Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Being content can become a mental health challenge

The Hilltops 2015 CJFL title win was a good day for me.
    I wish it was simple to be content and accept things as they are, but memories of a good part of my past keep getting in the way.
    Since 2012, I have known I have battled with issues dealing with anxiety. One of the hardest things for me is to be content in the here and now. I figured this would be my subject for what has become my traditional post for Bell Let’s Talk day.
    There is still a stigma around mental health issues, and they are unfortunately still treated as the elephant in the room in too many circles. I write about my experiences on the mental health front in hopes it will help others.
    I often stress over what I haven’t accomplished or what I don’t have. I sometimes dwell too much wondering if what I haven’t accomplished will happen in the future.
    There are times a song by the rock group Queen keeps ringing in my head called, “I Want It All.”
    I can hear the chorus line loud and clear, “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.”
    I remember that song ringing out in the dressing room when I played football in high school. It blared out when playoffs started. The song was about a young man who was set to head out into the world and accomplish all his goals and nothing was going to stop him from doing just that.
    I can’t seem to find that place of being content due to the fact there was a lengthy period of time everything seemed to fall into place for me. That period of time occurred before I discovered I dealt with issues dealing with anxiety.
    When I started school at the University of Regina in the fall of 1995, I was set that I was going to be a sports reporter. I remember young me saying I was going to do this, or I was going to die. That seems kind of heavy, and looking back, it might not have been healthy.
    I remember I constantly had doubters. There were people that said I would never get into the University of Regina’s School of Journalism and Communications. I would never see the press box of a CFL stadium or an NHL rink.
All set for a U of Regina athletics awards night in 2001.
    I was wasting my time coming out to Regina and should go back to Winnipeg, Man., where I graduated high school and find some other path in life.
    The media cut era was just beginning, so that would provide another obstacle.
    Some of my biggest critics were other reporters and journalists. Consequently, I have found in life my relationships with reporters and other journalists was divided into becoming great friends with half the people I met and finding I was despised by the other half that didn’t want to talk to me.
    The ones that didn’t like me really showed it in a snobby sort of way like they were above me. It was natural for an industry that contains a lot of ego. I didn’t care.
    I found my best friends came from the University of Regina Cougars and Rams athletic teams. I covered them and helped them on the media front as well.
    I became involved with the Rams when they were still in the Canadian Junior Football League, and I ended up practicing with them when injury troubles struck in the 2000-01 university season, when the Rams appeared in the Vanier Cup.
    The U of R athletes were my positive support group that believed in me. Due to those friendships, my self-confidence grew immensely.
    All of a sudden, I went on a run where I seemed to be able to jump over all the hurdles and kick all the doors down.
    I went from being a sports reporter and then the sports editor at the U of R student newspaper, the Carillon. I got into the U of R School of Journalism and Communications and graduated, which was something I wasn’t supposed to do. I ended up in Prince Albert becoming a sports reporter for the Daily Herald, and I did sports television spots for CTV and Shaw.
Leah Levy (#10) and Jana Linner (#7) were part of a great U of R group.
    During my stop there, I entered a CFL press box for the first time in a working capacity. I wasn’t supposed to do that.
    From there, I moved on to the Medicine Hat News to become the beat writer that covered the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers. That became the first moment of my life I made a comfortable living doing what I did. I saw that as a real moment where I made it.
    On my birthday on March 4, 2008, I stepped into an NHL press box for the first time for a regular season game at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary as the host Flames played the Columbus Blue Jackets. I was there to do catch up pieces with Tigers grads Kris Russell and Jason Chimera.
    Being in the press box that night, I remembered the doubters. I had pride in a huge sense of accomplishment. I heard the Queen song in my mind.
    “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.”
    When I saw Russell that night, I thought it was only a matter of time before I saw my bud on a regular basis on the NHL beat. Away from the rink and a few months after that NHL game, action was developing on the romantic front. I thought the family thing was going to happen, which was something I subconsciously wanted too.
    Then, it all changed following the end of the 2008-09 season.
Hanging out in Vancouver, B.C., in 2007.
    What seemed like the continual tough times followed. The budget cut era in the Canadian media industry hit with huge force. The News was sold and unexpected mental health challenges started in the work place, which sparked my battles with anxiety issues.
    I thought all I had to do was work hard and everything would work out like it had in the past. I thought working hard would continue to earn respect and the doors would keep opening.
    If problems rose up, my voice would be heard, because by this time I had built up street cred in what I was doing.
    I could control everything in my life just with my effort.
    I was wrong on all fronts especially with regards to influencing those that held the strings of power. That was part of the 30 reasons I chose to leave Medicine Hat and move to Saskatoon to be closer to family in the summer of 2014. I had some supports in Medicine Hat, but without any family there, the support network wasn’t strong enough to keep me in that centre to deal with the challenges I faced.
    For the longest time, I kept asking myself why wasn’t I heard when problems rose up at the News or what I could have done differently. It wasn’t until I covered the Saskatoon Hilltops winning the Canadian Bowl at home in November of 2015 where I came to a place where I was content and at peace with the last years of my life in Medicine Hat.
The Hilltops 2015 Canadian Bowl win was good day for me.
    I hit that point where I ended up hugging Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant post-game, and he said, “Thanks for everything you’ve done for us.”
    I felt I was making a difference with what I was doing covering sports in Saskatoon, and with that feeling, I turned the page and accepted the final years of my life in Medicine Hat on an “it is what it is front.”
    You can’t go back and change the past.
    These days I struggle with being content on other fronts. I will look at Facebook and often compare my life with my friends from my university days. I often ask why my life didn’t mirror theirs on the career and family fronts.
    They always seem to never experience setbacks in their careers, were married, had kids and were happy in their family lives.
    One of the things that bugs me to this day is my romantic relationships from the past never turned out to be for the real long term.
    I even compare my life to the young adults on the Saskatoon Hilltops, University of Saskatchewan Huskies teams and the Saskatoon Blades and often wish I could turn back the clock and be back in my younger days. I keep thinking at their young ages they are getting way ahead of me in life.
    When I was at their stage in life, it seemed like I had all the answers, and life always seemed to play out like I did have all the answers. Now I struggle to find the answers. I realize now how much happens that I can’t control in life.
Me hanging out with Peter Loubardias after Game 6 of the 2017 WHL final.
    I go through moments where I wonder why things haven’t worked out for me like they did for a stretch that lasted about 15 years. I feel I work as hard as I did then, but the doors don’t open anymore.
    I will have times where I will go do something and wonder if I should be doing something else. An example of that would be tossing up going and covering one sporting event like a Blades hockey game as opposed to a Huskies hockey game.
    When I am covering sporting events, those are the moments when I find I am at my best focusing on the day for that day. I find at that moment I am content.
    I struggle with being wiser on the political front. I find I don’t react well when someone tells a white lie to me. I have worked at coming to a better understanding why someone would have their reasons for not telling me the whole truth.
    I find telling white lies seems to be a norm in way too many facets of life and overall people aren’t as accountable as they once were. I find you get penalized if you are accountable and tell the truth, and that is unfortunate. I see way too many spots where people progress by lying and not being accountable.
    I have worked to learn when to pick my battles on this front and accept when a situation is an “it is what it is thing.”
    Sometimes the best way to react to a situation where there are too many lies is to leave it.
    I don’t have the total answer for how I overcome all the other things I battle with as far as being content is concerned. I find I equal being content with giving up. That is also something I battle.
I rediscovered the joy of getting out to the lake last summer.
    My best comfort comes from the fact I have tools to deal with this. I will resort to breathing exercises or I will meditate. Over last summer, I rediscovered other things that helped make me content or settle me down like going to a movie or packing my bike to go for a ride at the lake.
    I find I am getting better at accepting things as they are.
    While that helps me be content in the here and now, I still find there is a part of me that refuses to settle. That Queen song come back into my head.
    “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.”
    I have accepted it is all a work in progress.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to My Bell Let’s Talk post from last year called “Recognizing and respecting triggers is key for mental health” can be found right here. A piece called “Feeling connected calms the mental health seas” can be found right here. A piece called “My Mental Health Story” can be found here. Another post I like that I wrote in February of 2015 about my mental health journey call “Huskies hockey was good for me” can be found here.
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