Ryan LeBlanc - The Natural Connection

by GEM Magazine / Jun 09, 2015 / Comments

My childhood home was between the Sooke River and the Galloping Goose Trail in a trailer park with lots of families and kids my age. Video games were too expensive so we spent our time riding bikes, exploring the river, building forts in the forest, and rock-climbing with a garden hose. The outdoors has been a source of joy from an early age.

I spent seven years in Sea Cadets, working my way up to become a Sailing Instructor in the cadet system, and then instructing at a private school and a local yacht club. Instruction was always something I enjoyed and excelled at. I loved being able to guide people towards the discovery of new skills and knowledge, and seeing their confidence and pride increase when they could do something they once feared or did not understand. Seeing my students exceed my skill level was always a prideful moment, and I was never shy to tell them they had surpassed their teacher.

The idea for The Natural Connection came to me while working at Bear Mountain as a bartender. One day, a guest became lost in the park after dark and I saw that there was a need for a local guiding service. It was time for a change in my life, so I started gathering footage from trails, created a YouTube channel and a Facebook page with tips and tricks to create a social media presence I could build my guiding service from.

That winter, I was hit with depression. I was making great progress, and living a happy healthy existence, but nothing seemed to please me. I felt that I was just living life for myself, and not giving of myself to others in the way I wanted to. I would do solo hike expeditions, make videos on my own, play guitar and hit open mic nights alone and go swimming by myself. At that point I worked a job that kept me away from home for four weeks at a time which was also quite isolating. It was like I had cut myself off from society; from my friends, my family and the world in general.

I sought counseling to talk through my problems and try to gain a new perspective. Call it a “mental tune-up”. The counselor told me this was a chapter of life that most people go though. You spend your teenage years fighting for the right to do whatever you want, then you move out and you can do what you want, when you want to, and the independence feels great. Then you realize that it also feels good to do things for other people too. It’s important to live for yourself, but you must also connect with and live for others to feel complete. From this advice I decided to make more time for my friends and family, and concentrate on my business so I had something positive to focus on.

Towards the end of winter I was sidelined by a sprained foot, I was just starting to become more active when I had some serious abdominal pains. As time went on, the pain became more frequent and more severe. Tests and screenings all came back negative, and my doctor kept assuring me I was “completely healthy”... except for the blinding pain I would experience, sometimes on a daily basis.

After getting a second opinion, trying Acupuncture, Naturopathic Medicine, herbal supplements, seeing a Chiropractor and changing my diet drastically (loosing 40lbs) I still had no answers. Finally, a doctor in Vancouver suggested I might be suffering from Long-Term Sub Clinical Depression due to my lifestyle of social isolation and a head-down approach to building my small business. My body was lashing out against me, trying to tell me something was wrong with my environment.

I was so preoccupied with my drive towards The Natural Connection and solving my physical health problems, that I completely ignored my psychological health, and as one worsened so did the other.

Nothing made me truly happy, regardless of how amazing it really was. Sunsets were Instagram photo opportunities, hikes were for work, exercise was a chore, and I wasn’t spending much time having fun with friends because most of my money was being spent on business investments or doctor’s appointments to get to the bottom of my digestive problems. Worst of all, my fractured mental state also destroyed a very important romantic relationship.

On reflection, internal happiness had always seemed out of reach for me so I decided to educated myself on depression, social anxiety disorders and the linkage of those two on your physical health. It was all becoming very clear.

There are things you can do to get through the difficult times in your life; coping strategies, counselling, yoga, meditation, physical exercise, eating better, or drastic change to your personal environment. Most of those things are a regular part of my life, and despite my best efforts towards normalcy, I could not find balance. So through my research and plenty of advice I decided to give anti-depressants a try.

Some may say that I took the easy way out or that I could have done more myself to change my way of life and I shouldn’t be dependant on a drug to feel normal. However, some people are simply genetically predisposed to depression caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. In the same way that short-sighted people can squint to see the world alright, or wear glasses to see perfectly, some of us are just wired differently and shouldn't feel too proud to take medication to see the world the way everyone else does. For me personally, they have helped towards improving my mental health.

It can be difficult to open up about depression. No one likes to talk about unpleasant subjects, but internalizing things only makes your mind a mess of thoughts and emotions that do not make sense.

You are not alone. Talk with your family and close friends about your mental state; they want to be there for you.

As I reflect on the past, I appreciate the way it has shaped my present. I used to tell myself to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. I believe now, that this is a deeply flawed theory. Preparing yourself for the worst is only a self-fulfilling prophecy. Live with the best of intentions, plan for the best, prepare for the best, and you will become the best you can be. Set your goals high and always strive to achieve them no matter how many times you are knocked down along the way.

I would love to see The Natural Connection take off into a full-time year round job that pays all my bills, and has me completely self-employed in a career that I love. It won’t happen tomorrow, probably not next week, or next month, but with determination true passion I can do anything.

So can you.

By Ryan LeBlanc

Ryan is an ambitious entrepreneur and founder of The Natural Connection, which was built to serve those who may be lacking in "Outdoor Experience". The Natural Connection creates a unique adventure tailored to the client's specifics needs, based on personal fitness levels, preferences and hiking experience.

For more information, visit;
http://www.thenaturalconnectionvictoria.com
Facebook - www.facebook.com/thenaturalconnectionvictoria
Instagram - @thenaturalconnection
Twitter - @NatConVictoria
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPIv4pzO3n3U047VksYXTcw

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