Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. – Melody Beattie
A couple of months ago I had suffered what I would consider a brief mental breakdown. I crashed so hard that I had deeply scared myself. I am fine now, but what you are about to read is what I was thinking during that crash. I know that writing is the salve to what ails me.
Knowing that I never wanted to crash that hard again, I had set out to find something that would put me in a good mood before heading off to bed each night. So, I decided to focus on gratitude. Every night I write about what or who I am thankful for during that day onto my Facebook status. Doing this simple yet powerful exercise has enabled me to live in the present. I now spend my entire day looking for things to be thankful for and my soul just feels at ease after this simple goodnight exercise. We all brush our teeth before going to bed, this grateful routine has become just as important to me.
Today I am sharing my dark story because I want to open the dialogue on mental illness. Just recently I had completed a Mental Health First Aid Course (MHFA Website) and what I learned from that course aside from being able to help someone in mental distress is that we need to ease the stigma surrounding mental illness and the only way to do that is through sharing our stories. We need to communicate our struggles in order to better understand ourselves as well as to understand others.
I could have kept my story hidden from the world, but that helps nobody; including myself. Those who seem to have it all, sometimes don’t. Those who seem happy, sometimes aren’t. Mental illness is real, and it is a silent life thief. Do your best to be available to those who are suffering and most important, listen without judgement. If I didn’t have the quality people that I do in my life, I would still be suffering without hope. I am eternally grateful for those I share my life with.
Here is my unedited story (originally written Feb 1st, 2016). The night that changed me:
I am not going to sugar coat this; tonight the thought briefly crossed my mind that this would be my “note”.
I was laying in bed, my negative thoughts ran through me like a jack hammer. One after one, they chipped off another piece of my soul. Tonight, for whatever reason, they chipped way too far. As I laid in bed, my hands felt tiny, my head felt huge. I felt as if I was living outside of my body. I wouldn’t allow myself to think of how I would end my life in fear that I might actually do it. I am sick, and I don’t know how to heal. Writing it seems, is my only band-aid.
I cannot begin to describe the shame I feel in writing this blog post. Over the past few months I have had myself convinced that I was on the road to recovery; I had a purpose in life. I wrote about how good I felt, how ambitious my goals were, how great I was coming along. I almost had myself convinced. But that is the hell of poor mental health. One minute I can be feeling on top of the world, the next, I want to leave it. It is just that quick. In a flash, my bad thoughts consume me.
Over the years I have seen two counselors who helped me in one way or another. One helped me with dealing with my childhood sexual abuse, the other helped with my anxiety. I’m afraid if I see another, my only solution will be pills. I am scared of pills. I am also scared that I will be certified as being sick. Isn’t that ironic? I know I am mentally sick, but I am afraid to actually be told I am. I am so scared of the stigma that will follow by being labelled. I am afraid to be thought of as weak… then again, I really am. I’m already over sensitive to what others think of me, this will only help tip the scales.
I am growing tired of this never ending battle with my thoughts. It seems I am experiencing higher highs but lower lows. I am ever more sensitive to people’s reactions to me. I am running out of options to stay positive. If I didn’t have my wife and son, my options would be next to zero. I should love my life, but my brain won’t let me and I don’t know why. I am trapped in an endless cycle of getting close to being who I want to be only to be hauled back down into a self-loathing, lonely, guilt ridden, terrifyingly dark hole.
So, here I am -late at night- wide awake, scared and lonely. Scared of what I just endured and lonely as I just don’t want to be a burden to those I love with my mental state. I have a good feeling that tomorrow I will put on my good boy face and go about as I do everyday and pretend that this night never happened. Only this time, I wrote it down. What will I do with these words? Not sure. If you are reading this, I guess I decided to share with the world just how dark mental illness can be. Most of you will not understand and I guess that could be a good thing. It means you are healthy.
Living in silence with poor mental health is lonely, frightening and painful. Sharing eases the fright, talking helps with the loneliness and writing soothes the pain. I’ll continue to write about it and hope that the band-aid holds on for another day when hopefully, I can get free.
I can honestly say that right now… I am grateful to be free!