Mental Illness: Sometimes It Wins

Like it or not, mental illness sometimes wins.


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 Reginald-Nixon Arenburg (Born January 14, 1976) is a Canadian mental health blogger, speaker, and published author. Retired from the fire service and long-term care fields, he has written and self-published an autobiographical account of his life-long battle with anxiety, depression and more recently, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Titled, The Road To Mental Wellness, he wrote it for what he calls “therapeutic release.” He published it in hopes it would help others going through similar mental health conditions. The sales of The Road To Mental Wellness have been steady selling over 300 copies since its release on October 10, 2021(World Mental Health Day). Arenburg has also been involved in a collaborative publication Called Lemonade Stand Volume III, a book featuring 20 authors who bravely tell their stories of PTSD. All authors where from the military and or emergency services. Published by Joshua Rivedal and Kathleen Myers for the i’Mpossible project, a mental health advocacy organization. Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health podcasts including The Depression Files, A New Dawn, and The Above Ground Podcast Arenburg has also consulted with the Government of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honorable Brian Comer and Candidates for the New Democratic Party of Canada, on improving the mental health care system in Canada. Additionally, Jonathan was recognized in The Nova Scotia Legislature by the Honorable, Chris Palmer, Kings-North MLA, for his Book, The Road To Mental Wellness, his fight to make the mental health care system better. In addition, Chis acknowledged the support he gives to others.

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