Photo, World Curling Federation/Curling Canada/Michael Burns

Watching Rachel Homan and her team struggle in the round robin at the Pyeongchang Olympics is not easy. They are such a strong team and opening at 0-3 is definitely uncharacteristic for them. Not to mention no Canadian women’s curling team has ever opened an Olympic Games with 0-2, let alone 0-3.

At the time of writing this, they are standing at zero wins and three losses. Thankfully, they have a more than 24 hour break between game 3 and 4. They need it! I hope it helps.

Photo, World Curling Federation/Curling Canada/Michael Burns

Photo, World Curling Federation/Curling Canada/Michael Burns

I’m a relatively new fan of curling, only really gaining interest in the sport after watching two of my cousins play in the 2012 Alberta Junior Provincials in Medicine Hat, while I was living there. I later became a fan of Team Homan shortly after Joanne Courtney joined the team as second in 2014.

Being the only team currently without a win, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe they came into the Olympics feeling a little over confident and possibly a bit unprepared for things to not go in their favour.

Between their games in Pyeongchang, I kept thinking to myself, they just need to take it one game at a time. They need to try not to put too much focus on the final outcome of the event. No one is expecting them to be perfect. (If anyone out there is, you’re an unrealistic jerk, because that’s not how life works!) They need to try not to think so much about what’s ahead and what’s in the past. I know it’s hard when you have high expectations for yourself. That’s certainly much easier said than done, I know! Trust me, I am no stranger to thinking that I’m not good enough or that I’ve screwed everything up in my life. Not to mention they want so badly to bring home the gold for Canada.

And they have a good record. The team went almost undefeated at The Scotties last year – I actually attended the one game they lost in St. Catharines, Ontario because I moved to the area a three years ago – and they went entirely undefeated at the World Championships in Beijing.

Photo, Keira Henricks, 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, St. Catharines, Ontario

Photo, Keira Henricks, 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, St. Catharines, Ontario

Although I cannot speak to what has been going on in the minds of Rachel or her teammates, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve put too much pressure on themselves to perform perfectly at the Olympics and are now suffering the negative effects of that. I can only imagine.

After thinking about this for quite a while, the morning after (my time) their third loss, and thinking about how I would respond to a similar situation and that I don’t know if I’d be able to handle it, I suddenly realized, this is the exact perspective I need to be taking in my current mental health struggle. I’ve been having a very difficult time with my depression lately and it would be so easy to just give up. I’ve come very close to giving up, multiple times, in the past few months. That’s pretty difficult for me to admit.

About two years ago, I thought I’d found the right combination of medication and therapy, and things were going well. For the first time in my life, I was looking hopefully into the future. Problem was, I was not as prepared as I thought I was for my mental health to take a turn in the opposite direction.

I suddenly found myself so deep into the black abyss of depression that I didn’t have a clue how I’d gotten there or any idea how to get out of it. I later realized that I’d been headed down that road for some time, but it was so gradual that I didn’t even realize it happening until it was too late. I kept brushing it off as a bad day, but I wasn’t keeping track of how many days were bad, so I didn’t recognize the pattern.

After several medication changes, and always feeling like I was taking one step forward and two steps back, I became increasingly hopeless. I couldn’t seem to get back to the place I’d been previously. I felt stuck. Trapped. It seemed like there was no escape, until I realized the only way out was to give up. There was absolutely no purpose to my life. Nothing was ever going to be good again and I would never accomplish anything. The only answer was to give up.

This certainly wasn’t the first time I’d experienced suicidal thoughts, but it was the first time I’d ever reached the point of actually making the decision that I was going to do it.

Even though the logical part of my brain knew it wasn’t true, it was nearly impossible not to believe the lies depression was telling me. It’s still hard!

Thinking about Team Homan’s current situation though, it would be so easy for them to give up and stop trying because they had a few, not necessarily bad games, but games that just didn’t go their way. It would be so easy feel like there’s no point. So easy to think that it could cost them their Olympic dream.

In reality, though, they still have a chance! No one knows what’s going to happen. And to be fair, the team’s they’ve played so far have been playing really well! Team Homan has just been a little off, not horrible, just not at their best, but that’s perfectly okay. It happens!

We can’t dwell on the past, or the future. We need to keep moving forward. Because right now hard, we have to focus on right now. Team Homan needs to just concentrate on each game as just one game. Take it one game at a time, while also learning from their mistakes and trying to improve upon them. Once they regain their confidence they can use their experience to help them in the future, but until then, it’s best to focus on one thing at a time.

In the same respect, right now, I need to take it one day at a time and not get caught up in what’s happened in the past to bring me down and worrying about whether or not I’ll be doing better in the future and the things I’m missing out on because I’m not doing well right now. I need to just work on changing my perspective so that I move forward.

Of course, it’s hell of a lot easier to say all this to someone else than it is to say it to yourself and actually believe it. Even now, as I’m writing this, I’m really struggling to convince myself that it’s true and that I even deserve it. It’s so hard not to believe that I have nothing worth contributing to the world. But I can’t give up!

It’s so important to remember, that we don’t have to be perfect. When you’re struggling, do what you can to get through the moment and keep going.

“Depression is a dark cloud that is always looming over. Somedays the sun breaks through, and on those days, I smile, I laugh, I am OK. Other days, rain pours from this cloud and pounds against the ground, drowning out everyone and everything surrounding. On these days, I just can’t fake a smile; I can’t pretend I am OK. Most days, this cloud just keep the sky overcast — not a bad day, but not exactly a good one either. It’s just a day.”

“Depression takes all of my motivation, my joy, my positivity. It literally drains the life out of me. Anxiety makes me afraid of everything. My mind never slows down.”

“In these dark hours, I am going over every awful thing I have ever done. I am thinking of things I could have done better. I am thinking of the future, terrified I will never amount to anything. I am thinking of the present, the million better ways I could be spending my time to improve myself and my future.”

To My Parents: I Am Lying When I Tell You I Am Fine

“I want to die but I’m afraid to. I want to live but it hurts.”

“Sometimes you can do more damage by giving unsolicited advice.”

“I often really need somebody, but I’m scared to say anything because I’ve been invalidated or people will think I’m too “dramatic” or “sensitive.” Sometimes when I do muster up the courage to say something, it’s a cry for help that goes unheard.”

“I’m not asking anyone to take care of me, walk on egg shells or make themselves available 24/7 just to talk. The last thing I want to do is upset or inconvenience anybody in any way. I am not asking for anyone’s sympathy, likes or shares.”

“We don’t all fit into little boxes that certain medications cure. Mental illness is messy, it’s frustrating and often feels like a losing battle.”

What It Feels Like to Lose the Will to Live

“We need to talk.”

When I hear those words, a slew of anxious thoughts swirl around my brain and it can physically feel like I got the wind knocked out of me.

Your thoughts immediately turn worst case scenario. This can apply to any variation in any setting, of course.

I remember, a few months after starting my current job, I was asked to meet with two of my bosses, the original co-founders of the company. Part of the reason I was freaked out was that I don’t generally report directly to either of them. I have two people that are usually in between, the project manager and technical director, depending on what specifically I’m working on. So, naturally, I was convinced I was going to be fired. But I couldn’t figure out why.

My work was good and I always received great feedback (I still do, almost two years later, even though most of the time I don’t feel I deserve it). My first thought was that maybe I’d been doing things wrong that I was unaware of.

The most “logical” thing that came to mind had to do with the fact I was often needing to leave early because I was literally falling asleep at my desk every day. (Which btw, is completely not normal for me, ever and it stressed me out that it was happening because I couldn’t explain it.)

I see these conversations play out over and over and hopelessness creeps in as I prepare for the worst.

The worst part was, I was told about this meeting around 10am, but the meeting was not going to be until 9am the next day. That gave me about 23 hours to think of every possible thing I could be getting fired for. It was also going to be at the Tim Horton’s down the street because our office (which we’ve since moved out of and are going to be moving again in the next year) was ridiculously small and there was nowhere to really have a private conversation.

Many people may write this phrase off as a simple heads up to a future conversation, but as someone with anxiety, it feels like a death sentence.

To be honest, it’s easier to be told we need to talk immediately before the “talking” is to happen. Don’t give my anxiety time to stew and come up with ridiculous scenarios that are never going to happen.

Turns out, that my only “logical” explanation for the meeting is exactly what they wanted to talk to me about. Except they weren’t going to fire me for it. They were concerned about me. They wanted to make sure that I was okay and figure out if I needed a schedule change or something to make things easier for me. They were more concerned about me than how my issues were effecting the company.

In situations like this, being transparent is important. When I have an idea of what the situation is, it helps ease any anxiety.

I felt an immediate sense of relief that I wasn’t being fired, coupled with “holy shit these guys actually legitimately care about my well-being” and I burst into tears. I was glad I’d gotten there before them and chosen a table where I could sit facing away from most other customers, but if you’re familiar with the common Timmy’s store design, you know that also meant I was facing directly out a window to the parking lot, and even though I was beside the door, the foot path to the door required passing almost all the customers and the counter where all the staff was. So, not the most comfortable place to be having an anxiety attack and crying, especially in front of my employers.

It was a few months later when I finally made the connection that my antidepressants were causing my extreme, chronic state of exhaustion and sleepiness. My doctor and I made some adjustments that seems to help a lot (for a few more months before my brain and body decided to go a different way, but I’m not going to get into that story right now) and I was finally able to get through an entire week without dozing off at my desk.

The Most Daunting Phrase to Hear When You Have Anxiety

Awareness of mental illness on general is also important because I was very clearly struggling when I was a kid but I didn’t know. I didn’t have a clue what anxiety was and only knew depression from the glamourized way the media portrayed it. Whenever I tried to express my feelings, I was simply invalidated by my family. When I had unexplained physical symptoms, no one ever thought to consider anxiety. Instead I was left in agonizing pain for years without an explanation as to why. One doctor even had the nerve to tell my dad that it was all in my head. Looking back now, it was so incredibly obvious I had anxiety, but years of being invalidated let me unable to feel safe expressing my feelings and convincing myself that I was just being overdramatic or I sucked at handling life. I didn’t know that I was struggling with legitimate medical conditions that could be treated. I didn’t know I didn’t have to live like that.

What We Can’t Forget to Talk About When We Spread Suicide Awareness

Most people would never know that I’ve been suicidal, simply by looking at me. If there was anyone in my life who had consistently seen me every day for the past 5 years, they might see a slight difference in my overall mood from day to day, but I tend to keep my true feelings bottled up inside and no one ever sees them. Based on what I’ve learned of Chester Bennington, I suspect he was very much the same. I think this photo his wife posted on Twitter recently is proof that it’s not always obvious that someone is suicidal.

Look at that smile. He was with his family, and very clearly happy in that moment. I often find it very easy to be present in the moment, although, to be honest, it’s been a lot more difficult in the past 15 months. But usually, it comes very naturally, for me to smile and joke around and genuinely enjoy the moment. It’s once I’m alone that things go bad.

It’s still surprising, even to me, that this guy with this happy smile, took his life only a few days after that photo was taken.

The reason it’s so important to address mental health accessibility for youth, Kurdyak said, is that some of the most common mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, have their first onset between the ages of 16 and 30.

“So you really need early and prompt access when these illnesses develop to have better outcomes down the road. And any delay in treatment we know affects the individuals lives as a result,” he said.

~ CTV News — Young Canadians struggling to access mental health services: study

Continue reading

This is so relatable!

“Sometimes I have what seems like a burst of anger and people think I have anger issues and that I’m being rude to people. I’m actually having anxiety and getting overwhelmed and it comes out as frustration and anger. I wish when it happened those close to me would take a minute to ask if I’m OK and what they can do for me instead of getting annoyed or saying I have anger issues. I hate that people think I’m rude to others when really, I just have anxiety.” — Sarah A.

~ The Mighty15 Secrets of ‘Rude’ People With Anxiety

Before I knew I had anxiety and depression, I had convinced myself that I had anger issues. I’ve you’ve read some of my earlier posts about how I ended up getting diagnosed, you’ll know that I realized something was legitimately wrong after hearing Wil Wheaton’s story on Aisha Tyler’s podcast. It felt like he was describing me. I’d forgotten this until just now, as I started writing this paragraph, but I had had the thought, on several occasions, to go to the doctor before hearing Wil’s story, but I was sure that I’d be told I just have anger issues and that I needed to suck it up and deal with it or that I needed to go to anger management. I think it was the moments where I found myself sobbing over the stupidest shit and being completely overwhelmed with everything in my life that made me think that, but then I’d remember all the anger I kept bottled up that was beginning to spill out at work when I was getting close to reaching my breaking point. I think that’s why hearing Wil describe his experience, at the exact moment I did, has such an impact on me. He explained how he was not “sad” but just always agitated and it was exactly how I was feeling right around that time, in addition to simply being completely overwhelmed. Once I found out I had anxiety and depression – and did some research to figure out exactly what that meant – it was like suddenly the lightbulb went on and everything in my entire life made complete sense.

I have heard from too many professionals to not use the word “bad,” or use harsh words or punishments; that is what I follow. Why? I know how much it destroys an already-fragile self-esteem to have someone call you these things.

I know when those words are used in reference to myself, I internalize them, add them to the negative tape on constant repeat in my mind…. oh, and before I forget the point behind this post?

“Even the littlest things could affect me in the biggest way.”

You don’t realize how incredibly hurtful the smallest thing can feel when a person is actively struggling with depression. Especially​ hidden/concealed/functioning/high functioning/smiling depression. We may look fine on the outside, but that’s just the nature of our personalities. Depression is tearing us apart on the inside already and we could be having what feels like the worst possible day of our lives. Add your small comment or joke and it could easily send us over the edge. It’s possible to know what someone else is dealing with at any given moment.

The Words People With Depression Leave Unsaid