S.Y.S. Series: Justin Brien - Suffering In Silence
To those who suffer in silence and have lost their way this is for you.
My name is Justin Brien and I am a mental health advocate, inspirational speaker and a certified life coach and I am also much more than just that. I am living proof that with enough hard work, belief in yourself and finding your why that you can push through any roadblock in your life including depression and suicidality. Last year on September 10th for Worldwide Suicide Prevention day I was asked to stand in front of around 200 people and say the words I would never say out loud. I am a suicide survivor. The first time I said it was in a room with the Canadian Mental Health Counselors when we were preparing for the speech. It brought me to tears because I never had thought of it that way. What brought me to that room though and having the chance to speak and share my story was a life riddled with addiction and my own mental health battles.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression, ADHD, social and general anxiety, traits of borderline personality disorder plus I dealt with many head injuries including post-concussion syndrome. I was in and out of rehab using alcohol and cocaine as my self-prescribed medication. I knew it was wrong from the very first time I tried each, but I loved who it made me. It gave me the feeling of confidence and I felt like I was invincible. However, truth be told I was using it to run, to hide from what I was going through. I remember having a conversation with a buddy about depression at 24. We both agreed that depression was for the weak, that you had to man up, go to work, your feelings do not matter, BE A MAN! Little did I know that 5 years later I was suicidal, and I had suicidal idealization running through my head daily. I finally started seeing a counselor and they gave me my diagnosis and it all finally made sense to me why I was so sad, so angry, lonely but not alone and feeling guilty and shameful all the time. See I did not choose to be an addict or depressed, but it was dealt to me and it was up to me to figure out how to deal with it.
The hardest part of it all was accepting it. Accept the fact that I am an alcoholic and drug addict and that my mental health was declining. So, there I was doing everything I could to get myself healthy. I spent 77 days in rehab, over 100 doctors appointments, which some were from my chronic back pain and over active bladder which definitely doesn’t help you mentally dealing with that every day, but I tried 8 different meds, 10 psychologist, 10 psychiatrist appointments as well. I was doing everything I possibly could to get better and it was helping but it still wasn’t enough for me.
I remember one day I was breaking down and I had my 3-year-old son with me. I packed him up and took him to the store and grabbed him a bag of candy and made the trek back home. Once home I then put a movie on the tv and gave him the bag of candy so that he was distracted, and I just stood there behind him crying. Crying to myself and thinking, was I going to make it see him score his first goal, would I make it to teach him how to ride a bike, see him graduate or walk him down the aisle. At that point I wondered to myself would this be the day that I ended it, what would I write to my son? I always figured that my family would be able to get over it eventually because why would they want me to keep suffering.
Finally, one day On January 4th, 2019, I told my mom to take me to the hospital, she had no idea what I was about to unload. See I always thought that if I wasn’t here that maybe my son would be able to grow up with a healthy father, one that would be there for him every day, one that had no problems and could love him like a parent is supposed to for their kid. She took me to the hospital where I checked myself in and with my dad to the left of me, my mother in front of me and a counselor to my right I finally admitted out loud that I had a plan, and that plan was to end it. Now I am not going to go into any details about that, if you ever have any questions for me feel free to reach out. It was then though that I really stated to embrace my WHY and that why was my son. Instead of thinking he could have a better life with a different father I started thinking what if I just get better? What if I could the man I was born to be, meant to be and proud to be? I would look at him and say son, for you I am going to be the hardest worker in the room, I will be there for you and I will get better. I am a big believer in the power of why and what it can do. From rehab to people reaching out to me, I’ve learned that not everyone can do it for themselves, but, with a solid why intact, you can accomplish anything. “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”, Friedrich Nietzsche. With my changed mindset on reaffirming my why everyday and stay committed to my appointments and medication I slowly started to get better. I finally started to meet the real me. For so many years I lived in the dark even when I was in the light. To be honest I still do have good days and bad but the good outweighs the bad now and I give myself some grace knowing that I can handle the bad days.
To those out there still struggling I say this to you, if you are struggling speak up, speak out and speak often and if there is no one listening you need to find someone who will because they are out there. I want you to know that you do not have to suffer in silence because you are not alone and there are many people out there who are willing to listen and are willing to help. You need to find out your why, grab a hold of it tightly and take it with you everywhere because in the end even if your why isn’t you, it will be eventually. Know this, that you are capable of incredible things and even though overcoming your mental health battles may seem impossible know that I believe in you and you can get through this, you will get through this. I want you to know that you matter, you are enough, you are loved, you are not alone, and you are somebody’s somebody!
Find the strength I know you have inside of you. Remember a time when you felt strong, confident, like you owned what you were doing. Now borrow that feeling and go out into the world as enough. You don’t owe anybody anything, but you owe yourself everything. If you must borrow a little bit of strength from someone else do so, but make sure to do so. You belong here.
To those who have lost a loved one, I am truly so deeply sorry for your loss. I can tell you one thing though and that is that they are suffering no more and to remember the good times, smiles and laughter you shared. For the survivors that are still with us I am proud of you. Keep going and if you can lend an ear to someone else because you never know maybe lending an ear could save someone’s life. Also, be proud of yourself for staying strong. I am grateful that I found the fight I had in me to be able to share a bit of my story with you and that I was asked to do so. I really hope you get the opportunity to share yours as well because they can be so powerful to someone trying to find hope and peace. Please whenever you get the chance take second to check in with your friends, ask them a simple question of how there day was. Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in awhile just to say hello. To them it could make a world of difference. Some people just need to know there are people like you out there that still care about them.
I truly appreciate everyone who gets the chance to read this and I genuinely hope it reaches your heart in some way. I hope one day you too find your voice and bring it to light and maybe I will get to read your story of finding your why!
I would like to thank Canadian Mental Health Association and the ladies who work in the Salmon Arm location as well as the ladies that work for Interior Health for their efforts in helping me spread my story to schools and businesses. I’ve realized that, “alone we fight, but together, we battle”.