Ryan Parke: Ending the Silence
California: great weather, super fun, wonderful family, happiness and cancer.
Ryan Parke was just finishing high school in California when he heard the news about his dad. It wasn’t just cancer. Something was different with his dad.
“It was hard for (us) to understand, ‘Why is he so angry all the time? Why is he upset? Why is he mad? He seems happy and then all of a sudden, he is mad,’” Parke said. “It just didn’t make sense to us.”
Even though he noticed differences in his dad, as a high schooler he didn’t know what those signs meant, so he just decided to carry on with life just like the rest of his family.
Not long after, he received a call to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Patagonia, Argentina, for the next two years.
About a year into the mission, his phone rang. His mission president, the leader responsible for him, informed him that his dad had passed away.
“It was like out of nowhere, just super out of the blue,” Parke said. “I wasn’t expecting that end, so I went home, I buried him and then I went back out to my mission and I felt totally fine. I felt like, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be, this is an awesome support group I have surrounding me. This is perfect. This is where I should be.’”
However, something had changed. Parke started to notice he felt tired all the time, but could never sleep.
“I just kind of blew it off, but I finished the rest of my mission and came home and still felt pretty good about the whole situation,” he said. “People would ask, ‘Are you good? How is everything going?’ and I felt pretty good about it.”
Three months later, anger became part of his symptoms as well as mood swings.
“I couldn’t understand what was going on in my own head and that was when I started to think, ‘This is like what my dad was experiencing when he was going through this trauma,’” Parke said. “I was just mad, I was upset.”
Parke, then, went to college at BYU-Idaho. He still felt tired. He still couldn’t sleep. He still felt angry. As a result, he started failing all of his classes. One day, he decided to open up to his roommates, and one of them suggested the Counseling Center available to students on campus.
“And finally, … (one of his roommates) was like, ‘Dude, see if someone can help. You don’t have to fix this on your own. You don’t understand it, I don’t understand it because I never lost a parent, but just go see if someone does,’” Parke said. “And that was … when the Counseling Center came up.”
Once he realized he could use the Counseling Center, he talked to his mom, who was also seeing a counselor at the time, and decided to give it a try.
“I humbled myself, put a shirt and tie on and walked into the counseling room and said, ‘I need help. I seriously don’t know, I don’t understand what’s going on, but my dad died, and I think I’m upset about it and I didn’t think that I was,’” he said.
After the first session, he noticed an automatic improvement in how he felt.
“I realized anxiety and depression are real,” Parke said. “It’s an actual thing that happens to people, even people who are happy and there are certain ways and things to do to fix it and help those people. Most of the time you don’t know if someone is struggling or going through an issue … until you know what it’s like to be in their shoes.”
Parke said he had been happy for his whole life. He never thought those feelings would ever reach him the way they did through depression and anxiety.
“It happened to me and I really appreciate the people around me that tried to understand, even though I felt like I couldn’t express it, or they couldn’t express what they were feeling about how I was feeling,” he said. “It felt good to just have people there to understand and talk to me what it could be like.”
Now, one of Parke’s goals involves helping people who find themselves in the same situation as him.
“It was confusing for me and I don’t want it to be confusing for anyone else for that long,” Parke said.
He started a company called Vibe MVMT Apparel, that works with companies selling products and using the earning to help families who have a member diagnosed with cancer.
Before his father passed away, Parke and his father went on a hike, and his father wrote on a couple of rocks “Keep going” and gave them to him. Those words still have an impact on his life.
“Keep going in a positive direction and if you do, there is something in the future that will help,” Parke said. “Unless you choose to not accept it. Just keep going.”
Add your voice to Ryan Parke and end the silence around you.