Our Stories; Scott Tobin
TRIGGER WARNING: Death, depression, PTSD, bullying, bipolar disorder
When I was younger, I had envisioned my life in a linear fashion. I imagined that I would complete high school, go off to university, and then become successful. The equation, in essence, seemed easy to complete; but I certainly never took into consideration all of the potential variables. I always worked hard in my different roles in life, as that of a student, as an executive member, as a volunteer, as a musician, and as a teacher. Never had I ever thought that the most challenging and rewarding project would be discovering myself.
Middle school, and some of high school, were gloomy times for me. I was subject to harassment from some select classmates, my body image was dismal, and my sexuality was often questioned. When you get bullied, it plays with your mind. It’s a constant battle of trying to determine ways to avoid the harassment. I started calculating my every mannerism so as to feign “straight-ness”. Any way that I could make this path I set out to be more linear. This was just something that will come to pass. I relied heavily on academics and the arts to help focus my attention otherwise, the self-consciousness was simply unbearable at times.
I got to the second step of my logical plan to achieve success after having encountered some unexpected variables. I started my university career right after high school, like so many of my classmates, and we weathered the storm of the first semester together. When we all came home for Christmas holidays after our first semester, we had our Cap and Gown Ceremony – an event to celebrate our completion of secondary education – planned for December 21st. As it is a celebration to new beginnings in our lives, my life was about to change forever.
My dad died suddenly of a massive heart attack on this evening and I tried to resuscitate him for a very long time. I remember those pumps as if they were never-ending, one after another to try to fight against this unreasonable loss. I don’t believe that any eighteen year old would know how to act in that situation. I feel like I was forced to grow up way too quickly and that I lost my innocence at a time where I was just starting to get my feet wet. As such, I felt like I was drowning at the time. We were all so, so very lost. I went back to university to try to redirect my life back to my original path. But this time I had lingering grief and post-traumatic stress to accompany my journey.
I managed well, for I had learned to sweep things under the rug since I was a teenager. I had an excellent undergraduate career after; being afforded the opportunity to travel aboard on several occasions, developing professionally, and learning a new language helped shape me as a person. When finishing up my Bachelor of Education, I was on a trajectory to finish my university career and start to become successful as a teacher.
I had great support systems in place in my life, that’s for sure. My mom and I share a really close bond, my brother occupied the older brother role, and my friends were amazing. I grew up with a best friend who went along with me for the journeys in our lives. We shared the same ideals and passions, because we honestly grew up side by side. When I was just beginning to start the next chapter – professional life – I lost him suddenly. This was a huge devastation to me and to everyone who knew him. I was broken, I had invested a whole lifetime of knowledge into one person and he was just not there anymore. A huge mirror as a reflection of myself just was shattered. I was lost again… and the one person I would want to be lost with was gone.
Returning back to the rug mentioned before, it now grew into a mountain. Losing my best friend brought all of my previous suffering to the surface and I had an incredibly difficult time adjusting. But, I had a full-time teaching position that I was to start four days after the funeral.
As I look back, my year teaching was just a complete blur. I had to keep a strong face, I had to deliver day after day, and I had to adapt to a new “norm”. However, I just kept getting lost in the cycle of going to work, coming home, and sleeping. I felt empty, insatiable, and hopeless… I knew I had to reach out for help. My psychologist recommended further testing and I got diagnosed with clinical depression. I didn’t know what to do with this information, I just needed it to not be a part of me. I felt enveloped in a dark grey cloud, as if I couldn’t see light anywhere. A potential solution of medication was presented to me and I agreed to take it because I just needed an exit from the nothingness. The treatment helped me function more optimally again, and I adjusted to a new version of myself.
My mind was completely taxed. I never afforded it the care, attention, and relief it deserved. I never knew what it meant to be mindful, to practice self-care. And I was about to learn the biggest lessons about mental health because of this lack of consideration.
About a year after my diagnosis of clinical depression I went manic. I felt this euphoria and experienced hallucinations and I had deluded myself into thinking I was a main character in this huge production. In this production, all of the people I knew assumed new roles to help influence me into an ideal character. My mom, I recall, was Adele. I just lost all trust in reality because I thought I was catching on to the big production. I was brought to the Waterford Hospital for admission and I stayed there for two weeks. I could write another post about the time I had in this institution, but the worst for me was the aftermath. I felt the first huge dip of my new diagnosis of bipolar type I. The depression this time around was also combined with a cocktail of medications to find the right one to help stabilize my mood. For days and days I would just stay on my couch. Dishes would remain unwashed, laundry would not be done, and time just dragged on.
Medication compliance is so key in these situations. It took me eight months to get the right prescription for myself, one that I still take to this day. What people don’t recognize sometimes is that it isn’t the manic episode that is hard to suffer through, it is the aftermath. The ones who suffer for the mania are your loved ones – and for that I recognize the amount they had to deal with at the time. Eventually, the path leads back to that unassuming line that I had envisioned from the beginning.
I remove myself from uncomfortable environments, I make healthier choices for myself, and I keep myself engaged. One thing that I really need to learn how to do is let go; not only let go of things that burden my past, but also to be able to afford myself relaxation and detachment.
My challenges are intimate to myself and I am still battling them. But time heals a lot of severe wounds.
Am I still lost? Well, I am still searching for directions, but I know that the baggage I carry along with me is now an integral part of me.