There’s a point at the beginning of your time as a Steward where Mr. Williams will ask you whether or not you would like to make an I Believe speech. From listening to previous speakers I realized that they all had amazing stories, they were insightful, profound and at times mesmerizing. They had underlying morals that you couldn’t find in even the best children’s books, but most of all they were unique. I didn’t have such a story at the time, but thought that it may be fun to have the spotlight on me for a little while. So I decided to do it. I asked for all of you to be here today because I now have my own story to tell. And I think it would be particularly special for you all to hear it.
I was always the happy guy, the kid laughing and yelling and smiling in the hallways, on the ice or on the field. I was a steward, an athlete, a good student and a kind friend. But that didn’t matter. I went through a significantly rough patch at the beginning of the year and one night where I felt particularly bad I called a friend – he told me to get help. The next day I met with Ms. Peacock in the health centre and a couple of hours later I was taken out of class and admitted into the emergency room at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Later that night I was diagnosed with a severe depressive episode and clinical depression.
I had high levels of stress; I had anxiety attacks so bad – I couldn’t breathe. I lost my appetite and wouldn’t be able to eat anything for hours at a time. When I did manage to eat, I didn’t enjoy it. If I ate too much sometimes I would have to puke it up. It took me hours to eat a bowl of cereal. I was sad, so sad. I couldn’t concentrate. I had no motivation, not only to do homework, but also things that I enjoyed. I couldn’t smile; I had to pretend to look happy. I didn’t laugh, I wasn’t funny anymore. I was irritable and had terrible mood swings. I hurt myself, because I figured that I would rather feel something than nothing at all. I had uncontrollable fidgeting; I couldn’t stop moving my hands and legs. I was so sad and so irrational. I was so indecisive and scared that I couldn’t even make simple decisions. I was worried about my future if it even existed for me. I had insomnia that was so bad I would be lucky to be get more than three hours of sleep every weeknight. Not only could I not sleep, I didn’t want to sleep, I stayed up late every night for no reason, just doing nothing. I was too afraid to go on my phone or facebook or twitter or anything because I was scared I would see or hear something that would make me feel awful and give me an anxiety attack. I had lost hope in everything and everyone, there was nothing I thought I could do to help it. I looked in the mirror and said “you look the same, but I don’t know who you are.” It was true. I didn’t know who I was, I was beyond lost. I had decided that there was nothing left to live for, I was holding on by a string. I had very serious thoughts of a planned suicide. Seventeen years old, a boy with a planned suicide.
Some thought that it might not be a good idea to come up and share my story. It’s a touchy subject, but it shouldn’t be. The stigma against mental health should not exist. It is scary; because poor mental health is something that we can’t see. We can take an x-ray and find a broken bone. But we cannot take and x-ray and find depression. We cannot cure it with a cast, band-aid or laser surgery. It is something that can be hidden well and until it’s tipping point…may never be found. It takes great strength, security and pride to admit a flaw in yourself. It is hard to tell someone that you aren’t perfect, when your whole life you try to be just that. It’s hard to tell someone about something they cannot see. But let me make something clear, mental health and sickness is no different than any other disease, sickness or bruise. And the reason I am up here today among other things is to tell you that mental health should not be kept in the dark, that if I give the confidence to a single individual in this room to reach out when he or she is in need than maybe I’ll save a life – that is why I want to share my story. I was a fool to not deal with my symptoms earlier. I am a coward in his own egotistical shadow, who couldn’t admit that he wasn’t flawless. And I will be the first to tell you that hiding your problems is a hell of a lot more cowardly than telling someone about it.
I remember Coach Green called the next day and he was very worried about my condition, I decided that I would tell him what was going on. He told me that if hockey was too much that I could quit, miss practice or miss a lift. If I wasn’t feeling up to it I could miss a game and watch. But I told him that there was no other place I would rather be than in a dressing room with 19 of my best friends day in and day out. Guys who did everything for the front of the jersey and the names on each other’s backs. I sincerely thank Coach Green for his trust in me as a player and more importantly as a person. He gave me the opportunity to be apart of something, a tradition, a family. It is that sense of belonging that is really something special.
Become someone and do whatever it takes to get there. Its going to be a marathon, not a sprint, the road will be long and curved and it might even look like you are at a dead end, but the road has not yet been paved. You pave the road; destiny is a matter a choice not chance. I believe that any human regardless of initial state, socio-economic status, or ability has the opportunity to become great. I think everybody here wants to be a hero, so have that aspiration to do amazing things. If you have real desire to become something, if this lottery draw called life means anything to you than do it and do it well. Don’t use life to find yourself, use life to create yourself.
Life is special. It may take time to realize it, it may take adversity and darkness to realize it, it may take uncontrollable bounces and crying to realize it, but it’s worth living. Its worth living because the human condition allows us to be unpredictable, to have sympathy, care for others and become interesting. We may never be able to understand why or how life works and maybe we are never supposed to find out, but I promise you it’s worth living. I walk the hallways and I see a boy opening a door for another boy, I see a future CEO watching hockey highlights in aw with his buddy, I see no man eating alone, I see the jokesters making jokes, I see the teachers teaching, I see the students laughing, I see the boys playing, I see the athletes training – I see life how it is supposed to be lived. But even still, at this very moment some 3 million Canadians are suffering from depression and I am one of them. I am not alone. These 3 million people probably all faked smiles just like I did, but today I say that these 3 million Canadians and myself should not have to fake smiles and put on an act every day of their life, today I say that 1 in 5 Canadians should not have to be scared of saying that they experience some form of mental illness. Today I say that it is not right for 51% of Canadians to say that they wouldn’t socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness. Today I say that only 4% of medical research funding is not enough. Today I stand here and say that 24% of all accounted deaths for Canadian teenagers should not be from suicide, that in America, suicide accounts for more teenage deaths than cancer, heart disease and chronic illness combined. That suicide accounts for as many deaths as homicide does in the United States. We have millions of dollars go to cancer research, we have thousands of campaigns for chronic illnesses, we have centres made only for heart disease, we have mass media coverage of gun control and homicide rates, we headline our newspapers, twitter feeds, TV screens and computers with these statistics, but when was the last time you heard about mental health?
For me it took thoughts of not living to realize that maybe somebody did care about me, that maybe somebody would show up to my funeral and cry and miss me. That they would beg to god to bring me back. I learned the hard way and I hope none of you have to learn that way either. I came to realize that suicide does not end the chances of life getting worse; suicide eliminates the possibility of it ever getting better. So overuse the term I love you, call your friends and tell them that they mean something to you, pick up your brother after a bad game or test, stick up for one another, treat your friends like your father or mother, because your friends are the family you get to choose.
I believe that someday we will be envious of this time in our youth, so live today, don’t dread yesterday, live without regrets, have as much trust as possible in the next day, be slow to chide and swift to bless. Make every moment count; this moment is your life. Life is time and time is all there is. Because, I believe that if it weren’t for those young gentleman who I could hug and cry into, if it weren’t for the brothers who would talk to me until 3am, if it weren’t for the teammates that would sacrifice their body to win and if it weren’t for my best friends and family who have an unshakable love for me, I know I would not be here to talk to you today. To those who have saved me I am forever indebted to you, I will love you as much as any one human can love another, there is a place in my heart for all of you that kept me smiling through the storm. I cannot come to explain how special my friends are; they came into my life and not only loved me, but showed me that there is so much to live for. Looking back on the tears sometimes makes me laugh, but I never thought looking back on the laughs would make me cry. So don’t ever let the imaginary person inside of your head keep you from loving the one in the mirror. Because I believe that not every curved road is broken. I believe that not every bump is a mountain. I believe that not every bounce will be a good one. I believe that happiness is achieved through living. I believe that when life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, you give it a thousand reasons that make you smile. I believe that just because you may slip, you will not fall. I believe in my coaches. I believe in my teachers. I believe in my advisors. I believe in my parents. I believe in my peers. I believe in my best friends. I believe in myself. I believe I will overcome depression and I believe that while I do it, I will never ever have to walk alone. Thank you.