I met David at an event after he spoke about his “story” regarding mental health. When he was sharing with us, I found myself very inspired. The way he spoke was very heartfelt and without shame for what he went through but what really resonated with me, was how he never gave up on himself, even in his darkest days, he never gave up.

This is his story…

He grew up in a very strict and religious home with no sense of belonging or direction. He suffered greatly and his state of mind was fractured because he was never encouraged to talk about it, so he found himself suffering in silence. Looks can be deceiving and when you looked at him, he always seemed to have it all together but truth be told, he struggled to keep going and needed help.

The summer of 1995, he was 21 years old and knew he needed a change. The Mountains always gave him a sense of peace so he applied to a leadership program at the bible camp he used to attend when he was younger. During the program, the team set out on a 6-day hiking trip and on the 4th day, they arrived at Crowsnest Mountain into the seven sisters. What was supposed to be a 2.5-hour hike ended up taking them 7 hours to complete. There was still snow on the ground and with his weight and size, every step he took, he plunged down into the snow while the others were able to walk on top of it. It was a slow, difficult and painstaking endeavor. He was humiliated and beat himself up with feelings of frustration and shame knowing he was the reason for holding everyone back.

He soon realized they wanted his success as much as their own. They took turns walking with him, giving him trail mix and words of encouragement. They believed in him and stayed together as a team, not once did they quit on each other. When they arrived at their destination, they let him rest while they set up camp. As he was resting he slowly realized they actually believed in him and once that set in, he started to believe in himself and he was so grateful he discovered a community he belonged to.

As he looks back now he knows that summer changed him. It didn’t cure his anxiety or depression by any means but that experience taught him life long lessons that he still carries with him to this day. It symbolizes for him exactly what its like to live with a mental Illness.

When a person is dealing with an invisible illness, it’s challenging and he has always felt he couldn’t keep up. With every step he took, he was faced with a new set of challenges and he had to work twice as hard to get to where he is today. In his broken state, it took him a lot of years to learn how to deal with his depression and severe anxiety but he discovered his strength was admitting to himself that he couldn’t do it alone and he refused to suffer in silence anymore. In 2006, he entered into a full-time day treatment program at the University of Alberta hospital and started to get to a place of stability.

Since then, he has spent many years breaking his silence and has made a commitment to always share his story to help remove the stigma that has attached itself to mental health. Appearances are deceiving and a lot of people are suffering and he is open and honest with everyone about his struggles; he does not hide in shame anymore, he wants to talk about what he has survived and what has gotten him through the darkest days.

Not once did he give up on himself. He discovered help wasn’t always there when he needed it, but he was stubborn and kept pushing to find what he needed to get through. He took the first step, then he took another and soon he discovered he was walking towards being the man he is today. He suffered a lot of years trying to find what he needed, trying to fight for the life he now has and truth be told, if you ask him, it was worth it!