Let’s Face It, We Are All Pretty Jacked Up: #Unafraid To Speak Out
I must make a confession and come clean. Several years ago I could not understand why so many of my friends and acquaintances were on some form of medication for some type of emotional/mental health disorders -in most cases for depression. I would wonder, often aloud, why nearly everyone is so damn depressed. We live in an age in which everyone one is well fed, possess some form of shelter and is safely out of harms way for the most part. There is no black plague or killer virus wiping out the masses. We have our 42 inch plasmas, smart phones and tempurpedics. What is there to be so depressed about? The worst part is I proceeded to judge these people as a type of weak and frail human being, perhaps just a little too brittle to deal with all the wonderful entitlements afforded coddled 21st century North Americans. Bad move. I did not follow my own frequent advice to not criticize that which you do not understand. Not that you should criticize what you do understand, well, you get the point. It was approximately 2 years ago when it happened. After some incredibly emotional and soul-searching conversations over a period of days with Rene’, I experienced my first bout with anxiety. I was in a Coco’s eating lunch on July 13, 2012 when my mind completely lost control. Thank goodness I was with Rene’ who completely recognized what was happening -having experienced a few of these herself- and successfully guided and coached me through the painful process of this attack. A couple hours later I was fine…but oh so scared. I did not know what happened. As one who always had complete control over my mental faculties, controlling my emotions like a skilled master pilot maneuvering a 747, this turbulence seemed to come out of nowhere and left me helpless to its tossing and turning powers. I just knew this could never happen again. Yet it did, not with same vengeance and force of the initial one, but happened nonetheless. Thankfully with some additional education and lifestyle changes, namely completely eliminating all forms of caffeine and decreasing my alcohol intake, the anxiety has all but disappeared. As a result, I judge no more. I get it. I realize it is precisely because we live in an age of our basic needs being met -and often exceeded- that our minds have the time and space to land in the mental swamps of emotional illness. Of course, emotional illness has been around since the beginning, in times of both feast and famine, yet with our contemporary society more worried about our body fat percentage over having potable clean drinking water, our cerebral activity far exceeds our physical activity -resulting in more people landing in the dark waters of emotional disorders. My suspicion is that if we did have to wake up each morning designing strategies how to feed our self and our loved ones, the only anxiety we would experience would come in the form of how to successfully chase down our food supply. Today, with the world at our fingertips and our food delivered directly to our door and nearly directly into our mouths, we are completely out of touch with the basics of life and have time to think and ponder while spending copious amounts of time within our own heads. In athletics, we tend to injure the parts of the body we overuse. As a former marathon runner, I know first hand the results of overuse injury and how these will sideline you for quite some time. Why should the human mind be any different? I am not referring to the overuse of the human mind in the intellectual sense, as in figuring out problems or writing blogs, rather I refer to the overuse of the human mind in the emotional and spiritual sense, as in spending large amounts of time pondering our own identity and meaningful relationships, our personal meaning and relationship to the world, our self-worth and self-esteem, the reason for our existence and how we measure up to the standards society has created for us. These are quality and necessary mental endeavors, yet too much time spent in earnest dissecting these things can potentially land us in some pretty dark places. When we have time to deconstruct the illusions that keep us sane from day to day, watch out -anxiety and depression ahead. I am not suggesting this abundance of cerebral brain activity is the sole cause of an increase in mental health disorders, of course not. The frenetic pace of a technologized world and the constant multi-tasking of activities must have something to do with our mind’s ability to juggle and competently keep it all together; not to mention simple brain chemistry gone awry – of which we have absolutely no control. So, Jimmy, what’s your point? In the same sense we are not afraid to discuss our broken legs or sprained ankles, we must be unafraid to discuss our mental illness, our “sprained brain” if you will. If you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, check out #unafraid. Show your support by liking or subscribing to this great cause. #Unafraid is a movement to change the negative stigma surrounding issues of mental health today–in society, on TV, on the internet, and in conversation. And, of course, in our digital age of comfort and control, it is only a mouse click away.