I can remember experiencing symptoms of depression as early as my grade nine year in high school. Throughout the rest of high school it was mostly subdued. I would have good days and bad days, just like anybody else, but for the most part I didn’t think it was serious.
That all changed in the months leading up to the summer of 2011. Three things happened in my life that I attribute to my downward spiral. The first thing that occurred was the end of my competitive hockey life. I was an average hockey player in an average league, but it meant the world to me. I loved being a part of a team in a competitive atmosphere where I could go out on the ice and play my heart out for my teammates. Sometimes I was an asshole, but for the most part all was forgiven once the buzzer went. It was such a great outlet for both energy and anger. You could go out on the ice and just skate your ass off until you couldn’t breathe. You could go out and throw all your weight into somebody, in my case all 150 pounds of myself. The best part was I got to do this at least two or three times a week including practices. You become family with your teammates, as cheesy as that is. Taking that away from me left me with an empty space to fill in my life. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal and for most people it isn’t, but for me it was devastating.
A couple of weeks later, one of my closest friends died suddenly. I had never dealt with much death in my life before this. I still had a few great-grandmothers in my life at that time, I still have one to this day, and both sets of grandparents are still young and healthy. All of a sudden, here I am losing one of my best friends who was only 18. I didn’t know how to deal with it, so I pretended I was fine and I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I’m not much for talking about feelings unless you really get me to open up and that doesn’t really happen. For some reason I refused to acknowledge that I needed to talk about this to move on. I acted like a tough guy, like I was doing just fine. The school counselor made me sit down with her the next week because people had told her that I was close with him. For reasons unknown to myself, I told her to leave me alone because I was doing just fine. I finally broke down in front of others when we had a school assembly to remember Luke. I’m talking full blown water works with my face buried in my shirt. I remember trying to stop the whole time because it was dark and maybe if I can recover, nobody would notice that I was upset. That wasn’t happening. The whole school was in the gym, so it was hard to see or identify anyone, but several friends spotted me having a tough time and came to offer their support. I know I didn’t offer much appreciation at the time, but I still think about that small gesture to this day.
About a month after that, the week of graduation, I went through a breakup that was all my own doing. It was inevitable, but this person meant a hell of a lot to me at that time, even if I didn’t realize it in the moment. I was in a very dark place before this, but again I refused to share this with anybody. This put me over the edge. I felt that I had nothing at all, like there was nothing to look forward to.
I went to work an hour out of town that summer and lived there during the work week with all my co-workers. There were 20+ people living in this house and I barely got to know any of them. I would wake up, go to work, come back to the house and then hide in my room all night, every night. On a good day I might come out to make myself a sandwich for dinner. I wanted nothing to do with anyone. I would get into my room at 5 p.m. and not leave it, save for bathroom breaks, until 8 a.m. the next day. Everybody there must have thought I was a complete and total asshole. I spent my off days drinking and golfing with friends from home to keep up the act like I was having the greatest time of my life. I doubt I was fooling anybody, but for some reason that was how I chose to go about things.
I went to the local university that fall and quickly realized I did not like the program I was enrolled in at all. I chose to stick with it and just scrape by because I didn’t know what I wanted to do instead. I drank with my friends too much to keep up my persona and to numb my feelings. I was a zombie. Just coasting through life. The next four years of my life are just a blur. I was completely empty. I drank way too much, way too often. Often waking up completely embarrassed of my actions and not wanting to show my face. I wasn’t myself. At all. Even though I had many supportive friends and a great family, I felt like I had nothing. I know it doesn’t make sense because I had everything a guy could ask for, but it didn’t matter. I stopped enjoying things I used to love. I didn’t even like going to the hockey rink until I was on the ice. My act began to fall off because I didn’t have the energy to fake it anymore. I had exactly zero energy, except when I got on the ice. I can count the amount of people on one hand that I’ve ever told about this, but I’m sure people could tell I was struggling.
Sometime in that four years I managed to develop some horrible social anxiety. I think I chose to spend so much time alone that the thought of interacting with people became terrifying. I had alienated myself from everyone to the point where I couldn’t function like a normal member of society. Where I once was a social person, I am now only truly comfortable when I’m alone watching hockey, baseball or football. A lot of people have witnessed my anxiety in overdrive. Sometimes I convince myself I can go to a party or whatever it may be and right when I get there I know I’ve made a mistake. Sometimes everything goes well and I have fun. I’m not quite sure how to gauge it yet, but it can be pretty embarrassing. I want to be social, I want to be fun and I want people to like me. That’s hard to do when you’re out with friends and your heart is beating at an obscene rate for no reason. My mind is going insane telling me that I just need to be in bed alone and that needs to happen immediately. I feel like I’m going to vomit at any second and if it goes on long enough, I eventually do (apologies to Campbell’s bathroom on New Years). I can’t stop pacing around. I look like a lunatic. I’m sure I did this to myself and that’s why I’m opening up about this.
Don’t be like me. Go talk to a professional and I promise things will get better. I finally did this summer and I’m so much better for it. I talked about things, which was pretty crazy, and my depression has been mostly under wraps. I found out I can talk about things when I write them down. I also found out that I love writing, as you can probably tell, I apologize to everyone on my social media feeds getting bombarded with my work. I moved away to go to school for something I actually enjoy and I’m chasing my dream of becoming the next, hopefully better looking, Elliotte Friedman. I found out I actually have dreams and there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. I still struggle to get out of bed some days and my anxiety hasn’t exactly disappeared, but my life has improved significantly. I spent over four years putting on an act while I was living a nightmare. You don’t have to.
This was extremely tough to write, but I wrote this hoping that maybe it could help somebody. With all these people sharing their stories yesterday for Bell Let’s Talk I finally started thinking about why I still don’t talk about this. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s the stigma. There shouldn’t be shame in talking about this. It is amazing that people are becoming much more educated on the subject due to campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk, but people are still out there afraid to get help. I know that somebody reading this is suffering without anyone’s knowledge, like I did for so long. Don’t do what I did, go talk to somebody right away. Please. You’re not alone.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to me, either. I’d love to talk.
My twitter DMs are open for anybody to message me: @MuchTruculence
Phone number: 705-297-5259