I’ve known Mihai for two years when he joined our team as a video editor. Mihai graduated from the Arts Faculty and has a Master’s degree in Image Studies. He also plays guitar in a band and takes photographs in his spare time.

Mihai (photo: private archive)

Mihai is an introvert and a man of few words. Which makes his story of overcoming depression that more surprising.

Note to self: always remember to not take the people around you for granted – everyone is fighting a battle we’re not aware of.

Here’s how he became depressed and managed to overcome his depression as told in his own words:

I am a survivor of depression.

My entire life I was told by my family and society that I could not survive in this world living off my passion. Ever since I was a little boy, art empowered me to bring inspiration, energy and hope to those around me.

Unfortunately, I was encouraged to take a more pragmatic approach towards my career, and I got exhausted in my struggle to keep myself happy.

Throughout my life, I have often asked myself ‘Who am I and what am I doing with my time?’. Should I just cave in to this ‘advice’ and forget about what I really want?

After I finished my bachelor’s studies in cinematography, I got hired in a small advertising agency doing PPC promotion. Instead of working in the industry I wanted, I embraced a new domain in which I learned by doing. I believe anyone who goes through a similar experience can say it’s a struggle.

Being an accomplished professional means taking pride in your work. It means you have earned the respect of your colleagues, peers and have achieved financial satisfaction. I wasn’t anywhere near these elements. I was so far away that I would sometimes wonder ‘Why does my employer even want me here when it’s obvious I’m a failure?’

You could say he had faith in my potential, that he believed I could eventually reach the required level of expertise needed to do my job.

That’s how I fell into depression, striving to do my best while feeling like an imposter.

At one point, I lost track of how many nights I had spent staring at the ceiling thinking how to build successful digital campaigns. I was reviewing the knowledge I had gathered and comparing theory with experience. Nothing was making sense to me and that’s how I became a victim of my poor decisions.

Still, what happened with the respect I had earned from my faculty professors? Did all the hard work I put into being a filmmaker go to waste just for the sake of achieving financial satisfaction?

I remember my parents telling me ‘It’s hard no matter what industry you choose, so try not to be poor.’ The shame I was feeling like an imposter, a failure made me say stop. I had gained and lost a lot of weight while my life was spiralling into chaos.

Why was everything so difficult? Should a professional face uncertainty daily and show passion for their field no matter how hard the job?

At that moment all these questions converged into one:

‘Who am I?’

Getting my body back into shape helped me rebuild my self-confidence. Taking small but steady steps, I began looking for the answer to this question, an answer that I had sacrificed for the sake of making my family and society happy.

I am an artist. I am a filmmaker looking to inspire the world through my creations. I am not a marketer or an analytical person. I am no longer a fraud.

After I confessed this to my boss, he felt sorry for pushing me too far, just because he thought it was cheaper to bring a ‘sub-junior’ level employee rather than an experienced PPC specialist that he needed.

‘How hard could it be?’ was a question I answered the hard way. No matter how hard the battle, I didn’t give up until burnout affected my performance to the point that I was ashamed of everything. If I had directed my potential to fight the battles I was meant to fight, my life could have been a lot different.

It depends on every one of us to find the answer to this question, ‘Who am I?’ Maybe the quality of your work or what job you have matters less to you than a good paycheck. Maybe earning respect or receiving acknowledgement in the office is something that you’re not interested in.

I knew I wasn’t that type of person. Without respect, I couldn’t ‘feel’ I mattered in the environment that I was active as a professional and a human being. I went back to my original field, filled with self-confidence in my abilities.

Now I know this is what gives me drive, respect. The result of your efforts fuels passion. When I went back to video editing, my favourite part of the filmmaking process, I immediately found a job that would give me what I needed the most. Being a world changer and providing inspiration through the content that I produce finally made me whole.

The ensuing battles felt easier to win. Life became easier. Chaos was no longer in my mind. I knew who I was, and to what purpose I was dedicating my time and expertise.

In my experience, once I have rebuilt my self-confidence and started channelling my energy in the right direction, I knew I was happy and no longer suffering from work depression.”

Mihai’s story is overwhelming and a lesson on why we should always be true to ourselves and bring our authentic self in both our private and professional life.

In her book, Braving the wilderness, Brené Brown, keynote speaker at BRAND MINDS Live 2020, talks about people seeking perfectionism and fitting in at all costs and how dangerous it is to their health.

True belonging is the spiritual practise of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.

Brené Brown

It’s your turn now to find the answers, deep in your core.

Do you know who you are?

Are you struggling to be yourself at work?

Does your job give meaning to your life?