This is going to be a challenging blog entry to write because I did not prepare for it in advance for how quickly I run through the years of my life, perhaps at another time I will write about them and explore them more. Read back in my blog, there is a few interesting things that have happened to me I hope.
My Bell Let's Talk day started rather boring and I was compelled to just follow other Twitter members and retweet inspirational quotes and song lyrics. But the more I thought about it the more I wanted to do something a bit different. Bell Let's Talk is not just about motivating discussion it is about sharing your story with others. In sharing your story, my story, hopefully there are young people out there who will see they are not alone and that if you keep looking ahead there is light beyond the darkness, just reach out. So, my story, yes, that is what I am going to do with you right now.
It begins back around high school, around 1985 or so. I was a nerd back in school and did not make friends easily. The ones I did I kept for many years and treasured some of them more than they will ever know. I wish I could mention names because there are some that deserve to be recognized. So in high school I was shy, nervous around girls, and I rarely did anything to set myself apart from the shadows. Ironically I did run for students council which opened me to criticism but I believe in our democracy and equality for everyone so it was a passion more than anything else. I was depressed a lot, perhaps by environment or by genetics it did not really matter the source but I admit there were a couple times in high school when I felt I couldn't go on. I did think about taking my own life a couple times. One time I thought about strangling myself and another letting myself fall off a high train trestle in our town but both ways had a small percentage of survival so I did not attempt them. I recall many times walking over that trestle at night and staring down into the darkness below.
In around 1987 a friend of mine drowned in the icy river. I remember visiting his grave to talk to him and telling him that he was the lucky one. He escaped all the bullying and sadness. I said on more than one occasion to his grave that I wished I could switch places with him on that mild spring evening. He was a good kid and had a future before him and in my mind it just was not right for him to be taken away when I wanted to leave.
I won't tell you their names but in my senior years, when I ran for students council, I made friends with two girls from the 'popular' crowd. They supported me in my efforts and after I lost the election (to a popular kid) one of the girls told me "you may have lost but you gained the respect of so many students for trying". The support of my friends, all be them few and far between got me through some of the dark days in high school.
There were many days when I was 'popular' not for what I said or did but popular with the bullies, and there were a couple, one in particular whose name I still remember today, he sought to abuse me mentally and embarrass me publicly. I also faced some physical and mental abuse outside of school that I will not go into at this time so I dealt with bullying during a good portion of my waking hours. I do not know how kids today can survive it all. I could not. At 3 o'clock when the bell rang and you went home you could turn off the bullying and turn off the noise. You could sit in front of the television or do your homework or listen to music (I listened to a lot of "instrumental" music during that time that society would later label as emo or slit-your-wrists music) or play with your friends at the local park. Today kids can not escape it with social media and their own smartphones (which I do not agree with). If I lived in today's teen world I would probably not be alive to write this today.
In 1989 I had a girlfriend for six months at the end of high school just after turning 18. We were a match but mis-matched at that time in our lives. She was quite emotional (as many teenage/adult girls can be) and needed attention while I was a short fuse and emotionless at the best of times. There were a number of incidents between us where she needed me to be there emotionally but I was trapped in my own mind and thoughts. We broke up just days before I entered college in August 1990 (not a regret but certainly a mistake).
In college I was faced with even more problems. The stress of finding my own way in life, classes I did not like, professors I did not like, challenges with landlords and others. It was all getting overwhelming. In my spare time I was mentally abused and threatened by another student in the house I rented in. I would hide in my room, which did not have a door by the way, behind the sofa just so he would not know I was there. I would take long walks down along the Kempenfelt Bay to think about the world and my life. My thoughts matched the darkness that surrounded me back in those days (the harbour district back then was empty fields with nothing but a parking lot near the metal statue). I remember one night sitting on the cold, wet snow of a baseball diamond with a 2 litre bottle of Coke just wishing that I could freeze to death and it would all be over.
In college one day I talked with a counsellor who promptly referred me to the mental health facility in Midland, I was even provided a ride up there to talk with two other counsellors. It did not help. In fact quite the opposite. I felt I had put everyone out of their normal routine and traveling all that way (over half an hour by car that I didn't own) was not something I could do several times a week. I felt intimidated and awkward. Now, I had friends in college, a few of them, but I still felt alone. I completed the year and left to move back with my parents.
About a year later I moved down to the city and got a job. Things seem to 'hang on' for a few years but I was still depressed and not taking anything for it. I remember the long walks I would take in Brampton at night. I used to go down along the railroad tracks that ran through downtown and wonder what it would be like to just hop on a train and leave my world behind. I did not date anyone for the years I lived there. I was part of a social circle of online friends and we met a couple times a month down in Metro. They were good friends but I was not really part of the 'inner circle' so I did not do anything with them otherwise. I did fall in love with one of them and remained friends with them for many years afterward but nothing really came of it.
In early 1994 I met someone online, we had a relationship and we married that June. I moved to the US in December and that is when the darkest side of my depression tried to consumed me. I had no support from my spouse or her family and my suicidal thoughts and depression got substantially worse. She lied from the first day I met her and she was mentally abusive and I did my fair share of it in return.
I finally reached out around 1997 and got professional help from the local resources. They tried to counsel me and give me drugs. I have, what you might call, a rather intellectual mind, and could see right through all the therapies and reasonings. Therapy is about trying to change your thoughts and I agree and support it, but when you can see the end of the road and you are depressed you jump to the final block without taking the walk first.
Counsellor: "What do you want to get out of this time in therapy?"
Me: "Well, I don't know but I know this method and this method and this method do this and this and this so that won't work"
Drugs (the medication prescription kind that is) work for some, they stabilize you to help you get back to where you "should" be. I think if you have mild depression or general anxiety you should look to other resolutions though but that's just me.
The environment around you is a big factor in your state of mind, when I left her and moved back to Canada my depression seemed to become a lot more controllable. I did not have several people implying to me I was worthless and a disappointment because I would not bow down to their control or demands. It is about finding and keeping balance in your life and walking away from those people and places that seek to harm you.
I'm straying off track here. The point of all this, from someone who thirty years later still suffers from once or twice a year bumpy rides of depression and undiagnosed general anxiety I can tell you that the support of friends, family, whoever, is key to your survival. Friends are everything because without them you are alone. But I do not want to give the impression that someone must be labelled a "friend" just to care about another.
And if you are someone reading this who knows someone who might be "a little blue from time to time" don't try to cheer them up. People who are depressed don't need 'cheering up', they didn't just choose the wrong type of ice cream they are consumed in a world of darkness where they feel they are worthless and do not matter to the world.
It is not about trying to tell them they are wrong to feel that way. It is not about telling them what they feel is 'not normal'. It is normal. It is a part of the grand puzzle of life but it does not have to be their entire life. With your help by just being there it can change a life. You can save a life when you smile at a stranger or be friendly to someone in line at the grocery store. A simple "hello" is all it takes to prove to someone that they exist and that others 'see' them.
I have loved and been loved. I might not always be smiling on the outside (I have a "resting serious face") but inside I am okay. I am okay because I know that there are people who care about me and I hope would miss me if I were gone.
My name is Kevin M. Klerks, 46, blogger, politician, advocate. I am a Canadian and I have manageable (after decades) mild depression and general anxiety. I hope that does not change what you might think about me. I am the same person you knew before. I am me. Let's Talk.
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