Let’s hope that the remaining faithful see this new line for what it truly is; a “shiny” intended to distract people from the real problems of the brand.
Canada not E-Commerce Savvy
Posted on March 22, 2014
Truth is, we’re really behind the times.
According to an article on Strategy Online, only 78 of 100 retailers observed by Google and New York-based think tank L2 had any sort of e-commerce function to their websites. Of the 11 who didn’t, some were internationally owned companies who simply haven’t invested in a Canadian version of their e-commerce infrastructure. Others had started to do e-commerce, then stopped.
What does this mean for Canadian retailers? It means that our hard earned money is going elsewhere, mostly south of the border.
It used to be that cross-border shopping involved hopping into a car and driving across to the nearest state to take advantage of special sales or prices. Now, it means a more convenience way to purchase what we normally would buy from local stores. Amazon, the e-commerce giant, is posing a big threat to these Canadian companies, causing them all to reconsider the online shopping market.
Despite online shopping growing, we’re falling behind everyone else. Obviously something’s got to change, but how quickly can something like this grow? I guess it’s up to some of the 78 retailers who are already doing something about this to step up and see what can happen.