“It would be a terrible mistake to go through life thinking that people are the sum total of what you see.” – Jonathan Tropper
Good morning everyone from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia! This is my very first blog and I’m really excited about this new project in life. What’s Solace all about you ask? Well, let me introduce myself first and start from the beginning. The backstory’s usually the most interesting part anyway.
Well as a starter, I’ve done some bad things in my life…
That’s right…I’ve done some bad things. For starters, I was once an abusive man in my relationships…buuut, before i get into that, let me start with a different picture.
Who am I?
…well, I’m that guy…
I’m the guy you pass by at the supermarket buying his weekly supply of milk, eggs, chips and toiletries, standing in line waiting to pay while pretending not to look at what’s new in this week’s tabloid magazines. I’m the guy that might have smiled at you while holding the door open at the local Starbucks. The guy that was laughing and having a good time with his friends at the local pub watching sports highlights while downing a frothy wheat ale and polishing a greasy plate of nachos. The guy at the gym every weekday morning at 6:00 am grunting like he’s on his way to an orgasm with every shoulder press and burpee.
You see, unless we already know each other, I’m that guy you see everyday but don’t even notice at all. I have a great job as a Food Developer for over 20 years that has allowed me to travel across North America and Europe. I have a great apartment in the suburbs and a teenage son who I enjoy playing basketball and video games with. I dress business casual at work, otherwise in jeans and a plain old t-shirt. I like to exercise so I am moderately to fairly fit and I’ve run my fair share of 10 km runs and half marathons. I pay my taxes and I’ve only gotten two speeding tickets in my entire life (although one of them was technically running a red light). I’m 5’9″ and don’t have any visible handicaps or verbal stutters. I don’t know how the US electoral system works, I can’t remember shit about what I learned in organic chemistry and covalent bonds, and I can’t tell you the difference between a lager and an ale, unless I Google it right now.
In short, I’m just the person next door living in a great big world making his way through life…kinda’ like you.A month after my 42nd birthday a hard reality started to hit me. My girlfriend of 3 years said goodbye to the relationship seeing that I was emotionally and verbally abusive to her. She was a lovely woman with a smile that I could spot through any crowded room. Unfortunately, I was a guy filled with insecurities, challenging her love 24-7 and in pain staking ways that no one should endure. However before all that, I’ve always known a few positive things about myself:
- I’m romantic (I buy flowers)
- I’m passionate (I buy flowers and include a card with it)
- I’m thoughtful (I write something in the card)
- I’m considerate (I’ll get them delivered)
- And I’m pretty easy going (…that’s fine if it gets delivered on February 15th…)
Yet I also knew that I can be stubborn, very irritable and hot headed at times…wait a second…did I say stubborn, irritable and hot headed? (cue the comedic record scratch)
Fast forward through years of working with therapists, workshops and a ton of self help books, I eventually managed to explore and learn more about myself and my triggers. Other than the sugary sweet and wonderful things that I already knew about myself, I learned that I was also a very angry, depressed, insecure, controlling and resentful man who hid behind a mask and pretended that everything in my life was working out wonderfully. It took a long time, a lot of work and courage to come to terms with myself. But once I was able to, the feelings were liberating. This of course is the Coles summary of the work I’ve done, thousands of dollars later and a million Stuart Smalley impersonations.
I’m a man with a great job, great home and a great kid who seemingly appears to have his shit together. Thus, appearances can be deceiving. The truth is that I battle depression and anxiety. I grew up in a household where I was physically abused to submission by my caregivers and was also a victim of bullying throughout high school. My older brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was a teenager and I’ve made some bad choices in my life including being abusive in my relationships, with family members and friends.
You wouldn’t know all this just by looking at me.
So finally…what’s Solace about then? Is it about looking after our inner health? The answer is a resounding, yes. It’s about discussing everything that we do to take care of what’s inside of us from how we think, our challenges, our successes, what we eat, our relationships, exercise, our family histories and the list goes on.
It’s also about getting to know ourselves more and challenging each of us to be courageous and to acknowledge our difficult feelings and to take accountability instead of running from them. Sometimes our poor choices and actions can make it difficult to forgive ourselves but when we understand ourselves more, it can put things into context. And finally, Solace is about finding comfort and peace inside us. It gets messy inside our heads and bodies sometimes…so let’s take good care of that together.
I’m not a doctor nor therapist by any stretch. Heck, I’m not even Dr Phil for that matter. I’m just an every day guy hoping to reach out and inspire friends, families and people I’ve never met before with my stories of failures and successes. Stories from growing up in a punishing and abusive home, to how I furiously ripped down a shower curtain in front of my ex-girlfriend during a heated argument several years ago. I’ll share stories on how I got professional help and why that’s so important in a later blog about counseling.
Through my lifelong experience with abuse, shame, depression, anxiety and many more inner health struggles, I feel it is my purpose and goal to share my learnings with you. I’m hoping you’ll help me as well by relating and finding that ounce of bravery inside of you to share your experiences with depression, anxiety, childhood trauma or maybe you have been abusive and controlling as well and want to change but unsure how to take the first steps.
For those of us who are uncomfortable talking and reading about mental health, abuse and emotions…well just remember, I’m just like you. I have failed as many times as I’ve succeeded. We all have mental health struggles from time to time. It’s hard to feel it, it’s hard to believe it, but trust me, you have them too and strengthening the relationship with yourself can have amazing results where stress, discomfort and fear become manageable feelings instead of overwhelming ones.
We can all benefit by openly talking about our struggles without judgment and stigma. There’s no shame in our struggles, only if we choose not to do anything about them and when our actions begin hurting ourselves and others.
Well, that my fellow readers is a snapshot of who I am and where I’d like to go with this! So come along and join me for some great stories and let’s get to know ourselves some more.