It was in 2008 when I had my first panic attack and true experiences of anxiety. It’s been 10 years since then, which is extremely strange to think about. Throughout the past 10 years I have created a life I am truly proud of and became a person I admire. This isn’t to say the road has been easy, because everyone knows the difficulties life has to offer and we all have our fair share. I’d like to share my mental health journey with you and the perspectives I gained along the way.
Anxiety started in later years of high school but for no particular reason. We would all like to find a specific moment when we became mentally ill and I’m sure if I dug deep enough I could find a more satisfying answer. However, for reasons fairly unknown, anxiety showed itself in 2006 and I really wasn’t sure what to do. This was a new kind of emotion I had never felt at such a high level. I knew what being nervous felt like but never felt a strong feeling of anxiety where I couldn’t function properly.
Fast forward to first year University in 2008 and this became worse but depression revealed itself as well. I had no knowledge and experience with these kinds of emotions so the first thing I did was seek a counsellor and tell two of my closest friends at the time. Since I didn’t know what mental health was, I didn’t know what stigma was either. This meant there was no stigma and I simply told my friends how I wasn’t feeling well and how my mind seemed to be playing games. I’ve always been an open person so telling someone else my troubles wasn’t a difficult task. Stigma was never an issue for me but finding the right treatment and lifestyle was a long road.
I found a fantastic counsellor on campus but unfortunately, the wait times were far too long to see her on a regular basis. I had tried everything from meditation, CBT, high intensity exercise, B Vitamins, Omega 3’s etc... but nothing gave me relief. I decided to see a psychiatrist and started taking SSRI’s which helped tremendously. It was the first time where I could see the world clearly and had a mind and body that could function properly. I can honestly say I didn’t care what the treatment was, as long as it lifted this cloud of depression and constant feeling of anxiety. I’m sure most people would agree that all they want is the suffering the stop so they are usually open to anything is the pain is great enough.
Once I could tread water with medication, the journey had just begun. It was time to alter my lifestyle according to my value structure, belief system and what I truly wanted out of life. Unfortunately, University has its temptations and it wasn’t until I graduated when I truly decided to organize my life and use my experiences to help others.
I started a YouTube Channel called Depression to Expression in 2013 to talk about my story and share tools I that had helped me along my journey. Since 2013 I’ve had the opportunity to hear from tens of thousands around the world express their struggles but also their will to achieve mental wellness. In January of this year I decided to leave the corporate life and to run Depression to Expression full-time, making this my career. I still upload mental health videos on a weekly basis, teach mindfulness and also present to schools and businesses across Ontario.
I’ve done my best to turn a challenge into an opportunity. I realize that talking about mental health isn’t enough on its own, but it does invite people to open up and feel less vulnerable and intimidated by others. The power of the internet has allowed me to reach millions and encourage them to figure out what works for them to provide mental and physical relief. The latest playlist on Depression to Expression is called “Music for the Mind” where the community discovers new music and we react to music together. Music has always been a coping technique, as I play the guitar and drums to relieve tension and stress.
I believe that overcoming challenge and problem solving is the fastest and most effective way to personal growth. It was in darkness and struggle where I found strength that I did not know existed. It was the pain that invited me to discover new ways to deal with this new circumstance and I would not change my past even if I could.
Our stories build us up to be better people in the present and to create the best possible future for ourselves and others. We cannot always choose happiness and be in control of our emotions, however, we can control our attitudes within each circumstance and look at challenge as opportunity and pain as life’s greatest teacher.
I am always constantly learning and trying new things to deal with depression and anxiety. The diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder don’t mean that much to me. What means more to me is how far I have come since I first heard those terms in 2008 and how I now have power over them instead of the diagnoses having power over me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Ste Marie is a mental health advocate and founder of Depression to Expression who has been sharing his story of depression and anxiety for over 5 years. His mission is to empower people by helping them realize that mental illness is not a weakness but an opportunity for personal growth and development. Scott’s message has reached millions online through social media channels, which supports the fact that the need for mental health education is a need. He now speaks across Ontario, Canada and shares his story while giving people tools and strategies that promote mental health.
Connect with Scott:
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/depressiontoexpression