24 Years Old, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
Concussions have had an ever-changing effect on my life for the past 7 years. Not only did concussions affect me physically in the most serious of ways, but, also, mentally, and emotionally. Here is something, a little article about my current time period of suffering with concussions, and depression.
Where do I begin?
Do I begin from the start, from the middle or the end?
Does it really matter where I start?
And why tell it now?
This kind of mini tell all story of my ongoing experiences of mental and physical anguish has caused an inordinate amount of stress on me as it is a story that many do not know and one that many would not understand. So, maybe the point of me writing this is to not only aid in the understanding of the impact of concussions on one’s life, but to try and help to understand aspects of mental illness as well. As I sit and type this it is hard not to come to tears thinking back on the years of hardship I have endured and the times I continue to endure and struggle, so in short, my name is Brad Yetman,
I was a former defenseman in the QMJHL from the years of 2007-2011, Dalhousie Varsity Hockey Team Tiger in 2012-2013 and had a tryout for the Under-18 Canadian National Team in 2008. Why is that important? All of my playing days of hockey were taken away from concussions and their lingering effects.
A concussion by definition is a traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions. Certain sites continue the definition by listing physical symptoms such as dizziness, headache, nausea, loss of balance and coordination, memory loss but how about the mental symptoms? This is where my life has been forever changed.
Upon starting the 2014 Fall semester at Memorial University, I was finishing some cleaning of old school books and notepads when I stumbled across a crumpled, stained, lime green Hilroy exercise book. I opened the pages to see notes of concussive symptoms that I was experiencing during a couple of stints on the injured list with the brain injury and it all came flooding back to me. The days that seamlessly ran into nights. The minutes, hours, days, weeks, that combined together as one, long realistic nightmare. The darkness of my mind that seemed to envelop me like a beast of the wild marking its territory larger and larger, the darkness was growing inside me and I did not know how to stop it. The analogy I always used to use was I was running down a tunnel of darkness with no light at the end. I did not see no positivity.
I battled depression.
Depression is a difficult concept to define and understand for it affects people in different ways and it is difficult for me to write that I have battled it, but it is the truth. It has affected me in ways that many family, friends, teammates, and coaches never knew or understood. I cannot even begin to try and count the number of times my parents or brothers have asked me what was wrong. I did not have an answer. My only answer was to lash out or to break down. It was inevitable. My emotions were a roller coaster of peaks and valleys, twists and turns of who knows what is going to come next. I spoke to counsellors, psychologists, staff of the teams, teammates, family, but I could not seem to put a handle on my emotional state. I would break down crying in practices or even during games. Games that were scouted by NHL scouts I would begin to get emotional and could not explain why.
Why not take my time and heal? I was too impatient.
Did I rush back to play? Sometimes I did for the simple love of the game and that is where I was wrong.
Concussions are a silent killer, especially if not properly healed and that is where most kids, athletes, men, women, parents, staff, doctors, everyone, need to be trained in order to lay out a proper route of rehabilitation and recovery. Of course, it is on the player to be completely honest with themselves and their team as well. When I suffered my string of concussions, there was not near as much media exposure about them as there is today and maybe that is why I continued to suffer. I pushed myself back to play, got hurt, took two weeks off, back to play, couple games later hurt, and again, took couple weeks off.
Was it the athlete trainer or doctor’s fault for putting me back in? Absolutely not. I said to myself I was good to go. I trained hard and pushed myself hard in the gym to get back to a state where I felt as close to 100%, but that wasn’t the true reason to get back into the lineup. I was away from home and needed hockey to take my mind off of the continuing depressive state I was feeling and of course missing my family as I would have been 17 at the time. Hockey, as it was for me and is for most, is a sanctuary, an escape of all life’s problems, however for me it was a double-edged sword. I tried to use hockey, and being at the rink, to escape my depressive mood, however the depressive beast followed me no matter the situation and decided to set up shop in my sanctuary.
I did tests on tests on tests to determine how my physical symptoms were progressing and the recovery of the cognitive aspects of my brain, however how do I, a 17 year old, go about expressing the depression that I was encountering? Talk, people. Some of the hardest things in the world a person can experience is getting something off their chest or telling a certain someone they love them, miss them, anything to do with the fact that they could not form words for the emotions they wanted to portray. It is a difficult concept. Extremely.
Here I sit, a 24 year old, almost seven years since I first battled early signs of depression, spreading my story to everyone out there. Am I weak for providing some of my darkest times as public knowledge? No, because somewhere out there, there is someone who is experiencing the same thing that I experienced and I want them to know that it is ok. You are a special person and are dealing with something that you cannot deal with on your own. Just as with a concussion you rely on your trainers, doctors and coaching staff for guidance, for depression you must rely on those around you. Friends, family, neighbours, a stranger willing to lend an ear. There’s someone out there who can help you and is there for you. Never feel alone. I have found the positivity and light at the end of my tunnel, it is there I assure you, you can find yours too.
If you wish to connect with Brad, click here