Anxiety has accompanied me my whole life. Depression has visited me periodically during the tougher times. I would find a way to push away the thoughts, to right my ship, and get back to happier thoughts.
In my 40s I experienced challenges that proved too much for me to correct on my own. My career took a plummet that drove my inner demons to scream my worst fears to me regularly. They yelled at me convincingly about how I wasn’t a man because I couldn’t make enough to properly care for my family. They daily, hourly pointed to “evidence” that demonstrated my flaws. And when I tried to self-correct against the feelings by exercising, to feel at least physically upbeat, my body gave out. Pain followed after pain, first limiting my efforts to do those exercises I needed then eliminating them. Pain stayed even when the exercises didn’t. I woke up every morning in pain. My back screamed at me every moment of every day. Pain was a constant. I didn’t realize it then or maybe I didn’t try to know but the ever-present stabbing presence stole away any uplifting thought I made efforts to have. When I tried to find a happy thought pain tore through it. This wasn’t the life I envisioned for myself. Every part of who I was until then seemed to have been backed into an escapable corner. Inevitably, I just wanted it all to stop and the inner demons were all too glad to convince me that my family would fair better without me.
The hospital that I went to didn’t provide me much help but I did leave there with one core idea that still holds strong today. It was that what I knew, what I did before, who I was wasn’t working anymore. I needed to let that person die and remake myself.
I learned yoga for the pain, I learned about mindfulness, I learned about rational acceptance and living in the moment, I learned to lean on others and I slowly built tools that helped push back against those thoughts that attempted to crush me down. I found out Jordan Lally was on a similar journey to find inner peace and much of what he was doing also was what I needed. I found other areas that didn’t give me financial benefit but lifted me up in other ways. I turned to my art and began to draw on an online streaming platform called Twitch and through that I found HeartSupport, a supportive community of those who feel otherwise beaten down by mental illness. It would be fantastic to end this by saying how things are right back on track and I’m living the American dream now. How I got my dream job and the bank account is swelling. But that isn’t the case, that isn’t #thetruth. The truth is that I still fall down into depression periodically and anxiety still keeps me company almost daily. What is also true, however, is now I don’t try to “beat” depression and I don’t try to “fix” anxiety. What I’ve learned is to view them as energy that periodically show up, side effects of my brain as it does its thing. I remind myself that I don’t need to label them or explain them or rummage through a closet of memories to solve them. They will come. They will go. My role now is too remind myself to just watch them. Not to engage them but just observe them as I would a stick floating in a river.