I circle back to this subject frequently. I think it’s my way of coping because I have never officially reached out and talked to someone other than friends or to myself. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dialogue with one’s self if you ask me. I have never sat down with someone who, with pad and pencil in hand, asked me about my life and concluded I have been battling depression and anxiety all of my life. I have always simply referred to them as my “darkness” as though giving them a different name somehow alleviates me from talking about them directly. I want to provide you today with some examples of what I mean because I truly believe me telling my story might help someone else. What triggered all of this? A little less about Bell Let’s Talk Day (which is today, and while important, only played a small part in this decision), but more because I sat in awe reading a post from someone within my family–now there’s a story to tell you about, how we’re related, but we’ll save that for something special he and I have talked about–and how he’s been struggling and how he had thoughts of suicide. Naturally, I reached out and replied to him in hopes of encouraging him to fight on through his own “darkness.” This morning I was reading his latest update and about his hopes and dreams of the future. I was filled with happiness. And although I know his struggles are not over, I am confident that he will be okay.
So, Nathan, you have inspired me to open up a little more.
— Let’s talk. —
Growing up I was an awkward kid. I never quite fit in and I was often bullied for it. I don’t blame my bullies entirely because this isn’t about who’s responsible for what happened, but for perspective. Even for a period of time, I focused very much on my appearance and what others thought of me. We’ll circle back to that one later. I had outlets, though. I was creative and artistic picking up on music, drawing, even some little crafting, but my outlet was writing. I loved to write. I used to carry a couple of art books with me that I furiously sketched and wrote in. Everything I felt was poured into those pages and it all ran the course of teenaged emotions. It was cathartic.
But one day it all stopped. No more writing. Just silence. I can pinpoint in my memory the exact day my youth died and not only took my drive to put pen to paper, but positively obliterated it. I wrote a post about it back in 2014 on this blog. I won’t get too deep into it here, but you can read it if you would like. Click here.
Trust me, I have tried to reignite that fire in me to write. This blog is a key example of it, but the number of discarded drafts half completed remain as a testament of each failed attempt. Why, though? What stops me. Well, that brings me back to what triggers my anxiety and then, ultimately, my depression … or what I colloquially call my “darkness.”
… And even as I write this I can hear that little voice in the background. What it says changes, but the message is always the same …
“Don’t be stupid. No one cares about what you have say.”
“Look at you. Look at how you look. Gross. Fat. Pig.”
“Everyone’s laughing at you. You know they are.”
“You don’t deserve to be happy.”
“You are a failure.”
“You’ve let everyone who trusts and loves you down.”
The little nagging voice can sometimes turn into a chorus with lines like those and discourage me from doing little of anything. Most of the time I wear a good mask. I still go to work. I hide behind a smile. I have a usually casual, if not chipper attitude when working. Yet there have been days where all I wanted to do was crawl into a ball and hide. And when the voices win and tell me to “quit pouting” and to “man up” I tend to find myself at my lowest. This is when I turned to the only thing I found comfort in since writing and that is food.
I hate that “man up” phrase so very much. I don’t even know what manning up truly means. It’s not something I have ever really done. All I know is that because I am a man I am somehow supposed to cast aside how I feel for the betterment of my manhood. How in the world does that make any sense? It is one of those final nails in my coffin that have me sitting alone, even while around others, and stuffing my face full of potato chips and sweets. All those voices chorused together telling me how useless I am. Worthless I am. That everyone is laughing at me. And worse, as I eat and eat and eat, telling me how disgusting and fat I am. It’s enough to drive someone absolutely mental!
Just when you think there’s a limit, I snap. I get so angry with myself and so down on myself that something happens, or something is said (both being exceeding insignificant in the greater scheme of life), and I absolutely lose myself in my own rage and let go. Regrettably, that has been toward loved ones more times than I can count or wish to recount. My Aunt Marianne once had to endure my rants in letter form (ironically), for example. Or my wife, Sarah, would watch me pitch a container of eggs because they were just not balanced right… Trust me, it sounds as over the top nuts to me today as it likely does to you, but that was my process. Sink low… then explode.
I don’t know if I will ever sit down with someone who, with pad and pencil in hand, will listen to everything I have to say and get off my chest. I have somewhat learned to cope with it all and over the past several months I have started to finally let go of it all. That it doesn’t matter if people laugh at me. If they think of me gross because I let my weight get away from me. Or if they think I have anything of value to contribute. The important thing is that I believe that I better than the sum of all of my nagging little voices and that I move forward. And I have tried, even if casually, start a journal again.
I’ll leave you with this warm and fuzzy feeling. While sitting in the waiting room at the Weight Loss Management Clinic I read a simple quote that I think very much changed my perspective on life. “A step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.” That’s where I am today. Cleaning up my life. Trying to work on expressing myself in healthy ways. Reaching for something other than food when I am not feeling down.
So… if you’ve made it this far and need to, let’s talk.
How was 2016? What changed? What’s new? Well … looking back at 2015 and how that year ended with a popping sound, followed by a wince and then a big admission. Sadly, 2016 hasn’t been a banner year for us. It wasn’t the step forward we had wanted, nor was it the transition year that we wrote about last time this year. It was, simply stated, just another year. And this isn’t me shrugging my shoulders and about remind everyone about all the celebrity deaths that have occurred while underplaying all the positive news that has come out of the year. It’s a chance for me, for us, to look back and give ourselves perspective to move toward. But first, we need to find where that perspective begins … and that’s New Year’s Eve 2015.
Our Holiday Party was in full swing NYE 2015. People were having a great time chatting, drinking and enjoying some finger foods. I cannot remember how many people were in the house. but I know I was starting to wish I had worn earplugs with how loud it was getting … a sure sign that I am old, but I still love these gatherings. They bring together people Sarah and I have known for a long time or just a little bit of time. There’s always food. Always alcohol. Board games and Rock Band too. But on this night, around 9:30 pm, I decided I wanted another drink and went to stand and felt a sudden twinge of pain as something went pop in my right knee. I immediately sat down thinking nothing of it. As it turns out, over the next hour, I would barely make it up the stairs without the assistance of resident strong man, Richard. I also would barely make it to Dave’s SUV with Sarah and her cousin Aimee in tow. I was whisked out to Almonte General Hospital where I was looked after and determined that they weren’t entirely sure what happened to my knee. Turns out I did damage to my ACL and PCL, but let’s not jump ahead yet. Just after midnight, I sat half naked on an ER bed and sad to Sarah, “I need to do something about my weight.” That was how I ended 2015 and rang in 2016. You’d think everything would look up from there.
Let’s get to it!
January (David Bowie, Alan Rickman & Glenn Frey) – We went to see my Doctor only to find out that mine was on maternity leave. I asked to be referred to the Weight Loss Management Clinic at the Ottawa Civic Hospital and also to see a specialist about my knee. I was walking with a cane and I had started my physiotherapy. I thought about posting about how each of the dead I am naming in this would get a little mention, but I decided against that. Mostly because a lot of it would be obvious, redundant or simply take a lot more than simply words to explain.
February (Joe Alaskey, Dave Mirra, George Gaynes & Harper Lee ) – There wasn’t much that happened. Sarah was back at work and in full swing after a very slow January. We had a bit of a tough start to the “month of love,” but like all things before, Sarah and I got through it. We had a little help from you guys, our friends, and family, and we are both exceptionally thankful you are there when we need us and grateful for all you do for us.
March (Keith Emerson & Erik Bauersfeld) and April (Chyna & Prince) – Quiet months. Trust me, we needed these. We celebrated time with friends and family, enjoyed time with our pets, but otherwise kept our noses to the proverbial grindstone and kept working away at our own life goals. One plus side, I learned what my bonus from work would be and we made plans to fix some financial issues with it. Huzzah.
May (Nick Menza) – Taking a week off for my birthday, I decided to take driver’s ed and go get my G2. The course was exceptionally basic and when I couldn’t fit into any of the compact cars driver seats, I asked for a refund. At this stage, I wondered why I hadn’t heard back from the referral for my weight loss consultation. This trigged a sense of panic when I learned that paperwork sent back to my doctor’s office was going unattended to. I had to get more involved directly with getting appointments set and working towards my own goals.
June (Muhammad Ali, Kimbo Slice, Gordie Howe, & Anton Yelchin) – Sarah was finishing her year with the school board and looking forward to work. She took a summer camp job and I rolled the dice on interviewing with a company not too far from our house. I had a bit of an “in” with a friend referring me and I did well on the interview but plans on the hiring changed and I would have to wait. Needless to say, this was a small hit to the ego, but I soldiered on.
July (Elie Wiesel & Garry Marshall) – Sarah was working at the camp, but was finding that she wasn’t enjoying it as much as she thought she would. Others in her position were quitting the job, but she knew how the optics look if she did the same and pushed on through. The company I interviewed with was bought out in a surprise takeover and functionally ended my chances of moving to a new job and new role with them. Crushed wouldn’t begin to explain how I felt. It was completely out of my control and out of the control of my friend who referred me, to begin with, but the feeling of missing that opportunity stung. However, in the good news category, I received a small raise at work and I finally went to the Weight Loss Management Clinic for their intake seminar. There I found out what RNY Gastric Bypass surgery was, how it would affect my life and what I would need to do to move forward.
August (Kenny Baker & Gene Wilder) – Sarah finished her work the camp. Nothing much changed other than that. We had some ongoing issues with our next door neighbour who was making life uncomfortable for us. Boiling it down, the lady simply has issues and would take said issues out on Sarah whenever I wasn’t around. When I would confront her about it, she would slam her door or run off. It’s easy to get along with us … Sarah more so than me. Just treat us with a little respect as we do with you and you’ll be fine.
September (Greta Zimmer Friedman & W.P. Kinsella) – This was a heck of a tough money for Sarah. Casual work was scarce. Interviews, for a bit, were nonexistent. Sarah sent out 44 resumes to different schools and positions and had not heard a word back. She decided to take matters into her own hands and reached out to her union rep to find resources and assistance on preparing a better resume and for the interviews. She sat down with someone, reworked everything and had a pile of interviews.
October (Steve Dillon) and November (Leonard Cohen & Ron Glass) – We cannot believe how fast these months went by. While Sarah didn’t transition this year, we’re pretty sure what she learned in September will come in great use in 2017. We had a few dozen kids come by for Halloween and by the time November hit, we were finding ourselves busy as can be. A lot of that was because my Doctor came back from leave and we started progressing through all that paperwork. I went through test after test, blood work after blood work and set up (FINALLY) my meeting with the nurse practitioner for RNY … at the end of December. Through November I did a lot of overtime, so I spent more time in the office and less time with people being social. It actually felt better than I let on. I rather enjoyed sinking myself into my work for a bit. I know a bit of a shock there.
December (Greg Lake, Alan Thicke, George Michael, Carrie Fisher & William Christopher) – The month came in quickly. We were stunned, but happy. In early December we went out and got our Christmas Tree from Thomas Tree Farm. It is now January 1st and it is still up, hasn’t lost needless and looks purely amazing. I finished off the month doing more overtime and Sarah worked hard at making a bunch of handmade gifts for Christmas. She is truly talented in ways I can barely explain. By the time we knew it, I had my Nurse Practitioner appointment and it was Christmas! Yay! So, about the Nurse Practitioner? Well, I need to up my meds for Type II Diabetes, have a 25/80 minimum for Vitamin D which I am told is alarming, but otherwise, I am moving on the next step for RNY surgery. I am, apparently, 4-5 months away from surgery now. My next appointment is in two days!
So, what will 2017 look like? I don’t know. What I do know is that this time next year, I will have at least one big story to talk about; weightloss. I am excited. I am scared. I am anxious. Sarah is my rock. She is super excited and we’re going to be diving back into fitness headlong with swimming and cycling the top of our lists. We’re very thankful everyone is encouraging me and “pumping my tires. The year was pretty mediocre overall. Movement on my RNY schedule was nice, but it was late in the year. We lost our old man of a cat, Tito, at the end of the year and that was a bit of a sad moment, but he had a rich life. Otherwise, there’s a summation of this past year and where we go from here.
We hope you all had a happy holidays and are going to enjoy all that this new year brings forth for you.
Will and Sarah