#6: Nick Petrella: From Mentally Ill to Mental Illness Advocate


From Mentally Ill to Mental Illness Advocate

Like many people in the world, I have always operated under the premise that “it won’t happen to me” and “it can’t happen to me”.

At the age of 30, I learned the hard way that I can no longer think like that and since, my life has never been the same. When I tell people this, they often think that my life is not the same because of the age milestone I had reached, but in my case, there were different reasons. I truly believe that my life began seven years ago because that is when I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. I have likely had anxiety and depression my whole life, however, I just did not know what it was. As a child, I had signs and symptoms of panic disorder and as a teenager, if you told me you did not want to kill yourself, I would have thought you were crazy. I thought everyone felt that way.

Following my diagnosis, for the better part of four years, I lived minute to minute, trying to find reasons not to give in to the voice in my head telling me to kill myself. I was in battle with that the overwhelming thought that the world, my friends, my family and my students would be a better place without me. After seeing a dozen of different therapists and counsellors, I was lucky enough to find one that I was able to relate to and she was able to help me begin the process of recovery. For people living with mental illness, recovery is a scary word. Recovery involves time and energy every day, dedicated and committed to the tasks that help a person overcome the crippling emotions and feelings they struggle with on a regular basis.

I began my recovery almost four years ago and one of the most memorable steps in my recovery was when I stepped in front of an audience and publicly told my story for the very first time. At that point, I felt something I hadn’t felt before. I felt relief, I felt strong and I had found something that helped me feel better about myself and be comfortable in my own skin. That opened a door that I have kept open for the past three and a half years where I travel around and speak to anyone who is willing to listen about my journey and most importantly, the process of recovery.

That brings me to where I am now. I still have really bad days, weeks and months but they aren’t as bad as they were at the beginning. I am the happiest I have ever been because now I know how to deal with the emotions and the dark thoughts and I can work through them.

To get where I am now, it has a unique recipe that works for me. That recipe consists of my fiancé, friends, my dogs, professional help, a lot of hard work and never quitting. I am lucky that I have lived to tell this story and now more than ever, I have realized that in my darkest moments, I was not alone. Even though I felt alone and like no one would ever understand, I was wrong. I was wrong because I have met many people like me that even though they have no idea who I was, they would have done anything to help me, and that is who I am today.

If I can leave you with any words of advice…. You are not alone, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and recovery is possible. If I can do it, so can you. Recovery is not easy and it takes time but it is worth it. To recover, you have to be ready to get help, accept help and most of all, you have to realize that you can’t do it alone. Commit to getting better, and you will begin the process of recovery. You will face many challenges and hurdles and obstacles, but never give up because it is very true that every mistake or wrong turn you make, you can learn from it.

Get up, dust yourself off and keep going. #yourenotalone

 

Nick J. Petrella; MSc., TSCC., PTS.
Coordinator/Full Time Professor
Health, Wellness and Fitness
School of Justice and Wellness Studies
Mohawk College

Contact Information
Email: info@nickjpetrella.ca
Website: www.nickjpetrella.ca
Facebook: Nick J Petrella
Twitter: @nickjpetrella
Instagram: NickJPetrella

More about Nick:

Nick earned a Master of Science degree from Brock University in 2006 with a focus on human performance and exercise physiology. From 2006 to 2009, Nick attended Western University as a PhD student until he was offered a position by Mohawk College.  Choosing to leave the PhD program without completing the requirements, Mohawk College hired Nick to assist with the development of their Health, Wellness and Fitness program. Nick has been employed as a Professor in since 2009 and has since been named the 1st year coordinator of the program. A two-time recipient of the Instructor Appreciation Award at Mohawk College, Nick is a passionate educator who is always trying to impart his knowledge on other people. Aside from Nick’s passion of fitness, he is also a Keynote Speaker in Mental Health and earned Mental Health First Aid instructor status with the Mental Health Commission of Canada in November of 2014. Nick instructs Mental Health First Aid courses regularly and speaks on behalf of the Talking About Mental Illness program through the Canadian Mental Health Association. In 2016, Nick was awarded the St Joseph’s Hospital Spirit of Hope that is awarded to an individual who is making strides on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

Nick earned a Master of Science degree from Brock University in 2006 with a focus on human performance and exercise physiology. From 2006 to 2009, Nick attended Western University as a PhD student until he was offered a position by Mohawk College.  Choosing to leave the PhD program without completing the requirements, Mohawk College hired Nick to assist with the development of their Health, Wellness and Fitness program. Nick has been employed as a Professor in since 2009 and has since been named the 1st year coordinator of the program. A two-time recipient of the Instructor Appreciation Award at Mohawk College, Nick is a passionate educator who is always trying to impart his knowledge on other people. Nick has been working in the health and fitness industry for 15 years with his most notable appointments being; TriggerPoint Canada Master Trainer, the current Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Mohawk College Women's Varsity Volleyball Team and formerly for the Men’s and Women’s Hockey Team at Brock University, Conditioning Coach at Total Package Hockey in London Ontario and Launch Performance, Wellness and Nutrition. Aside from Nick’s passion for fitness, he is also a Keynote Speaker in Mental Health and earned Mental Health First Aid Instructor status with the Mental Health Commission of Canada in November of 2014. Nick instructs Mental Health First Aid courses regularly and speaks on behalf of the Talking About Mental Illness program through the Canadian Mental Health Association. In 2016, Nick was awarded the St Joseph’s Hospital Spirit of Hope that is awarded to an individual who is making strides on reducing the stigma surrounding mental health and was the recipient of a YMCA Peace Medal Nomination in 2017. Nick is also a co-founding member of the Mohawk College Mental Health in Motion peer to peer support initiative which has been operating since January 2015.

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