Your Move, Chief

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Maybe this is too late.  Maybe this isn’t even relevant anymore.  But, last week we lost one of the finest individuals to grace this planet.  No, not just because he was a phenomenal actor, but because he battled for so long, to bring everyone else joy and laughter despite his own misery, and emptiness, despite his own mental obstruction. He was gifted, courageous, and beyond brave.

Upon hearing the news of Robin passing away, I was upbeat, driving home from engagement photos, and on the radio, as DJ whoever began playing his next techno beat, and the beats of this terrible song faded in, DJ whoever let us know that an icon had passed. But, that was all. Into the techno trance the song went. Instantly, I felt sick. I loved Robin Williams. First thing that came to my mind, was… Is this guy talking about the same Robin Williams that played Mrs. Doubtfire? Like… Patch Adams – Robin Williams? Surely, He’d have done more than just say “oh hey by the way folks before we get to this song…” But, after searching my mind for a few minutes for another Robin Williams, I came to the unfortunate conclusion. Yes. It was… Patch Adams. Typically though, as part of my own constant fight with mental illness, I feel nothing. That’s my usual reaction. Nothing. Emptiness. Even amongst the most tragic events. I don’t usually feel an overwhelming amount of sadness, or despair. I don’t…. usually feel anything. Empty. I try too, but I can’t for anymore than a moment.  But, I felt sad. Abnormally sad, I just had a bad feeling.  I felt connected.  Moments later, I got home… and I think I had already convinced myself I knew how Mr. Williams had passed. I turned on the TV, and it was confirmed. Suicide. My heart sunk, and my stomach twisted immediately. I don’t know how I knew. It just hit me close to home, right away. I just knew.  I felt it.

As sad as it were for me to learn about the news of Mr. Williams, I am not on a personal level with Mr. Williams, therefore, I couldn’t allow myself to be overtaken by the news. I can’t try and feel the same pain that his family and friends feel, I don’t want too. I’ve felt that. But, the hardest part for me in moving on from this one quickly, and not allowing myself to feel anything more than a few moments of sadness was… the rest of us.

I’m not one to follow along to celebrities’ personal troubles. I always believe they are humans alike the rest of us, they just happen to be good at their jobs, and the rest of us care way too much about what they’re doing, and put them under these encapsulated microscopes, and we wait for them to struggle, we wait for bad things to happen to them, and we pounce, we have opinions, comments, we have all the answers to the lives of these robots. As if that’s what they are.

As par for the course, when a celebrity struggles, fights, battles anything. It becomes a global issue for a mere 72 hours. Whether it’s racism, poverty, drugs, crime, physical health, and… Mental health. It’s unfortunate that all of the problems that plague our society are only really discussed at the “trending” level, when one of these robots we hold on a mile-high pedestal is identified with of these issues. Though, I notice this often, I am easily able to just shut off twitter, facebook, TV, radio…etc, and I don’t need to really associate myself with the opinons, and views of “us”… But, this time, I associated myself too close to the matter, and let it get to me.  It was too close to home.

Shortly after learning about the passing of Robin Williams, I posted this…

Devastated by the news of Robin Williams. Too close to home for me. An unfortunate reminder that we can all be victim to mental illnesses. No matter how rich, or how famous, we’re all just human. #RIP Robin Williams.

The response was tremendous, reassuring, almost like people understood this time.  I’ve been talking about mental illness through my social media feeds for a few years now, and I do it without any hesitation now, but I still often am thinking about what other people might be thinking when I do write the stuff.  But, Maybe, just hopefully we’ve had this discussion enough times that we have finally figured it out. We have finally learned that mental illness is real. It is real, it is happening, and it is happening to any kind of person, regardless of pedestal, fame, fortune and power. It does not discriminate, in any way, shape or form. And, Robin Williams is a sad, and unfortunate reminder of this. After posting this, and seeing the responses, I felt better, I felt like maybe we are actually making progress towards accepting mental illnesses, and accepting those who fight this as… normal.

A few days had come and gone, and for whatever reason, I just stayed off of social media. It’s almost as if I knew I was being naïve, and it was too good to be true, so I was avoiding what I was afraid I’d see, and what I knew I’d see.  We have not made any progress. Then, all in the same day, I was no longer able to avoid reality, and avoid society.

Around the same time, my mom had sent me a note that had passed along to her from one of my blogs readers, and she then mentioned to me one of these internet trolls had wrote something absurd about depression, mental illness and suicide being a choice. I just couldn’t fathom it.  Really? Someone could say that?  Really?  I didn’t even really respond, because I didn’t allow myself to believe it. My mom mentioned that she had tried to make this ignoramus aware of their own idiocy.   I remember then, debating with myself. Do I want to read what that troll wrote, and join my mom in letting her know my opinions too, or just leave it because it’ll drive me crazy, and ruin my day.  I went with the latter, but then I opened up my facebook page, and couldn’t believe the comments I saw. Albeit, from an individual that I, and many others hold in quite low esteem, but there behold comments like

“I am sick of the media responses about Robin Williams, he made a choice”

And then equally sized morons commenting

“He had all the fame, fortune, money he could imagine, how could he be sad”

“This isn’t the real Robin Williams we know “

“He made a choice, lets quit talking about him, and talk about the real Robin Williams we know!”

… Are you fucking kidding me? Are you seriously that stupid, and that ignorant? I immediately, had completely lost my faith, once again in our people. Again, the host of these comments, and this discussion is not someone I would trust to tell me the difference between grass and snow, but still, all the more reason he shouldn’t be commenting on these types of issues. I skimmed through the comments at the time, and those four I just typed stick out in my mind like a sore thumb, an engrained image. Nauseating,

  • What choice did he make? To live with an illness that he tried to tolerate, manage and fight for so long that it ultimately became intolerable?
  • Right, So famous people aren’t susceptible to mental illness, just all the other illnesses, they can’t be depressed, or have bi-polar disorder. Not Robin. Not Kurt. Not Wade Belak? Rick Rypien? Derek Boogard?
  • This is the one that really gets me. Who is the Robin Williams that we all know? Is it Patch Adams? Mrs. Doubtfire? Is it Sean Maguire? Those are the Robin Williams we’ve seen, that’s the Robin Williams we’ve come to know. Him in his professional life. Not his personal life. We don’t know the real Robin Williams, this is part of the problem.
  • Again, the problem. Let’s never quit talking about him, his legacy, or his demise. Maybe that will stop the next one.

You haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about

It amazes me that people can be so ignorant, and so oblivious to these things. These people that are writing these comments, are the exact reason that people like myself, or people like my sister, or Robin, or Kurt Cobain couldn’t feel like they had the power, or strength to talk about their mental illness. These are the people that make the rest of us feel trapped, feel powerless. These are the people contributing to the stigma that perceives mental illness as negative and shameful, something that isn’t real, something made up. The reason these illnesses get so intolerable that, suicide becomes the only thing left, are these people.  It doesn’t take many of them to eliminate any chance of a platform allowing us to comfortably talk about mental health issues.  If only Robin Williams, or Jen could talk about their fight without any fear or repercussion like these internet trolls, maybe they wouldn’t have felt so entrapped, felt so isolated, so scared, they wouldn’t have felt their illness was so intolerable, and then they’d still be hear making both of us laugh today.   But, instead we attack Robin Williams daughter Zelda on twitter, because we can. Because, we can hide behind our keyboards under our fictional internet name,  and our poor grammar, because it allows us a platform to say the cruelest of things without any worry of repercussion. it’s easy, and nothing will come of it. This is where we put our energy, instead of constructively talking about how we can make mental illness an acceptable illness, like anything else… and understand it is not a choice.

No one chooses to struggle with depression. I don’t remember a morning in my life where I decided I wanted to be depressed, I don’t remember a morning in my life where I thought about my afternoon, and thought, ya, around 2:00 after I have lunch, I’ll try kill myself, because I feel sad today.  This isn’t how it works. It’s not a choice, and it’s not just a shitty day where things aren’t going right, so you decide to mop around at home. It’s not just a crappy week at work.

It’s feeling absolutely nothing, feeling empty, it’s not feeling sad, it’s not feeling happy, it’s not feeling real. It’s failure, it’s feeling complete failure regardless of accomplishments, it’s anxiety, it’s denial, it’s worrying, it’s fear, it’s feeling minute, it’s irrelevance. It’s not a choice. It’s “you’re always afraid to take the first step, because all you see is every negative thing ten miles down the road” It’s real.

 

It’s not a choice

&

 

It’s not your fault

Rest in Peace Robin Williams.  Say hi to Jen for me.

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A letter to the kids & the parents.

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It’s OK to be THEIR disappointment.

Hello All,

Hope summer has been a treat for you all.  Mine has just concluded as of this past weekend with the kick off to another hockey season.  It’s August 12. And, I’ve already hit the 4-straight-days-on-the-ice mark.  Which, seems rather early.  Though it seems earlier each year.  However, I’m not really complaining.  It’s my choice. I absolutely love doing it. Each season is an absolute blast, thus it’s a little easier to get back to the rink August 12th.  I look forward to seeing some returning faces to the herd, and some new faces eager to make the squad and become apart of it.

The next 6 weeks are the toughest for us coaches as we spend hours upon hours at the arena, followed by hours upon hours at a table somewhere, sometimes at an arena, sometimes (If I am lucky) at a pub, and we try to get it right.  Then, we hit the sheets, only to wake up do our 9-5 and do it all over again.  For 6 weeks. But, we absolutely love it.  Though It’s taxing & exhausting, it does not compare to the pressures that these young men face. 13 & 14 years old.  160+ kids try out for our association, with our team being the pinnacle group.  For the first week, teams will scrimmage against one another, alternating opponents each night.  Easy? Sure. Queue, about 15 of us in the stands whispering to each other, and writing on our clipboards, making note of each and every play, and player.  Not so easy anymore for these kids.  We take 19 of that 160+. 19. That’s just over 10% of kids trying out will actually make the top team. And, that only then becomes step one.

It’s tough.  These kids are 14, and their entire year as a 14 year old basically goes into the arduous month long process of making “the team”.  There’s parents, There’s coaches, there’s friends, teammates, there’s teachers. All pressuring the players to DO BETTER!  That’s not all either, even at 14, there can be prospective agents (most of whom are complete rats), but oh there are scouts, junior coaches, bloggers, other parents especially whom love to have an opinion on a grade 9 student regarding his ability to save the day, and more importantly the city. “THIS kid WILL be the next 99. HE WILL.” “ARE YOU NUTS – YOU MUST BE HIS DAD CAUSE HE SUCKS!” …He’s umm 14 you guys…

He’s still learning the history of his very own country in social, then he’s just beginning algebra after he wakes up from that class.  Not to be outdone by the English teacher down the hall, whom is chomping at the bit with piles of “The Hounds of The Baskervilles” homework.  Then we go home and beg our parents to help us with all this surmounting work, and maybe do a book report or two because I have practice. And I HAVE to make the team.  How can I have time for all this homework?  I have hockey.

As part coaches who are fortunate enough to lead these fine young men at such a level, I am sure I speak for all of us when I say that family & school are always, absolutely always the first and foremost important thing when it comes to a young adults life.  Hockey is third. Regardless of the team you play on, or you want to play on.  And, if there is a coach out there who says otherwise, I want you to eat the grill of my F150, cause you deserve that and nothing less.   But, anyway, best of luck trying to tell these young men this.  You can tell them? But, realistically, how can you expect them to understand this right now?  They have more weight on their shoulders from their peers and surroundings then anyone else I know.  And, they’re just 14.

It’s not just bantam hockey players, I am sure this argument could be made for many different fields or sports just change the game and age if you please.  But, this is the world I see every day.

The pressures that are on these young men and women is terrorizing, utterly damaging.  It is no wonder the rate of depression & suicide continues to skyrocket in younger people, and continues to climb as one of the leading causes of death.  How can any kid be happy, or satisfied when expectations of them are absolutely unrealistic before their life has really even begun? When they’re constantly failing the readers, the dads, and the moms.  So ya didn’t make the AAA team? Or lead the league? So ya didn’t earn top student honors? So ya didn’t win the little league world series as clean up batter and pitch 7 straight like Dad told ya to do? So fucking what. What next? Your life is over? You’re a complete failure? You let dad down, you let mom down?  Fuck off. You’re a kid.  Do you know that just because you didn’t make the AAA team, or that you weren’t top student that you won’t earn a phD? Or be ridicously wealthy, or better yet happy because you created some kind of change that made this shitty place a better one? Do you know that these outcomes and more of the like are impossible, because at 14 you didn’t achieve a goal that someone wanted for you more then you wanted yourself?

No. Not likely kid.

Some of the best players I have ever had the opportunity to coach weren’t necessarily the most skilled, or talented ones.  But, they were the best kids. They were the best people. They smiled every day. They had fun. Sure, they had ups and downs, hell,  they went through life, life outside of the hours of practice in a week, but they had fun, they learned. It’s amazing how truly mature some of these young athletes can be, some 14 year olds seem like they’re 44 for fucksakes! These are the type of people you know that will succeed in life, whether it is at hockey, or whether it is at something entirely separate but you just know they’re on the right path heading for complete greatness.   As for par with the handful of these kids I’ve come across, you see it in their parents.  Their parents aren’t the ones attacking others in the blogs, they aren’t cohorting with the GM of the Saginaw Ice Queens every intermission lathering him with a Double Thai Chi fucking Latte in a double cup with a warm sleeve so Steve & Andy don’t burn a hole in their newly purchased designer leather mitts.  No. They watch their kids do what they love to do. Play. And, the only reason the kid loves to do that…. Is cause the parents let him just play.

So, my words to all trying to achieve a goal of making a team this season whether it be ours, or whether it be elsewhere.

Control what you can control. You can control your work ethic.  You can control your attitude. You can control your body language. You, unfortunately have absolutely no control about what us coaches talk about in the war room. You, unfortunately, unlikely have any control over your parents.  But, above all, you can control if you’re having fun or not.  If you’re not having fun, and you’re only doing it cause Dad wants you to.  Tell him to fuck off & stop.  You have way too much future ahead of you to waste time doing something you don’t want, something that doesn’t bring you happiness.  Control what you can gentleman, and enjoy it.  It’s a tough 6 weeks trying out for teams.  But, I can guarantee if you do not have fun throughout the process. You won’t be apart of the outcome you’re hoping for. Do it for you & no one else. It’s your life. Smile. It’s hockey.

It’s OK to be THEIR disappointment.