New job brings new hope to endoscopy technician after struggles with depression

Written by Gretchen Parisi

In 2015, Michael Sorsen was grieving his dad's death, coping with the end of a friendship, and missing his closest buddy who was attending school in another state.

All of this upheaval left him feeling severely depressed.

Without many job prospects locally, he decided he needed some distance from the life he had known so far.. So in 2016, Michael took a job as a train porter with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

First steps in finding help

Michael found himself traveling throughout the country in his new job, but his mental health issues were close behind. During what he describes as a "very tough time" and in the absence of convenient access to health care, Michael called crisis hotlines on multiple occasions to get help.

It wasn't easy to seek help, he says.

Making that first call to a suicide hotline was scary. Michael wasn't sure what to expect. He quickly learned that the person on the other end of the line seemed "like a friend." And with the help of crisis hotline staff, Michael was able to figure out some ways to change his mindset, like going outside for a walk when things felt dark.

He was able to manage his mental health for a while, but the depression soon returned.

In March 2017, Michael was in New York City when he learned that the circus was preparing to pull up stakes for good. He felt despair, realizing he would soon be jobless and have to return to his home state of Iowa.

"I saw no hope that I'd ever be happy again," he says. "I wanted to die."

Michael sought help at a nearby emergency room. He says the stigma around getting mental health care — worrying about what others might think — often prevents people from seeking that care, and it shouldn't.

"I knew I had to talk to someone and needed help," he says.

Hope arrives in an email

While waiting to be seen in the emergency room, Michael checked his phone and saw an email from Mayo Clinic. It was an invitation to interview for an animal care technician position that he had applied for weeks before. His brother, who works at Mayo, had sent him the job posting.

The email offered hope.

"I'm sitting in the ER, kind of wishing I had checked my email earlier," he says. "Something really changed inside of me. I started to think of all the things I would be able to do in life if I got offered the job and had a well-paying career."

Michael spent the next week in a New York hospital inpatient psychology ward. Once he was cleared to leave, he flew to Minnesota to interview for the animal care technician position at Mayo Clinic.

The interview was nerve-wracking, he says. The wait to receive a job offer was no walk in the park either.

But he got the job, and having a steady income gave him some stability, he says.  

Mayo Clinic also gave Michael more reasons to feel grounded. "All of the people that I have met at Mayo love me and I love them," he says.

After being an animal care technician for four years, Michael transferred to his current position as an endoscopy technician in November 2021. He enjoys working in a team setting, where "everyone has each other's backs."

Along the way, he's also learned to take life's hiccups in stride. When a job interview went "hilariously bad," he put coping mechanisms he's learned to work. Exercise is one tool he falls back on when life gets stressful.

"After that bad interview, I went to the gym and did two exercise classes in a row until I felt better," he says.

Therapy also helps him when he is feeling low but doesn't want to burden friends with his problems.

"Therapy is a safe place to share those feelings," he says. "If you are struggling, reach out to someone and don't keep all of those feelings inside. When I was really depressed, I had tunnel vision. I couldn't really see beyond that."

Epiphany leads to new resolutions

Looking back, Michael is grateful that he was not afraid to seek out mental health resources when things got tough, and that he didn't give up.

"I've had some epiphanies lately," he says. "I realize how much other people care about me."

When other people were giving up bad habits for their 2022 New Year's resolutions, Michael decided to give up his self-deprecating sense of humor.  

"I am noticing that those negative comments I made about myself were having a harmful effect," he says.

Giving up those comments has had a positive impact on his mental health, improving his outlook on life and giving him optimism.

He now believes that everything will work out in the end.

"Finally, I am in my dream position, and I am really happy," he says.

Michael hopes that anyone experiencing mental health issues will understand that there are others who share similar struggles, and they are not alone.

"We all have our hardships and what you see on the surface is not the whole story," he says. "Be kind to yourself. Be open to others and get help when you need it."

To care for yourself and bring your best self to work each day, it is important that you take care of your mental health. Mayo Clinic wants to foster a culture that encourages transparency, collegiality and support. It's not possible to consistently put the needs of the patient first if you don't address your own needs and support colleagues in doing the same.