Strength From Struggle

Today’s blog is about something personal. In fact, it’s about something that I have rarely addressed in any kind of public way; my struggle with depression in 2008. I have gone back and forth about whether this topic is right for a Disability Positive blog, but at the end of the day, I feel it as much a part of my story as my cerebral palsy. Remember, being Disability Positive is not just about celebrating difference, but also drawing strength from experiences. For me, this is one of those experiences.

First, some background and context. I was, at the time, a fourth year University student. In many ways I had the ideal post-secondary existence; decent grades, a campus job that I loved and a pretty big circle of friends. I had grown into Carleton’s go-to student voice on disability issues and had some ‘big man on campus’ vibes. I was happy (or at least I thought I was) and pretty popular. I had everything together. Then, at some point (not sure exactly when) early in the academic year, things started to slip.

As I look back now, I think I had become too comfortable in my social position. I had forgotten what I was there to do. I started by skipping class regularly (I could catch up, right), then slowly slid further downward. I stopped socializing for fear that someone would notice the change. I even stopped answering any emails, since I knew among them were life issues to deal with. Ignored responsibility piled up, as did unpaid school fees etc. I would go to work, but not do any work there, choosing instead to mindlessly surf the internet. At home, I would do nothing but watch TV. I had snapped.

It was pretty deep at one point. People started to notice, which made me retreat any further into this world. I kept saying I was “fine”, whatever that means, though I knew I wasn’t. Eventually, my awesome and amazing parents made the five hour drive to Ottawa and quite literally dragged me to help. Naturally I resisted, but they are wonderfully stubborn when they need to be. Over the course of three days, they got me registered with the councilor, sorted through my ignored paperwork and even cleaned my room. It was far from pleasant at the time, but as I sit here in reflection, it was the brutal wakeup call that some part of me had been craving.

Is it possible to experience a turning point in life at the age of 24? Yup, and that was mine. Since that time, I have found and married the love of my life, set up both a business and a registered charity, and established a pretty happy life. But I truly believe that I would not be where I am today had it not been for that year of downward spiral. It helped me to realize who I fundamentally wanted to be, and how to recognize my own struggles. Even as I am sitting here typing this out, for really the first time ever, I am feeling empowered and emotional. The experience taught me so much about myself, and for that I am forever grateful.

Be true to yourself. Be Disability Positive.