Veteran reporter, author and columnist Jan Wong never thought the embarrassing details of her firing from the Globe & Mail would be splayed out for all the nation to read — much less that she’d be the one pulling back the curtain on the whole, ugly affair.
But when her editor attacked her in a national column for something she wrote following the 2006 Dawson College shooting, her self esteem started to plummet and she found herself slipping into the darkest depths of depression.
Her self-published memoir on workplace depression, Out of the Blue, is now climbing the bestseller charts in Canada.
“I’ve never shied away from censoring any kind of story because of my own personal embarrassment. That’s always minor,” she told Metro while in Vancouver this week for her son’s graduation from UBC.
“I’ve always just written what I think needs to be written. It’s too important a story, and I realized when I couldn’t find any other memoirs (on the subject of workplace depression) I had to do this, because I think there’s a real need out there to start a national conversation about depression.”
She said she had no idea before a psychiatrist diagnosed her with situational, clinical depression one in five Canadians will suffer from the debilitating illness at some point in their lives.
“It’s good for someone who’s tough, like me, to say it has nothing to do with toughness,” she said. “It’s not a sign of weakness to get depressed, it’s like getting the flu.”
When Wong went on sick leave the Globe withdrew her sick pay and ordered her back to work. In June, 2008 she was fired for continued absences, prompting her to file a wrongful dismissal suit which was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
She said that’s when her healing began.
“I really loved it, and I never thought I would ever leave,” she said of her 20 years at the Globe.
“I really thought, ‘This is my home, I’m going to stay here until they carry me out.’ Well, they did carry me out, and now I’ve learned almost things that are trite, but I’ve learned that you can reinvent yourself, and happiness has nothing to do with status.”
Wong now finds fulfillment teaching journalism at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, NB, and is a columnist for Halifax’s Chronicle Herald and Toronto Life magazine.