The Province

Sometimes an ordinary day can be just extraordin­ary

Fraser Valley basketball star Moedt a mental health advocate

- Howard Tsumura CAMPUS CORNER

Listen to Jasper Moedt speak about his year in hell, and you come away with the realizatio­n that there is indeed an extraordin­ary way to describe the joys of ordinary.

“You never know happy unless you’ve known sad,” begins the standout big man with the Fraser Valley Cascades men’s basketball team. “You never take for granted the days when you feel average because those ones are spectacula­r. An average day is a great day.”

Almost two years ago, in April of 2012, following shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum he suffered on the basketball court, Moedt began to notice the onset of mood swings, his personal pendulum swinging from deep depression to feelings of invincibil­ity.

In a matter of months following that surgery, the symptoms deepened.

“It really started off with small things,” he explains. “I found myself on edge. I was a little more up and down than usual. But from there, things escalated.”

By midsummer of that year, Moedt’s mental state had become so unstable that he began to hear voices, his thoughts consumed by causing harm to himself. At one point, during a vacation in Mexico, he found himself on the edge of a rooftop three storeys off the ground, feeling the urge to jump.

Afraid to share his story with anyone, Moedt’s entire life became a battle to hide his condition from others. In fact, it wasn’t until after one of his many fainting episodes, this time in January of 2013 in front of his two sisters, that he was finally taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a form of anemia. No one is 100 per cent certain, but it is believed that the antibiotic­s he was prescribed following his shoulder surgery led to a chemical imbalance and his downward spiral.

The steroid treatments he received in the days that followed put him on a rapid road to full recovery, to the point where this season, he has rejoined the Cascades, averaging 14.9 points and 9.1 rebounds en route to being named a Canada West all-star.

But Moedt wouldn’t let himself put the journey in park and pretend it didn’t happen.

With extraordin­ary courage, he stepped forward last spring, not only telling his story to local newspapers, but sitting in front of a computer screen himself to describe every part of the personal nightmare to his campus newspaper, The Cascade.

“I was very hesitant to write my own story because I was worried that it would come across as self-absorbed,” reflects Moedt, “because it wasn’t about me. I didn’t want to make it a spectacle. I was past that stage. It had to be about the bigger picture of mental health.”

Back in Alberta

Beginning Friday, Moedt and the rest of his Cascades teammates are in Edmonton, set to play the opening game of the Canada West Final 4 conference championsh­ips against the Victoria Vikes.

It’s not an average day in anyone’s book, let alone Moedt’s. The Cascades carry a conference-high 16-game win streak into the game, and can qualify for the CIS Final 8 national championsh­ips with a win.

But beyond all of that, the University of Alberta campus is the place where Moedt made one of the biggest decisions of his life, one that may have eventually saved his life. In the midst of his despair, in the summer of 2012, Moedt’s coach at Fraser Valley, Barnaby Craddock, decided to accept the same position with Alberta’s Golden Bears.

In a decision that he later admitted as foolhardy, Moedt decided he would follow Craddock to its Edmonton campus, a move he figured would give him a fresh start and cure to all that was ailing him.

Nothing changed. So before the season began, in a snap decision, he jumped a bus one night at 9 p.m. and rode through the night back home. It was a trip that changed his life.

“I guess I can find the humour in it now,” says Moedt, who didn’t play for the 201213 season. “But what those guys at Alberta must have thought of me? They had no baseline to go from. All they saw was this erratic guy running around.”

Thankfully, however, it led to his fainting episode in front of his sisters, and his subsequent hospitaliz­ation. The rest has been happy history.

Making a difference

On Thursday, Moedt got the news that he would be the Canada West’s nominee for the CIS’ Ken Shields Award, recognizin­g its top men’s basketball student-athlete.

He was recognized for his 3.7 GPA as a criminolog­y major, but also for the imprint he is leaving in his community as an advocate for mental health.

“When I decided to come out with my story, I really wanted to try and be a voice,” he says. “Student-athletes aren’t the stereotype of someone with mental-health issues. So I sent out about 30 emails and I got a reply back from Fraser Health and their Speak Up program. I have worked with them since August. The goal of the program is to change the conversati­on around mental health, to have youth and young adults talking about it. When you look into the faces of younger kids, they might not at first have a full level of understand­ing of what I am talking about, and that would have been true for me just two years ago. But the thought is planted in their minds.”

Moedt, who helped lead Yale Secondary to the B.C. high school Triple A title in 2008, has one more season of playing eligibilit­y remaining at UFV if he so chooses. And of course, trying to win a national title with the Cascades is first-and-foremost on his mind these days.

Yet as he continues to strive for excellence, what’s most important to note is that he’s got himself back.

“Life is a strange and beautiful thing,” he wrote in The Cascade.

Indeed, it’s given Jasper Moedt the ability to see the all the beauty that comes from living an average day.

 ?? — TREEFROGIM­AGING.COM ?? Jasper Moedt of the Fraser Valley Cascades goes up for shot in a recent game. In addition to being a basketball all-star, Moedt has become an advocate for mental health issues, sharing insight from experience­s he endured the last two years.
— TREEFROGIM­AGING.COM Jasper Moedt of the Fraser Valley Cascades goes up for shot in a recent game. In addition to being a basketball all-star, Moedt has become an advocate for mental health issues, sharing insight from experience­s he endured the last two years.
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 ?? RIC ERNST/PNG FILES ?? Jasper Moedt, right, competing for the Yale Lions in 2007, hasn’t shied away from being an advocate for mental-health issues by sharing his own experience­s.
RIC ERNST/PNG FILES Jasper Moedt, right, competing for the Yale Lions in 2007, hasn’t shied away from being an advocate for mental-health issues by sharing his own experience­s.

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