Don't Let Your Struggle Take What's Right in Front of You

Hi everyone! For those who followed my “Run Sully Run” journey, I’m Sully! I wanted to update you all on what came from my year long journey battling Post Concussion Syndrome and what I learned from it. But first, a quick recap on the year that was!

In June of 2017 I decided I was uncomfortable with how I was feeling physically and mentally. After 14 concussions from hockey and a car accident, I was mentally drained and damaged. Suffering from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks, I had let myself get to my weakest point. Physically I was sitting at 280lbs, which was the heaviest I had ever been. I wanted to make a change.

I decided to train for the Scotiabank half marathon during Ottawa Race Weekend and raise money for the Concussion Legacy Foundation Canada. This journey was a long and painful one, but what I was able to find out about my body and mind was remarkable. How you are able to take control of yourself mentally with physical activity or positive mindset is incredible. I went from 280 lbs, depressed and exhausted to 220lbs, energetic and positive. The year was a success in my books for sure.

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But what I have come to find out over the past 7 months since running the race is that battling PCS is a never ending journey and fight. One race did not cure me of my PCS, but I was able to learn I am in more control of it than I originally thought. While there were plenty of positives over the course of the year, there were some negatives as well. But for your sake I’ll reflect on the negatives first so we can end with some happy thoughts!

Coming out about my struggles made me vulnerable. It was the most public I had been regarding my mental health. I am sure if people saw me they knew I wasn’t well, but before I actually came out about the mental health battles and concussion history not many people knew what I had been going through. My name started to become associated with concussions. Lots of negative comments were made and people looked at me differently, almost as if I was broken or fragile. I had a rival coach in my league look me in the eyes and tell me “I’m going to give you another concussion”.  I had never wanted to go public with my battle because I was tired of attention. I had people rudely judge my memory or think twice when I was to share facts as if to doubt I would actually remember. I had articles written about me that made everything I was going through public, but then I became the guy with the concussions, not the hockey coach with two dogs!

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However, the positives are what made me power through. I saw physical changes in my body that made me gain my confidence back. I was able to use the running as a way to de-stress from the daily grind of the hockey season. Mentally I was able to control the depression, while finding ways to tackle the anxiety. Panic attacks are a distant memory which I hope never return. Once the half marathon hurdle was complete, I had gained so much confidence in the way I can control this situation that I decided to tackle another obstacle, return to University.

All in all the run not only saved my life, but it made me realize quite a bit as well. The world needs to catch up with the effects of concussions and break down the stigma. I dealt with a lot of wrath, a lot of scrutiny, and at times had to be dealt with delicately due to the fragile subject. It was not an easy thing for me to share, but I put myself to the way side and wanted to think of others. I have received so many messages from people I don’t even know thanking me for coming out about my struggles, stating they feel the same way, but feel alone. That was my biggest fear - the feeling of knowing no one understands what’s going on in my head. The biggest challenge is feeling like I have to always justify why sometimes I cannot be social, sometimes I need to rest. My support system is my backbone. My girlfriend Kayla is my rock, and I could not imagine being in her shoes some days. My support at work with my hockey group makes it easy for me to get out of bed and my girlfriend and dogs make it a joy to come home after work as well.

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As to how I am doing now? - I’m doing just fine! I don’t run much anymore, as that half marathon completely wiped me. Instead I’ve turned my fitness to more weight lifting and just eating healthier. I am also pleased to say I am fully registered at the University of Ottawa in pursuit of a Bachelor of Social Sciences degree. I know this will be the true test to see what my brain can truly handle and I’m looking forward to tackling this next challenge!

All in all, my main message is to take control. Don’t let your struggle take what’s right in front of you. You are all capable of a great life, but a different life. Accept the hand that has been dealt for you, lift up your head and tackle each day with your greatest effort. Trust your support system, let them in on your struggles. Remember that your life is in your hands, make the most of it!

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From my two beautiful dogs, Harvey and Ella, and of course myself, I thank you for following my Run Sully Run journey.

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Samantha Bureau