My name is Morgan Burns. I'm a 21 year old undergrad student at Appalachian State University in the mountains of North Carolina. I've been struggling with anxiety and depression since a very young age, possibly even as far back as elementary school. I've been able to "just deal with it" for the majority of my life, but my illness really came to the surface about two years ago, my freshman year of college. I ended up on a completely nocturnal schedule, never went to class, and did a lot of things that I'm not particularly proud of. I was going to turn things around the next year, transferred to Appalachian for a fresh start, but I was stuck in a stressful living situation with physically destructive and threatening alcoholic roommates. I only lasted two months before I suffered a complete mental break. I've lived the subsequent year in a hole that I've struggled to pull myself out of, but my skateboard has always been there. I bought it when I first moved to Appalachian after seeing NCDH videos, but didn't begin to really learn until last winter. When you skate, you can't think. I'm used to my mind running a million miles a minute, but you don't have time for that while skating. All that goes away and you can only focus on the road ahead, taking each bend and obstacle with as much skill as you can. Skating is my center, and will forever be better than any medication or coping skill.
Let's face it. There is a lot of unrest in the world. From devastating earthquakes to unthinkable acts of terrorism, it seems like there is little good in this world. I don't believe that. I believe that there are many people wanting to help their fellow men and make this world better. I believe the good outweighs the bad. However, we get so focused on the negatives, we fail to see the goodness around us. Today, I want to take you away from the all the fear and sadness on the news to a corner of the world where people are trying to make a difference. Ahousaht.
As soon as I saw this video, I knew that #skatetofight needed to be involved. I promptly contacted Concrete Wave and Landyachtz to make a plan of how we can help.
As I thought about our contribution to this cause, I got to thinking. "Why are we spending so much time and effort on a small group of people in such an isolated place?" . It didn't take long to know the answer. It's because every person everywhere has great worth and deserves a helping hand. If this makes a difference in one kid's life, it was worth it. I truly believe that. We may not be able to save the world in one day, but we have to start somewhere.
I challenge each and every person who reads this post to share it and to challenge their friends to share it as well. If darkness is just the absence of light then we have the power to bring positive and uplifting stories to those around us. With just a couple of clicks, you can start making a difference.
I have been thinking a lot about how I can include those people who do not skateboard in the common goal to raise awareness of mental illness. I want to help people pursue their passions to cope with their issues. That is the central goal of #skatetofight.
Admittedly, I boxed myself into a corner when I developed the site. I really never thought many other people would have much interest in the site so I focused purely on skating. Now I realize there are many others following my site. I want to try and develop a way for all people to connect with others who share their passion and use it to fight depression and other mental issues. I think social media is the easiest way to do so.
I propose that regardless of what you use to cope, you use the hashtag. Maybe you use writing to deal: #writetofight.
Or perhaps service: #servetofight. The uses are unlimited. My dream for this is for people to tag their photos and posts with #skatetofight and then their own hashtag. I am aware this post may just be a flop, but I see incredible potential. I see people making friends who have the same interests and problems. I see unity and love being spread on a global scale. There is no doubt it takes courage. But you never know, you might have a life changing impact on someone.
Here are some people who are using their own hashtag.
"Climbing is my escape from my own head. It's a way to move beyond my illness and deeply focus on the task at hand...not falling." #climbtofight
"When I luge my mind clears of all distractions and the weight of the world vanishes. I feel an indescribable freedom. Luging makes my spirit soar as I enjoy the beauty of being outside and the thrill of speeding downhill with the most amazing people I know." #lugetofight
"Running really helps my anxiety. Getting out in the fresh air with my music blasting, my heart pounding. I hate it! But I love the way it helps me and makes me feel. Even my husband says there is a difference when I go running."
I have alluded to my church mission in different posts and in my video but I have never gone into any detail about it. For some reason, today felt like the right day to actually write about it. This piece is dedicated to any person who is or ever comes in contact with an individual who was released early from an LDS mission.
Long Story Short
For those of you who are not familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), I will give a summary of what a "mission" entails. In the LDS church, it is strongly encouraged for young men to serve a full-time two year mission. Missionaries serve all over the world and can start their mission when they are anywhere between 18 and 26 years old. During this time, they offer service and primarily teach others about their beliefs. They wake up at 6:30 AM, do this all day and go to bed at 10:30. It is stressful, challenging and exhausting.
I left on my mission at the age of 23 and served for 12 months without having any issues with depression or anxiety. But around 13 months into the two years, I began having serious problems. I had trouble getting out of bed each day, I couldn't face the world and eventually had serious thoughts of self-harm. I got on medication and it helped for a while but in the end, my mission president released me four months before I was scheduled to go home.
For those not of the LDS faith, it is hard to understand the cultural ramifications of an early release from a mission. It is difficult to explain as well. It is important to understand that there are certain standards of morality and spirituality that a young man must meet in order to serve. Unfortunately, when a young man comes home early, it is often assumed that a young man did not meet those standards, regardless of the actual reason. Missionaries who come home early sometimes are looked down on or thought to not be strong enough to endure the full two years. As one can imagine it is a very touchy and complicated subject so I will leave it at that. If you have any questions, feel free to email me and we can discuss it more in detail.
I was fortunate to not be judged by those around me when I came home. However, I did have internal doubts and struggles. I worried that I had not given 100% or that I had not been a good missionary. It was hard but luckily, I was able to bounce back fairly quickly.
Other missionaries are not so lucky. Especially when they are released for anxiety or depression. Because it is not obvious like a broken leg or arm, some judge those missionaries as weak or lacking in resolve. This makes things worse for the person coming home because then they question their own character and fall deeper into the vicious cycle of depression.
To those who served
If you are one of those missionaries released early for anxiety or depression, know this: Whether you served 18 days or 18 months, you served the mission you were supposed to serve. I truly believe that. You did the work you were supposed to do and you gave it your all. Just because your "all" is not the same as somebody else's does not invalidate your effort. You now have the opportunity to help others who struggle with the same things you do. You can now "mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort" Never for a second doubt your personal worth or capacity to do good. And if you start to, contact me. I will do all I can to help.
To the family and friends of those who served
To those who are family, friends and acquaintances or those who I previously addressed, I have one word for you: LOVE. Don't do anything but love those that come home early. Don't assume the worse, don't gossip and don't judge. Just love them and move forward with life. I firmly believe there is a reason for everything, including the unexpected. Just because their life didn't go as you expected doesn't make their path the wrong one. If it is hard for you to understand how something like depression could cause someone to come home early from a mission, I would suggest reading the previous post "The Fight: An Outsider's Perspective on Depression".
To those not of the LDS Faith
Thanks for bearing with me. Obviously, this post is geared towards a pretty specific niche. But the principle is the same. There are hard things in life that depression makes even harder. School is a great example. It is pretty much expected of us to get some kind of education past high school. But just because there is an expectation does not automatically make it easy. I have a lot of trouble in school. I struggle with having motivation and discipline and I am a chronic procrastinator. I let myself get behind until I am so far behind that I have a proverbial mountain of work to do and then I get overwhelmed, my anxiety kicks in and the next thing you know, I am in bed in a downward spiral of depression. How does this relate to returning home from a religious mission trip? Because the same thing happens to people who can't get through school that happens to those who come home early from a mission. People judge. People think you are just lazy or "can't hack it". Remember, your journey through life is only yours. Ultimately, you are the one who has to decide if that path is right.
I apologize for the long post. I try to keep these short to make people more likely to read them but this one holds special significance to me. I hope it has been helpful to anyone who has read it and once again, thank you for your support in reading this blog. Doing this has been more rewarding than I ever imagined.
A Safe Community For All
This page was started by people who suffer from mental illness, with the intention of helping any and all people who expereince similar challenges of depression, anxiety, addiction, victims of abuse and sexual assault, and to help those who experience these challenges of life through their passions.