Mental Illness: Sometimes It Wins

Like it or not, mental illness sometimes wins.

Jonathan Arenburg
Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan is a mental health blogger, published author, and speaker. He has appeared in numerous newspapers and has been a guest on many podcasts.


Since the beginning of September, I have been participating in a coping-skills group. The whole goal? To arm you with tools to help guide you through the things that trigger you. Emotions like anger, sadness and so on. The main theme of the group is centred around mindfulness.


I am also learning some very useful mindfulness techniques in my therapy with my psychologist. So far, I have been slowly building the mindfulness tools to help keep me in the present and thus, minimizing my time in my deep and detailed PTSD mind – the part of my mind that ruminates on the past and stands on guard for potential tragedies in the future.


Mindfulness techniques you can try right now


But yesterday I was overtaken and defeated by my demons. I was triggered and like an ocean wave, crashing on the shore, I became overtaken. Sadly, sometimes there’s no turning back.

It all started when it was my turn to talk about last week’s homework. We had to pick an example of an incident where our emotion overtook us. From there, we evaluated whether the feelings we were experiencing fit the facts.

Having been a firefighter and charged with the task of mitigating the tragic consequences of high-speed accidents, I’ve grown to hate speeding. More than that, I loathe it; it evokes such intense anger deep within, I struggle to keep my hand off the horn. I try to let it go but all I can think of about is how they are going to put me into a situation – one where I am going to be forced to render assistance. And all because some irresponsible speeder wants to shed seconds off their journey.

My mind in first responder mode sends me down the rabbit-hole of PTSD’s chaos. As a result, I relive some of the most tragic accident scenes I’ve been part of.


This is the scenario I presented to the group and its facilitators. I walked through all the items that were required for the assignment. Almost immediately, the numbness started to set in; as a result, I could feel the wave of dissociation coming for me. 

Moreover, it became too late to inoculate myself against its effects. I remember very little of what took place next. In fact, once it was time to take a break, I was too overwhelmed to return, opting for the quiet, low-lit lobby.

How to cope when triggered by PTSD

I remained in the lobby for the remainder of the time, sitting in the comfort of the quiet, getting up only to pace the floor every now and again. So I guess the question is, do I feel like a failure for leaving the group?  Well, the answer is no, and it’s not entirely because I measured how far I have come, I was simply in the grip of my firefighting past and was not strong enough to reclaim my brain to feel anything.

Let’s be honest: we are all going to have our moments where we can’t outrun the mental illness that lurks in the shadows of all things suppressed. So why pour salt into an already deep festering wound?


So, be good to yourself, when you are overtaken by the tide of your mental-health condition. Remember, your years and years of being at odds with the self have made you an expert swimmer, a mental-health warrior. As a warrior, you know that the overwhelming waters will recede and all the progress you have made will help you win the day.

There’s no shame in mental pain.”


                -John Arenburg.

If you are suffering from PTSD, please reach out. I thank you for your service, and you are still worthy and mean something. I believe in you!

If you are struggling please go here: Crisis Services Canada

You may also enjoy: But a Mere Crawl: Slowly making my way towards mental wellness.

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Silhouette of a man yelling at the sky - Mental Illness: Sometimes It Wins
Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Arenburg is a mental health blogger, S speaker, writer, and published author; He is also the host of the mental wellness podcast, #thewellnesstalksHe has also appeared in the i'Mpossible's Lemonade Stand III. He has also been a contributing writer for Mental health talk, a column in his local paper. In addition, he has also written for the mental health advocacy organization; Sick Not Weak.Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health-related podcasts Including: A New Dawn, The Depression Files, Books and Authors, and Men Are Nuts. Since being put off work because of PTSD, Jonathan has dedicated his time to his mental wellness journey while helping others along the way.Educated as an addictions' counsellor, he has dedicated most of his professional life of eighteen years, working with those who have intellectual disabilities, behavioural challenges, and mental illness.He has also spent fifteen years in the volunteer fire service helping his community.His new book (2021), “The Road To Mental Wellness,” goes into detail about his life-long battle with depression, anxiety and more recently, PTSD. In it, he hopes to provide insight on how mental illness cultivates over a lifetime and, if not recognized and treated, how it impacts the entirety of one's life; right from childhood into the adult years. Jonathan lives with his two children in Nova Scotia, Canada.

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