Today is #BellLetsTalk day. Basically, Bell Canada, typically known for making us all curse at our internet, television, and phone bills, has a day where they become immensely more likable by raising money for mental health awareness by encouraging people to, you know, talk to each other and speak out about their personal experiences. As such, I tend to contribute in two ways; a blog post and by putting my phone number up for anybody who wants to send me a text or twenty (bonus if they’re a Bell Customer). If you ever need to chat about anything, that number is 416-389-4264. Text’s preferred though; I’m not big on phone calls.
Other than that, I’ll address something that I get asked a lot in a way that I typically wouldn’t. The question is simple – do I ever doubt myself or what’s going on around me?
Of course, I’d be lying if I said no.
I doubted the entire concept of family when my parents split up. I was eleven years old and believed that was the type of thing that only happened in movies. I switched custody a few times over the years and every time I was doubtful of my decision being the right one.
Following that, I doubted the value of school as a social event. Being a shy and awkward overweight kid was fine in elementary school, seeing as I grew up with most of the same people over seven years. But from Grades 5 to 9, I had gone to five schools in as many years and by and large struggled to connect with people. I have yearbooks that people legitimately signed with “Get lost” and “We never have to see each other again”. I doubted the value of being there and even attempting to befriend people. Needless to say, I faked sick a lot as a teenager, so much so that the anxiety actually began to make me feel dreadful on weekdays and left me no longer needing something to fake.
Towards my very late teens, the internet gave me a bit of a real life social network. There were some good people out there, but poor judgement from not having that history lead me to those with ill intentions posing as good people. My chosen circle crashed around me, giving me months of anxiety and feelings of self-hatred for being lured in. I doubted that it was worth communicating with the outside world at this point.
Being transparent, my original “weight loss plan” involved a hope that a weightless soul came out of the body after my time on earth and accelerating the plan. Thankfully, doubt saved me here; not knowing what was ahead made me shut this idea down quickly.
Now, what kept me going after these moments, albeit not by much, was the fact that some fantastic people stepped in to talk with me. Whether it was trying to deconstruct my struggles or distract me by chatting about a common interest, I had that around. It’s a necessity to have that around.
Even in recent times, I’ve gone through my struggles. Do I have doubts that I can reach the goals I want to without the proper education? Yes, every time I send in a rejected job application or have somebody I know tell me that I didn’t make the right decisions when I wasn’t in the frame of mind to. Of course. But my peers find a way to constantly remind me that my supposed talents will shine through.
Do I have doubts that I’m doing the right thing every time somebody sends me a hateful message? Not as much as I used to, but that’s only because I’ve grown a thicker skin and there’s such a sheer mass of vile content that it’s become white noise. But I get almost as many positive messages and my friends remind me that I’m not what people claim.
Did I have doubts when I took the non-writing retail job I’m doing right now? Where do I begin on this? We had a spectacular, month and change training program set up for us where we went in practically every day for long hours to learn about our products, and more importantly, each other. They wanted us to be smart and friends and all of that stuff.
Of course, as someone who knew a lot of the technical things already I often felt bored, and as somebody who, while improved, is still shy, insecure, selfish, and awkward, struggled at times (okay, a lot) with the school-like setting that he ran away from as a teenager. I doubt that I’m Mr. Popular there by any means but I have to say that the group of people that I’m working with, particularly when they caught on that I’m self-aware of my flaws, were incredibly understanding and it’s now a treat to be around such a fantastic team.
Did I doubt that it was the right decision when I had to start devoting hours to it? As you all know, I went from writing daily to disappearing at the start of the hockey season and I’m just picking up the pieces now. I definitely doubted it, but hey, it’s given me valuable life experience and a bit of pocket change to invest in new projects. My end game is still in hockey journalism but after the shock of adjusting to adulthood and learning how to make real-life friends again, I feel like I’ve gained more out of this than selling electronics.
Where am I going with all of this? It’s pretty simple – I’m very prone to going into dark places with my life, particularly when a wrench is thrown into my path. But, while clinical depression, anxiety (which, by the way, runs in my family..) and many other mental illnesses can’t be flat out cured by “talking”, having people to support you and be a voice, ear, or both goes a very long way.
If you’re in a dark place, don’t hesitate to ask those you trust to be that voice or ear. If you’re not, don’t hesitate to be the voice or ear for somebody who needs it. I know that whenever I’m in a good frame of mind, I try to be that for others, and when I’m not, I appreciate it.
I genuinely feel that the biggest reason that things have become easier for me over the years is because of the increased support that I’ve received from my peers, friends, and family. I could keep going, and I’ve still got a long ways to go in my life, but would I be anywhere close to where I am without everybody’s support?
I doubt it.