I Have A Story To Tell by Kevin Furze
Yesterday was the day I finally said enough is enough. I woke up and checked my phone as I always do and starting scrolling through twitter. I came across a post fight interview from Saturday nights UFC event. Usually these interviews are the winner calling for his or her shot at the tittle. Or that they are the toughest person on the planet. This interview was different. This interview gave me the idea that its time to share a little more about myself to hopefully inspire some kind of change. This interview came from Paddy Pimblett, a rising star in the UFC. To keep it short, he brought up the stigma around men speaking out on their problems. He mentioned how he received a message 4 hours before his weigh in, that one of his friends from back home took his own life. Finishing off his interview, he said something along the lines of he’d rather have someone cry on his shoulder than attend their funeral. Now I sat there and really thought about those words. Dealing with my own share of depression and anxiety, I felt those words. I felt every lonely night where I felt alone. It made me realize I have a story to tell.
We’ve made strides as a society in accepting mental health as a sickness rather then a weakness. The hard part is being stuck between a generation who’ve been told its okay to not be okay, and being raised by a generation that told us to rub some dirt on it. Now with that being said, my parents did everything they could for my brother and I. Just talking about feelings wasn’t one of those things that was comfortable. I’ve always had anxiety, but I was only officially diagnosed at 20.
Growing up, I needed my mom to talk me down the night before hockey try outs. I constantly felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t get to sleep. As I got older this feeling started to go away as I started to find success in hockey. I started to gain some confidence in myself, and was in top physical shape. Not ironically my mental illness started to depart for what I thought would be forever. Don’t get me wrong, I’d still be nervous before a big game like any player would. At first it felt like it would always be something I could control. As time moved on and hockey started to become more and more of my focus. Missing High School parties to train or be on the ice. Miss beach days with friends, because I had two hours in gym, an hour of on ice and then a baseball practice. What I didn’t know at the time, was I was setting myself up for failure. I wasn’t the best hockey player, but I still had potential to do something significant enough. The pressure of trying to do everything you can, because theres a small window of being scouted. My draft year, I dealt with a lot of sleepless nights wondering if the scouts noticed that bad pass I made, or the time I didn’t get the puck out. Even though I did a lot of good things, my mind always focused on the negative. I would find myself zoned out in class thinking about how I needed to work harder, I needed to be stronger, faster, bigger. Thats all fine to be motivated, but when you aren’t sleeping and you put your body into overdrive, somethings gotta give.
I remember laying in bed wondering now what? I’m two days post surgery, I’m 16 with a list of significant injuries. Ever hear the phrase “Don’t put all you eggs in one basket”? Well I did and now at 16 my already difficult journey became a mental battle. A mental battle I was not prepared for. I had injuries before, but nothing quite like this. At least when I had shoulder injuries I could still move around. Now leg wrapped, drugged up on more pain meds than I needed, I thought again “how am I going to get through this|”. The sleepless nights became more and more frequent. I couldn’t take it anymore, I felt like id be letting everyone down if I gave it up. But at the time its what I needed. Looking at it now, had mental health been talked about more, I could have probably overcome it. Ive always said I regret giving up, but now I’m not so sure. If I would have tried without getting help, who knows how fast things could have rolled down hill.
As I hit my 20s, things were again, up and down. Winters became harder as I drifted away from being a hockey player. Friends from high school started to grow apart and I started to lose my compass. I was always known as Kevin Furze the athlete. But no one prepared me for one day being just Kevin. Flipping from job to job, trying to figure who I was going to be. After moving away from home for three years, I decided to move home and pursue schooling and a career in the trades. Just like, my brother and father, I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands. I thought I was finally starting to get everything figured out. Everyones anxiety hits different, thats what makes it hard to deal with. Covid hit, everyone was scared and locked inside. I feel like for a brief moment in time, everyone felt what its like to have mental illness. Everyone felt closed in, trapped, scared. The problem with that, is those who already knew the feeling before were subject to a whole new level.
Two weeks before I was set to move home, I received a call ill never forget. Like out of a movie, I was sitting on the beach enjoying a beautiful day. When over a 10 minute span the weather changed from beautiful, to a cold fog. Living in on the coast, its actually very common for the weather to go from one extreme to the other in the blink of an eye. Something felt different though and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Thats when I got the phone call. My brother was on the other end of the phone and I couldn’t make out what he was saying. Then the words came out “he died in my arms”. Everything went quiet for a second. A numb went over my body and a piece of me was taken. June 27th 2020, my dad was gone.
The common theme in this story is again, I was un prepared. Now you can say no one is prepared to say goodbye to their parents, especially so young. You’d be absolutely right. But for someone who deals with anxiety, you need all the answers. When you don’t have the answers you think and think and think and end up somewhere you shouldn’t be. Probably for the most part, the furthest from the actual truth. Anxiety will have you thinking the worst in everything because you’re trying to prepare for hurt. The hardest part of it all, was this all happened during the first wave of Covid. You know, when we weren’t allowed to see friends and family. When you couldn’t see a doctor in person. When you couldn’t hold proper funerals or wakes. Basically it was we are sorry you lost someone, during this tough time when you need love and support the most, you can’t have it unless its virtual. I don’t know about you, but being locked in your room in the dark when you need someone to be there is hard enough. This is when depression started to set in.
I started working as an electrician and took on my first time role as a head coach. You’d think that I should start to feel better right? I beat the odds, I got through the lock down, I secured a good job and I’m giving back to the community that was so important to me growing up. Little did I know, I was on a downward trend. I always preached to my players, the importance of mental health. I told them I would always be there for them. I thought of all the times as a player where I felt like I had to hide my anxiety. Where I had a bad game or practice because I hadn’t been sleeping or eating. I knew how lonely it felt and how scared I was to make mistakes. I promised myself as long as I coached hockey I would use my experiences to make sure no one had to feel how I felt. The part I forgot was that at some point, I needed to take my own advice.
I started to crash hard, as work and hockey took up most of my time. Ive always struggle with winter depression but usually I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The monster I let grow in my mind had grew strong enough that I started losing control on my thoughts. I started believing I wasn’t cut out to be an electrician or a hockey coach. That void I felt, kept me up night after night. With no way to relax and sleep I started turning to different things. Self medicating, to feel nothing. To shut the voice in my head off for a few hours of peace. I started becoming far too comfortable being alone. So much so that I could barely leave the house. I continued to ignore the real problem and tried to find ways around looking myself in the mirror.
It took a few too many mental breakdowns. A few too many arguments and moments of stress and anger. A few too many nights feeling alone. When all I needed to do was ask for help. This all goes back to growing up in a time where I felt like I always needed to be tough. I always had to be a fighter. I was more afraid to talk about my feelings than I was to be in an actual fight. To be honest, I was more afraid to bother someone with my feelings than I was about dying. That sounds insane, but I felt like my pain was too much for people to handle and no one would want to be around the guy who can’t get it together.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot to change, to be happier mentally and physically. I’ve been trying to step outside my comfort zone and ask for help when I need it. I spent a lot of nights in my dads garage crying listening to old songs he used to like. I keep wishing he could be here to see the things I’ve accomplished, I wish we could have one more conversation. Some days are hard and I used to feel ashamed for how I felt. I don’t care if people don’t see me as the tough guy because I cry, or because I have anxiety and depression. I know real toughness is being able to survive your own mind.
So now we are back to the start. The part where I watched a video and felt I needed to do more. I wrote this because even if one person can say they read this and it helped, I did something good. Sometimes all it takes is knowing you aren’t alone in the way you feel. I’m putting my story out there because I know I’m not the only one. Men can cry, men can feel not okay and most importantly, men can ask for help. Don’t forget to reach out to the friends you haven’t heard from in awhile. Be kind and understanding, be someone you’d be proud to know. Most of all be unapologetic for being you. You are important to more people than you think, just ask.
I want to thank my Mom for always being my rock. I know I haven’t been easy to deal with but you always believed in me. My little brother Kyle, you are my world. I know I’ve been tough on you but you’re as tough as they come and I’m so proud of you. My dad, the hardest thank you of all. You have years of your life to help pursue my dreams. I wish I could show you how hard I’ve worked and the things I’ll accomplish. My friends, who have been there to help over the years, I couldn’t be who I am and where I am without you. Thank you for everything
I am so incredibly proud of you Kevin! Sharing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences will help many people.
No one should ever feel alone, feel judged, or be treated differently because of mental illness.
Thank you for being vulnerable and brave.
I only wish I had known your struggle Kevin when we worked together. We could have had many heartfelt conversations about this as I too struggle with depression and anxiety. Always here if you need to talk my friend and huge respect for speaking out!
Hi there -I am Brandon’s mom who you played hockey with-Your dad fixed our cars and I so remember talking to him about YOU! he did see your accomplishments and was very proud -He was a great man and was so very PROUD of you boys -Never forget that -He is watching from above and watch for the signs -Proud of you for speaking up! You are a role model for SURE!! One day at a time ❤️
While I don’t take medication to make me not feel these things, I do the next worst thing.
Drown myself in my work. The worst thing is that I know this is wrong, and yet I can’t help myself.
Wow! You’re a hero for me. Thanks for sharing your story
Thank you so much for sharing your story so many people need this! I really appreciate you being real even though I know it’s hard. God bless, never give up and one day at a time ❤️
So incredibly proud of you Kevin . The strength and courage it takes to admit and talk about yourself so openly is truly an inspiration. Your a great guy Kevin. I wish you nothing but the best . If you ever need an ear you are always welcome. And i mean it!
That was hard i could feel it