*This post may not be for everyone, read with caution or at best, an open mind.
Our goal with the podcast was to put out something different, against the grain and maybe help some people along the way. We just launched our website with a blog feature and our debut post from Jared was a killer entrance. Well written and a simple but very strong message. I love that positivity! But since winter is in full swing and some (maybe most) of us struggle with seasonal depression. I thought I would offer something in contrast to our latest article because sometimes it’s just too damn hard to be positive...
I have been racing professionally almost 10 years now and man, it’s been a ride! I have achieved so much and am living my dream of being a professional motocross racer. Obviously, it was not an easy road to get where I am now. I didn’t think it would take this long. Like everyone, I look back and wish some things had gone differently or question some experiences that I went through, but there is one time that felt like a real flaming pile of crap.
In 2013, I was 21, had just met my smoke show of a girlfriend and came off of a good offseason training down in California. I had a deal with factory support and tons of other great sponsors. I truly thought I had it made and it was going to be a strong season. Even at that point it felt like it had been a long journey and I really started thinking that I was making my way up, maybe hit the factory team for 2014 with a good run that year. I had good speed and it seemed like people were taking notice that I could be one of the next “guys”. The first round was at Nanaimo, a place I really gel with and it was looking to be a picture-perfect day. Practice and qualifying were a breeze. The first moto was off to an awesome start, sitting top five, right where I felt I belonged. I had been stalking Jared Allison all race and we were down to the last few laps, so I put on a push. I could see the gap closing which made me even more hungry to get him. I was hanging it all out, riding like a 21-year-old kid that thought there was no tomorrow if I did not pass him. On the last lap with Jared only bike lengths in front, I crashed. I knocked myself out and suffered a concussion that I would soon learn would be the tipping point for my health and well-being.
I didn’t feel any other concussions I had up until that point had affected me much. At that point my knowledge on head injuries was that you rest and reset for a week. I tried to continue racing the rest of the Western swing of the Nationals, but I progressively got worse. Getting great starts but fading to outside the top 10 and feeling like I just went through hours of unimaginable hell in the span of 30 minutes. My only excuse for poor results was “I don’t know what’s wrong, but this isn’t me.” My family and I decided to sit out the East nationals. Which was a hard pill to swallow because after months and years of hard work and money spent, I never wanted to be out of the fight. I had acknowledged that there was an issue and that my post-concussion syndrome was a little more serious than I was used to. I remember trying to go on a mountain bike ride with a friend and taking about two or three “I think I’m dying” breaks on what was supposed to be a 45-minute climb to the top. I wasn’t able to exercise for the rest of the summer without getting hot and feeling like I was running a desert marathon dehydrated and on the verge of bonking and passing out. It was really wearing on me, not so much that I couldn’t exercise at full capacity or exercise at all but that there was an issue I didn’t understand and have the ability to correct immediately. Sleepless nights, mood swings, exhaustion and lack of sex drive, it all seemed out of my hands.
No one really knew that I was struggling with Post-Concussion Syndrome other than my parents and my girlfriend but I also didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want the attention or the idea that I was making excuses and being a wimp. The winter months were starting to roll around and by that point I was able to ride a little bit and do some more stuff with friends. The cooler weather helped with my ability to exercise but that was short lived and like most riders, the dull filter of cold and snow was draped over my eyes along with a heavy dose of seasonal depression. But this time it hit me harder than ever before. I wasn’t just bummed out about not riding and looking for every other opportunity to distract me from the boredom; I had walked into a jail cell and someone welded the door shut behind me.
Some suppressed issues I had experienced earlier in my life were starting to retake fruition. Pain or challenges that I may have only given half the amount of energy to in the past came back knocking on the door, the demons saying they weren’t finished with me yet. As time went on, it got worse and worse to the point where I wouldn’t sleep at night at all; a victim of my mind. Dealing with all the fears and insecurities, I challenged all of them with the simple mantra, “be positive”. This is all I ever was coached into believing and executing. How can you be successful in life without having a bright attitude? And what the hell does a 22-year-old kid have to be bummed out about anyway? Life was good and I wanted to appreciate it, but I just couldn’t in my mind. Unfortunately for me that tactic and form of mindset were just attempts to brush the issues under a rug that wasn’t there. I would stay awake at night, my OCD-like impulse overtaking and trying to control my thoughts, forcing myself to feel a certain way with no progress whatsoever. I was numb, didn’t feel or think anything but sometimes I would be lucky enough to get sad and indulge myself in being able to feel at least one emotion. I fought and wrestled myself every night and every day for months till I was just too exhausted, sleep deprived, sick and out of energy. I was ready to throw in the towel and not be here anymore.
I won’t go into detail of what I was contemplating but I think it takes a great deal of pain and will power to take your own life. I had walked that line in my mind and came to find I was not mentally capable of that. But then I thought, if I don’t have the mental capacity to take my own life, then did I really want to die? Was there a small thought in the back of my mind that any attempt wouldn’t be a certainty and it would look like a cry for help? Probably. I had FINALLY come to the realization that I needed to shift gears from being selfish to selfless. What would that do to my parents, my family, friends, girlfriend or anyone who I ever left a lasting impact on? The thought of their pain became very real and the idea of taking my life had slowly diminished. The losing battle of forcing myself to be happy again turned into a goal to solve this twisted puzzle of hopelessness into some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. But this tunnel was a maze. What was I to do? Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results and I had never felt more insane. It was time to switch things up, I was still exhausted and weak but at least I was going to approach things differently and that gave me enough energy to press on.
It may or may not be a quote by someone famous or critically acclaimed but ’it’s something I tell myself and write down on a whiteboard in my house as one of many mantras for my life.
• “If you believe the results are possible but they are not there, then it is just a simple problem to be solved.”
This mantra simplified my overly grotesque issue and helped me approach the demons with a clear mind, focusing on possible solutions to this equation and not the pain I was being blanketed by. If you have “A” and need “B” to get “C”, then it doesn’t sound so complicated. I chalked it up to a lot of different variables but the main ones being chemical imbalance, environmental past and present and etc. I wasn’t sleeping anyway so I would put in the work at night, piecing together my jumbled equation. I would read endless articles on the internet on self-improvement, going deep into these rabbit holes and taking whatever piece of information I could use to apply to my mindset. I started doing more research into concussions and the months and years afterwards and the methods that could be used to help healing. I researched so many self-improvement articles and stumbled upon lots of Buddhist literature in my readings that that had become a big area of interest for me. There was one story about Buddha encountering the demon God Mara many times over the course of his enlightenment and thereafter. Mara represented doubt, anger, pain, greed, lust, etc., all things we wrestle with on a daily basis. Whenever Mara would visit, instead of ignoring the demon, Buddha would acknowledge his presence and invite Mara in for tea and serve him as a guest. I began to meditate and apply this concept to my practice. Although I was lying in bed while I was doing it this meditation was not comfortable, my mind felt like it was Harry Potter trying to defeat Voldemort. I would acknowledge every fear, insecurity, shortcoming and mistake as valid, something that affects me and my wellbeing, but then instead of letting them fade or go “under the rug”, I would immerse myself in all of them. Dissecting the nature of these demons and what they were doing to me and the relationship I should be having with them and not brushing them away like they couldn’t hurt me. This was a big lesson I learned and still implement until this day, I even have the words “invite your demons in for tea” written on the wall of my van because that saying had such a huge impact on that particular journey and how I deal with challenges today.
There was one demon that haunted me for a long time. It was the fact that I simply didn’t spend one extra hour to hang out with my grandparents when they visited me for a night in California while I was training. At the time, I was so selfish and consumed by this sport that it was the only thing that mattered to me. I was more concerned with getting back to my house to get a good night sleep and be ready for another day of intense training that when I dropped them off at their hotel and my Grandpa asked if I could hang around a bit longer, I said, “I better get back.” I remember that moment in my head, so vivid and clear, I will never forget it. My Grandpa, Gord, died a few days later and at the time, it didn’t bother me like it should have. This was the spring prior to the 2013 race season when I had hit my head.
The pain of that royally narcissistic fuck up didn’t hit me till later that winter. That demon (among many others) had come barreling into my mind, obliterating every mechanism I had used to consider myself tough and I cried litres of tears over that excruciating memory. I remember crying to my Mum once and she only replied, “You have to forgive yourself.” I tried to figure out a way to forgive myself because simply saying it wasn’t going to do. I went back to my mental drawing board frequently, inviting that demon in for tea, acknowledging all that pain, the mistake and the fear of possibly making the mistake again and how much weight this all had on me. I figured to forgive myself and move on that I would have to use it all as a lesson. It’s a rule for me now, never take for granted the people I have in my life nor my time with them. I still get anxious about all the things I may have pulling at me and demanding my time, but in the moment I try to be there fully, and if I can, I will stretch out that time, I don’t want to leave till I absolutely have to. Sometimes I can’t ”stretch time” and I feel like I am not giving enough of myself to the people I care about. When I can, I will squeeze out every moment with those people before I leave and I feel like I am making the most out of the borrowed time we have in this life.
That cold and lifeless depression was the hardest thing I have ever had to endure in my life, but the weird sadistic athlete in me is grateful for every moment of it. I had hit the very rock bottom; it was just a matter of when I was going to break through the floor and cease to exist. But in that time of sitting lost at a dead end, I made a detour and didn’t give up. I am proud of myself for that and ultimately not bringing other lives crashing down with mine, that would have been stupid. I was eventually rewarded for all that work. The dim grey film on the world had eventually lifted, every emotion was amplified, and I appreciate every single one of them. It’s a gift to feel, we don’t know how lucky we are to have our emotions until they are gone. It made me love to be waking up every day once I had seen the other side and truly cherish the little things, instead of thinking like it was something I was supposed to feel. Although it’s still painful to think that I may have hurt my Grandpa in our last moment together, I like to think he would be stoked at where I am at today and that I learned from that memory. I am still racing with everything I have but growing and understanding who I am, applying balance and giving the people around me the best version of myself.
Aside from my personal work, I got help from a lovely therapist who helped me navigate through those trying times. It was difficult to even open up to talk to people close to me out of fear of judgement or lack of understanding, but I had one of my best friend’s, Todd who made me feel like I wasn’t alone and that made a world of difference. My parents and my girlfriend may not have understood what I was dealing with, but they were there for me. I got my nutrition on track and started focusing on feeding my brain and implementing what I believed could be the best attempt at repairing it. I still have rough days and some demons come crawling around, but I don’t feel as lost anymore, I have the tools to work with them. Those dark days will never not be a threat to me nor anyone else dealing with mental health challenges. Awareness is growing and a movement within our world is gaining momentum. There is no reason to feel like we can’t become allies of our minds. So in closing, don’t let those demons bully you, they love a hot cup of tea!
Reach out and find your strength if you can’t find it on your own, at the end of the day we’re all in this together.
This is not healthcare advice.
But please reach out to us, we are here to be a friend or can help you find someone to talk to.
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