Worth Living Ambassador Mike Mousseau
“My name is Mike and I’m 24. I have a career in correction services. I have confronted depression and anxiety the majority of my life. I’ve never been truly shy about my struggles, but it’s also hard to find the words to explain the struggles within your head. So let’s take a trip into my world.”
I had always been anxious as a child. I remember being terrified to go to sleep if I couldn’t hear my parents in the house. If they let the dog out, I would sit on the edge of my bed and wait until I hear them close and lock the door. I wouldn’t say it ever severely affected me. I had a great home life with tons of friends, but at the end of every day, I was always a scared little boy.
Fast forward to 12 years old. I had what I thought was your ordinary sleepover with a few friends. When I woke up, one of those friends was taking advantage of me. To spare details, this wasn’t a one- time thing, it happened over a span of a year or so. And what had really haunted me, after so many years, was the fact that I let it happen for that long.
It’s complicated. You know it’s wrong, but at the same time, you’re muted by all of these different questions, “What if nobody believes me? Will he deny it? What if my family disowns me?” And the two biggest for me, were “Why me?” and “Why did part of me enjoy it?”
Entering high school was pretty rough. As these thoughts still flooded my head, I would rebound back and forth between happy and sad. Depressed and content. It wasn’t until my final year, when I would have trouble breathing, that I thought something may be wrong. That started my first experience with anti- anxiety medication. Although I didn’t stick to them. I was a firm believer in not relying on something to make me feel normal.
Life still happened though. I had girlfriends, grew up, attended college, all normal people things. But time and time again, my mind always wandered back to what happened to me. No matter how many times I spoke with friends, even if they could relate, it didn’t really make the feelings dissipate.
I was always heavily complimentary on the fact that I never turned to alcohol, drugs, or self- harm to cope with these feelings; and the truth is, I never saw myself doing so. It just didn’t make sense. As unbelievably frustrating as it was, I knew I just had to cope with things.
I didn’t tell my parents until I was 20. And even then, I didn’t technically say anything. I was in a dark place, and sat down with my mom one night until she probed the answer out of me. I have never seen anybody in my life look at me the way she did. She was heartbroken. But she loved me, and wanted nothing more than to make me feel safe and secure, which to this day she still does. I never really told my dad. He ended up reading about it online when I posted it for Bell’s Let’s Talk Day. We’ve never been the type to be emotional with one another, but he’s just happy that I’m in a much better place.
I was 23 when I actually confronted the individual. Every time the thought crossed my mind prior to this, I was still angry and hurt. Though, one night I was speaking to a friend, and said “I think it’s time”. She walked me through it, and left it at that. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. I woke up the next morning with a massive apology. We spoke most of the day, and he – I truly believe – was sorry. He told me that he had still regretted it all these years later, and sought help for himself as he got older. I told him at the time I wasn’t ready to forgive him. I may never be able to, but that’s OK, I still had my closure.
In 2013, I also lost my best friend a month before he turned 22. It was a work related accident, and one that was easily preventable. The utter devastation of receiving that phone call was life changing, even more so when I had to tell my girlfriend at the time who also shared his friendship. Alan was the most genuine and influential human beings to grace this planet. He lit up a room with his exuberant personality, and knew exactly how to cheer you up if you felt like a sack of trash. That being said, the night I found out he died, was the night I found it he was dealing with demons and had previously considered suicide.
Over the course of the next year, I had two of my closest friends move out of province and country, and the relationship I was in ended the following spring. That left me feeling more alone than I have ever felt. Almost instantly, I cut out most of the people in my life. I forgot how to talk and open up, and while in-between jobs, became a prisoner of my own thoughts.
Because of this, poison festered in my head. Feeling depressed, and having such intrusive thoughts spill into your mind like a conveyor belt is bar none the most awful thing to endure. You convince yourself you’re going crazy. One of the scariest thoughts my mind produced, was “if Alan felt like this before he died, does this mean I’m going to die too?” And I remember crying to my mother one day, and blurted that out. She hugged me, and said “it all makes sense now.” I believe that was my defining moment. Slowly but surely, things started falling into place.
I started seeing a counselor, who truthfully, was one of the biggest crutches to my stability. She convinced me that I wasn’t crazy, and gave me multiple grounding techniques to do when I have troubling days. She also didn’t feel the need to see me on medication, although my doctor wouldn’t stop pushing them. I met new friends, who were more supportive than anybody I had ever met. There were a few friends I slowly pulled closer, and learned to open up and talk to again. I’m now in an amazing relationship with a woman who’s more patient and understanding than I could have ever imagined.
Am I cured? I wouldn’t consider myself so. I’m still anxious almost daily. I still have days where I think I’m going insane. Intrusive thoughts still muster their way into my head when I’m over tired by which time I barely have the energy to cut them off.
You know what?
Let the thoughts come because as absurd as it sounds, it’s normal. Anxiety is normal. Mental illness is normal. You’re not crazy. One of the most important things I’ve heard in the last three years came from Corey Taylor (for those of you unfamiliar, he is the frontman for Slipknot and Stone Sour) who said “Nothing on this planet is worth going away for. Nothing on this planet is worth ending your life for.” I held onto these words and repeated them to myself every time I had I thought that the world was too much for me, and I just wanted to escape it all.
Ultimately, all I want in life is to change lives. If I can convince somebody that life is worth living, that’s wonderful. If I can convince somebody that prison isn’t worth the time, energy, and loss of truly living, then I’ve done my job. No matter how dark and dreary your road is, there is ALWAYS something to make it all worthwhile.