"I am a 39-year-old partner, father, and a friend. Everyday I battle my anxiety, my depression, my post concussion syndrome, PTSD and a speech impediment. To deal with my mental health unwellness I had to step out of my comfort zone. I had to face my fears, my anxieties, my demons and all my darkness. My darkness is that voice in my head that tells me I am not good enough. It screams I'm not strong enough to overcome my past or deal with this rollercoaster we call life. It tells me I am not worthy of love and that I will never find forgiveness from my guilt and shame. Those things my darkness tries to make me believe are all lies. It's scary as hell, but I learnt I was not alone.
Growing up I never knew how to explain what was going on inside of me. I fought the darkness everyday with a sensitive soul, a troubled heart and an anxious mind. Childhood traumas plus a speech impediment left me with low self-esteem, unhealthy coping mechanisms and anger towards my Higher Power. I grew up playing team sports and had what seemed to be a normal life. But on the inside, I was hiding away so much pain. I felt alone surrounded by the people I tried to please and looked to for acceptance. Growing up mental health was a taboo topic. I had all these feelings inside of me and no idea how to communicate them. I internalized all these emotions for so many years because I did not know what depression and anxiety were. And back then I did not know my enemy, my darkness, or how to deal with it all.
The first time I thought of taking my life I was in grade 7. I had gotten off the bus filled with panic and fear. I got home, went downstairs, jumped in the shower and just cried. I did not want to be alive. I never wanted to go back to school or look any one in the eye again. I blamed God for my stutter and was mad at Him for many years. I did not want to face another day of feeling small and different. I hated going to school and I tried to hide in the back of the classroom. I dreaded reading out loud and when called upon to answer questions I wanted my world to end. I missed a lot of school because of my anxiety. It had me feeling physically ill. Some day's I would pretend to be sick because it was easier to be absent then to face the ridicule. Both teachers and kids found my speech impediment an easy target for jokes. All of these things led me to battle the thought of suicide through out junior high, high school and into adulthood. u200b
12 years ago, I was out checking cows and got bucked off my horse. I suffered a major concussion, a neck injury and a brain bleed. My mental, physical and spiritual health was tested. And unfortunately, I wasn't strong enough to cope in healthy ways. I struggled to numb the pain I felt with alcohol and pain killers. I was on low dose anti depressants for my migraines and brain pains. All the pills left me feeling groggy, foggy and nausea. I was left feeling more depressed and disconnected from my life and the world around me. The darkness began to become too much. Then 8 years ago I hit rock bottom. Bad life choices, migraines, random nerve pain and my depression left me hiding away in the basement. Isolating myself from my family seemed the easiest. It separated my darkness from my kids. I thought I was keeping them safe. Instead, I was only missing out on their lives. To this day I struggle to forgive myself for all the years I spent curled up on the couch. It was at this point I decided I needed to do something. It was very clear to me if I did not do something I would not be alive much longer. At first, I tried to do it on my own. So, I learnt about psychology, brain injuries, mental health and Buddha. I had too many sleepless nights battling insomnia. I spent that time reading, learning how to mediate, praying for answers and hoping for rest. I was trying to understand myself and what I was going through. Slowly I began to understand how my past vices, childhood traumas and the effects of 10 plus concussions were affecting the present day me. I had all this knowledge and philosophy up in my head but still I was struggling. It was at this point I decided to find a counselor. Speaking with a professional was the best thing I ever did for my mental health. It was hard and scary sharing my life and my past with a stranger. But there was something cathartic about sharing who I was, what I had been through and what I had over come with someone. You get to share your struggles, your traumas and your Light. It helped me to start putting my life into perspective. When I took the time to reflect on my life from a calm rational viewpoint, I began to see all the positive things in my life. And I started to see all the areas of myself i need to work on.
Until 2 years ago I had sworn off antidepressants. My negative first try left me jaded towards those capsules. But today I take my pills everyday and night, I see a psychologist, a psychiatrist, I try to have a healthy sleep routine and I have found my way back to the Cross. Recently I was diagnosed with ADHD. Imagine an early childhood diagnosis? The reason for my racing mind, my inability to focus at school and the poor impulsive decisions I made through out my life started to make sense. But all the pain and suffering have led me to learn, to grow and to view the world differently. We can allow all that pain and struggle to eat at our soul and make us hard. Or we can plant a seed in the tough crusted soil of torment and grow. We need to learn to be gentle with ourselves especially when we are hurting. We need to learn to be compassionate with our own thoughts. We need to find ways to challenge past traumas and we need ways to break negative thought patterns. Getting professional help, working on living a healthy lifestyle and finding our faith can help to promote positive self talk and create positive healthy tools to use against our darkness.
To live with anxiety is to live-in worry and fear of the future. What could or should go wrong will. Our anxiety has us in a constant state of uneasiness. We all have stress in our lives but when we get caught in the fight or flight mode our nervous systems get stuck in overdrive and our brains and bodies can react in negative ways. We can start to feel numb to the world around us or over stimulated. Our hearts and minds are constantly racing like we are being chased by a monster. Unfortunately, those monsters can be our own thoughts and our own actions. How do can we hide from ourselves? Our lives are meant to be lived in the present. When we live with depression we are living in the past with guilt and regret. A wise woman once told me regret and guilt are two useless emotions that only rob us of happiness in the now. We do not have a time machine to go back and change the past. We do not get to change our past traumas or take back the pain we may have caused others while we ourselves were hurting. We can try to seek forgiveness from others but may end up not receiving it. We may hope for apologies that never come. These are the natural consequence of our actions. However, we need to find positive ways to deal with these feelings and consequences. This is where forgiveness of self and empathy are needed. The only way I have been able to find peace with my past transgressions and let go of the guilt, regret and shame was to put my faith in Christ. But our ego, our demons and our darkness can eat away at our soul day by day. And soon we can define ourselves by our past transgressions. Our power to change the narrative of our past comes in how we reframe our experiences and emotions in those moments of trauma and in that pain. If we can rewrite our perspective, then we can begin to rewire our brains. If we can change the way we view a negative experience we can find some good and take back the power it holds over us.
When someone makes that choice too take their life all rational thought is gone. I have walked that line, and in that moment, you honestly believe that the world and your family would be better off with out you. Our darkness engulfs us, it lies to us, and the darkness drowns out our Light. It plays on our doubts, our demons and our fears. All we can feel is an emptiness and a hopelessness. All we can hear is a loud voice telling us that there is the only one way out. In a moment we can make that choice to end it all. But the truth is that its up to those of us who struggle to find the strength to ask for help. We must be the ones who take that first step. We all have the power in us to change our lives. Helping others and sharing our stories is not only cathartic but needed in order to heal. Do not be afraid to share your story or your struggle with others because you never know who might be listening in that moment. It might change a life, inspire someone out of darkness or give hope to the hopeless. Today when my anxiety and depression get the best of me, I turn inward. I remember all the times I have overcome negative thought patterns, the times I calmed my racing mind with mediation and spoke my truth knowing my faith would carry me through. I have learnt to create healthy relationships, let go of addictions and to use positive self talk when the loudest voice in my head tells me to give up. Being grateful for each day, each relationship and every mistake you have made helps us learn a lesson. Soon the voice of the darkness gets quitter, less aggressive and some days it is only a whisper. Today I know this world is a better place with me in it, my kids' lives are better because I am here, and I have found a healthy relationship that gives me strength when the darkness tries to knock me off the path I am on. In order to give ourselves the best tools, the best knowledge and the best armour to battle everyday, we need to take care of our physical health, our mental well-being and connect with our spiritual self. That might mean leaving a toxic relationship, setting strong boundaries with others or having a faith in a Higher Power. Let Go and Let God.u201d
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