Mental health continues to be a taboo topic.
Severe depression, suicidal thoughts, and overwhelming feelings of worthlessness are not topics that encourage enthusiastic conversation. Instead, the same feelings that thrive in isolation are damned to stay there. Without dialogue, without humanity, without understanding, growing into a deadly toxic poison, threatening the very essence of human existence.
And once you find yourself at the bottom of that hole, the climb back to the top is so much longer than you want or others hope.
That’s not just a theory to me, it’s my personal experience.
Just over a year ago, I was lower than I ever wanted or expected to be. While I have struggled with periods of depression for years, I had never been this bad. Maybe it was the logical extension of a melancholy personality battered by life? Plus, six months of a global pandemic and burnout that I had denied for years. I believed it would be okay if I could just disconnect for long enough to let my brain and emotions recover. But there was never enough time, always too many demands and responsibilities and too many people to disappoint. So I descended to a low that, simply put, I don’t ever want to see again. I am very grateful to have survived.
With a supportive wife and family, understanding colleagues, and some excellent friends, I started a journey back towards health. Four months off work, a lot of therapy sessions, and a gradual reintegration leave me doing better, but I’m not okay.
I know everyone wants me to be okay. And honestly, I do, too, but it took nearly a lifetime to reach the bottom, so the climb back up might take a while.
So what am I trying to say?
Well, the stats indicate that one in four people deal with mental health issues. But not surprisingly, many of us have learned to hide it well. If someone is close to you or not so close and you see a crack in that code of silence, respect it but don’t ignore it. It’s probably more severe than you think. Don’t trivialize it by saying you understand because, frankly, you probably don’t. The best you can do is listen and encourage the conversation because talking is the path to better. And walking together on the path to better is the most significant thing you add to the journey.
I am incredibly grateful for the grace I received. I’m still on the journey, and while I’m doing better, I’m still not okay. …But one day I will be!