#MentalHealthAwareness – What is Mental Health?

It’s dark, sometimes lonley, sometimes peaceful, but often distrubing. The gut feeling inside is hurtful, painful and scornful….its an awful feeling of never ending dread.

Recently a good friend shared a Shakespear quote; “In sooth, I know not why I am sad. It wearies me, you say it wearies you, but how I caught it, found it or came by it. What stuff ’tis made of, whereof it is born, I am to learn” which sums things up quite nicely. Its phantom like, coming and going, sometimes its felt and others not so much. It vanishes, it returns….never lost, wished forgotten, but always returns.

Its hard to explain the concept, the inner battle that occurs daily to others. What seems like forever ago it was something I would consider abstract, unknown and also not something possible….but, if you don’t protect your health and look after your soul, it WILL come to haunt you within notice and in ways you constantly wonder why, what if, when and hows.

Years  went by, and something changed. I never was able to put a finger on it, identify it nor acknowledge how it took hold of things. People say they go from being a happy, friendly person to a drastically different person overnight…..not sure if I agree with that, but it crept up without notice, dug its fingers in deep and began a slow daunting pull towards darkness.

Somedays, you just feel it was a bad day or even chaulk things up to an event, conversation or something you seen, hear and felt. You shrug it off, thinking tomorrow will be better and it is because yesterday was dreadful and horrid and everything and anything is better, brighter, sweeter than that!

If people were to describe me, I would often hear; blunt and to the point, no BS sort of guy, but funny, beyond humourous for those that I am comfortable around, likes to laugh tease and bug others in playful ways, turn anything into learning oppertunities while laughing and exploring together. But, then as I said before, there was an event…..a sudden change, a feeling that was just slightly off, not right. It wouldn’t regress, nor could be shaken by the regular things that would work; you know a tough, long intense work out, getting on the ice and crafting an piece of art that Gretzky would be envious of and admire, a hug from your child, holding hands with the wifey.

I guess deep down it masked itself from me, and due to that from others in the process as well. That is to everyone, until my family began to feel something different….they began identifying things, which only made me angrier and more frustrated. Feelings grew worse in those moments, which begun to become uncontrollable, the only escape was exiting the situation and space…..the space was originally short live, but began to become longer and much more needed with time, the distance became a common requirement in the week, which grew to a daily and unfortunately hourly thing. There was no escape from the feeling, at home, at work…..there was always something that added to the dread, the mournful feeling of drowning more and more each day.

I recall visiting my doctor and sharing this feeling, he said maybe I just need more sleep. So, I tried sleeping more, and it didn’t help. I tried drinking more water, exercising more to feel better about myself….and although physically I felt great, that pull, the drag downward was always beneath the surface grasping and tugging on my soul keeping me from getting out of the rut.

Medication came next, it start for a few weeks…..many side effects, not so good….not change in mood nor feelings and chemicals added within my body reduced some minor pleasures I was getting before. Insert new medication after an increase in dosage, for another 4-6 week span. Sweats – hot and cold, shakes often, feeling of spiders walking all over you, the tingles sometimes good mostly bad….needed off these meds.

Added Cognitive Behavioural Therapy first once a month, then gradually increase to bi-weekly events with lots of homework exercises and mediation. Sounds, walks, quiet moments of 2-3 mediations a day, no help…..just prolonged the feeling of sorrow again. It always returned, it became a friendly reminder that I was anchored to something I could not identify but slowly became somewhat safe (scary when this happened).

I recall sitting in my vehicle, on mornings I would often run into work, but now fighting off the tears, I didn’t want to be seen as weak, so I buried those and pushed myself through someday in a silent haze within my head soley on autopilot to safetly get through the day without losing control again. Upon returning to my safe place I would again distance myself from everyhing and everyone. Things were not good! I hid it fairly well outside my castle, laughing, joking and working as I always did living with OCD, buy burying myself within my work. I made lists that were much larger then ever before, because if I kept busy I wouldn’t be able to feel what was growing inside. I thought if its not fed, it would die and go away, but it didn’t only grew more.

More new meds, again no change over the months ahead. I pushed myself to reach Christmas Break, thinking I just needed that time away, off from the daily grind…..boy was I wrong! We got to Christmas Break, I honestly felt great…..time off, relaxing, sleeping in, watching lots of hockey and being with family at Christmas. But it was autopiloted at times again, sometimes I felt me again – actually more often then while working, being away from the toxic environment and contributors of dread drastically helped! It really did…..but then the day before return to work a conversation that enlightened me, yet also scared the shit out of me occurred.

Seven years of age, tears in her eyes at 11-11:30 pm my daughter shared fears of a return to school, yet not because of her situation because of my return to work. It was shared with Dad in that moment that; “If I go back to school, you do as well, and if you do then I lose my Christmas Daddy, and I don’t love my other Daddy anymore”………that was the moment that I realized there was a problem!

I was always great with kids growing up, I loved sharing my skills in hockey, which turned into a career as an Educator when life threw me a curveball with a car accident, derailing my hockey aspirations ONLY after being scouted and offered a full ride hockey scholarship at Michigan State Unversity. A dream come true shattered, but my optimism brought out an oppertunity to explore a passion I always had teaching kids into teaching. Teaching became the new goal, and as driven as always I set my sights in and obtained it with many barriers and obstickles along the way.

I worked through years of bliss teaching, loving life and learning a lot along the way. Bought the first house, got married, had a kid, obtained a solid contract. Add in two more monkeys at once, new house, larger vehicles, new school – gig, role and learn some more. Family events, photos, laughs and moments of sheer enjoyment……..fast forward to that moment in time when my world crashed, my daughter sharing she didn’t love me anymore.

I made a promise to stop teaching if I returned to the old ‘Before Christmas Daddy’, three days later, I was called out on that promise. The next day I informed my admin and doctor I needed out. It was unforeseen, never felt yet crept up silently and embedded itself someone inside me.

Today after months away from things, many Medication Changes, CBT, Chiropractic Treatments, Meditations, Grind Gaurds to sleep, changes in diet and exercise to be honest many things……its still here, it doesn’t go away. Shakespear said; I know not why I am so sad….yes I am still trying to figure that out. Its unknown still, its felt every day just as it was smacked against my face with those word from my daughter; “I don’t love you anymore Daddy” those words haunt me daily, somedays its easy to connect, others I am in a battle with little things, it doesn’t help being OCD and habits that are not so pleasent happening daily within my house…..they feed the anger, the frustration and stuff comes out without a thought.

Mental Health is dreadful, its a daily haunting reminder that a diagnoses of Severe Major Depression and Situational Anxiety lingers behind the scenes. Awareness is nice, yet uncontrollable in the same. Living with Mental Health is odd, as you know its there, sometime felt often not….but controlling your mood unconsciouly.

Self awareness and self checks have to occur, not throughout the day, but through the hours within the day. Its exhausting, daunting and draining…..you seek clarity but there is none, you desire release but its short lived, its there…..its not going away.

Its hard to put into words but I hope within these paragraphs and for those whom know me you see the daily grind, the struggle and effort needed to fight. I can honestly say I have given up some days, many to be honest…but we have to be aware, and fight for our families because the depression is real, it spread and breeds within the words and action within daily routines and conversations.

I say the hole that I am in is dark, lots of tunnels and creepy things, voices (depending on meds), feelings, side effects….someone seems to be pulling me every day, not willing to let go, grasping for anything to get ahold of. Some days I feel as if I can reach the top, I see the light and feel the wind on my face for moments and once again feel good, but its short lived, as the darkness grabs hold again.

Its a daily grid for those living with Mental Health struggles…..be aware of yourself, be ware of your friends and family. Question, share concerns you see….be there for folks, sometimes space is needed as well, sometime just silence. Most of all self check, don’t wait when you feel ‘off’ its your body, your soul saying someting isn’t right…..listen to it, don’t dig a hole for yourself.

Thanks for listening!


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