Divorce is a common reason to seek mental health support.
In this episode of “Breaking the Stigma”, Tyler shares his journey of mental health wellness, and how seeing a counsellor helped him through his divorce.
Tyler, Nicki Kirlin, Jenna Fortinski
Jenna Fortinski 00:01
Thank you for joining us, Tyler. So can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Yeah, you bet. So, grew up here in Calgary, Alberta. 41. Went to school, the University of Calgary did my kinesiology degrees, and then did my education degree. realize that’s not what I was going to do and got into doing. Doing some sales and business development in the oil and gas industry. done that for the last 16 years. It’s been wonderful. It’s been quite a ride to say the least. No kidding. You know, was unfortunately, was was laid off about this time last year. So yeah, it was went for for almost a year without work. And yeah, fortunately, found some contract sales here recently, which has been great. It’s been nice to reconnect with a lot of people I know and get back into the industry and, and find the meaning in the work side. So that’s been great.
Jenna Fortinski 01:03
Excellent. And so do you have a family?
Yeah, you bet. I sure do. Yeah, I got two wonderful boys, Austin, who’s 10 and Ethan, who’s almost eight, and I love them greatly. And their, their moment, I went through a divorce, the start of 2019. And then last year, we kind of made things official. And that’s been quite a challenge to say the least as well. So yeah, no, we’re, we’re doing much better now. And, you know, I think from that introduction, you can see why the Counseling Services has been very valuable to me.
Jenna Fortinski 01:41
Yeah, absolutely. What kind of things do you like to do with your boys?
Yeah. So you know, the people that know me know that I like to be very actively involved in my boys lives. You know, this last year has been quite difficult with the hockey not going. So we’ve done a lot of tobogganing and just skating out the outdoor rinks and the bonus lagoon and whatnot. But yeah, inside, play some board games, play some some card games, and we enjoy watching some movies to very valuable and hockey, the coaching, hockey has been something that’s always been very important to me to connect with the boys. And not just with the boys, but all the other kids within the community. You see how important team sports is? Not just to them, but for their for the parents as well. So yeah, absolutely.
Jenna Fortinski 02:37
So you’re busy guy?
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, well, it’s interesting. You go from being busy with with work and coaching and everything to a very different, I guess, lifestyle in the last year or so. And so that’s something that we’ve had to kind of navigate and and make sense of, and but I think generally doing doing pretty good.
Jenna Fortinski 03:00
Yeah. Do you think that that’s changed your perspective on going into work now? Since what you’ve experienced in the past year?
Oh, definitely. Yeah. Like I say, I mean, I mean, I think everyone’s had their challenges here in the last year or so. And just just that general connectivity with the people that they know, and people they work with. You know, I haven’t I haven’t had that in a number of months. And then of course, not having the coaching as well. That’s really, it’s really changed what, you know, my life looked like in the last year. And so, navigating that has been been a challenge, but I think generally, you’ve done pretty well. So
Jenna Fortinski 03:44
So let’s talk about when you did decide to seek support through counseling, how would you describe your general mental health state? Prior to seeking counseling?
Yeah, I mean, I would actually, I believe that was actually pretty good. I think, you know, I think I’m a very positive person who you’ll pretty grateful for the things that I have, and, and whatnot. And so I generally, you know, thought things were quite, quite good. I think what I also realized was, you know, some of the challenges that I did face, probably didn’t do it as effectively or deal with dealing with them as effectively as I could have. And, you know, it’s it’s really interesting. I follow Jordan Peterson quite a bit and listen to a lot what he says and, you know, he’s, he has a talk about it’s, I think it’s like a four year old book called, there’s no such thing as dragons. And I think that it kind of explains, you know, my situation And maybe others, where you kind of know there’s an issue, but you don’t really address it in a proper way. And and how that how that can really grow and you know, kind of take over whatnot. So yeah.
Jenna Fortinski 05:19
So when you made the decision to seek support for your life and what you were going through, how did you go about doing that?
So I didn’t actually start doing any counseling until after going through my divorce. right at the beginning of the divorce, through some work benefits, did a few sessions. And what’s interesting is, I actually, at that time didn’t really find it very helpful. And in retrospect, I don’t actually think it was because it wasn’t helpful. I just think I probably wasn’t in a place myself to probably get the benefits that I needed out of it. Yeah. And so it was probably about a year or sorry, half a year after, when I had a visit with my family doctor doing a physical, and I think he could recognize, you know, the help that I can support I needed. And so he referred me to another counselor. And and that’s, I think that’s where it really helped me. Yeah, yeah.
Jenna Fortinski 06:30
Fantastic. And thank you for speaking to that. Because I think it’s so important that, you know, yes, there may be things happening for you in your life, that you’re recognizing that you’re struggling. But timing truly is everything. And it’s so important that we’re in a place in our head in a space where we’re saying, Okay, yeah, you know, what, I do need support. Because it’s, it’s certainly possible to go see a counselor and not get anything out of it just because your head isn’t in the right space. So thank you for that.
Nicki Kirlin 07:04
Yeah, cuz you want to be sort of in a, an open and maybe almost vulnerable state to sort of be prepared to share your story and be open to the feedback that’s going to be coming to you as well as as you’re sharing your story. Right. So I think that’s a really good point, for sure. So given that you maybe had thought about counselling before, but then maybe didn’t go down that path or weren’t in a place to receive it. How did you then feel once you thought, okay, no, this is it, like, I’m going to I’m going to pursue this. I’m going to get the help. What were your thoughts going into that?
Yeah, I mean, I actually, I think, you know, kind of deep down, I knew I knew that it would be very helpful for me. So I was actually looking forward to it. I don’t remember being nervous or anxious or intimidated. I, I was actually looking forward to what it could provide me. So yeah, no, I believe I went into it with, you know, in the right state.
Nicki Kirlin 08:10
Okay, perfect. And so then what, like, what did your expectations look like? What did you think it was gonna look like? Did you think you’d be walking in and laying down on a couch? or?
Yeah, I really didn’t have to hire many expectations. I just thought, you know, let’s see how it how it goes. And then that was it. Yeah.
Nicki Kirlin 08:30
And so, you went into your first session, then? How did you feel after you walked out of that session?
Yeah. So I mean, I don’t recall specifically just that first session, but I do recall thinking that, you know, it was very conversational, just kind of telling my story. My counselor was listening. She you know, she’s a really good job of just directing questions on what she needed to understand more and what she, you know, where she wanted the story to go. But I do kind of feel like I left, I left that session, feeling comfortable, feeling good, because I felt like she connected and really understood where I was coming from so
Nicki Kirlin 09:24
and so and maybe that’s a question for you to Jenna, in terms of what advice would you give to people as they’re going into their first sessions? Is there anything that they can do to prep themselves or to get themselves in the right headspace to have a conversation or just come as they are?
Jenna Fortinski 09:42
I think, yeah, like, for me, what I think of when I have that first session with clients is that I just really wants you to feel like you can be yourself and, you know, it’s it’s not necessary for you to prep with certain information because it’s our job to guide you where you need to go and So just Come as you are and just I, there’s probably people that are gonna be nervous people that are excited people that are, you know, not sure. But really just just Come as you are. And let us do you know, the hard stuff in that first session. Awesome.
Nicki Kirlin 10:17
And so Tyler, so you had your first session, it was a good session, what did this? What did the sessions look like after that one? So what was it? A lot of you talking? Was it a lot of the counselor talking?
Yeah. I mean, subsequent sessions were, were really just me kind of telling my story as I went, explaining, you know, what was happening. And I think a lot of it was just understanding, you know, why, you know, why things happened in the past, the way they did, why I felt the way I did, and really, ultimately giving you the tools to move forward, you know, in a way, which were positive, and, you know, lead to a better, healthier future. So, it’s interesting, because what I felt was, when I was heard and understood from by her, I had no problem understanding, you know, some of the challenges that I, you know, I created within, within my situations as well, right, because, ultimately, we want to get to a healthier and better place. And so, we just want to understand, well, why was the past the way it was? And how do I get to a better, healthier future? And, you know, given tools and strategies and whatnot, is, I mean, you can kind of see, see that daylight? And it’s, it’s a really positive motivating thing? Absolutely.
Nicki Kirlin 11:55
So did you feel like you had sort of a, like you felt right off the bat, then that there was a good fit with that counselor that you were seeing, like, you could, like you felt comfortable? You felt safe in that room?
Yeah. I mean, I, again, I felt like, I could share who I was, I didn’t, I didn’t feel you know, judged or didn’t feel any negative emotion. I felt understood. And, you know, and to make sense of, because I think that’s, that’s a part of the challenge with so many of us is, we’re in a situation, we don’t really understand, you know, we might be in a little bit of pain, we may not feel good about it. We just want to know, what do we need to do going forward? And so, I mean, that was one of the best parts of it is, understanding why things happen the way they do, but also, where do we need to go going forward to get to places that we want to get? So? Yeah, it was actually really, really valuable.
Nicki Kirlin 12:57
Awesome. That’s fantastic. Jenna, anything that you want to add in terms of what people can look for, like signs that it’s a good fit for the between the counselor and the person seeking help? Tyler touched on a few, but are there any others that you would say are a good indication that this is like this is a good fit?
Jenna Fortinski 13:18
I think what Tyler captured was perfect. I think that sense of that you can just have a conversation about what’s happening for you at that time in your life, and, and just be able to be an environment where you don’t feel judged, you feel safe, and it feels like you are just really just having a good conversation with a good friend. And, you know, that sense of safety and no judgement is so valuable. Awesome. Yeah, yeah. Okay, so
Nicki Kirlin 13:46
did you, when you were in your sessions with the counselor did? Did she share any, like specific kind of strategies with you that you would maybe want to share with our listeners? Or just did was that part of your counseling journey at all?
Yeah, I mean, I think there’s a combination of learning some strategies for my counselor, and then really just being curious myself about, you know, learning more and doing a lot of color research or just, you know, after the first session, she pointed me in the direction to do a little research and information gathering on my own, which, you know, really I haven’t stopped to this day. So I would say a couple things that were very valuable for me were really understanding how to express and communicate your needs within a relationship, but also about boundaries as well. I think in hindsight, certainly with within my marriage, that was probably one thing that that neither of us did very well as being able to express our needs and our boundaries and do a good, good job with that. And then I guess on top, on top of that are Furthermore, just learning about the goblins and talking about the, you know, the four horses of the Apocalypse and, you know, you know, something I’ve learned, I guess, just recently and understanding how valuable it is to have, you know, healthy communication, right, you know, not having the, you know, the criticism and the contempt and, you know, avoiding defensiveness and stonewalling like, it’s, it’s, it’s so important to really understand those those tools. And, I mean, ultimately, it’s a practice and you got to implement them. But when you don’t understand that ahead of time, you’re stuck. Right? And so I’d say those were probably the two things that were really valuable for me.
Nicki Kirlin 15:59
Okay. Jenna, do you want to share with our listeners about what Tyler just touched on the surface there of goblins? The the What is it? The Four Horsemen?
Jenna Fortinski 16:10
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Yes. So that’s definitely a whole nother episode of information. But I think what I would like to speak to with what Tyler was saying is that what’s beautiful about the therapeutic relationship, and establishing that understanding of being heard and feeling validated, is that it’s really good practice for what you translate into the outside world outside of that therapeutic environment. Right point. Yeah. So I think people that are maybe struggling in their relationships, it’s a good idea to reach out and get that support, because you get that practice with your counselor in that environment, and learning how to create effective communication, where you do feel validated and heard, and learn what that feels like, and then practice that outside of that office environment. So I think, you know, we’re today we’re talking specifically about, you know, struggles in relationships. So I love that the therapeutic relationship is about that. And it really helps people see what healthy communication can do. And the the revelations that can bring to you in your life, both in your relate your romantic relationships, your friendships, your workplace environment. So there’s so many useful uses for it, and it can be so valuable, just that small piece, but the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse will be tackled at some point. Okay, it’s a big one. Sounds good. I
Nicki Kirlin 17:41
thank you, Tyler, for bringing that up. It’s a good topic for us to cover. Okay, so are you still in a place where you are seeking support? Or have you discontinued for now? Or if you are, then how did you make that decision about continuing it? or How did you make the decision about discontinuing it?
Yeah, so right now, I haven’t been in a little while, I think I have a pretty good idea of when I’m kind of feeling stuck or need that support. So fortunately, I’m feeling pretty good right now. And, and I’m also getting that support, or a different kind of support elsewhere. From some friends and family, my, my, as we’ve talked about, my sister has been a wonderful supporter of myself. And so I’d like to thank her for everything we’ve, we’ve, we’ve worn out a number of running pair of pairs of running shoes, discussing discussing things and going over things. So that’s been fantastic. But I, you know, I will say to that, you know, after my ex and I finally, had our divorce finalized, we actually did some, some counseling, the two of us with my counselor, I think we did maybe three or four sessions. And that was really good, too. Because we, we recognize we want what’s best for the boys. But, you know, we needed to figure out how we can be as good a co parents as we can going forward. And, you know, the divorce process is, is challenging to say the least. And so I think it just took us some time to get to the point of, of getting to that place where we are able to do that. And as it’s been very valuable for anything she would agree for, for getting to that place of CO parenting.
Nicki Kirlin 19:43
That’s great that you’re able to sort of see the need within yourself and then also see that there maybe is in need there within your relationship do and how you’re in considering how your relationship has changed with your ex right. So that’s fantastic. So you you just said us Second to go that you’re feeling pretty good now. So how would you describe your your sort of general mental health state now that you’ve had that opportunity to go through counselling journey? Has it changed? gotten better?
Yeah. I, I believe that I’m in a much better place and feeling. I mean, really feeling very optimistic and positive about going forward in the future. In many different guards. I mean, certainly, it helped to find work again. I mean, there, there was a lot of challenges in the last two years, I think, if you look at, you know, what the top stressors are, for people in their lives, I think had five of six of them here in the last couple of years. It’s been, it’s been an interesting ride, to say the least, but no, I feel I feel really good. And, you know, it’s made me like, I do a lot of research and really get interested in this whole space. And, I mean, ultimately, you know, I want the best for my boys, you know, I want them to have the tools and skills and the abilities to, to, you know, to do the things that maybe I didn’t learn until just recently, and, you know, I think there’s many different opportunities within the community, whether that’s within team sports, their team sports, or at school, or just, you know, hanging out with their friends, it would be pretty cool to, to see these younger kids understand, you know, some of these things that, really, they’re, they’re not learning otherwise. And so, for me, it’s kind of a passion or something, it’s valuable to me to to try to help not just my boys, but, you know, maybe many other kids out there to, to gain this insight at an earlier age.
Nicki Kirlin 21:49
Yeah, no, that’s perfect. And we’ve talked about sort of off off recording, the three of us have chatted in the past about how there’s, you know, there’s this misconception that seeking counseling or seeking support should happen only when you’re facing a challenge. And we’re hoping that in having these conversations, we can, we can challenge that mistaken misconception and say that it’s worthwhile to seek out support, even when things are good, too. And like you’re saying, Tyler, just just sort of build that foundation of what you know, healthy relationships look like what healthy communication looks like, communication looks like, those are all really important lessons that we can learn, sort of, before we get to the point of, you know, needing needing help. So thank you for speaking to that. And oh, sorry, I
Jenna Fortinski 22:37
was gonna cut in. Because I just want to point out, if you think about what your life is, like, when things are chaotic, it’s so hard to internalize things. And so we you know, I think as a default, we do wait till things are chaotic to get support from the counseling world. And I just, like, it’s so important for people to realize and to think about how much more receptive you are and how much easier it is to internalize, you know, concepts or understandings when you’re doing well, right. So therefore, you know, like counseling, when you’re doing well is so beneficial. And it’s, it’s, if anything, it’s probably the best time to get counseling, because you’re much of a much better able to put time and investment into what you’re learning about, and being able to see what you’re learning about in the session in the outside world, right? And just really transferring those lessons outside that therapeutic environment.
Nicki Kirlin 23:33
And it goes back to when we started the episode talking about being in the right headspace, right. Yeah. Like, that’s exactly what we’re talking about now. Yeah. You’re more likely to be in the right headspace. When things are going well. Yeah. As opposed to when things are not going so well.
Jenna Fortinski 23:48
Yeah. And yes, there is such a thing as crisis counseling, and for sure, that’s crisis counseling. And we can we can get you in a headspace where you’re able to be stable, and to manage what’s going on for you. But just because they things are well, you know, there’s always room for, you know, making things just that much better. So,
Nicki Kirlin 24:07
speaking of sort of this, I guess what, what we’re talking about around, you know, the stigma of getting help. Tyler, why do you think there is a stigma with either seeking out or actually following through and getting getting the mental health support?
Yeah, I mean, I actually, I believe the stigmas is somewhat getting lifted, and certainly after a year that we’ve all experienced with COVID and, I mean, it’s interesting, you know, COVID hits, and it’s not like we’re all starting from a healthy clean slate anyways, like, we have our struggles to start with and then things just, you know, really, for what I learned, it’s, it’s about, you know, change in your life and people don’t do well with a lot of change. And so everyone’s experienced a lot of change. You know, In their world, and so that’s stressful, it’s trying to make sense of it. And so, I don’t know, if there’s necessarily as much of a stigma now, I think there still is. But yeah, I think a big part of it, like you were talking, Nikki is realizing that, you know, that normal maintenance or not wait, waiting for things to be kind of broken down, you know, we’re such a, you know, reactive kind of nature, you know, where, you know, being proactive is way more valuable if you can do it. And so, you know, even if things are going well, at a certain time to know that, you know, you’re doing okay, but hey, maybe there’s some new skills or some new tools that you can, you know, adopt and put into practice to make things even healthier and better, right, like, we can all we’re always growing, we’re always learning. So why wait until things get really chaotic and difficult to, to figure out what you need, right? Yeah, exactly.
Nicki Kirlin 26:12
Okay. And so, then, in thinking about this whole stigma piece, and, you know, you mentioned that we’re definitely on the track for things changing. There’s a change in society, I think, where it’s becoming more supported than it ever has been. But we know that the stigma still exists, and it’s specifically there for men. And why do you think it’s there for men?
That’s interesting. From your perspective. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I mean, it’s a good question. I, you know, I really the end of the day, we are, we’re kind of people that like to or need to fit in. And I think we don’t want to be ungrateful that that’s how we are, it’s important to fit in, it’s important to feel needed and connected. But if we’re to look at how we we do that it sometime is it’s an unhealthy ways. And I mean, you know, Renee brown talks about, you know, the challenges that women face, versus men and so, for, for men, I, you know, I think she mentions about your just not not being weak. And, and, you know, in hindsight, maybe that’s, that’s something that was was a challenge for myself. But yeah, I do think that, you know, everyone’s kind of has their, their challenges and their struggles. I know, people that I’ve talked to recently. They’re interested in my story, they’re interested in what’s happening, because you know, the end of the day, you can, you can ignore as much as you want. But when you’re struggling, and when you’re in some pain and suffering, you, you just can’t ignore that, right. Like Jordan Peterson talks about how, you know, you can’t ignore, you know, the pain that you’re in. And so I think I think men generally have been just kind of suppress things, don’t talk about things. But it do, I’m optimistic, I think there’s more men out there, there’s more guys out there that realize how important getting that support is. And, you know, again, this, this goes back to my boys and their mental health, and I would love nothing more for them and their peers, you know, boys and girls, everybody, to, you know, for it to be normal to manage their mental health and talk about things and have difficult conversations and have the tools and skills to be able to recognize what they need and where to go. Right. So, I mean, change, I just think change within human nature, it, it doesn’t happen right away. It takes time. And I think we’re, we’re making progress, we’re getting better. And I think each generation recognizes where we need to get to. And so I’m actually pretty optimistic that, you know, my, my tenant, almost eight year old when they’re, you know, young adults, I feel like they’re going to be in a place that’s supported by their peers. And so, that’s our job to get them there.
Nicki Kirlin 29:37
I have to say, Tyler, I love your optimism. I so appreciate it. You’re so positive and so optimistic and it’s just fantastic. It’s a great energy to be around. So thank you for thank you for that.
Jenna Fortinski 29:51
And it’s because of stories like what Tyler is sharing that we can we can help to just, you know, create more optimism and more hope for You know, our children and our children’s children. And, you know, by Tyler taking, you know, the initiative to share this. That’s how we helped to establish this environment that it’s okay to get support.
Nicki Kirlin 30:11
That’s right. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
I mean, I think, again, I’m pretty positive person by nature. And, you know, some of the challenges I’ve gone through the last couple of years, I was not positive i was i was very challenged in many regards, and not feeling optimistic, you know, at the same time to through through this journey. Again, I don’t want to be ungrateful that there’s so much that I’ve learned. So that coming out of out of this, and having been in a better place myself, you know, you can help the people around you, right. And so whether that’s coaching hockey, or whatever that looks like, there’s there’s been a lot learned a lot that we can help others with. So that’s why I’m pretty optimistic. So
Nicki Kirlin 31:04
awesome. Okay, so we’re down to our last question. And this is a tough one. So Tyler, I’ll ask it to you first, and then general come to you after because I like to have your opinion on this question. We’ve asked it before, but I think it’s a good one. So if you could give one piece of advice to our listeners about mental health, what would you say?
Can I give three?
Nicki Kirlin 31:25
Yeah. So I guess, the first piece is, like, I really believe everyone needs at least one person in their life that can help them, you know, move forward in a positive way. And I think part of the struggle or the reality with many people is they have friends, they’ve got family that support them. And support don’t get wrong support is so important. But they don’t, they don’t want to see their friends or their family hurt. And they don’t know what to do. So they want to support but they’re not actually giving good advice, they’re not really helping them with what they need to do going forward. That’s because, you know, maybe maybe there’s things that they need to understand that are a little bit painful, or don’t feel good to understand that. So whether that’s a counselor or, you know, other other means, it’s I think it’s important to have somebody who can help you really understand what you need to do going forward. And then we’ve talked about it as well, you know, don’t, don’t wait till there’s a break breaking point, like, you know, at the end of the day, you know, it’s way better to start working on things and understanding what you need to do sooner than later again, even if you feel you’re in a good place. Awesome. Like, that’s, that’s great. Great to understand and know. And there’s probably more you can learn and more tools you can add to your toolbox going forward. Fantastic. And then I think just the last point is that, like, you know, and maybe this is a bit of a reason why, you know, people don’t get the support is, is, they probably realize, you know, how much work it ultimately is, I mean, I think you’re not going to go to one or two sessions and have it all figured out in your head, right? It it really is, is a process and in a practice of knowing what you should be doing. Because it’s, it’s challenging, social pressures will make it hard. But to know what you need to do, and to practice it and, and keep with it to get better at it. It’s like anything, right? I mean, if you’re, you know, if you haven’t been exercising, or you haven’t been running, and then you want to go run a marathon, well, you know what, you have to start small, and you have to be consistent with it, right? And if you try to overdo it, you’re, it’s, you know, you’re gonna get you’re gonna get hurt, and then you’re just gonna stop doing it. Right. So it’s like anything done well is done consistently, and having a plan. So yeah, it’s I think those are kind of three the main things that I would say.
Nicki Kirlin 34:22
Those are good ones. I like them. Jenna,
Jenna Fortinski 34:25
those are really good. Yeah, right. Oh, my goodness. I really want to echo what Tyler said. And I think that’s been a running theme throughout this episode, which is so important, is really just capturing that. Yes, things can be good. And, you know, life is good. And maybe put some effort into figuring out why it’s good. What are you doing that’s working and understanding why it’s working so that you can use it in the future. Maybe when things get tough. Alright, so I think, you know, I really want to highlight that and, and like Tyler said, I agree that it is a process and whether you’re one session 10 sessions, 25 sessions. At the end of the day, it’s really about getting through that first session and seeing the benefit of it. And really, if you can just commit to doing that first session, you will see how it can change your life.
Nicki Kirlin 35:28
Yeah, okay. Well, thank you so much, Tyler for joining us and for being willing to share your story and your and being honest about your struggles. We really appreciate it and like I said before, and I genuinely meant it. I really do appreciate your optimism. And I hope that our listeners can feel that when
Jenna Fortinski 35:46
listening to this episode. So thank you again. We
Nicki Kirlin 35:48
really appreciate you joining
us. Yeah. Thanks, Nikki. Thanks, Jenna for having me here. It was a pleasure.
Jenna Fortinski 35:53
As always, we would like to end this episode with a quote. This one is from Viktor Frankl ‘What is to give light must endure burning’.