I want to write about Rick Rypien because of recent events. Even if he and I were two different people, I think we have some common threads. There are no dickjokes or silly chat rooms in this one, and it does get rather personal.
Rypien and I have both had issues with severe depression. I don’t know if he had some specific circumstances or conditions, but I know my conditions and I see that we have some things in common. For example, we both grew up in pretty small towns that were more rural than urban. I know I was a child who was more emotionally sensitive than my siblings and my family had no real use for emotions. They never talked about feelings and any difficulties (even physical ones, like my brother’s diabetes) were never explored outside of the factual account that they happened. There was no reflection or discussion of anything.
There was always a feeling that talking about things that were wrong was complaining and whining. It meant that you couldn’t “just suck it up and deal.” In short, expressing concerns was an admission of weakness—you were marked by others as a difficult, whiny, needy bitch (in every sense of the term.)
In a way, bringing up the kinds of concerns that depression can create was also a mark of being greedy. There was an unspoken rule of “everyone else is fine with whatever they have, so why are you complaining? Why are you so fucking special that you deserve something extra?” In short, you’re not supposed to need more than what you have, and if you do, you are fundamentally flawed.
This “need nothing, admit nothing” culture is hell on someone with depression. Having any condition that sets you apart is not easy, but mental illness is always treated with much more suspicion than others. If you tell someone you have diabetes or cancer, you usually get a sympathetic shoulder. If you tell someone you have depression, you’re called a fake, an “emo fag,” and (if you’re lucky) you’re regarded as someone who is one tiny incident from a full-blown nervous breakdown. You’re not a person—you’re the condition, and nobody wants that condition. In essence, you can’t do anything right in the eyes of others who know you have the condition, so not only do you feel wrecked because of depression, you feel even worse because you rocked the boat and dared to suggest that not everything was ok.
As a result, you swallow any fears or feelings you might have, hoping against hope that one day, you can wake up and be just like anyone else. You put on a mask that everything’s fine, and you’re fine, which works for some time. After a while, that mask gets heavy to bear. The swallowing gets more and more difficult. Eventually maintaining the façade takes all of your mental
I’ve been in that kind of situation. I still am, in a lot of ways. I’ve been so deep into this mindset that I have made two attempts on my life several years ago. At that time, I felt as if I had nobody to turn to (my school as well as my family were useless.) I made those attempts because I felt as though I had already failed so thoroughly that there was no chance for redemption. My “failures” were an ingrained part of my being that would never come out. The mask got too heavy, and my throat was too dry for any more swallowing.
Imagine it—you already feel like shit, but then you feel worse because you have absorbed that you feel like shit because you deserve it. You feel as if crawling out of bed and putting on a brave face takes every ounce of energy you have because you are total and complete garbage. You feel worthless because you are worthless, and the act of feeling worthless makes you worth less. And if you try to get help, you have to be extremely cautious about where you go and who you ask, because you never know if your source of “help” will silently judge you as less of a person for seeking help. You may end up being labeled as someone who couldn’t hack living like “normal people.” Either way, you can’t really win.
Add in the “macho” culture of sports (which I’m sure other writers can explore better than I can) and there is a recipe for disaster. Hell, most hockey players still have trouble admitting they suffer from concussions because of an ideal where one has to “tough it out” and “not be a little bitch about it.”
I’m not saying that what happened with Rick Rypien was inevitable. I think what I’m trying to get at is that there are probably more people who have situations like us, and it’s shame that they are. I think I’m trying to process my own situation and seeing common threads in Rypien’s case served as triggers as to what can happen. I know that I’m in treatment. I know that I can have good days and bad days just like anyone else. I just wish that nobody else has to feel as alone and dark as Rick and I have.
Alright, Sergei here. Not sure why, but I can't log my wife out of this pc. She must have it rigged or something.
Anywho, I came from the opposite type of family as Shel. My family was open and honest and talked about our feelings all the time. Of course we weren't perfect, but I think it was healthy (of course, I have to assume this since I have no frame of reference).
It just makes me soooo sad to read stories like this, because, quite honestly, I just don't understand it. I thank you so much for sharing your experience because not enough people do understand it.
I just want to give you a massive hug and tell you that everything's going to be okay, and listen to you talk and share your problems and be empathetic, and make it all better. (yes, I realize that it's not that easy, but it's worth a shot!)
I am not good at verbalizing my thoughts and emotions as I too come from a family where we just don’t talk about things like that, where even “I love you”, such an important expression goes unsaid. I just wanted to thank you for your bravery and honesty. I hope that others read this and find comfort in the fact that they are not alone, there is help and there is hope. I “I love you” my husband and children to death in compensation for never hearing it myself. I don’t want them to ever have any doubt in that and I hope that they always feel comfortable coming to me with any problem, big or small, but if they don’t I hope they come across an article like yours that discusses things so openly and honestly and find the help they need. So sincerely, thank you!
You're so brave for writing this. Just putting this out there could help people who feel as you've felt at your lowest lows. Having someone to identify with can mean so much in this world. Thank you for this.
Thank you, LD. Your writing here was beautiful and sad and heartfelt. I admire you so much. Hopefully you and Rypien will help someone else to talk about their struggles. All the best.
I have to say thank you for sharing this. The fact that you were able to open up as you did on such a personal matter must not have been easy but I'm glad you did. Depression is still a subject that many people don't understand and have trouble speaking about. I tried to put together a meaningful comment but all I can say is that I've been there and you're not alone. You've put into words exactly what I struggled with: the loneliness, the feeling that you deserve it, the guilt of feeling like you shouldn't be this way and the shame of having these struggles when you realize there's people out there who have a lot less than you.There are good days and bad days. There are days when I think "Oh good, I'm finally fixed" but then it creeps up on you again, out of nowhere and you're back to where you started.
Since Rypien's passing I've seen a lot of stories of people speaking of their personal struggles and I can only hope that it encourages people who are going through this to realize they are not alone. We shouldn't be ashamed and people shouldn't be afraid o address the issue. This is simply not something people should be going through alone. Thank you. Sorry for rambling.
Thanks LD. That couldn't have been easy to put out there, but thank you. I really hope Rypien's struggle will lead to more dialog and openness about depression. From all the stories it sounded like he was ready to share his story and struggles, which makes his passing even more saddening. Gillis did say today that he was going to look at telling it over the next couple of months though, which I am happy about
Thank you for sharing this. It is so hard to share things like this that still aren't commonly accepted in society, it takes a special type of bravery to put it out there in public like this. You have my great admiration.
Great piece. It's always tough to share something as difficult and all consuming as a personal battle with mental illness, especially via a public platform. Thank you for letting us all in behind the mask.
Your best writing yet, hands down. You're my little sister in depression and rage about it and dairy cows and, of course, the Leafs.
You better fucking understand how valued you are to so many of us, and specifically me. You've enriched my world with your blatant crudeness and honesty and by showing me that there are female Leafs fans who are as passionate as I am and can be authentic feminists and just girls, too.
I think that writing like this is slowly teaching me the importance of rage for those of us who are susceptible to soul-crushing depression- I think that along with exercise, sunshine, and the avoidance of life situations that cause me to spiral downwards, getting good and fucking angry about things has helped a lot, too. Something for us to think about more in the future.