It's Okay to not be Okay
"If I can give one piece of advice to anyone from all of this, it’s that you have to be willing to open up when you aren’t doing so hot."
By Tyler Smith,
Instagram: @smitty269 and @duckybrandapparel
Follow Unsinkable at @unsinkableyouth and @unsinkablestories
"Unsinkable Youth" is a platform which shares the powerful stories, experiences and insights of young people. It was launched earlier this year under the "Unsinkable" umbrella, created by four time Olympian Silken Laumann to empower people to achieve better mental, physical and spiritual health. Below, Tyler Smith shares his journey and his story with us, and how he connected with Unsinkable Youth. To learn more, visit their website at: weareunsinkable.com
My name is Tyler Smith. I am from Leduc, Alberta and am a survivor of the April 6th, 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash. Ever since I was young, sport has been a very dominant aspect of my life and has ultimately shaped me into the person I am today.
A few days after the accident, I woke up in the hospital. I had no idea what was going on. Not having any memory of that day or the few days that followed led me to eventually having some questions for my family, but with a total of eight injuries from the crash I was in no shape to grasp everything that happened because of the pain medication I was on. A couple surgeries and thirteen days in hospital later, I was on my way back to Leduc. Recovery began with many days cooped up in my house taking my medication, going to physiotherapy, heading to doctor’s appointments after doctor’s appointments just wanting to get back to my normal state physically and also mentally which I knew was going to quite possibly never happen after that day.
"As a team we always had each other’s backs no matter who was feeling down or needed a quick lift. I think a big thing we always remembered was to go back to, “It’s a great day to be a Bronco.” We all firmly believed that, so whoever needed to hear it, or be reminded of it, was definitely taken care of by fellow teammates."
As a 20-year-old kid you never expect anything in your life like that to take place, let alone be a part of it. There was no way to prepare for something of that magnitude because the bus is your safe haven as a hockey player. The bus is a place for laughs with the team and making many good memories that can now only be cherished from photos and videos. But now being on a bus is forever associated with the day that shook the nation, a day no one saw coming, and a day that I will never forget. Sixteen of the people I spent close to everyday with are now no longer here. Thirteen of my teammates left being survivors of the Humboldt bus crash not knowing what comes next after something that will never make sense to any of us.
The question of ‘why’ will forever linger in all of our minds. Why us? Why would this happen? Why that day? Questions that will never have answers. Many people have asked me, “How do you do it?” and unfortunately, I do not have an answer to that simple question. I give many thanks to the support from people across the country but also the world. And I give full credit to the constant support from my family, friends and teammates who are fighting this everyday battle with me. Some days it’s hard to get out of bed or to want to do anything because at the end of the day we lost sixteen amazing people and it’s hard to grasp why they were taken from us.
I find that bouncing back is an everyday process. I can’t jump ahead thinking everything will be healed and normal in a couple weeks because, quite frankly, I think it’s next to impossible to completely heal mentally from something like this. But I believe I do know one thing, those that are no longer here with us would want my teammates and me to get back to as normal as we can. They are watching over us and sometimes it’s hard to know that, so you just have to believe.
As a team we always had each other’s backs no matter who was feeling down or needed a quick lift. I think a big thing we always remembered was to go back to, “It’s a great day to be a Bronco.” We all firmly believed that, so whoever needed to hear it, or be reminded of it, was definitely taken care of by fellow teammates. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a specific time or place where I can remember it coming into my mind that they were watching over me. I more just believe that every day. It’s important to me to have that belief and feel that connection from up above, so wherever I may be I try to remember what they would want me to do or how they would want me to feel. I find a little look up to the sky or a quick chat with them helps me regroup and start fresh if something isn’t going my way.
With the accident came a lot of physical struggles but also many mental struggles. Since April 6th, I’ve slowly come to learn more and more how important mental health is. I was always somebody who hash-tagged Bell Let’s Talk on that day, but didn’t understand the full meaning of mental health and how much it can affect you. If you’re that person who struggles to put yourself first and talk about what needs to be talked about, then trust me when I say this, I’ve been in your shoes. I was always the one welcoming other people’s problems into my life to try and help the best I could to make sure that individual was doing okay and felt cared for. But after hiding from my mental health problems and pushing them to the back burner, I realized how important it is to open up and put myself first or else a rapid downhill spiral could occur. Talking to somebody and realizing that people are here to help allowed me start getting back to my normal personality without having to hide things.
One of the toughest lessons I learned is that it’s okay to not be okay. Moving forward will consist of good days but also bad. My perspective on life has altered and so has my view on mental health. If I can give one piece of advice to anyone from all of this, it’s that you have to be willing to open up when you aren’t doing so hot. Life is very short and I know that that’s a cliché, but it really is, so take advantage of the time you have and be grateful for the people around you. The people you surround yourself with is who you will create those memories with. I took the memories for granted before, but now I realize that memories may all you have left to hold onto.
I will never be able to tell you how to grieve or how to heal or how to recover because another major lesson I have also learned is that everybody heals differently. The way you heal is a different journey and also shows you that there truly is no right or wrong way to heal from tragedy. One step at a time, one day at a time, one lesson at a time. Everything I experienced was pretty much brand new to me. I found out the hard way that being a part of a tragedy of this extent can take a very big toll on you and taking care of yourself is something you must realize and do before it’s too late.
Everyone always preached to me that writing is therapeutic. I never really know what that meant until the Unsinkable team approached me about writing my story. I didn’t know what to expect, but right from the start they made me feel so welcome and comfortable. They didn’t just want my story — they wanted a relationship and connection as well. That gave me the reassurance that I was absolutely making the right choice in connecting with the Unsinkable team to share my story.
From my story you got to know a little bit about me, and, like most people you may be curious to know about how am I doing. To answer that question all I can say is: I’m doing okay. I truly miss every person I lost more than anyone will ever know and I would do anything to change that day or be able to say goodbye to each one of them, because not being able to say goodbye is one of the hardest things of it all to grasp. I want to personally thank all the people who left a stick outside their door or supported in any possible way. You all have filled my family’s heart with love when we didn’t have much left. The way events in our world transpire will sometimes never make sense, but it’s important to take the time you need for yourself, take care of yourself, and to find those people who make you feel okay when you are not okay. Life is short, be grateful for what you have and who you have. Thank you for reading.