I remember standing on Hollis St in Halifax, on a cold and windy March evening, some snow falling. My family waiting for me across the street at a hotel. I stood for awhile, wondering what to do. I wanted the mental angst and turmoil to be gone. I wanted my life to be gone. I was completely devastated by mental illness. Depression. OCD. Anxiety attacks. My career gone as a result.
Do I walk to the MacDonald Bridge to find relief or do I cross the street. Suicide had been a common thought for awhile. I stood, overwhelmed with emotions, crying, trembling. I had little understanding about what was happening to me.
I crossed the street.
But it gets worse.
Years of insomnia. Self isolation. Hiding from the world. I had a need to be alone but I was lonely. Planning my own death. It all led to the evening of March 11, 2003.
I had a mental breakdown that evening. My mind came undone, some parts functioned, others did not.
My life was shattered. A wonderful girlfriend and my career had been ripped away by mental illness. Not only was depression present, all aspects of my life had been impacted.
Months spent in bed, years confined to the house. Necessary but difficult for me, as a lawyer, to comprehend. I thought logically, focused, with structure. There was no form of rational thought with depression. It scared me.
Years of therapy. My immediate family were wonderfully supportive and understanding. The meds worked. I was a fortunate one to have the path to health come together.
By the autumn of 2007, I considered myself to be healthy. Not quite recovered, but getting there.
I had this need to explain what had happened to me. I could write and talk about my journey. As a lawyer, I knew I could talk in public. Back then, few people were sharing their story of mental illness. With no self-confidence to speak , I chose to write first.
The local newspaper ran a regular column by a woman in Florida about her life with depression. I knew the paper took if off the wire service, but I was still hopeful they would be interested in a local contributor. I dug down deep to write it, very emotional to do. Taking a deep breath, I sent it to the paper. I checked my emails often the next few days, hoping they would respond. I needed to feel accepted. It was so hard to reach out to the paper. I waited a few days, then weeks. They didn’t respond at all. It hurt. I felt rejected.
I wasn’t giving up though. I went bigger, sending it to a major Canadian newspaper, the National Post. I received an email the following day confirming it would appear in a new series, All About Bouncing Back. The article was published on February 20, 2008. The editor at the paper chose the title – How I Returned to a Life Worth Living.
She understood my journey. Her acknowledgment of me was a huge step in my recovery. I was so excited to see my name in print. At last, I felt like I would be heard. I was emotional, but it was tears of relieve. I had arrived at a good place after years of trying.
I have used those words – Worth Living – and that theme since in my speeches and writings. I live those words.
For me, Worth Living means more than simply enjoying a special moment, though that is so important in life. The words have a more significant meaning.
I will never forget the darkness of depression. The image of my standing on Hollis St considering a walk to the Bridge will never leave me. I welcome that memory though. It allows me now to truly appreciate my life everyday. My life is full of context.
A simple story, I enjoy weather. Let me explain, to feel the warmth of the sun and see a clear blue sky provides such comfort. A true sense of appreciation. I also enjoy a cold winter day. To feel the coolness on my face, I feel alive. It’s a wonderful world
The best world is in my healthy mind. Without that, I would have nothing. The days of my having nothing are no more. I have dismissed them.
I mentioned I was a fortunate one. I consider myself to be recovered from mental illness.
I want to share my idea of Worth Living with people. I formalized ( the lawyer still surfaces at times! ) my approach to my speeches and writings under the brand Worth Living. I have launched a website www.worthliving.co. Worth Living is all over social media. Facebook : www.facebook.com/worthlivingKA
Worth Living provides the means for me to promote my keynote speeches, some consulting , and apparel. Yes, we have Worth Living Apparel.
I wanted those of us who have or had a mental illness to feel like they are not alone. That sense of loneliness can be a devastating part of mental illness. I am a huge Rolling Stones fan and I have traveled to quite a few of their concerts. One part of any concert trip is to wear Stones gear the entire time. As I would go through airports or the streets of the city of the concert, I would see other fans from around the world wearing Stones gear. There would be a mutual acknowledgement between myself and other people, that hey, we are fans! I felt like I was part of a community , all sharing the Stones. I have stood alone at a concert with 80,000 people but I didn’t feel lonely.
I wanted WL Apparel to provide that sense of belonging, that sense of fitting in, of feeling proud about life. Wearing WL allows us to be part of a community or team. It also continues the conversation about mental health awareness.
It gives great pleasure to announce that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Worth Living items will be donated to mental health initiatives. I never imagined I would ever be able to give back.
My life is now Worth Living. Your life is Worth Living. Tell me your Worth Living stories.