When he started working in Alberta’s oil and gas industry as a crane operator, Chris didn’t think that his mood swings were a big deal, and the “tough guy” environment didn’t allow for introspection either. Truth be told, he felt that the general mindset in the industry didn’t encourage communication or concern for the mental health of the workers — it’s a sector that is renowned for being highly demanding.
At age 22, Chris went through a separation that plunged him into a deep sadness. The weight of his pain affected him at work; he could spend days crying in the cab of his crane. He realized he couldn’t keep going this way and went to the hospital. His ability to clearly express his emotions helped him and he quickly progressed through the steps leading to his diagnosis. Chris was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and was offered the help he needed. The assistance program he then began enabled him to understand certain parts of his past. And while he was making progress, he found that his mental health issues were particularly incompatible with his work environment. So, out of fear of being judged, he didn’t talk about them outside of his immediate circle.
It was a journalist friend who offered him the opportunity to take the big step and share his story publicly by talking about his mental illness and the stigmatization in his industry. With this opportunity, Chris openly talked about his past. The effects were immediate. He felt freed from the heavy burden of his secret and realized that he wasn’t the only one dealing with these issues. He also recognizes that he is part of a growing conversation about mental health in the broader trades sector. However, the dialogue has to continue because there is a lot of work left to do.
Now in his mid 30’s Chris utilizes the power of social media to run CJ Beats Bipolar, his personal awareness campaign empowering men to speak up about their mental health. Whether in the public eye through various media appearances, through involvement with various musical projects, by working with community organizations, or speaking to his peers in traditionally masculine industries, Chris strives to be a mental wellness ambassador. He relentlessly spreads the message to people of the freedom that comes from having a conversation with someone they trust about their woes, and in the realization that they’re not alone in their struggles.
For current updates on Chris, you can follow him on social media at @cjbeatsbipolar.