Saturday, 11 April 2020

So Close to the Edge


So Close to the Edge

By Chris Coulter

I marked an "X" on April 22nd, 2018 in my calendar.  I had decided that this was going to be my last day.

I look back on that statement today and it seems so surreal. What was I thinking?  How had life come to this point in time where I seriously had contemplated suicide? 

Much of my personal writing in the past couple of years has been consumed by Madeline, the signs to look for of those suffering from mental illness and coping strategies for parents when they feel they have nowhere else to go or people to talk to.  We’ve seen that someone’s outside fa├žade doesn’t necessarily represent how the person feels on the inside and the signs to be aware of in detecting someone suffering from mental illness.  Mental illness does not discriminate by sex, race or religion.  It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, introverted or the life of the party.  Mental illness affects us all.

I’m going to share a personal story, not about my daughter or other people that I’ve come into contact over the last three years.  I’m sharing a deeply personal story about myself.



I feel it important to preface why I'm sharing such a personal account of my life.  I struggled for some time on whether to post this but in the end I thought this was too important not to share.  

I recently went through an important exercise about "Finding Your Why" a book written by Simon Sinek .  My girlfriend and I spent the better part of a weekend, recounted the stories of our lives that have had a great and profound impact upon who we are today.  While one of us shared the stories, the other took extensive notes and probed into getting to the hidden meaning behind the story. These stories, some good and some bad, have shaped me into who I am today.  What I discovered upon recalling these anecdotes, were themes and characteristics that have been pretty consistent for the past 10 years.  At the end of our storytelling, we both came to the conclusion that my why was "To communicate the lessons learned from my past experiences so that others will thrive in their lives and minimize the impact of their setbacks."  In my personal life, I feel it is my responsibility to share what we went through with Maddie and hopefully other parents can learn from our experiences.  In my business, The Finish Line Group, I help educate business owners to avoid the same fate that I experienced with my first company so others need not make the same avoidable mistakes. As a result, I feel compelled to share my experiences:  the good, the bad and sometimes the scary.



I’ve been very transparent about suffering through my own personal demons over the last number of years.  I’ve had bouts of anxiety and depression stemming from our loss of Maddie, loss of a business and going through a terrible divorce. There were times where it was a real struggle to get out of bed certain days.  In the past, I’ve been able to utilize certain coping mechanisms and have kept my dark sadness limited to a few days or weeks at a time. 

The first four months of 2018 was the hardest sustained period of battling depression in my life.  I’m telling you this not to conjure up sympathy or attention but instead to communicate a real pain, a period where I didn’t think I could keep going.  It was the first time I think I could actually relate to what Maddie must’ve been feeling on April 10, 2015.  I'm certain that some of you may have experienced this brutal, uncontrollable depression.

" I could actually relate to what Maddie must’ve been feeling on April 10, 2015"


How could this be?  I’ve got a strong support group.  I have friends who are always checking in on me on a regular basis.  I have deep, caring relationships with my boys, my girlfriend and my family.  I’m definitely loved.  So why did I feel so desperate, so dismayed, so alone?

I believed my despair was so hard for anyone to understand, so difficult to relate to.  My world went dark.  For the first time in my life I felt unsafe with my thoughts.  I kept getting perilously close to losing myself.  I felt it difficult to be alone.  I was suffocating one breath at a time.  My depression had morphed from something I had control of, into something that was spiralling out of control.  For the first time ever, I was fearful for my safety.

As much as I’ve preached about talking to someone, sharing your feelings and dark thoughts, initially I was unable to do so.  That loneliness and self-loathing was so difficult to share.  I didn’t want to burden anyone, even though there were many people that would have helped and listened.  There was a feeling of shame and that I was unworthy of this attention. So I didn’t seek it and decided to suffer in silence, still unsure of the fate that awaited me.

I didn’t tell my therapist, my girlfriend, my family or my friends. Fortunately, that was as close as my plan would come to fruition.  I cried for what could have been.  The sun came out that day.  I went for a long walk and remembered all the reasons why I loved spring, why I loved life and why I loved being alive.

I decided to start talking to the people that mattered.  I got beyond the self-doubt. I decided by being vulnerable, I had more to gain than to lose.  I had lost focus at work but started imagining about what could be.  I reminded myself that my current state didn’t represent my future state.  With this thought in mind, I started to make all the changes that were possible.  I decided to move my house because it represented so much hurt and sadness over the past 6 years.  I realized that working from home was not healthy for me.  I decided to move my office and leased a small office space on the same floor as my largest supply partner.  I got back into a schedule that reflected structure, discipline and efficiency.  I reintroduced all the habits that had made me successful in the past.  I regained my passion for my business and not coincidently, the successes started to follow.

"My current state didn’t represent my future state"


Some of you may ask yourselves why I decided to share this story or think how I could even think of being so selfish in thinking this but in the end, it was my selfishness to live that changed my mind.  And as to why I shared this story?  I believe it’s my responsibility to share the good, the bad and the unbelievable about my life because I know there is at least one other person that has stood in my shoes, pondered the same fate and then chose to take a different direction.  Unfortunately, it won’t be the last.  With the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, it’s a reminder that sometimes we all can teeter so close to the edge. That moment in time when we make that decision, defines us and helps to solidify our future.

I’m not sure why I fell into this mental abyss, this chasm of despair but I was able to climb up out of it, dust myself off and trudge into the next chapter of my life.  I owe this to my boys, my family and the people who love and believe in me but most of all, I owe it to myself.  My work and my passion for life is not even close to being done here.  I’ve committed to being a voice of reason, purposeful in my quest to tell the truth and to offer a shoulder for those in need to lean on me.

If you know anyone who has been struggling please share this and be aware that even those who we believe are the soundest of mind, the kindest of heart and the most spirited in  life all are vulnerable and susceptible to deep emotional pain.  Let's not let the outer persona mask the inner turmoil.  Probe beyond the pleasantries, care deeply and lend a helping hand always, for this could make all the difference to someone who needs it most.

If you are looking to "Find Your Why", I encourage you to watch Simon Sinek's TED Talk on "Finding Your Why".  I hope you find it as inspiring as I found it. 

#youthmentalhealth  #suicideawareness #letstalk #depression #mentalillness #mentalhealthmatters #shinebright #themaddieproject #40monthsgone #findyourwhy

Friday, 28 June 2019

Another Birthday Without You: Frozen in Time




June 28th would’ve been your 19th birthday.  It represents the fifth birthday that you have not been in attendance for.  It represents the fifth birthday that I haven’t been criticized for the present I bought you.  It’s the 5th year that I didn’t receive flack for wanting to have my picture taken with you.  Your 19th birthday is supposed to a celebration but today it represents only a milestone to what should have been.

A 19th birthday is supposed to represent an emancipation, a coming of age.  It’s supposed to be a coming together with friends and family for your first “legal libation”.  It’s supposed to represent a homecoming from your first year at university, talking about the experiences, your independence away from home and the plans for the summer ahead.  It represents a culminating of new friends and old friends coming together to celebrate you.  People get together to laugh, share stories and join in a love for the honouree of the day.  This is the fifth year that the honouree will not be attending.

But instead of a celebration, it has become a solemn affair.  It means a quiet visit to the cemetery where I sit cross legged, play music that you loved and have a quiet conversation with the most important female that has ever touched my life.  I ponder where you would’ve gone to university and what program you would be enrolled in.  I think about whether you would’ve had a boyfriend and whether he would’ve been worthy of you.  I think about the influence and the impact that you would’ve had upon your brothers.  I think about how you would’ve positively influenced society and the footprint that you would’ve left.  I think about how curious you always were and the unrelenting questions that you would continue to ask.  I think about your strength of character, your wicked sense of humour and how much conviction you held about things that meant so much to you.

I’m forever looking at pictures of you growing up.  You will remain forever encapsulated by youth.  Life goes on, people age but you will always be frozen in time.  Today, Zac is three years older than your last day alive and Sawyer will equal your age in a few months but you will always remain my eldest child and their big sister.

"Others have seen it as their duty to carry on your message"


Although going to your grave is a terrible way to spend your birthday, it does make me feel grateful for the time that I did get to spend with you, albeit too short.  You were taken from us far too soon, your legacy was achieved earlier than most.

Your 19th birthday is supposed to be one of liberation, that last real bridge between being a youth and an adult.  In your passing, so many of your friends, from so many different places in your life have been united solely because of their association with you.  The influence and the impact you’ve had upon the lives of so many, are still being felt today throughout our community and beyond.  Your presence is still felt and heralded by your brothers and friends, and the impact that they are making to society today in your honour.

Although you, our guest of honour is no longer present on this earth, we salute you and honour you for all you have contributed in your absence, and the conversations that have become more significant and meaningful in your wake.  Although your presence is missed on a daily basis, others have seen it as their duty to carry on your message.

Cheers to you, Maddie.  I look forward to having a drink together today.  Happy 19th birthday!