Antony: Overcoming self-doubt after a family tragedy

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Resilience is the foundation for positive mental health and well-being. It allows us to confront difficult experiences and challenges in a more meaningful and productive way, enabling us to learn, grow, and become stronger from them.

Research shows that it’s not just what we go through that affects us, but it’s also the story that we tell ourselves. And if we stop and make meaning of life’s most difficult moments, they can actually help us develop a sense of purpose, take appropriate risks and create positive relationships with others.

Everything in life, both good and bad, can teach us something if we’re willing to learn from it. With resilience, we can turn obstacles into advantages and use them to create a life of greater meaning.

Here’s how Antony’s experience with resilience has improved his mental well-being.

Antony Nozicka-Spence

I am from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation also known as Nelson House, M.B. When I think of Nelson House, I think of the crunchy snow and the cool crisp air; the dancing northern lights; and the smell of leaves in the fall.
But I also think of hockey.

It’s Friday night, and most of our town (2,500 people!) is packed in the arena to support our local hockey team, the NCN Flames. And then there is me standing up in front of the crowd, a cowbell in one hand, flag in the other screaming at the top of my lungs.

I had become the unofficial mascot. I remember the day they presented me with a foam flame head as a way to acknowledge my unofficial role on the team. I took my job very seriously.

My community feels like a giant hug. You can feel it when you step into someone’s house; when you have a conversation at the local store; and when we gather together for a powwow, the winter festival or a hockey game. You can feel the sense of community, comfort, safety and love. It feels like home.

But there is one thing that feels even more like home. It’s my family.

Becoming a little … spoiled

My family is so close. Growing up I remember when my mom would get a call from a friend inviting my parents to dinner or something and I could hear my mom on the phone like, “Can we bring the kids?” And when they would respond saying, “No, it’s adult’s night out,” my mom would respond, “Nope, can’t do it. If you change your mind and want to have kids there, count us in.”

My parents did everything with us and for us. My life was always comfortable. Unfortunately, this meant that I had become a little … spoiled. There were so many things that I couldn’t do because, well. I never had to. I genuinely started to believe that I was incapable of doing things myself. I felt stuck.

In the middle of COVID, I left my community and travelled nine hours south to attend the University of Manitoba. I found myself feeling isolated, depressed and unable to keep up. I ended up finishing the semester back home and decided not to return.

This felt like a huge failure and only reinforced the story that I had been telling myself: that I couldn’t do it. I believed I wasn’t strong enough, skilled enough and smart enough to succeed. It wasn’t until my sense of home started to collapse that I forced myself outside of my comfort zone once again and realized things could change.

Breaking away from the chains of comfort

One night, my parents and my older sister went out for the evening and on the way home they stopped along the side of the road because my Dad needed to use the washroom. It was a perfect case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of a sudden another car pulled up, and a guy jumped out of the vehicle and stabbed my dad two times in the stomach.

I remember seeing my Dad laying there in the hospital bed and I knew it was time for me to step up and become the man of the house.
Over the next 10 weeks while my dad was in the hospital I started doing things I never had to do before. I helped my mom with bills; took care of our vehicles; watched my nephew; cooked; cleaned; whatever I needed to in order to help make sure things were taken care of.
While doing all of these things, I found a sense of purpose and hope. I didn’t need to be stuck anymore.

It’s terrible that it took a family emergency to show me what I was capable of, but I think it was important for me that I went through that.
I now have learned that I am strong, capable and intelligent and that the limitations I had created for myself were all based on the story I was telling myself. I love my community, I love my family and the sense of home that they bring. But I know now it’s time for me to spread my wings and become the author of my own story.

Learn more

Mental health is an ongoing journey and it is important to make sure that we all take the time to check in with ourselves, our loved ones and our mental well-being.

LiveDifferent Circles equips young people with the skills and tools needed to build positive mental health. Through conversations on authenticity, empathy, growth, resilience, altruism and values, youth develop the self-confidence to deal with the issues they’re facing and take positive action in their communities.

Want to join people like Antony and help youth across Canada build positive mental health? Become a Road Team Volunteer!

Want to learn more about Circles and how it can make a difference in your community? See how LiveDifferent can help!

Author: LiveDifferent

Date: May 5th, 2023