Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let's Talk

I remember Wade Belak because he made me laugh.

It was a fluff piece on Sportsnet, where Wade made his case for being moved up to play wing with Mats Sundin. It was about what you’d expect from such a thing - jokes about Wade’s skill, and how much better Sundin would be with Wade on the wing. He had good timing, though, and delivered the lines with a certain earnestness that made you think he might actually believe some of it. Despite the internet’s so-called ability to remember everything, I have yet to find a copy of that piece.

I remember Wade Belak because depression was (and still is) a daily part of our lives.

Wade told Michael Landsberg (himself a sufferer of depression) in 2011 that he’d been on “happy pills” for years. I’ve been on and off them, too. These days, I’m on.

I never met Wade Belak, and I don’t know much more about him, but I do know what his depression felt like. I know what it feels like to look at your life and wonder how you ended up where you are. To wonder if you shouldn’t have done more, tried harder, done something - anything - differently to be a ‘success’ in your own eyes. That’s what depression does to people. It clouds the vision, it alters the perspective.

It lies to you.

When you suffer from depression, there is no “bright side”. There is no “silver lining”. The best that is depression will find a way to twist it, and turn it against you. Got promoted at work? “You didn’t deserve it. You’re barely competent at your old job.” Meet someone new? “They don’t like you. Not even your friends like you. Go away!” You have no success when you live with depression. You only get slightly less bleak perspectives.

All of this drives you into yourself. The world is against you. No one cares about what you’re going through. No one would understand. Maybe… just maybe… you should exit, stage right.

As I said, depression lies to you.

It is an insidious thing, depression. You don’t even realize that you’re withdrawing and removing yourself from the world until you stop and realize that you haven’t left the house for anything social in weeks. By that point, you likely don’t even care - it’s not like anyone has missed you, after all. If they did, wouldn’t they have called? (They did - you let it go to voicemail, remember?)

I know this, because I’ve lived this. I spent years burying myself away in a room, away from the world, convinced that I was contributing exactly nothing. I beat myself senseless with my self-loathing, and strangled myself with my fears. Between my depression, and undiagnosed (until recently) A.D.D., my resume was a mess of short term assignments - which only fed the beast that depression is. More recently, as things in my life were seemingly at their worst, I often wondered if taking the express route down from my 16th floor apartment might not be such a bad idea.

I’m telling you this, because today is Bell Let’s Talk day and maybe someone will see themselves in what I have been through, and get the help they need. I’m saying it because for too long mental illness has been treated either as something less than real, or something that should land you in an asylum. There has been a stigma attached to having a mental illness, which only prevents people from getting the help they need.

If you see yourself in any of the above, you should talk to someone. Your doctor would be a good start. After that, you need to start pushing yourself away from the beast, as scary as that seems.
Those friends you haven’t talked to in weeks, months, years? They’re still your friends. Text them. Your family - they’ll always be family. Call them! And if you can’t face your friends or family yet, there are phone lines, online forums, chat rooms, support groups - there is someone who will listen. Who has been there, and gotten through it, and will help you get through it, too.

The point is, you’re not alone. There are many of us who know that all too well, and today is the day all of us should make ourselves known.

I remember Wade Belak because it is all I can do - he took his own life on August 31, 2011.

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