Looking fresh after his Montreal barbershop cut, Mo Bro Billy-Sam shares his mental health Movember story
"It took 8 months to rebuild...with a lot of help, patience and strategies."Image by: Max Rosenstein
Looking fresh after his Montreal barbershop cut, Mo Bro Billy-Sam shares his mental health Movember story
15 May 2023

Billy-Sam’s mental health story: Rebuilding the pieces

4 minutes read time

I first heard about Movember on the local radio. I thought the idea of growing a moustache to bring attention to the cause of men’s health was brilliant. This was ten years ago, in 2013. I was impressed that the organization was dedicated to improving a men’s health, specifically – at the time – prostate cancer, though I had never met anyone who had been affected by this cancer. Then I learned that Movember was joining the fight against testicular cancer. That was the trigger for me.

The most important man in my life is my father, Simon; a fighter, a brilliant man, a survivor and above all, an exceptional father. When I was only six years old, in 1988, my then 33-year-old father Simon was diagnosed with testicular cancer with metastases. You should know that Dad had himself lost his own father (from whom I take my name “Billy”) at the age of six! Dad got angry. He fought, followed the prescribed treatments, suffered, but he survived.

“There was no way my son would grow up without a father. I experienced it, not my son.” Every time I asked him to tell me the story, it came down to that.

This is why I keep coming back to Mo, year after year. It’s my way of thanking science. I thank my father very often and I show him that I love him every time we speak or see each other. But science resulting from research? It’s abstract, it's different. I want to support researchers who save lives like my father's. The best way is to find them money, so that they can continue.

It wasn’t until was 40 years of age that one of the Movember cause areas touched me personally. In 39 years, I have always felt that I was very strong mentally. My family and friends have always known that I was the guy you can count on for real. Not the person who vaguely offers his help but the one who will set his alarm for 6 a.m. on Saturday to help you move -- in disaster or in the rain; the one who will cancel his date with friends to go hug you and come up with a plan to get you back on your feet. Strong, a rock on which you can lean.

It was at 40 that life gave me a good lesson in humility. The rock broke on February 14, 2022 overnight. I was swept away by a solid depression; I learned that wanting to do everything on your own as if no one could do it better than you, you wear yourself out.

You crumble gently, subtly, and one day you find yourself in pieces without understanding what happened to you.

It took me 8 months to rebuild myself with a lot of help, patience and strategies. It's the hardest thing I've had to do in my life. During this time of struggle, I turned to my fiancée, Claudi-Anne. She rescued me when I was at my lowest, literally on the ground. She gave herself without counting, offered me all the space and help I needed while respecting the man that I am.

Today, I am completely functional, and I will soon begin the gradual reduction of my medication to stop it completely. And when I feel “bad” resurfacing inside? I talk to my spouse, my parents, one of my close friends or I talk to myself by talking to my deceased grandfather. It may sound strange, but for me, it works very well.

I talk a lot about mental health since my depression. I try to be an open book on the subject to leave all the space for those who would be embarrassed to talk about it otherwise. In doing so, I realize the alarming number of people around me who suffer mentally when no one knew about it. I don’t know why exactly, but the fear of appearing weak, the “machismo” seems to get in the way. I try to get these people to talk with me and dispel the fear of being stigmatized.

My message to other men about their health? Take it seriously. The people you're trying to impress won't be there to support you when you're broken. Just those who love you.