About a week and half ago, I was at work trying to catch up on some mundane data entry when I was stopped briefly by the date March 10th on the sheet I was entering. In what felt like a few seconds I felt my fingers go numb and I could feel my heartbeat in my head. I came back to reality just as I realized out of the corner of my eye that the coworker I had been chatting with had stopped and was staring at me. My eyes darted towards him real quick and then back to my screen. I grabbed my stack of post-it notes and wrote “MHM” on the top one and stuck it to my wallet. After work I googled “mental health month” to confirm that it was in fact observed in May. I was planning on composing myself and writing this for May, but recent events have reminded me that this isn’t a discussion we should reserve for just one month. Nation, I have something to get off my chest and we need to talk about it.

Artistic Expression

Childhood was pretty mundane to be honest. My parents have been together my whole life, my siblings have always been the loving thorns in my side that all siblings are, I had friends, I liked to draw, playing soccer and watch cartoons. Like I said, pretty mundane. I was the kind of kid who liked being alone sometimes—my rampant imagination made corners of the world around me something far more colorful and amazing than it probably was and I often found that being alone was my only gateway to that realm. Games like Sonic the Hedgehog or Pokemon and shows like Digimon were these wonderful outlets that helped me to express myself and connect with others through a common language.

I believe my introspective nature came from not really meeting kids my own age until I was almost in Kindergarten; but the friends I had I was loyal to—I depended on them and their presence was very important to me. This late start on interaction did mean that certain social and behavioral skills didn’t start developing until I started school and I believe that it caused a “mental atrophy” of those skills compared to my peers. I was a problem child, but only in the way that I acted out a lot in school—getting problem slips for not adhering to small things or overreacting when I would try to stand up for myself.

But my mom was always a good judge of personality and she saw that there was an artistic side to me that wasn’t being fostered at my school. When the chance came to move me to a fine arts school, she got me on the list of applicants right away. That change was a net positive for me. I was going to school with people who thought closer to how I thought and saw the world in technicolor when the rest of the world saw sepha tones. But that shift away from my close friends at my first school was hard on me, going to a brand new school with all new kids wasn’t easy and I hadn’t developed the thick skin needed to let teasing or gaps in understanding roll off of me.

The contrasting nature of middle school—the high of expressing myself artistically and the low of a different kind of alone—was manageable for a while. I had been used to living in my head and escaping the negative didn’t seem that hard. It was the second year at the school that really changed everything. In the matter of a day my world went from being really small and protected to gigantic and unsafe. This realization, this fear that galvanized our country had effects on me that I didn’t comprehend for years, but the weight of all the darkness had finally eclipsed the high of expressing myself artistically and I fell into what I now realize was probably a depression.

I remember having nightmares for months about a ghostly figure that was chasing me and my friends. My active imagination made me paranoid while I was awake that this figure was coming after me. When reality set in that it was all in my head, I felt broken and crazy, because I worried that I could not discern reality from fantasy. I didn’t want to feel paranoid or teased or crazy anymore. One night in late February of 2002 I looked at the calendar on my wall and circled March 10th in marker, that would be the day I would kill myself.

Novelty Ice Cream

I had drawn up my plan of action—in all honesty, it was a horrible plan that would have failed on many metrics and we don’t need to get into it—and with the relief that I was finally going to be free of all the fear, doubt and voices in my head, I loosened up a little. I was still a very introverted kid in every situation where I had been for years—girls, sitting with non-friends at lunch, not speaking up in certain classes—but I didn’t feel afraid anymore. Then came a fateful day in Math class, about a week before the tenth. I was sitting at my desk, just existing, when a girl (let’s called her “Rose”) across the table from me who I knew but had never talked to said something to me.


I didn’t answer, partially because I assumed she was talking to another Ryan, even though there were no other Ryans in my class.


“Yeah?” I said as I looked up at her, probably in a rude eighth grader tone.

“I think I would like Snickers ice cream,” she replied excitedly.

“I guess that would be nice.”

“Yeah,” she fired back in a very hopeful tone.

I don’t especially remember if the conversation extended beyond that, but the seeds were planted of a brighter fate. To be honest, my initial reaction to this Rose’s comments was that it was very selfish and self-serving, but the desire to be liked and to belong ate away at me as I rode home that night. After dinner I asked my parents if it would be possible to get some Snickers ice cream and my parents, being supportive people who recognized that I wasn’t one to make these kinds of requests often, listened and drove me out to get some. We could only find ice cream bars, but I told them what this was all for and that this option would suffice. In the morning I packed the box of ice cream bars into a cooler filled with ice and brought them to school with me to deliver to Rose. When her face lit up, something changed inside of me.

The moment I gave her the box of ice cream was a turning point. When I saw how happy she was by the gesture it made me realize that while I might not know how to find happiness for myself, but I could work to make others happy. The next few days at school were vital, there was an electricity in the air and the world seemed a little more techacolor than it had the previous few months. The want to make others happy gave me the clarity to realize my planned actions were not well thought out. It would be almost a decade before I would share any of this with my parents, but for a while I was rather consumed with how close I had gotten to ending it all in the kind of way where I was happy to be alive.

Enduring Ideals

I still had some metamorphosis to go through over the next few years—going to/adapting to high school, finding a large group of dedicated friends, becoming comfortable in my own skin and finding girlfriends—but the first step truly was not feeling so afraid, alone, and useless. I recognize that I am a straight white male, I realize that the depression I experienced was nothing in comparison to what so many others go through every day and that my “fix” happened in the right way to allow me to experience a moment of self-realization, find some emotional control and refocus towards a better purpose.

I sometimes think back to that moment circling March tenth on my calendar. I think about how much living I have done after that date, all the stuff I would have missed out on. My high school’s basketball team going to the State Championship, Magic, the Marvel films, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, love, loss, moving out of my parents’ house, cosplay, About Time, dating, that episode of The Office where Michael proposes to Holly, meeting my wife, marriage, dancing, writing and my son to just name a few. It’s the kind of wonderful realization of a life I could have missed out on that I sometimes believe goes overlooked by people that have never really felt that down. Recently a co-worker was talking about how his son asked if life gets better after getting out of school, saying he told him that it only goes downhill after high school and college, so enjoy life at its peak. All I could think was how horrible of a statement that was to a young person, not knowing where the question came from or where the son’s head is currently at. So, to all those who need it or all those who want to understand, I will close with this:

Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes people will try to make you feel self-conscious and sometimes just existing will make you self-conscious. There was a day early into my friendship with some of my best friends where three of them had me cornered against a wall with desk chairs in the computer lab as a joke, all in fun. But in a moment of self awareness I thought “what if everyone else here thinks I’m gay because of this?” At the time I wasn’t secure enough in my sexuality or even myself to realize that their opinions about me laughing and having fun with my friends were irrelevant and years later I realized “so what if they had thought anything of it?” In all honesty, everyone in that lab probably just thought we were disruptive. The people in life who you think judge you either do and will not be in you life forever or more likely it’s all in your head.

Being an adult can suck sometimes, but it’s been far more rewarding than anything I witnessed as a teenager or young adult. You pay taxes, but that’s often a sign of your independence. Your job can be stressful and you can work a lot of hours at a soulless corporation, but there is a path out of the soulless jobs. The gatekeepers have left their gates and the old rules are dissolving. The success of other people is no indication of you, the race in life is only against yourself. You’re allowed to feel happy, sad, directionless, inspired, afraid, angry and a little crazy. But please don’t hurt yourself.

And lastly, ask for help. Don’t be ashamed by asking for help, I’ve learned that through my dating foibles but it relates here as well, people that care about you want to help and want to have you around. If you’re afraid of tarnishing the ideal version of yourself you crafted for those around you by telling someone you’re unhappy or that a relationship isn’t going well or that you need to take a few days off or that you miss a departed loved one or that you just don’t know the right answer. Understand that you need to build the confidence to admit you might need help. The people I have known that asked for help, myself included, were fair happier after they removed what ailed them from their lives.

Holding my son in my arms makes me realize how lucky I am that I was able to course correct away from those dark days. Children are not for everyone, you really have to want it some days, but it can be life changing in such a net positive way. Being a father is the living embodiment of the lesson I learned that day from delivering Snicker Ice Cream bars; even at my lowest points, it’s not about my own happiness when someone else can be made happy. Please seek help, find your net positive and live.

If you need help, please use these or other resources:





The general crisis line : 1-800-273-8255


Special thanks to @HobbesQ for the resources.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the story of Magic and the EDH community in his down time. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.
Pet Deck – Shattergang Eldrazi

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