Monthly Archives: December 2018

Story Untold: “Mental Illness Is Just a Part of Who You Are”

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When Ryan Martin set off to cycle 8,000 kilometres across Canada to raise funds for mental health initiatives, he couldn’t have imagined how his life would change. The Guelph, Ontario native had only recently gone public with his story of living with bipolar disorder, and he was still working on the path to wellness. Today, he’s the National Lead for Youth Advocacy at the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“It takes time to find the tools that will help you,” says Martin. “You just have to be patient.”

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For Martin, a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University, his story with mental health began while away at university for the first time.

“I got into the university of my dreams, the program of my dreams, [was] living with my best friends… but when I got to university, I noticed that I was starting to experience these really bad lows,” he says. “I’d do therapy, and I’d learn new tools. They would work for a while, and then it wouldn’t work. Then I’d read books, learn some things; they’d work for awhile, and then wouldn’t work.”

At first, Martin chalked his difficulties up to social anxiety, but the challenges persisted.

“So many years of just huge optimism, followed by huge disappointment,” he says. “You can kinda get caught up in, ‘I am depressed, I have anxiety,’ and that’s the biggest way you define yourself. But that’s just not a good way to think … because mental illness is just a part of who you are.

Eventually, Martin was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder — a label he resisted at first, but eventually came to terms with. He discovered that through talking with others, he found acceptance.

“The more you talk about it, the more you see that other people are there to support you. The more you talk about it, the more you learn from other people’s experiences. The more you talk about it, the more comfortable you get,” he says. “Like, it’s only good to talk about it.”

With a newfound enthusiasm, Martin wanted to make a difference where he could. Eventually, the idea of a bike ride came to him. A backcountry skiing trip in British Columbia solidified the plan, after a few words of advice from the owner of the ski tour company: “Life is too short to not do what makes you happy.”

“That just struck a huge chord within me,” says Martin, “and I said, ‘what am I doing?’”

On the flight home, he sketched out a plan that became MindCycle. Months later, he was dipping his tire in the Pacific Ocean near Tofino to begin the ride.

Along the way, the 23-year-old amassed a following across the country. His story spread to CTV National News, and donations poured in. By the time the ride had ended, Martin had raised over $120,000 for the Canadian Mental Health Association. He had struck a nerve with countless Canadians, too.

“People would open up in the middle of Tim Horton’s, McDonald’s, side of the road, hotel lobby, whatever. It was incredible,” he says.

These days, Martin’s passion for mental health has become a career. After the ride ended, he started work in Toronto at the Canadian Mental Health Association. The goal is to empower more youth in their advocacy efforts.

“It’s all about creating a community of mental health champions,” he says.

Some days are still harder than others, but Martin is unfazed.

“No matter how you’re feeling, if you have the right tools in place, you can be good enough,” he says. “It’s just a matter of using those tools.


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Story Untold: “What Can Gather Us Is Love”

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Few know what it’s like to survive a mass shooting. Erwan Larher knows all too well.

On November 13th, 2015, Larher was one of 1,500 concert-goers at the Bataclan theatre in Paris who came to watch the Eagles of Death Metal perform. 90 people were killed when three gunmen opened fire that night, a tragedy that spread throughout France and sent shockwaves around the world.

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The day started as normally as any.

“It was a very ordinary day,” says Larher, a native of Ballans, France. “I’ve seen maybe twenty or thirty gigs at the Bataclan before.”

He arrived late to the concert venue and found his favourite spot, right next to the sound booth.

“One or two times, I wondered if I should go closer to the stage, but I said to myself, ‘Just wait. Wait for the best songs.’ So I wait, and then suddenly, I hear those ‘pops,’ you know? And I think it’s part of the show. I think everyone did,” he says. “But it’s weird, because I see some plaster falling from the ceiling on my left. And then at the same time, I hear someone yelling, ‘Lay down! Lay down!’”

That night in Paris, 137 people died; an additional 413 were injured. Within moments of the attack beginning, Larher was shot.

For many, it sparked renewed fears around terrorism and the rise of global violence. For Larher, a writer, it’s the basis of his latest book, The Book I Didn’t Want to Write (originally released in French as Le livre que je ne voulais pas écrire).

“It never came to my mind to make a book out of it. But then, a few months later, I started to think and discuss with friends of mine — writers — and they told me, ‘You have to write this book. You’re a writer. You have to find the words to tell us what it was and what you felt.’ And I understood that maybe literature has something to say about it, a perspective to bring,” he says.

For weeks, Larher recalls, he would be flooded with requests for comment from news organizations who were reporting on the shootings. Initially, he says, the subject was too emotional to put to words.

“We have to think, and thinking takes time. And emotion is the contrary of thinking,” he says. “Some things are too important to be abandoned to emotion.”

“To me, those three guys, they are symptoms. It maybe could have been me, if I was not born in the right place,” Larher adds. “They are monsters. No doubt about that. But they were not born monsters; they became monsters. And the purpose of my book is maybe to question that: how did this happen?”

In The Book I Didn’t Want to Write, Larher recreates the events of November 13th, both from his perspective, along with the imagined perspectives of the terrorists. He also provides space for his family and friends to share perspective around what it was like to witness the news unfold and wonder about his fate. Ultimately, it’s an affirmation of the importance of love.

“What can gather us is love. It’s such a strong link,” he says. “And the world today, I think, is suffering from a lack of humanity and love.”


Photo credit: Dorothy-Shoes (via Facebook). Subscribe to Story Untold Podcast on: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

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