#BellLetsTalk; My Illness is Depression.

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#BellLetsTalk

  • My name is Blair Courchene, I’m 28 years old.  Small town kid now living in the big city.
  • I married my high school sweetheart, together, we’ve built a beautiful home and family of fur babies.
  • Personally, I have a great job with a good company, and good people.
  • I get to do things I love every day, Coach Midget AAA Hockey, and Scout with a WHL team.
  • I have everything I need.
  • I have an illness; Depression. 

#BellLetsTalk

Days like today are always a little bit bittersweet for me.  While, I appreciate the sentiment and the progress that we seem to all have made accepting mental health.  I can never help but wish we just did this ten years ago, or at least wish that I myself would have been more accepting of mental illness, for my own sake, and maybe for my sisters too.  But, progress is progress, and we must celebrate that we are heading in the right direction, and it sure seems like we are one step at a time.  Even beyond the monetary donations, it’s the awareness, the education and allowing those of us who suffer from mental illness to be vulnerable, and know that it is OK.

#BellLetsTalk

Here is my story

January 31, 2018

As for myself, I still struggle with my mental illness, from bouts of depression to those ol’ lifetraps that are near and dear to me.  Both the feeling of failure, and having unrelenting standards.  I’ve been half-jokingly saying to my wife since the new year that I am in a quarter life crisis currently, and that’s really just the unrelenting standards saying… ok, I am back, what’s up.  And, the cycle continues.  When I let these unrelenting standards get the best of me, failure then seems to step up and tries to knock me down.  The collective result is clinical depression, or major depressive disorder.  This is my illness.

I no longer am embarrassed, or ashamed to say that this is my life.  This is the life I live every day, it might be surprising to some, might not to others, but I guess that’s what we are learning every day that mental health becomes more acceptable.  Mental illness does not prey on the weak, the poor, the frail, nor the athletic, the famous or the rich.  There is no selective audience, it’s all of us.  This is why it’s so important for us to understand, and accept mental illness for what it is… an illness, and to know that it is OK.

Even for myself, though I’ve been trying to talk about my own illness behind this computer screen, I am feeling more comfortable talking about mental health, depression, and my own journey.  While, I never would wish this struggle on my worst enemy, it is sometimes nice to know that I, and we are not alone.  In the darkest days of this life, I’ve thought I am alone, and have no one I can share this with.  I have to find my own way out, and it seems insurmountable.

Though I knew others had the same illness I had, I just couldn’t comprehend it.  I couldn’t make sense of it.  I, myself couldn’t even really identify my own illness, other than it was so hard to just be happy, something that seems so simple, was seemingly impossible.

It wasn’t until I went to work on myself, tried a different professional help program, and I can safely say…  Sarah from Ontario, the resident at the U of C Medical Psychology (whatever its called) program saved my life.  I wish I could somehow find her, and thank her.

I learned about these “lifetraps” – it’s allowed me to identify my illness when it’s “flaring” up if you will, and it’s allowed me to accept it, knowing that this is a real thing, and others have it too.  Then, I go online, or scroll through twitter and people are sharing stories awfully similar to mine, and at times… it helps to just think, hey… I’m not alone with this, I’m not weird, I’m not different, I’m just fighting this like other people are. It IS OK.


As of late, I remain distant as I joke about my quarter life crisis, I fall in and out of episodes of depression.  In the last few weeks I’ve noticed I’ve been really up and down and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it starts right in the AM.  Either, I feel incredible, joyful, and electric or I feel gloomy, hopeless, and impatient.  By impatient, I don’t mean I can’t wait for my coffee, I mean, I can’t wait for my life, for things to happen, whether it’s financially, career, personal, hockey… etc, just life in general.  I have a hard time being patient waiting for things that I know are down the road.  I get frustrated, I can’t wait for the process any more, and I start to feel even more hopeless.

As I get up every day, I purposely try to remain distant, disconnected almost so I am without any feeling of sadness, guilt or reality at times.  I won’t allow myself to feel anything.  In the moment, this has helped me achieve the next small victory each day.  Those victories can be as a small, and trivial as just getting up, the next victory is brushing my teeth, then it’s showering, then it’s letting the dog out, getting the cat water, getting myself a snack, and getting in the truck.  That’s at least seven victories before I even pull out of the driveway.  This might seem absurd, but trust me, when you suffer from depression, even if you’re able to manage it, these are truly victories.   This process helps keep me grounded, keeps in the moment, but at the same time I think it further enables that disconnect from everything else.  I am so focused on just getting my shoes on and getting out the door, it’s all I can think about.  It’s almost like everything else around me is just a facade.  Fortunately, I keep myself so occupied throughout the day, that I don’t allow myself or have the opportunity to step back, and see that things around me are real, and not a facade.  But, I tell myself I can’t get caught up in what is happening around me, even though it’s life, if I get caught up in it, I’ll fall back into a dark hole, into sadness and I can feel my mind running away from everything else that may threaten this process.

Maybe this is selfish, and it probably is.  It’s probably what contributes me being so difficult to be around at times.  My wife deserves an award honestly.  Even at home, the last few weeks have been hard.  Amanda had to put her dog; Krimson down, and I just completely unplugged myself from reality, because selfishly that was how I knew I could deal with this difficult time.  I know I have not been a supportive husband because selfishly, I am so afraid of falling back into sadness, that I just shut off, unplug and run.   I don’t allow my brain to process that things that are going on in our lives.   I am more concerned about getting to bed a decent time so I am more prepared for the hopeful victory that will follow, waking up.

I know this method of living is not sustainable, hell, some might question the health of this process.  It’s not going to help me in the long run, a year from now.  But, when you’re sole focus is literally the next five minutes, a year from now seems impossible, it’s so far away.  I’ll eventually have no choice but to face reality, I won’t be able to just blur it out.  But, for right now… this makes me feel OK, and when you spend your whole life exhausting yourself at every waking moment trying to find even the smallest sliver of joy.  I’ll take being OK in this moment, right now and deal with the rest later.  But, for right now.  The next victory is clicking submit.


Jen

You hear the cliches all the time “I think about you every day”, “I’ll see you again soon” etc, etc.  I’ve never been one for cliches, but I can assure you there is not a day that passes by that you aren’t within the first three things I think of.  Today, I woke up, I took seven steps to the washroom, I thought about you before I even made it that far.

I thought about you, and I thought about today #BellLetsTalk and I thought to myself, what if you were here.   Then, I think about how much I miss you, and I tell you.  Then I try to hear your voice, and see your face, so I know you are with me again today.

Then, on the way into work you’ll control the music, the songs that are shuffled through.  I know it’s you, and sometimes it’s just so obvious, like today.  I have 1300+ songs on my Apple Music, and a song called “Brothers & Sisters” is the first to play, as if that wasn’t a Hey Brother, good morning! You turn on “O’Sister” next, almost to just claim you presence, and assure me of it.

Then as I laugh to myself, and start to tingle with emotion, the next song is “Apparitions”  then, I burst out laughing, shake my head, and I need to pull over and take a few deep breaths.  It’s good to know your clever, sharp Courchene wit has not left you.  Thank you for that.  You also will remind me of our good memories, you never seem to let me get sad, or think about the dark times.  As soon as I head down that, you’ll find a way to divert my attention and focus.  Be it a baba in front of me driving 30km/h under the speed limit, and I can just see you laughing, and shaking your finger at me reminding me I can’t be sad anymore.  You keep me grounded.

Every day I try to look at pictures of you, I keep one of them in my toothbrush drawer; your graduation photo.  In my truck console I keep one of your high school photos where you signed it Jen – Slim Shady 4 Ever.  I laugh every time.  Every time.

The music, it helps me remember your personality, the pictures, they help me see you physically.  Still, though, even almost ten years later I catch myself at times just closing my eyes, and wishing this was all just another big prank you played.  You’re going to pop up out of nowhere.

Laughing, as you sit on our patio with your legs crossed, lounging back drinking a corona, your hair is in dreads and you’ve not really aged a bit, you just went full hippy with the dreads, and you sit there laughing as I come home from work, and back into the driveway to park.  You stand up and you quickly remind me of all those times we debated 2Pac theories, and you confirm what I always hoped.  You just tried to do the same thing we believed he did!

I’ve played this over in my mind a thousand times, I see it perfectly.  The khaki colored shorts you’re wearing, the yellow shirt, your dark rimmed glasses, you got flip flops on, you just look like you returned from a ten year vacation in the tropics, you look so happy.  It’s amazing to see you smile again, to hear your laugh… but what the hell is that yellow shirt.  I can’t wait to engage in witty banter back and forth with you.  Finally, someone on my level of sharp retorts.  You were the master.  Grandpa would dispute that, he probably thinks he is!


The dreams, the disconnect from what is really real helps me believe in another day, and believe you are still with me.   Now that I am here, I don’t want you to ever let me believe you are really gone.  Just like you won’t let me down the path of sadness, and emotional disaster when you control the stereo.  Just please don’t ever me ever believe I’ve lost my big sister.

And if, if, you are in some weird tropical island being a hippy with 2Pac, this joke has gone on long enough – it’s time for you to come home.  Come meet the kitties, you’ll love them.  Come and see how far I’ve come, tell me you’re proud of me.  Come have a glass of wine with Amanda & I and just listen to old records with us while the cats chase around lasers, and Kona sits on your lap.  You’ll love it here.  It’s a happy home with laughter, and love.

This time, I promise, I’ll be better.  I’ll be a better brother.  I understand now.  I get it.  I am not mad at you anymore, I am not afraid.  I’m sorry I ever felt like that.  I was young, stupid, immature.  I didn’t get it.

I would die for a chance to rewind all of this, and start over.  Just to see you, or to tell you how sorry I am, or…  to take the time to talk with you, I will never be too busy again to talk with you, to listen.  I never even really was that…..   I wasn’t even busy. I don’t even remember what the heck it was I was doing.  But I will never forget one of the last things I said to you was that I was too busy to talk when you messaged me and said hey, sup brother.  It haunts me every day, even though I can feel you trying to take me down a path, I can hear you telling me the result is the same… But, to just hear your voice one more time, to hear you laugh one more time….  oh man, I’d swear I’d give anything…  Anything.

I’ll never be busy again.  I am sorry, just call.  PLease.


They say cliches like there are guardian angels watching over all of us, but for me… it’s more than that.  I have my big sister watching my back.  I can feel you there. 

I see ya Roo’

#BellLetsTalk

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