Today is Bell “Let’s Talk” day. A day dedicated to ending the stigma attached to mental illness and mental health. I have always looked forward to this day as it is a great way to raise awareness and gain a better understanding of the people in our world. Understanding and listening, that’s all it is. The initiatives of this day are quite simple and are outlined on the Bell “Let’s Talk” website .
- Language Matters – Stop using hurtful words like “psycho” or “nut”.
- Educate Yourself – Learn more and help fight the stigma attached to mental illness.
- Be Kind – The smallest act of kindness towards someone else can mean so much.
- Listen and Ask – Don’t make judgments based on someone else’s struggles. Just listen and ask if they need help.
- Talk About It – Break the silence, open the dialogue not a debate.
In this blog posting, I will open the dialogue to share with you, my own mental health struggles.
Our brains are amazing “machines”, they will (if we let them) cover up our bad memories and experiences with cloaks of disguise. Out of confusion and protection, we in turn will act out in ways that is not truly in our nature. In order to suppress those bad memories, we will often divert our mind in a totally different direction. Often times that direction can be very dark and lonely.
I was a victim (and now survivor) of a few very traumatic childhood events. At the time they were more confusing than frightening but as I grew older, I quickly realized that those events affected my mindset in a very negative way. When I came to grips with my past, my mind became very cluttered with a rush of suppressed memories that haunted my every thought. I had uncontrollable anxiety, I had zero patience for any disorder in my life and no matter how hard I tried, I could not shake any negative and self destructive thought that entered my head. I certainly was not myself, I had forgotten who I was. I went down a very dark and lonely path that I really believed I would never get off of. I was a prisoner in my own mind. I needed help.
I can be very stubborn when it comes to my health. I rarely go to the doctor, even when I should, I had for the longest time never visited a dentist or an eye doctor to have check-ups. I always believed that I could handle everything on my own, it’s my body I would say, “I’ll figure it out”. The very thought of going to a complete stranger to talk about my mental health was completely absurd. I was one of those people who thought others who go get help for mental health issues were weak.
In my darkest days, I felt like I had two options. Either seek help or end this torment by whatever means possible. Thank God I had my wife and son to live for. While at the time I thought I had 2 options, I knew they depended on me to be around and be mentally stable, so I really had to give the first option a chance before I went for the unthinkable second option. I’ll be honest, I was really skeptical of psychologists but when I chose to get help, I needed to go with an open mind. I had to be willing to take whatever help they could provide and use it to the best of my ability. When I got there, I seriously unloaded just about every thought I had. I really needed to be heard. What a difference it made talking to someone who would listen.. that’s all.. just LISTEN. On top of listening, my psychologist gave me practical tools, to battle the war I had been waging against myself.
I really can’t say that I am completely cured (I am still a work in progress) but I know I am far down the road to recovery. I no longer blame my past for my present or future. I am learning who I am and what I want to accomplish in life. I have surrounded myself with positive, good natured and heartfelt people. I can trust people again. I have worked hard at following healthy physical and mental habits. I cannot express how glad I am for reaching out to talk to someone who listened and gave me the tools I never thought were available to me. I was given a second chance at a life free from a mental prison.
So please, lend an open ear to someone who may be having a rough time in their lives. You don’t need to fix them, just LISTEN to them. Much like you would give someone CPR if they were in physical distress. By simply paying attention and being a shoulder to cry on, you can save a life. My wife was my savior when I first came to grips with my past and although she didn’t have all the tools to help me fix my issues, she was willing to listen and did all she could to get me to seek some professional help.
If you are suffering, my best advice is to find an open ear. I will volunteer my open ear if you feel comfortable with me. Then when you are ready to seek professional help, go find it. I can even refer you to a great psychologist if you need.
Let someone help save your life today! Get the tools to fix you now!