'I Epitomized the Ignorance and Stigma Associated with Mental Illness'
If you meet Percy D’Souza today you will find it hard to imagine that he struggled with severe, treatment-resistant, psychotic depression.
Percy comes across as high energy, engaging and positive. And yet, just over a year ago, Percy was, as he puts it, ‘a living corpse’.
“I had given up on life,” he recalls. “I was consumed by shame, fear and hopelessness. I had come to believe that I was good-for-nothing, of no value to anyone.”
Brought up mostly in India in a middle-class family, Percy has had a relatively privileged education and a fairly successful career in healthcare sales and marketing.
“All through life I’ve sought to check off all the boxes that made for a ‘Successful’ person.”
But, beneath this outward facade of success, something had been going on within. However, Percy avoided these dark, gnawing feelings.
“I subconsciously believed that if I could just be successful in my career then everything would be fine.”
But these feelings just got worse. To the point where, around the time Percy turned 40 in January 2016, he could not focus – on anything. Everything in his life suffered.
Yet he refused to accept there was something very wrong happening.
“I epitomized the ignorance and stigma associated with mental illness,” says Percy.
The prospect that he might be mentally ill was horrifying. So Percy continued struggling with these feelings on his own for close to a year. While his world crumbled all around. He lost his job and became increasingly disengaged from his wife, son, family, friends.
He eventually sought help, thanks in large part to the urging of his wife, Madonna. Percy went to his family physician who promptly diagnosed him with depression. Over the next two years Percy underwent treatment by a number of psychiatrists, was put on various types of medication, was hospitalized in several times, underwent ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) and attended various mental health support services in the community.
Then in January ,2018, at the depths of his darkness, two things happened that, in hindsight, Percy believes, were tipping points in his journey of recovery.
First, Percy started a second round of ECT at Ontario Shores where he had been referred to because of his badly deteriorating mental condition.
“I believe the ECT treatment I received at Ontario Shores was a critical contributor to my recovery.”
ECT, a medical treatment for various mental disorders has been clinically shown to be a safe and efficacious procedure. And more beneficial than antidepressants in patients resistant to conventional medication, as was Percy. At Ontario Shores the ECT program does Unilateral ECT, a more refined ECT procedure that is associated with a significant reduction in side effects than the more common bilateral ECT.
Around the same time Percy started working at Generals Motors (GM) in Oshawa through the support and persistence of a concerned friend.
“I believe the job at GM Oshawa was crucial to my recovery. Applying my mind to a job, after close to two years of being consumed by toxic thoughts of shame, fear and hopelessness, in a friendly, supportive workplace was key to rediscovering my self-confidence and finding hope.”
Percy is back to doing the things that bring him joy – family, friends, spirituality, work, sports, music. More pertinently, through his experience with severe depression he has discovered a calling to help others struggling with mental illness. To this end he devotes a considerable amount of time volunteering in various capacities at Lakeridge Health and at Ontario Shores.
“I’ve been saved by God’s grace manifested in the love and faith of family and friends, especially my wife and son, along with the competence and compassion of my psychiatrists,” says Percy.
“I’m grateful to be alive. I now strive to passionately live in the moment.”