Alliance Profile - Rob Schremp
Former NHL First Round Pick, Played For the Oilers, Islanders, and Thrashers
What past life experiences, physical traumas or genetics do you believe have had an effect on your mental health?
“I watched the movie ‘A Star is Born’ a little while back, and it really stirred some stuff inside of me about my own struggle with depression. I found myself relating to the main character in a strong way.
Like him, I had a rising career, in a sport I was passionate about with lots of achievements, some far exceeding my goals.
Yet, looking back, at a young age, I’d tried to end my time on this earth. I remember at ten years old, spending hours upon hours at the rink. In fact, I would spend all day at the rink, and not to become a professional hockey player. Hockey was my distraction from the uncomfortable feelings that I felt, but could not define.
At the rink, I had control. Away from it, I did not. As a consequence of all my work at the rink, I became very good, and with each new level came new pressure and expectations to remain the best. Perfection is elusive. Chasing it is not only impossible, but a conquest that only sets you up for failure. Here I was, a top hockey player at every level, and yet never felt fulfilled. Depression (which can only get worse from a perfectionist attitude) doesn’t discriminate.
I thought that movie referenced above offered a great perspective of what depression can look like and FEEL like. It was all too familiar watching him use vices to cope with his demons and seeing how those destructive coping mechanisms ruined his relationships. His relationships were clearly very important to him, yet his demons did their best to push them away. The embarrassment and shame he felt when in rehab was so powerful, raw, and real. Though I can’t specifically relate to rehab itself, those same emotions are the ones that I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to erase. Depression is not something that is easily controlled. In fact, it feels like the exact opposite. It somehow, someway, drives you to the point that you believe that everyone around you is better off without you here. You feel so worthless and feel that your weakness does nothing but bring the people around you down.
These are the error messages that make depression so hard to deal with, on your own. Unchecked, the disorder can override any rational thoughts that you have. People resort to different things to deal with their uncomfortable feelings. Some drink, some do drugs, some do things that I don’t even know about, and these are the exact things that push people away and start a vicious cycle. You know that your negative coping mechanisms are destructive, and not representative of who you truly are or what you believe in. You know you are fucking up and this is a really shitty realization.
How did the effects on your mental health appear in terms of symptoms?
Some of us purposely push those closest to us away, thinking it is better to push them so far away that they will never get the chance to see you this weak again. I used this maladaptive tactic for a long time and now have realized that the amount of energy I expended to push people away was much better spent mustering up the courage to just say: ‘I struggle with depression and sometimes I may not be myself. I am sorry, please don’t hate me if I am having a bad day.’ People close to you might say: ‘You don’t even know how you are when you are like that’ and your response is somewhere along the lines of: ‘You don’t even know what I’m going through.’ The truth is, each person is right!
For many, there is a lot of shame that comes with depression. Shame that you are not strong enough to keep these feelings at bay. For me, shame that I could bring myself to be so low that I literally loaded a gun, placed it to my head, and pulled the trigger. I will forever be grateful that I had zero clue how to use a firearm as a kid. Luckily for me, I didn’t know how to take the safety off or I wouldn’t be here sharing this message with all of you.
For the loved ones who would have found what that bullet could have done, their lives would never have been the same. I made the wrong choice that night and actually pulled the trigger. The inner battle was so intense: ‘Just pull the trigger you fucking pussy. Do it. No one wants you around here anyways.’
When the gun didn’t fire, I had the biggest sigh of relief, got far away from the trigger, and just cried. I have no idea why I was actually sitting at the edge of a bed with a gun to my head, but when I snapped out it I became instantly ashamed of the whole situation. I was still on this earth, and very relieved, yet even then my inner demon would repeatedly say: ‘Couldn’t do it, eh bud.’ Well…I walk past this demon every day and now when I walk past him I give him a nice subtle, ‘FUCK YOU’ over my shoulder.
When and why did you decide to ask for help to get relief?
I refuse to allow depression to end my time on this earth. I will go someday, but I refuse to let that reason be a demon asking for my resignation. I think it’s important if you are in the situation of feeling like it’s the end, to challenge yourself to laugh, breathe deeply, somehow, someway think of something funny, and walk away from the immediate situation. The moment will pass – and if not, there is zero shame in asking for help…it’s a sign of strength.
Following through on these error messages you might feel is not and won’t ever be the solution. Your loved ones will never see you again. You will never be on this planet again to enjoy love, joy and happiness…and that is forever. For me, depression is not every day, nor all day – instead it comes once in a while to remind me its still there. If I try to ignore it, I will find myself back to 12 year old Rob, confused why he is pointing a gun at his head, willing to just give it all back.
What methods helped you individually get/feel better?
You may have dealt with a ton of challenges in life that have led to your depression, or depression might just be ‘there’ genetically like it feels it was for me. I am lucky enough to have recognized depression’s difficult symptoms so that I could begin this path to healing. I have found significant relief in CBD, as well as continuing to stay active even after my pro career. Find what helps you cope, and channel your thoughts and energy toward those much more positive coping behaviors – as opposed to the vices above. Not every day will be perfect, but having positive mechanisms to fall back on, even though they take some time to make a routine of, will help smooth out the bad days in the long run way better than relying on those negative vices.
Why did you decide to go public with your story? Who were/are you hoping to help and how?
Depression will no longer control me as it did then. I am sharing my #SameHere Story to reach out to people who have dealt with the same demons from depression and might need a little encouragement to say ‘FUCK YOU’ back to them. I, in turn, hope to continue my own healing through the strength of being a part of this ‘Crazy’ Community.”