For Barry Samson, a nervous breakdown was the best teacher he had.
The prairie-born Samson was a successful hunting guide and outfitter who worked until he could not go on.
He was, he said, a workaholic who needed to feel busy all the time.
"I was able to hold it together to a certain point," he said. "But at one point, it didn't work anymore."
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Eventually, he suffered a nervous breakdown.
Lessons from therapy
"It was a real gift for me because I learned that there are certain rules to emotional life and if you don't live your life according to these rules, you can get squished like a bug."
Samson went to therapy and reflected on his life. From that, he learned to help other people with similar struggles and alleviate the stigma of emotional distress.
Now a life coach, Samson said the holiday season can be an especially difficult time because everything ramps up like someone has turned the volume up.
"To get from unhealthy to healthy, you have to do something," he said. "It won't just fall out of the sky."
He urges people to not fear their emotions.
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"A lot of people are at war with their nervous systems, they are trying to drug it in whatever way they can whether it's alcohol or drugs or work or sex," he said.
He's hosting an event called Depression Confessions later this month to bring together people who have been in a dark place and emerged from it.
Anxiety, depression, and addiction
Candace Platter, an addictions therapist and a recovering addict, is one of the guest speakers.
Platter said there is a strong connection between emotional distress and addiction.
"They go hand-in-hand," she said. "To have somebody with depression who feels anxious about life who doesn't use an addictive behaviour? It's really hard to find that."
Platter, who has been sober for 30 years, said at the end of her addiction she was suicidal. But she didn't feel like she could tell anyone.
"The unhappiness that is prevalent in our society needs to be talked about and dealt with," she said.
Depression Confessions will be held Dec. 29 at the Roundhouse Centre with a workshop in the afternoon and an event in the evening.
Watch Barry and Candace in conversation with Gloria Macarenko on Our Vancouver in the video above.