Charlie’s Journey

My story.

Let’s start from the very beginning. When I was just one-year-old my parents got a divorce. I was too young to even know who my parents were so it didn’t really have an effect on me. I was raised by my dad and brothers and being in a house full of boys I never really learned to talk about my feelings.

Fast forward to high school when I first started to see the signs of depression and anxiety; although, back then, I didn’t realize it was depression and anxiety. From the time I was 16 I loved sleep!! I would wake up, go to school, come home from school, nap till 6, wake up and eat and then go right back to bed. EVERYDAY! I thought I was just going through a growth spurt or something. I wouldn’t spend time with friends like I should and I wasn’t engaged in school work. I just didn’t care about anything.

Once graduation came I thought it would be a fresh start for me. School was never my strong suit and I thought that picking something I like might kick start a real education. So I picked massage therapy. I moved to Lethbridge with a friend and lived in a house with 5 other girls… It was intense! Going from living with only guys to ALL GIRLS was a huge change.

Everything was changing so fast.

School got real, very quick! I was stressed and falling behind in my work and I felt like I was drowning. I would start to sleep all day again, not go to my classes, and skip my practicum hours. I wasn’t doing well. I started thinking about my options.

One of those options being to end it all.  I didn’t understand why I would think that way! And why was I so sad and unmotivated all the time?? Well that would be called depression.

I ended up quitting the program and moving back home to my dad’s. I would go to therapy every week and attempted to go on medication. The medication I was on didn’t last long before it was giving me too many side effects. The therapy was great though! I got to talk about my feelings without someone judging me or trying to fix my problems. They just listened.

Around that time, I also went on my first big trip. Me and my sister-in-law went to Peru to volunteer then did a 5-day trek to Machu Pichuu. That trip changed it all for me! I thought I was cured! No more depression for me!

After that I went on to work in Waterton during the summers, find a shitty little job after that for a few months and then travel. I went to Thailand, Cambodia, and even Australia. Being around the world experiencing nature from all over and hiking my home mountains made my heart big and happy!

  That couldn’t last forever though… I needed to get an education and I wasn’t getting any younger, so I applied at Mount Royal University for the ecotourism program. I didn’t get in.  I was so excited to finally take on one of the most challenging things for me, and I was denied that opportunity. It sucked and it crushed me!! I did, however, get accepted into general education (aka upgrading) so I decided to jump at the chance to get my toes atleast in the door. 

But it was hard. I would hyper ventilate almost every day and cried, A LOT! I moved into residence and cried the whole first night. I would go to my classes and hyper ventilate the whole time. I told myself I’m not doing this again. Maybe school isn’t for me? That’s what made me realize that school is my trigger. Even talking about school sent me in a full downward spiral of anxiety. 

But someone I love told me maybe I should talk to a doctor? It might help.

So I saw a doctor. He diagnosed me with depression and anxiety and started me on medication. It worked great! I went to the doctor and a councillor every week and exercised daily! I felt the best I’ve ever felt my whole life! It was amazing.

The end of the year came, I moved back to waterton, and started work for the summer.

Waterton is my happy place!

It always picks me up from the dark hole. Why you ask? Well nature is a natural antidepressant for me, feeling the sun on my face, my toes in the dirt, and the smell of the fresh pine tress centres my thoughts and centres my body. Being outside in the mountains grounds me and washes away the troubles of everyday life. Being in the outdoors has saved my life countless times andI want to share this resource with everyone.  I did make the mistake of thinking I was all better and that I didn’t need to take the medication any more. I took myself off of it and everything seemed fine. A few weeks went by and I started to get the blues again. Maybe I was just having a bad day. Someone at work pissed me of? Who knows. It’s important to know that difference in being “better” and absorbing the happiness that comes from the outdoors.

Well I hit a turning point. One night I was in full spiral!! Friends were downstairs drinking but I couldn’t get myself to even leave my room. I couldn’t breath and I couldn’t stop crying. Every inch of my body felt like it was in pain and my heart felt totally broken. I got out of bed, walked over to the window, poured a ton of sleeping pills into my hand and just stood there. I looked at that pile of pills in my hand and tried to convince myself that it was the right thing to do. People would get over it eventually. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t do it though… I put the pills back, went and threw up and sat it the shower and cried. That’s the closest I’ve ever come. It scared me!!

I tried to get outside and hike every day, even it was just a walk to the lake and back. I needed sunshine, fresh air and the smell of pine trees.

Summer doesn’t last for ever and school came back faster than it went. I got into my ETOL program which was exciting and I had my own apartment which was great! No lazy roommates to deal with!!

And so I continued on with the school year and I avoided the doctor. I just didn’t want to rely on medication to make me happy… so I started going to the gym every day! It was great! I was happy, doing well in class and getting a great sleep at night. 

 But school is my trigger remember?  And it caught up to me.

As Christmas holidays came around – Christmas morning to be exact – I woke up and it was like someone coloured everything grey. I couldn’t be happy, all I wanted to do was cry and I hated being alive. I was in Hawaii for crying out loud!! Why am I feeling this way?? When we got home I was in a slump. I would have anxiety attacks all the time and they would come out of nowhere! I fantasied about killing myself! It made me physically sick! I went back to the doctor, got back on the medication and have been trying to feel like myself again

It hasn’t been a long time since I’ve been back on medication and I still have a long way to go. I have a really bad day almost every other day now and I want to lower that even more! Depression and anxiety are very real! It takes a lot of work to get through, but the most important thing to do is get help. Swallow your pride or embarrassment and seek help. If I didn’t find help I would probably be dead.

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