I suffer from mental illness and have for a couple of decades now. Apparently, there's a stigma attached to this. Not to me. Talking about it helps me and if reading about it helps you, then I've done a good thing by bringing it up. I may have also mentioned in a past post that I was doing volunteer radio play-by-play for the local six, the Junior-A Stouffville Spirit. I have stepped down and recently, I posted an open letter on social media to explain why. I have been flooded with love and support ever since, which is overwhelming to me, but it's not why I posted the letter. I did it to explain my decision and also to hopefully help any other sufferers. If you haven't seen it, here is my letter:
Dear friends, colleagues and followers,
Today is World Mental Health Day, and it's appropriate that I use this opportunity to explain a few things that have transpired over the last couple of weeks, in regards to my role as play-by-play broadcaster for the OJHL's Stouffville Spirit.
Perhaps it's the aging process but I have been extremely frustrated of late with my ongoing mental state. I seem to have developed a problem with processing information. For example, I see the word "STOP" and I process it in my brain as "SPOT." I see a play develop with the puck at the top of the circle and I will broadcast it as if the puck is in the slot or along the boards. My short-term memory is a mess and it seems I can't travel anywhere without leaving something important behind.
A couple of weeks ago at the OJHL's Governor's Showcase tournament in Buffalo, I was setting up for our radio broadcast on WhiStle-FM when I realized a necessary power cord was missing. lnstead of being able to carry on as best I could, I suffered a nervous breakdown and had to return home. A week later, I suffered a similar breakdown here at home after misplacing another item. I mention these breakdowns, not as an attempt to solicit sympathy or support but merely as an example of what sufferers can go through. I have fought mental illness to a draw over the past couple of decades and I think it's important to be up front and honest about this disease. l'll never shy away from talking about it, especially if it helps so much as one person who has to deal with it.
ln retrospect, while I love calling the Spirit games, l've come to realize that play-by- play at this level is a young person's job. And while calling games on a volunteer community radio station doesn't come with any of the pressure and responsibilities of, say, Hockey Night in Canada, I approach it the same way. l'm a broadcast perfectionist and was for 40 years in the industry. I know of no other way to tackle it. Because I can no longer do the job I expect of myself, and because I am currently in no shape to be behind a live microphone, I am stepping down as the Spirit's play-by-play voice for the balance of this season.
I am also on the board of directors at WhiStle-FM here in Stouffville. Leaving that job immediately would put the board in a tremendous bind. I will ask the board to seek out a new candidate to replace me as soon as possible. Once that is accomplished, I will step down.
I need help. And with medical professionals, medication and family love, I will get it.
I can go no further with this letter without offering my sincere thanks to so many, first and foremost, to my family. For everything.
To Bob Breckles, Rob Acton, Phil Kestin, Ken and Lorna Burroughs, Jeff Perrin, Wayne Jones and the entire staff of the Spirit, you all made me feel like a team member from the very first day I came on board.
To my friend Jim Mason, commissioner Marty Savoy and the entire OJHL staff, thanks for making me feel like part of the family. The league of choice is the single best hockey entertainment value in the province, bar none.
To the Spirit players I came in contact with, you are, without a single exception, a collection of incredible class and decency. Calling your games has been an honour and privilege.
To coach Rob Pearson and the staff and players of the Whitby Fury, thanks for allowing me to hitch a ride back home from Buffalo on that terrible day while the Spirit had to remain behind and play a game there the next day.
To the players' parents, family members, friends and OJHL fans, thanks for the always kind and supportive comments you made at the arenas we broadcast from. I remain humbled by your kind words.
To Bob, Don, Patty, Mona, Brenda, Jay, Jim, Ivan and the great folks at WhiStle. Sincere thanks for taking me on and providing unending encouragement and support.
Finally, to the fine folks of Stouffville: Thanks for allowing my voice to come through your radio and internet speakers. I abhor the thought of quitting but right now, it's necessary.
Stouffville, you deserved better. l'm so sorry I wasn't able to provide it.
It's been another rough season for the Spirit -- last place overall at this point. But this is what I am missing: One of their top players sent me a note, wishing me well and expressing his regret that he didn't know about my illness sooner, so that he could have reached out at an earlier time. He then told me that he hoped I would still come out and watch and that the team would proceed to make me proud. The lump is still in my throat. Win, lose or draw, this team makes me proud each and every day.