“In sports, in hockey there’s this mindset that we’ve come to, adapt to where it’s all about being mentally strong and not showing weakness.”
That is a quote from Tyler Motte, a forward for the Vancouver Canucks who recently sat down and discussed his struggles with mental health. I was inspired by Motte’s courage to open up and share his story with the world. I wanted to share some thoughts on how I myself struggle with anxiety and depression and how relatable Motte’s story is.
I’ve battled anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember. I was so reluctant to seek help and open up about these issues for multiple reasons. I first saw a psychologist in high school and was in denial that anything was wrong. In short, I had plenty of other things on my mind and wasn’t willing to accept that I was “different” than my friends. Some people tried to help, but I wasn’t willing to open up and, as a result, the sessions with this professional ended and I didn’t see another until last March, more than 15 years later.
I was in a relationship from the age of 20 to 32. I didn’t seek help even though I knew something was wrong. I wasn’t myself because I felt I had to be strong, be a man, not show any weakness. In hindsight, I realize how poor of a decision that was: every day I didn’t get the help I needed, I was doing damage to myself and those around me. Experience is a heck of a teacher and I definitely learned a lesson there.
I didn’t get help until I was scared into it. I had my first anxiety attack as I arrived at work during the summer of 2018. I was 32 years old.
It was a full-on anxiety attack, a terrifying experience. I’ve never had a heart-attack before but that’s what I thought was happening, it was that intense. On top of that, your mind starts racing. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s like everything you’ve ever worried about hits you in the face all at the same time and you realize you don’t have any control over the situation.
Even after that happened, I was stubborn. I thought I could make some changes in my life that would stop that from ever happening again. Instead, I had another full blown anxiety attack later that winter, another one shortly after, and another one after that.
I had tried everything I could to attempt to control my situation by myself and failed miserably. Finally, I had the worst night of my life, where I had no control whatsoever of my thoughts, and every bad thing that had ever happened and negative thought I’d ever had was racing through my mind to the point where I ended up in hospital. I knew it was time to get help.
The first thing I did was find a counsellor, I was reluctant to see a doctor because I was scared to go on medication. I was fearful of the side effects; I didn’t want them to change who I was. I’ll touch more on that later.
I can happily say now that seeing my Counsellor, Matt, is likely the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. Opening up and discussing what was bothering me changed my life drastically.
So when Motte said, “For me, just accepting and saying out loud that I was diagnosed with depression and had a mental health issue, that was the first weight off my shoulders,” I can second that: if you feel like you have some symptoms of a mental health issue, I can’t encourage you enough to get some help.
It’s a massive weight off yourself when you realize you’re not alone. You start feeling like a new person.
“Just having them know that there’s something going on with me,” said Motte about talking to his family and friends, “but it’s nothing to worry about but it is something I deal with.”
When I opened up about it to a professional, friends, and family, I discovered how much good there is in people. Additionally, I learned how many other people are dealing with similar issues, that we’re not alone in this battle. People will help you, people will support you.
I was happy to hear Motte had a supportive girlfriend who encouraged him to seek help. Further, he said that the Canucks have a mental skills coach who works with the players, which I think is a progressive, positive initiative and they should be applauded for it.
Additionally, I truly appreciate the fact that this video was produced. It says something that Motte can open up like this, a guy who has to claw for every inch of ice every shift to ensure he has a spot in the lineup next game. It says a lot about the guys in the Canucks dressing room, especially the leaders.
The fact that Motte can say, “I love the group of guys here, so I’m not worried about judgement or change of action from them towards me,” shouldn’t be overlooked.
I wholeheartedly believe in not focusing primarily on developing players, but instead creating an environment where they can develop not just as players, but more importantly as people. From my perspective, it seems the Canucks have created that culture off the ice. When your best players — Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat — are also great people, you have an opportunity to do something special because you’ve set a higher standard.
Motte goes on to admit he’s nervous sharing his story with the world but, “it’s not about telling my story, it’s about helping that one person, or handful of people that need to know they’re not alone.”
That is exactly why I’m writing this right now. I know I was influenced by a couple of people opening up about their mental health issues on hockey twitter, so I’m hoping that by writing these words I can be a positive influence in one’s life. Trust me, it gets better. You deserve it.
I can only speak for myself because everyone’s situation is different. I’m on a low dose of medication that I feel absolutely zero side effects from. I was worried that I’d be a shell of my former self if I started taking medication, but that just wasn’t the case.
In my case, my medication enabled to be myself for potentially the first time in my entire life. I don’t really think about that though; I just know that I’m in an amazing spot now and can say honestly that I’ve never been happier.
If you have any questions, comments or just need to talk, my DM’s are always open on twitter.
Take care of yourself,
P.S. A bit of a funny side story I’ll share with everyone. During the winter of 2018, Harman Dayal, Ryan Biech, Jeremy Davis, and myself were invited by the Canucks to a meeting with their Analytics and PR staff. Keep in mind, this is before I got help. I was pretty much at my worst.
I can’t get into the details of the meeting but we were all sitting around a table, discussing various topics — I’m sitting there and my anxiety is steadily climbing. I hit the “Uh oh, what am I going to do point” — I can’t have an anxiety attack right here in the meeting, I’ll be ruined!
I didn’t know what to do so I sat there stewing, I hit the 99 out of 100 point and then I don’t know what happened, but it all went away and I was fine, crisis averted. On top of all that, I really had to pee the entire time. I can laugh about it now but in the moment, it was a nightmare!