My name is Blair Courchene, I am yes, the man behind BAC Hockey and BAC 4 Hope. But, more then that… I am a son, a husband, a brother, nephew, grandchild, and a friend. Lately, I have found reward in being able to say that. Almost, pride.
I debated with myself last few months if I submit my own story on BAC4Hope, or perhaps everyone already knows my story from my previous blog so I don’t need to bother, and certainly don’t want to burden people with another story of my depression.
But, what I have learned, and what I have decided is, my story has changed, it changes seemingly every time I want to write about it. Some days it’s better, others, it’s darker. In the last few months, I have put in probably more sustained time and effort into helping myself become a better version of myself that I think it’s time to share that journey from start to finish.
A journey to me has many different parts, it’s not just a road that’s straight ahead. Many different turns, hills, and obstacles that perhaps you didn’t see coming. So I will attempt to share my journey over four different segments. 1) the beginning 2) the unforeseen obstacle 3) the real bad, dark times and 4) the final pursuit, the checkpoint of happiness and joy.
This isn’t a happy story, I’m not sure if it’s even a story with a happy ending. It’s not glorious, or pretty. In fact, to be frank… I wish I didn’t have the experience to even tell this story. But, what I learned somewhere along the way is it is who I am, I have to own that, be proud of it, and if there is an opportunity to share my own journey to maybe help someone else, I’ll do that. While I have learned to cherish my own journey, and embrace it. I simply don’t wish it upon anyone else. I really don’t. This story is about hardship, sadness, darkness. It’s about figuring out who you are, It’s about loss, grief, and learning to grieving process on the fly, and that it never really ends. This story is about vulnerability, struggle, it’s about learning to survive. This is my pursuit of happiness.
Part 1) The Beginning – Learning to Live, and Ignore My Own Defect “Depression”
I don’t know exactly how old I was when I finally realized something just wasn’t right with me. I was 12, maybe 13. I just remember I couldn’t genuinely feel happiness, or joy. But, I wasn’t able to really process that, I just began to think it was kind of made up. Like, what really was happiness and joy. Sure, I laughed, and I had fun with my friends and family at different times. But, it was also exhausting. It was hard to come by. Even in those moments where you’re having fun, and your experiencing that joy… It wouldn’t take much to completely shut it all off. Someone said something, or something didn’t go my way, or really anything. It’s like the alarm clock went off, and the sensation of joy, and happiness had expired. Time was simply up. What would follow was often just gloomy, sulking, darkness, an emptiness almost. It would overtake my whole body and leave me just in a blur with no direction, or purpose. I didn’t want to do anything. Playing street hockey, video games, whatever it was… I’d just kind shut off, and become a zombie. I can even remember times playing mini sticks with friends, and things were going great but time ticked away and the alarm went off. You could feel the joy just exit my body, and substitute for nothing, and that would be it. I didn’t want to play anymore. I couldn’t really laugh anymore even if I tried. I couldn’t smile. I couldn’t do anything. I tried to hide it, but I didn’t know how. People would ask me, what’s wrong with you, are you ok. My favorite excuse was often “ya I just don’t feel great” or “my stomach hurts” then I’d go home and just float around in emptiness. My parents would ask me what’s wrong, I’d reply nothing or my go to excuses about my stomach.
Fortunately, my parents were no idiots, and didn’t buy the same excuse over and over, day after day. I can remember going to the doctor and for the first time in my life hearing the words depressed, depression. I had never heard that before, and truthfully had no idea what it meant. This is how poor the stigma of mental health, and depression was eighteen years ago. I recall later that evening hearing my mom on the phone with someone saying those words again, he’s depressed, she diagnosed him with clinical depression. What did this even mean. Was I relieved that they knew what was wrong with me? Will I be ok? Am I ok? Now what?
Naturally, I was a very snoopy, nosy kid so I had to figure it out. That evening, I remember going onto our computer, hooking up the old dial up internet and heading to AskJeeves.com to figure out what’s this depression thing I have been labeled with. What did it mean. I was hopeful Jeeves would have answers for me. Sadness. Hopelessness. Lack of Energy. Appetite Changes. As I read through the symptoms, I recognized them. Depression. That’s what I had I guess. That’s what was wrong with me I thought.
Then there was the secrecy of it all. I don’t recall my parents ever saying don’t tell anyone or anything, I just don’t think we really ever discussed it that much. But, as I learned more about the illness, I recognized it was not only me, but my sister to had the same thing wrong with her. Then my mom, her too. We all kind of had the same thing wrong with us. We all kind of seemed to suffer from extreme sadness. I didn’t know if my mom truly did, or if it she was just sad that Jen and I both had the same Illness. I remember thinking it had to be the latter, because she’s too strong to have this weakness.
Our family, while I wouldn’t trade where I came from for a second, I love my dysfunctional family. But, our family loved secrets. Still do. Everything is a secret. Everything is hush hush. I don’t know if it’s intentional, just lot of things just aren’t talked about. Kind of brushed under the rug. As I grew older, I began to do the same. As I struggled through my own bouts of depression, the severity of it became my own secrets especially as I learned to live, and ignore my own defect that I had; depression.
My first trip to the therapist was in Sherwood Park. It was a quiet ride into the city, I think I was reluctant to go, I can’t recall. I didn’t quite understand how talking to some stranger was going to help me. Walking into the clinic, the whole place just reminded me of the assumed secrecy that was associated with my defect. It was a very quiet place, very private. Everything just screamed silence. It reminded me of a library with closed door offices instead of cubicles and tables. I actually remember enjoying the process of therapy to start, I liked the woman I had gone to talk too. She was calm, didn’t seem to treat me as someone who had a defect. I felt normal. I can’t remember how many times we visited her, but I remember life slowly beginning to change. I had appointments in the city to talk to these people, I had medication I had to take that was supposed to help me. I just couldn’t comprehend how pills were going to help my moods. It wasn’t till years later, I would learn about the actual chemical imbalance, and serotonin. It wasn’t till years later, I would learn that this was actually a disease, an illness. Not a defect. But, In the meantime, I continued to live as if I was different. Oftentimes, I would wonder if any of my friends had this same thing wrong with them. Or was it just my family, why was it just us. Sometimes my lack of energy, and emotion would simply turn to frustration and anger. I was mad that this thing had effected my family so much.
As I continued to handle my own defect, I increasingly grew frustrated, and agitated with the constant trips to Edmonton. It became exhausting, and I was already exhausted. I didn’t want to do this anymore. I didn’t want to go talk to people. They all wore off, and started to just piss me off. All of them. There were cycles I would go through in my throughout my teenage life with depression, there was silence, there was exhaustion, there were manic episodes, there was anger, frustration, extreme sadness, then extreme anger. I turned into a jerk, I was an asshole to my parents, my sister, my friends, my family… everyone around me, I was not pleasant to be around. I knew it too, but I didn’t care. Then there’d be cycles where I thought I was fine, because I was feeling emotion again. I just didn’t recognize it was the wrong emotion. I began to become an expert in not just living with my defect, but ignoring it.
As years went by, and I stumbled my way through high school, I continued fighting with my mental illness on my own, refusing to let anyone help me. I watched it beat my sister down day in and day out. That was probably the hardest part. I saw how much she struggled, and then when I compared it to me, it was nothing. So I began to think I was simply just being a baby, and a burden. Jen was the one who was really struggling. The word suicide would often come around. Usually it was the 3rd question every doctor, or therapist would ask. Any risks of you harming yourself, any suicidal thoughts. I never really did, I was just very sad and empty at times. But, I often wondered about my sister. Was her condition so grave that she had these thoughts? I kind of started to tier depression in my own mind, and ranked hers very high. So while suicidal thoughts never really crossed my mind as an action I’d commit, it was something I thought of every day, and feared. Not because of me but because of my sister. But, when I was asked this question… I’d just nod and say nope! All good!
This to me was the problem with therapy… These people who I don’t know and they are asking me extremely private questions. I’m not answering them truthfully. I’m not showing any weakness to anyone. Or, at least I am going to try my hardest to put on a brave front that everything is OK. Even though, I knew it wasn’t. Again, I didn’t want to be a burden. I knew my sister was hurting, and it broke my mom’s heart. I could see the hurt in her eyes. It broke my heart, so there was no way I wanted anyone to know the severity of my own defect.
I remember there being a bit of a gap between therapists, and trips to Edmonton. I think my mom must have picked up on the irritation going to Edmonton caused me, or perhaps it just became ridiculous having to drive there each week for therapy. So I went to see someone in Vegreville. This was the worst experience. All I remember is loathing having to go somewhere where I may be spotted. I was reluctant, and I remember fighting with my mom about it. I walked into the place with my head buried, I didn’t want to look up in case someone saw me, the secret would be out that I had this flaw, that I was different, or worse then all… that I was weak. I struggled in high school trying to figure out who I was, and what I wanted. I had no idea. I just knew that I was different, and I was weak so I tried to fit in and be cool. So I couldn’t stand the thought of someone seeing me here, seeking help, seeking treatment for sadness. I began to self-ridicule myself around that time too, that depression was just a fancy word for sadness, and sadness equalled weakness and that was me.
So, with the seemingly constant struggle my sister endured, and convincing myself I was just sad and weak. I began to lie more and more about my depression to my parents. I’d tell them I’m fine, really.. I didn’t need the meds, I didn’t need the appointments. I was good. I just needed to hang out with my friends, and do my own thing. I think while this did help, I certainly wasn’t clear of depression, and feeling empty. Not at all. But, I became a pro at hiding my own emotions, and faking it. Then all at once, it seemed everything around me started to fall apart. I was forced to not only conceal my own day-day struggle, but I actually had to deal with other stuff. There was the regular high school drama with my girlfriend, my parents fighting nearing a divorce, my brothers health always scared me, then there was the cancer diagnosis for my girlfriend, then there was the black hole that never seemed to get better, my sisters mental health. Of course, there was so much sadness and darkness that was associated with that. MY mom struggled. These things all seem to eat me up, and as I continued to bottle everything up, things just worsened. I became a ticking time bomb. I knew I was going to explode, but I didn’t know when. I’d stay out late on weekends partying, drinking, going to bars. I’d get as drunk as I could because it made me feel social, it was the only thing that seemed to allow me to pretend to be something else. But the more I drank, the more I seemed to sometimes get emotional, either I’d get sad, and reality would kind of hit me, or I’d get even more angry than normal and turn into an asshole again. At home, My dad and I would physically fight, I began to resent my mom. I’d get into fights at school, or I’d run someone through the boards at hockey, and I didn’t care who it was, or if it hurt my team. Then the worst of it came, I began to resent my sister. I hated that she still fought this so hard. Part of me just didn’t want to believe it, part of me wanted her to just handle her shit like I was. Why couldn’t she. When she moved in with us one summer, I thought maybe I could help her. Honestly, I looked up to her, she was the coolest person I had ever met. I wanted to be like her. I wanted to talk like her. I wanted to listen to music like her. Everything. She was my hero, she really was. I idolized her. Imagine that… I’m 16-17 years old, and I thought my 20 year old sister was the coolest person ever. I don’t imagine there are many siblings like that. I used to wake up on weekends and run to her room to wake her up to hang out, but she’d sleep till noon some days, or even later and it drove me absolutely nuts. I used to try and make as much subtle noise as I could just to wake her up. I just wanted to spend time with her. I wanted to laugh, hear her one-liners. But she’d sleep, and sleep. I never put it all together, I never understood why until years later when it was too late. When you’re hurting like she is, all you want to do is sleep the days away. I should have known that, I felt like that sometimes. But, when she was around, I felt great. I felt fine. I thought I did anyways, but I was selfish – always have been, and I still am so I didn’t think of it like that. I just thought why the hell is she still sleeping, wake up. Lets go.
Depression for her, was not the same as it was for me. Was I fine then? Was I misdiagnosed? I did feel sad? But I didn’t feel like her, I knew that. Because I was around it, I thought about self-harm, thought about what that would look like, but right away I knew I never had the courage to do so, and then I’d think about my family. I saw the hurt on everyone else. Somehow though, Jen either was hurting so much, and had the courage that self harm was an option. So I convinced myself that we were not the same at all. I couldn’t do that. So maybe I am fine then. This was when I realized that maybe I didn’t want to be just like her. Not like this. How could this be happening to her I thought. So many thoughts raced around my head all the time, I was confused. But, I knew one thing… no one could find out about any of this. This all had to remain a secret. It couldn’t leave our house, our family. My defect, and her seemingly far more severe defect, no one could know about this. I was afraid of what people would think of me. I’d be weak. I’d be a freak. I’d be made fun of. All these things came into my head. I began to think that Jen was risking my own social status. I began to resent her more and more, and my admiration for her began to fade. I grew increasingly mad with her, I didn’t like her friends, her lifestyle, the people she hung around. I hated it all. It wasn’t what I had envisioned for her, and I knew some of it wasn’t good for her. So like I began to do with other people in my life, I began to convince myself that I was better than her, better than those around me. I began to shut her out, and everyone else. It was the worst trait I ever acquired, and one of my biggest regrets of my entire life. I didn’t care about my defect anymore, I felt I had control of it. I only cared about me. Anyone who got in the way of me, I had no time for, it didn’t matter if you were my mom, my dad, my sister or my little brothers. I hated people. Absolutely hated everyone. I wanted to drink, and if I wasn’t at a party drinking my face off, I wanted to just be alone because everyone else just disappointed me, or failed me. Nothing good seemed to happen if I was in the company of others, and not in the forum of a party. I had no idea the harm I was doing to myself. I had no idea the harm I was doing to my family. I thought I was cool. I was an emotional wingnut. These were probably the worst days of my experience with depression to that point. Not because I felt any more saddened, or joyless but because I think I had tricked myself into thinking everything was OK, and that I was actually doing GREAT, and that was when it started to effect everyone around me. I was losing friends. I was losing my family. I was losing myself. I was on my way to losing a hell of a lot more, and because I had closed everyone else out, I never saw it coming.
To Be Continued…