Photo: Author Jeff Emmerson, taken in 2014 during a break while doing security in Alberta Children’s Hospital’s secure mental health unit (photo taken in another part of the building).
A Sobering Journey In and Out of Mental Health Awareness
When I took this photo of myself roughly three years ago (I was working hard to build my social media presence as a fierce advocate for mental health, ADHD (before my misdiagnosis was discovered) and writing the book that has become ‘Beyond ADHD.’
I was struggling inside, having committed myself to a different hospital’s mental health unit across the country a hear and a half earlier (yes, I managed to go from being a patient to guarding them in just over a year – what a powerful experience to say the least, one I’m incredibly grateful for). I was exhausted from the 12-hour shifts that rotated from days to nights every few days, getting up at four in the morning to create social media content for the day while on the day shift, and trying to be an attentive husband and father of two cats all the while.
Fast-forward to August 3rd, 2017 (Today)
From that glimpse into my life in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 2013-14 to the now, a TON has happened (and been learned). For the sake of time in this post, let me say this: I now watch YouTube videos taken in those Calgary downtown streets and it recently hit me: My wife and I are now reaching out to that very hospital and many, many others throughout North America (as well as mental health-related organizations) to pursue book signing and public speaking opportunities as a published author!
What a whirlwind the last four years have been. I look back on some very traumatic moments that both my wife and I experienced there, and I feel the city calling me to return on better terms, like coming back as a new, wiser and more successful man – one very grateful for the ups and downs of those days. In hindsight, I recognize that lessons were being learned through the anxiety, despair, the fear, the shame of feeling like a failure of a husband, the horrendous panic attack I had one night on a new security job downtown, both cats passing away in a short time due to health issues beyond our control – the phone call telling me my hero (my Dad) had a football-sized tumor in his stomach that was cancerous….all of it.
You see – I started this whole “social media thing” out there, living at the “First on Tenth” apartment skyscraper.
A City Can Truly Change Your Life (What You Do While You’re There, Anyway)
I long to return to those streets, to be in those restaurants, to savor walks around the city, giving talks to inspire and advocate for others going through mental health challenges, and to confirm that YES, I made it – I truly found my calling from a career perspective (and my God it’s deeply heartfelt and satisfying doing this work).
…little did I know those streets that once held so much despair for me would turn out to be the birthplace of all that’s transpired since.
I’m so at peace now, so fulfilled as a result of completely turning my life around and sticking with something for nearly half a decade – something that I know will impact the lives of others in more ways than I can possibly know…it’s a spiritual experience, I swear.
The irony? I’m just getting started.
Calgary: I’m coming! I’m going to return to your streets to say thank you for everything you taught me, even though some of it still haunts me from time to time, it was so hard to go through.
Never, EVER give up on yourself. Thank God I didn’t, even though I felt like it numerous times. I know better now.