From Logging Roads to Roads of Recovery with Dale Horth
About the episode
Did you know men are nearly twice as unlikely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder compared to women?
In this episode of #OurAnxietyStories, Dale Horth highlights the barriers preventing men from seeking diagnosis and treatment. Looking back on his experience working in the logging industry, Dale shares how the hyper-masculine culture of certain blue-collar jobs can make it difficult for men to seek help. “Only the weak need help,” or so he was taught. Throughout his journey, Dale experienced substance use challenges, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and panic attacks. During the peak of his challenges, Dale visited the hospital 58 times in a single year. After overcoming his mental health and substance use challenges, as well as unthinkable physical injuries, Dale is now pursuing a career change and being retrained in Occupational Health Safety Administration to better support men’s mental health in the workplace.
Looking for resources to support yourself or a loved one experiencing challenges with substance use? The Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research (CISUR) has created several informative workbooks to help those who use substances. Workbooks include ‘Supporting People Who Use Substances,’ a basic introduction to substance use along with tips to engage in dialogue with a friend or family member around substance use, as well as ‘Substance Use and Young People,’ a guide for friends, family and a youth’s caring community on how to initiate and continue dialogue around substance use.
About the guest
Dale Horth worked for many years in the logging industry in British Columbia, Canada. According to Dale, his battle with PTSD, anxiety, and depression has taken him to hell and back. After several suicide attempts and a successful recovery program, Dale is now being retrained in Occupational Health Safety Administration. Authoring “Why Men Suffer in Silence: A Story of Hope and Recovery,” Dale is now an advocate for men’s mental health, challenging blue-collar, testosterone-driven industries, and encouraging men to speak out and get help.
"I was still in denial of my PTSD... I would wake up in the hospital in the morning and I would dispatch all my workers from the hospital bed and on my phone. And then I would get up and they would kick me out by 7:30, 8 o’clock in the morning. And I’d just go from hospital right to work. "
Intro: This is #OurAnxietyStories, the Anxiety Canada podcast, with John Bateman. This is the place where people from all walks of life share their anxiety stories to remind you that you are not alone. If you have an anxiety story you’d like to share, contact us at AnxietyCanada.com/OurAnxietyStories.
John Bateman: My name’s John Bateman. You’re listening to Our Anxiety Stories, the Anxiety Canada podcast, which can be found at AnxietyCanada.com/OurAnxietyStories. Today, I’m talking to Dale Horth, who climbed to the top of the logging industry and just as fast, it was all taken away.
In a silent battle against depression, he drank did drugs and slept whole days away. The hyper-masculine culture of his industry meant that he was hardwired against anything spiritual. Rehab and therapy were “hippie crap” and only the weak needed help. It took great strength for Dale to break out of that cycle. And he found the courage to seek recovery and rebuild his life. Dale is the author of Why Men Suffer in Silence: A Story of Hope and Recovery. It tells the true story of one man’s journey through PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Full of real tips and techniques for overcoming and prevailing against mental health challenges, it shows the reader that there is hope for us all. Thanks for joining me, Dale.
Dale Horth: Thanks for having me!
John Bateman: We kick it off with you telling us what your anxiety story is.
Dale Horth: My anxiety story… It was probably 26 years long and I really didn’t know what the heck it was. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and have panic attacks. I’d go for adventures in the middle of the night, driving around town. A lot of times I would get to the door of the hospital, but I’d never get in. Over the years, it crept up on me even more. My anxiety and panic attacks came more frequently. It got to the point where I think… I got hurt in 1994, by 2018 is when it really started falling apart for me. I didn’t know why all these years I’d wake up in the middle of the night and I’d be in tears, crying and whatever. I didn’t know what it was. I just suffered with it for many years. And then hospital visits. I went to the hospital 58 times in 2019. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and I felt like somebody was controlling my mind and my body. And I didn’t have control and I’d run out of my house a hundred miles an hour. I thought I was dying. I would get to the hospital. I’d always have a pair of shorts on… sometimes I’d have a pair of shoes on if I was lucky. 90% of the time I had no T-shirt on when I got there. That’s how fast I had to get out of my house. The hospital, they laughed. They called me ‘half naked man.’ It was my nickname there. ‘Cause I did 58 times in 2019 to the hospital. It got to the point where having a shower was difficult. Putting my head under water, closing the curtain. I couldn’t even close the curtain and showering with the bathroom door open and the curtain wide open. I was claustrophobic. What else did I go through…
John Bateman: It sounds to me, when you first started experiencing it, like many people, you didn’t have a sort of an idea what anxiety was. Physically, what did it feel like for you when you first started experiencing it?
Dale Horth: I had an electrifying buzz in my whole body. I felt like I was electrically buzzing, and it felt like two guys screwing around with my head with a remote control. I felt like somebody was trying to control me. I just didn’t have control of my mind, my body. I just had this overwhelming electric rush in my body.
John Bateman: So somewhere along the line, you said you did a lot of visits to the hospital in 2019. Had you done hospital visits previous to that? Had you seen doctors previous to that? I’m assuming you were still working at that point. You were in the logging industry at this point?
Dale Horth: Yeah, I was I was still in denial of my PTSD at that point. I would wake up in the hospital in the morning and I would dispatch all my workers from the hospital bed on my phone. And then I would get up and they would kick me out by 7:30, 8 o’clock in the morning. And I’d just go from hospital right to work. I did that for pretty much all of 2019. 2020 it really switched. Prior to 2019, I suffered a lot of times with panic attacks in the past, but I never had Ativan or anything. I had to go to the hospital a few times to get Ativan. Early in the 2000’s I was flying on an airplane one time to Fort St. John and had a complete panic attack on the plane.
John Bateman: While you were in the airplane?
Dale Horth: Oh yeah.
John Bateman: Were you controlling the airplane at the time?
Dale Horth: No, I was scared because I didn’t want to make a scene and I wanted off that plane and I wanted off now.
John Bateman: I’ve had panic attacks on airplanes, too.
Dale Horth: I started ripping my clothes off. I had no shirt on. That was first thing to go. I remember calling the airline attendant over and I was like “I’m kind of having a panic attack right now and I just don’t want to freak out.” She went and got me water and she sat down beside me, and I don’t know what she was doing in my hand… she was doing little circles and stuff, and she totally diffused the situation.
John Bateman: That worked, eh? It’s interesting.
Dale Horth: Yeah. It calmed me down.
John Bateman: There’s these subtle things that do work. Often, it’s some kind of human interaction or some kind of human contact. That’s a long time… from when you first start talking about suffering until 2019. So, you were obviously within this timeframe self-medicating too, was it the whole time? Were you drinking? Were you using drink and drugs to get rid of the feeling?
Dale Horth: I got to the rehabilitation center in 1995. The fourth floor was where they put all the bad dudes. I quickly was on the fourth floor. I was buying all the drugs and bringing the drugs into the rehabilitation center.
John Bateman: Wow. So, you’re able to come and go from the rehab center?
Dale Horth: Yeah. And then drinking… I learned that you put a six pack of beer in the back of a toilet tank, and it keeps your beer cold, and you can still flush it.
John Bateman: lot of tips and tricks for that kind of thing that we don’t want to have to learn for sure.
Dale Horth: Yeah. Cocaine was in my life for two years. In 1997, my best friend died of a drug overdose. I went to his viewing and, looked at him there, dead in the pine box and grabbed his hand and I cold Turkey quit cocaine right there. But alcohol, I still drank alcohol for many, many years. I have a limit with alcohol now. I don’t drink excessively to get drunk.
John Bateman: When you started having those multiple hospital visits in 2019, I guess I’m curious, what were the doctors telling you at that point? How were they helping you?
Dale Horth: That’s when I got diagnosed with PTSD.
John Bateman: Did the PTSD come from a specific event in your life?
Dale Horth: July 14th, 1994, I was involved in a major logging accident, and I just actually proved that I had head injuries. I broke my ribs, lacerated my liver, broke my back in five spots, something with my hip, broke my femur in half, I broke my left ankle, all the toes. I shattered my right ankle, and I broke my tibia, fibula, and patella. And then a bunch of cartilage in my knee. Yeah, it was quite a mess.
John Bateman: That’s trauma, that’s trauma, for sure. Yeah.
Dale Horth: I’ve been hypervigilant for 28 years. I went to West Coast Resiliency Centre in 2020, a PTSD clinic. They’re the ones that really showed me how hypervigilant I was. Honestly, I didn’t know I was hypervigilant. It’s kind of upsetting in a way because I’ve started a new career path and it’s all into safety.
John Bateman: Yeah. You say you’re hypervigilant. What were you hypervigilant of at that point?
Dale Horth: I can see death. I could see accidents. I could see things, what could happen.
John Bateman: So, your vigilance is trying to avoid… the hypervigilance you’re talking about at that time is trying to avoid anything that might lead to that kind of outcome.
Dale Horth: Put it this way, say we go for a walk on the sea wall in Vancouver, and we’re going around Stanley Park. You would be walking, and you’d be looking at the flowers and smelling the flowers and smelling the grass and listening to the birds chirp and looking at trees and just seeing the beauty of things. And I’m scanning for danger, danger, danger. And I’m not smelling anything.
John Bateman: And that’s a real double whammy when it comes to anxiety. Cause on one hand it’s causing anxiety from you seeing all these things in the world that most people just walk by, and you not being able to enjoy things that most people are enjoying at the time.
Dale Horth: I square things off. I go, okay, this area here’s going to reach me. Then there’s this over there, potential this, potential… And that’s what I always did. As I’m driving down the road and there’s a big logging truck coming down the road, I’m going to the right of it, giving them room because I could see him crossing the line and squishing me.
John Bateman: Yeah, and, like you say, hypervigilance, we’ll get into it. Also, great qualities for… we need people like you to be that person, as long as it’s not causing you anxiety and ruining your life. I want to circle back, because I initially asked about 2019 and when you started getting an idea of what was going on. How were the doctors and nurses reacting to you and treating you during these multiple visits that you did in that year?
Dale Horth: They were more or less just hitting me with a lot of drugs when I got the hospital.
John Bateman: So, benzos or, or whatever, stuff like that to calm you down.
Dale Horth: Yeah. I would get there; I was probably on two milligrams of Ativan at that point at nighttime to go to sleep. So, when I’d get to the hospital, they were hitting me with four milligrams. So, they would give me an additional two milligrams. Sometimes they would give me antipsychotic meds. The last time I went to the hospital, not the last time, but I just remember one time I went to the hospital. It was 2021. That was my only time that year. And I went there and they’re like, “Dale Horth” and I’m like, “yeah, half naked man.” She goes “oh yeah, yeah, yeah right.” I just peeled my clothes off, jumped in the bed. I have a warm blanket and they brought me some Ativan or something and I just went to sleep.
John Bateman: Yeah.
Dale Horth: It was kind of like I was at home.
John Bateman: Yeah, yeah. So somewhere along the line, you figured out how to get real help, I’m assuming. Did you end up going somewhere to help deal with your anxiety, talking to somebody to help deal with your anxiety? What was your direction there?
Dale Horth: I swore off against all counselors back in the early day, I had a really bad counseling session in December of 1994. I feel like she got me to act out anger. She got me blacked out mad and then got to the end of the session and she let me leave that way… So, 2018 is when I really needed to seek help and go back to this counseling stuff. I was seeing a local lady here in Squamish and she was really good and helpful, but I just hit a brick wall with her one day. I just… I don’t got nothing more to tell you.
John Bateman: Yeah. Yeah. And that certainly happens with counselors. They have expiry dates in many cases.
Dale Horth: I go see this counselor now here in Squamish. I came through the men’s program where I had eight visits and I think 90% of it was paid through the men’s program.
John Bateman: Yep.
Dale Horth: So, I was paying like $20 a visit or something.
John Bateman: Awesome. Yeah, that’s great.
Dale Horth: I hit her with six major things that I was going through at once. I just remember her saying “whoa, I don’t think I’m a good fit for you.” And well now, I see her through my work safe BC file. Here she is three years later, still my therapist. She’s the best therapist that I’ve had.
John Bateman: Yeah, yeah. Amazing. Regained a lot of hope in the system in that process, for sure.
Dale Horth: Yeah. She pulled a lot of stuff out of me that I never thought… stuff that happened to me in my childhood and stuff.
John Bateman: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve been through what I would say is like a parade of therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists in my life. And I’d say of all the ones I saw, which is probably getting into the dozens now, I can think of maybe three of those off top of my head that really worked with me. It’s frustrating for some people to go through that process of trying to find the right one, but like you’re showing, it’s really worth it when you do find the right one.
Dale Horth: Absolutely. She’s gained my trust. If I try and hide something from her, I go home, and I’ll beat myself up for another week until go see her. And it’s like “I kind of lied to you.” She never has a horrible judgment of me and of what I ever tell her. That’s what I really like about her.
John Bateman: Yeah. So, your career obviously shifted to something that seems to suit what you were talking about. You’ve talked about the way your thoughts work in terms of that hypervigilance and you’ve talked in terms of way your thoughts have worked in the past in terms of what I would call automatic negative thoughts. You had that sense of your brain and your body being controlled by something else. I’ve certainly had that, intrusive thoughts. I’ve had intrusive suicidal thoughts, ideation, the whole nine yards. But somewhere along the line, you seem to have parlayed this into something that’s pretty useful in a couple of ways. I want to ask you first about what you do now for your job. It sounds like some of these qualities that you have are very useful for people.
Dale Horth: So basically 2020 was the year that the suicidal ideations and hospital visits were extended to weeks at a time. I took pills. I stuck guns to my head. I was really trying to die that year. I finally hit the bottom, July 22nd, 2020. That’s when WCB reinstated my old 1994 claim. For the rest of 2020 all I had to do is just look after myself. That was my job. The rest of the summer, I just went hiking, went to the gym and was kind to myself.
John Bateman: That really worked for you.
Dale Horth: Yeah. And then I got into the PTSD clinic, and I spent 16 weeks there. There was an occupational therapist there that I felt was going too fast for me. This is where I learned to advocate for yourself.
John Bateman: Right, yeah.
Dale Horth: I used to be either attack by the throat or I would go the other direction and just let people walk all over me. So, I never knew the middle ground of standing up for yourself and saying no and doing it respectfully. Saying no and having positive results and nobody hates you.
John Bateman: Yeah. It’s an amazing thing when you come across that one, isn’t it.
Dale Horth: Yeah, I had to learn. I wanted to fire this guy, and I had to do two sessions with counselors to fire this guy.
John Bateman: Oh yeah, for sure.
Dale Horth: I did, and then I got a new female occupational therapist, and it was just off to the races.
John Bateman: So, what do you do now? What’s your occupation now?
Dale Horth: So, in 2017, I went to Alberta on my own and I started doing safety courses. I did my National Construction Safety Officer of course. 14 courses to get that designation. So, I got my NCSO, and I did do some work with it. I went and did pulp mill shut down tours and stuff, but I ended up back in the logging industry and then my dad retired, and I took my dad’s company over until 2020. Because I did the NCSO, I’m going after my, I’m going after my CRSP, which is Certified Registered Safety Professional.
John Bateman: Right.
Dale Horth: But before you can do that, you have to take your OSHA, Occupational Safety, Health Administration. I’m about six weeks away from completing my OSHA right now.
John Bateman: Awesome. Yeah.
Dale Horth: I’m in the University of Fredericton
John Bateman: Right, oh yeah. Wow. Yeah.
Dale Horth: My marks are like 90, 95%… I graduated high school on intimidation. I was like who’s this going to hurt more, you failing me? I just come back or just ask me, and I won’t come back. It’s funny now. I’ve got a lot of experience in the logging industry and stuff. And then so my book has opened the door for BC Forest Safety Council.
John Bateman: Yeah. That’s what I want to talk to you about, this book, Why Men Suffer in Silence. You wrote a book.
Dale Horth: Yeah.
John Bateman: Which to me is within the realm you’ve been existing. It’s an incredible achievement. So yeah. Tell me a bit about how that book came about and what it’s about and how it’s lending itself to what you’re doing.
Dale Horth: I’m really good at expressing myself really well on paper.
John Bateman: Yeah.
Dale Horth: So, one day I just blabbed out these eight stories and I sent it all in. And then when I went to the West Coast Resiliency Centre, they were blown away because that’s actually an exercise that they probably wanted me to do on my own… But I’m like, oh yeah, here’s my story.
John Bateman: Amazing.
Dale Horth: A social worker got a hold of my stuff and she said “your stuff is brilliant… You should write a book.” And I’m like, “yeah, okay.” And then I met this female bodybuilder and became friends with her, and she wrote a book. She wrote a book on we do recover, so she’s gone through a lot of trauma and stuff herself.
John Bateman: Wow.
Dale Horth: I had my book written when I met her when I met her, but I had it all on paper and journals and stuff.
John Bateman: Yeah.
Dale Horth: So, she got a hold of her editor and stuff, and then I ended up sending my stuff to the editor and they absolutely loved it. However, they wanted me to get my book from paper to a computer.
John Bateman: Of course.
Dale Horth: I threw those things behind me and just started writing again.
John Bateman: Oh, interesting.
Dale Horth: I just rewrote it. I felt like the second version of it, the one you get in the store, it’s very clean. It’s very honest. I don’t do any finger pointing. I take ownership of my own stuff. I’m not calling anybody out. My journals were very dark. A lot of finger pointing and name calling.
John Bateman: Which are what journals are good for too.
Dale Horth: So, I’m glad I wrote it out. It was a long process. I hired two editors so when I got to Friesen Press, my book was in really good shape. And then they went through bunch of proofreads. With proofreads, they found a lot of my spelling was… I had a lot of American spelling, so they wanted to keep it consistent.
John Bateman: They wanted more “ou’s” in there.
Dale Horth: Yeah. And then, I might put the number one down in one moment and then I might be spelling number one.
John Bateman: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dale Horth: So just inconsistencies like that and they fixed it.
John Bateman: That’s what editors are for.
Dale Horth: I went through three proofreads, three edits. I finished writing it last May, May of 2021. And it wasn’t released until Christmas. It’s a real detailed process. Especially when you’re doing a project like that too. You really want to be the best. So, the logging industry got a hold of my book. In the logging industry, a lot of guys suffer with PTSD and anxiety and stuff, but they don’t know what to do to help these guys. And so, I’ve been doing a lot of safety talks. I did a safety talk with BC Forest Safety Council, Mosaic Forest Management. I spoke to 350 people, and I’ve really opened the door. These are some of the potential places that I want to go work for when I’m finished. I want to go back to the logging industry. I want to help young kids. The logging industry is a very testosterone, man driven industry.
John Bateman: Yeah. Yeah.
Dale Horth: They keep talking about “well, we keep putting these pamphlets and flyers out, but nobody ever takes them.”
John Bateman: Yeah, of course not.
Dale Horth: You can’t put it on… My dad was a boss in the logging industry. I know my dad would… It would drive him mental all of a sudden feeling like “I’ve got to worry about these guys getting to work in the morning and I’ve got to put him here and now I’ve got to hug him and kiss him when they’re…” My dad’s old school.
John Bateman: Not a babysitter.
Dale Horth: The industry, the logging industry, we hurt and kill lots of guys. And the hard part is, a guy might get killed on a Wednesday and we’re burying him on Saturday. Monday morning, you’re asking these same individuals, that we’re friends with this guy to come to work and pick up the chainsaw and carry on.
John Bateman: Yeah, it’s heavy.
Dale Horth: I feel there needs to be a little bit more of a support system to help the people who are there to transition back to work after there’s been major accidents and stuff.
John Bateman: Yeah. So, your book has techniques for overcoming and prevailing mental health challenges. What is the main kind of techniques that you feel like you’ve come across that have helped you personally deal with those issues that you’ve had?
Dale Horth: I like to do, obviously, breathing exercises. At normal we’re about 16 breaths per minute. Add some anxiety in there and you’re probably 30, 40 per minute.
John Bateman: Yeah, for sure.
Dale Horth: Four seconds in, six seconds out, you time that, you’re bringing your breath down to six breaths per minute.
John Bateman: Yeah. Yeah.
Dale Horth: And just keep overdoing that. There’s square breathing stuff, breathing, holding, exhaling, whatever.
John Bateman: Yeah. Square breathing. That’s like basically four in four, hold four out four, hold four in for hold. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve done it. It’s effective.
Dale Horth: And then I really like muscle tensing.
John Bateman: Right, yep. So that’s like tensing and releasing your muscle.
Dale Horth: Start at your toes, your ankles and your calves and your buttocks… all the way up to your arms and fists and lift your shoulders. Even open your jaw, raising your eyebrows. That one’s a really good one. I really like that one.
John Bateman: It’s interesting because these are physical things you’re doing, where your mental health is responding positively to it. Not just a matter of looking at your thoughts and figuring out what’s going on.
Dale Horth: I’ve been in an emergency room doing my exercises.
John Bateman: Yeah. Just to bring yourself down. Yeah, yeah.
Dale Horth: Now, I still have panic attacks to this day.
John Bateman: Sure, yeah.
Dale Horth: And It’s like, I know what’s going on. It’s like “oh, I’m having a panic attack. Well, you know what? It’s kind of cold outside. I’m going to put some shoes on, pants on. I probably should put a shirt and a coat on…” I don’t run out of the house half naked anymore.
John Bateman: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dale Horth: Hold on anxiety, I got to get dressed here. And then we’ll deal with you.
John Bateman: And so, by the time you’re done all that stuff, getting dressed, your anxiety attack is probably on the way out.
Dale Horth: I have a spot where I walk on my street. I go for a long walk to the end of my street and it’s the stop sign. And I come back and a lot of times now, I don’t even have to leave my porch. I could just sit outside on my porch and I’m okay. Then I go back in the house, I can’t get back to sleep right away, but I’m like “you know what, I’m just going to watch some YouTube or something.”
John Bateman: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dale Horth: The YouTube videos will change my mind. And then all of a sudden, boom, I fell sleep.
John Bateman: It’s interesting how knowledge of what a panic attack is really, for me, helped mitigate them, almost eradicate them. I might have one a year at this point and just knowing what was happening and just telling myself that was happening really took the edge off. So, you were talking about, when you’d walk out your street, by the time you got to the stop sign and back you, that’s normally what the time would’ve been to get rid of a panic attack, but then that just kept decreasing and decreasing until you’re just stepping outside of your house.
Dale Horth: Yeah.
John Bateman: Yeah, that’s amazing. That’s a great technique. It’s a nice way to measure it too.
Dale Horth: And I keep my emergency Ativan.
John Bateman: Yeah. Oh, for sure.
Dale Horth: I get six tabs at a time, and I can go nine months without taking one.
John Bateman: Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes just nice knowing that you have them.
Dale Horth: I take them everywhere I go. If I’m going to Vancouver, I always have my emergency meds with me and stuff.
John Bateman: Yep.
Dale Horth: And yeah, I feel safe.
John Bateman: Yeah. It’s smart.
Dale Horth: It’s like my security blanket. I’ll get on an airplane and know I have them in my pocket. I feel cool. I’m like, okay, yeah, I’m not going to have a panic attack because I know I’ve got these in my pocket. We’re good.
John Bateman: Yeah.
Dale Horth: Just knowing, the feeling that you have them
John Bateman: Yeah, so they work twice. They work once in the fact that you know you have them therefore you feel safe. And if something happens, then you can actually take one.
Dale Horth: Yeah.
John Bateman: And that’s okay. Right. You have to do that to help yourself. It’s really important. I have to thank you. Your story for me, it seems like one of perseverance and I would dare say stubbornness on your part to keep going and keep going and keep going beyond what you’ve done. I think the book is incredible and I really appreciate you talking to me. I would suggest people go out and get Why Men Suffer in Silence: A Story of Hope and Recovery I think it’ll help a lot of people. I really appreciate you talking to me about your journey today, Dale. It’s been really great to you.
Dale Horth: Thank you very much.
John Bateman: Okay. We’ll chat again. Take care.
Dale Horth: You take care too.
John Bateman: Okay.
Dale Horth: Bye.
Outro: Thank you for listening to #OurAnxietyStories. If you’d like to support this podcast or Anxiety Canada, go to AnxietyCanada.com.