Hockey is a great sport. It is exciting, challenging, and intense. However, sometimes the dressing room can be a scary place, especially if you feel like something is wrong. As someone who played against Brad, I can personally attest to his toughness. I admire his strength for writing this, and I would encourage anyone who is experiencing similar issues to follow his advice. On behalf of all of us at Concussion-U, I offer a heartfelt thanks to Brad for sharing his story. Hopefully it will help provide a light for someone who is going through a tough time.
Concussion-U is happy to share this story written by Brad Yetman: My life in the Quiet Room
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 with mental and physical anguish has caused me an inordinate amount of stress, 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 not only to aid people’s understanding of the impact that concussions can have on one’s life, but to try and help them to understand certain 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 that I suffered, and the issues I continue to endure and struggle with. So, in short, my name is Brad Yetman; I am a former defensemen in the QMJHL (2007-2011) and CIS (2012-2013). I also had a tryout for the Under-18 Canadian National Team in 2008. Why is that important? Many of my days of playing hockey should have been taken from me due to concussions and their lingering effects; however I tend to succumb to the withdrawal from my addiction to this great game.
A concussion, by definition, is a traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions. Many sources focus primarily on the physical symptoms such as dizziness, headache, nausea, loss of balance, impaired coordination, and memory loss, but these overlook a crucial aspect: the mental symptoms. It is this emotional impact of concussions that have forever changed my life.
Upon starting the 2014 fall semester at Memorial University, I was cleaning up some 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 symptoms that I was experiencing during a couple of my stints on the injured list with a brain injury, and it all came flooding back to me. The days seamlessly ran into nights. The minutes, hours, days, and weeks combined together into one long, realistic nightmare. The darkness of my mind seemed to envelop me like a beast of the wild, marking a territory that grew larger and larger. The darkness was growing inside me, and I did not know how to stop it. I used to explain it as running down a pitch black tunnel with no light at the end. I did not see any positivity. I battled depression.
Depression is a difficult concept to truly understand as it affects different people in different ways. 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 count the number of times my parents or brothers have asked me what was wrong. I never had a true explanation or answer. My only two responses were to lash out or to break down. It was inevitable. My emotions were a roller coaster of peaks and valleys, or twists and turns; no one knew what was coming next.
I spoke to counsellors, psychologists, team staff, teammates, family, but I could not seem to get a handle on my emotional state. I would break down crying in practices or even during games, games watched by NHL scouts. I would begin to get emotional and was not able to explain why. Why did I not take my time, and fully heal? Did I rush back to play before I should have? Sometimes I did, for the simple love of the game, and that is where I was wrong. I was too impatient.
Concussions are a silent killer, especially if not properly healed. That is where most kids, athletes, men, women, parents, staff, doctors, and the general public, need to be educated. In order to lay out a proper route of rehabilitation and recovery, every individual involved needs to be informed. 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 nowhere 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, and went back to play. A couple games later I’d be hurt again, and again I’d be forced to take a couple weeks off. Was it the 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 to get back to a state where I felt as close to 100% as I could. However, that wasn’t my true motivation to get back in the lineup. I needed hockey to take my mind off of the continuing depressive state I was feeling. On top of that, being a 17 year old away from home and missing family did not help. Hockey was for me, as it is for most, a sanctuary. It was an escape of all life’s problems. However, that turned out to be a double-edged sword. I tried to use hockey, and being at the rink, to escape my depression. This was unsuccessful; the depressive beast followed me no matter the situation and decided to set up shop in my sanctuary.
I did test, after test, after test, to determine how my physical symptoms were progressing and the recovery of the cognitive aspects of my brain, but how do I, a 17 year old, go about expressing the emotional anguish that I was encountering? One of the hardest things in the world a person can do is getting something off their chest. Trying to tell a certain someone that they love them or miss them is hard enough. Never mind that it was impossible for me to accurately portray the emotions I was feeling.
It is a difficult concept. Extremely. Here I sit, a 23 year old, almost seven years since I first battled those signs of depression, spreading my story to everyone out there. Am I weak for providing some of my darkest times as public knowledge? No. 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, where you rely on your trainers, doctors, and coaching staff for guidance, the same goes for depression. You must rely on those around you, be it friends, family, neighbours, or a stranger willing to lend an ear. There is someone out there who can help you, and will be there for you. Never feel alone. Talk to someone. Anyone. Just do not keep what you are feeling bottled up inside. I have found the positivity and light at the end of my tunnel. It is there I assure you, no matter how dark the tunnel may be, you can find yours too.