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Mister's Story

My name is MisterLee Cloutier-Ellsworth. I am a 25-year-old performing & recording artist born and raised in Iqaluit, Nunavut, and I am very good at distracting myself.

Growing up in Nunavut, I struggled a lot to find healthy ways to support my mental health. From childhood into teenage hood, I was the kind of person who was pretty good at whatever I tried but wasn’t necessarily great at anything. I was very into sports which was a great way for me to focus on something to better myself, in both a team capacity as well for my own personal growth. 

Another coping mechanism I’ve always used, was being a very social person. It was easier to focus on other people rather than being alone and being my own best friend. I’ve always loved making friends and finding different ways to connect with people on an emotional level.

High school was extremely difficult for me. I appreciated the social aspect of seeing my friends everyday, but I had trouble focusing and keeping up with the workload of academic courses. I failed multiple classes in my senior year of high school which led to not being able to graduate, and I had to watch my best friends and classmates whom I had grown up with since elementary school, move onto College and University. I felt left out, which really took a toll on me. My social life, which was extremely important to me, had completely changed and I spent a lot more time on my own.

After graduating high school, a year late, and moving out on my own I really started isolating myself to cope with the big changes going on in life, and as a really social person this was pretty taxing on my mental health and caused me to fall heavily into bouts of depression, and even points of suicidal ideation from the stresses of growing up and feeling alone. Some of my best friends and I were going our separate ways and drifting apart. I was learning to take care of my own living space. I was constantly tired from having a full-time job that I wasn’t passionate about, to make sure I can pay my rent and bills on time. My casual cannabis uses and weekend partying was slowly turning into an everyday addiction. My mental health was just an incredibly cloudy concept that I had trouble understanding and maintaining. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I used cannabis as a way to escape the stresses of overthinking and it often kept me from opening about my mental health struggles, until it got to the point where I had some pretty intense mental health breakdowns.

I started making music in my senior year of high school, with my best friends Thomas and Kunuk. It was a fun hobby we liked to do when we would get high and hangout. As we progressed over the next couple of years, it started to seem like a viable career option. Through the first few years, I was made fun of because no one really thought anyone could make it out of Nunavut as a hip-hop artist which was difficult criticism to take in, but I absolutely loved making music. I found something I felt I could really excel in, and I really started to feel like I was doing something for myself. Through writing about my life experiences, I was able to better understand myself and articulate my thoughts and emotions for both myself, and others around me to understand which helped me crawl out of the isolated shell that I had created for myself through the beginning of adulthood.

When my career started taking off a few years ago, The COVID-19 pandemic hit and totally screwed up my touring plans to help launch my career. I had to isolate myself again which was really tough, and I crawled back into my shell after years of work to get out of it. After a suggestion from a close friend, I started seeing a counsellor, which I am thankful for because I learned some healthy grounding techniques for anxiety, and more effective ways of communicating and articulating my emotions when I get depressed, but even that wasn’t enough. 

In late 2021, I started having severe panic attacks. I felt like nothing was ever going to work out in my career, I was depending too much on external sources of comfort and had a lot of trouble being alone. I hit a point one day where I had to go to the hospital because the physical symptoms of my panic attacks were so intense, I thought I was having a heart attack. After my hospital visit, I decided to go completely sober from using cannabis, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and even drinking coffee. I spent two months hanging out with myself and just learning to really feel my emotions and not trying to find a distraction to escape from them.

After a couple of months being sober, I learned that cannabis was a massive inhibitor for allowing myself to feel emotions and process them openly and honestly. I also learned how to drink alcohol without using it as an escape or a distraction. Today I am over half a year of not using cannabis, which is the longest I’ve gone since I started in high school. I am even more proud to say that I haven’t found myself depressed since I stopped using it. I don’t regret using cannabis because it helped me learn a lot about myself and helped me with creativity in the beginning of my music career.

I enjoyed a lot of my experiences when using cannabis products but I think my biggest takeaway from my experience is you have to know yourself. Counsellors are available to help listen to you, and help you listen to yourself, while guiding you into a place of better understanding your mental health without judgement. You have to take time to listen to your mind and your emotions and act accordingly. Cannabis works for a lot of people, and even helps them come out of their shell and feel more comfortable articulating themselves, it just didn’t for me, and I realized it and acted on it. Quitting cannabis didn’t solve all my problems, but it was knowing what works for me and my mental health that started to help. 

Listen to yourself, ‘n take care of yourself!

Aakuluk ❤️