A few years ago, I celebrated my birthday on a yacht in San Diego. And yes, for those of you wondering, that was my failed attempt at a “flex” (I think that’s what the kids call it).
I remember how cool I felt decked out in boat shoes, white shorts and a deep V (more commonly referred to as a “My Dads a lawyer” starter pack).
Yeah, real cool.
Though most of the day is a blur, there’s one conversation we had that has stuck with me to this day.
We crossed under the Coronado Bridge and someone questioned how many people jump off that bridge per year. Not your typical party weekend small talk.
After a string of drunken slurs and uninformed guesses, Google provided an average of 13-19 deaths by suicide per year from that bridge alone.
Sadly enough, it wasn’t the number that stuck with me. It was the discussion that followed.
People jokingly questioned why anyone would take their own life and even went as far as calling those people crazy. And it saddens me to say that I contributed to that conversation.
Mental Health and Suicide were topics I never thought I needed to worry about. In my mind, I was mentally tough and had everything I ever wanted. After all, I spent my weekends blacking out on yachts wearing boat shoes and white shorts.
But, as most of you know, my inevitable rock bottom came shortly after – along with an attempted suicide. So, you can say I take mental health and suicide prevention very seriously these days.
Here are 6 Things I’ve Learned About Mental Health
1. More people are affected than you know
This is what depression looks like…
So, before you go calling people crazy, think about this…
We are all “crazy”. Even people who are considered “normal” — meaning they have a steady job, provide for their families, and don’t hit the bong on the weekends – still have some sort of “craziness” in them.
If you don’t believe me, consider this – How many of you are overly concerned with how you look before you leave the house? Or what car you’re driving? Do you think people really notice? Probably not – and probably because they are too concerned with how they look to even notice you.
And that, my friends, is called narcissism.
So, I’m going to make the bold claim that people who suffer from mental illness are no crazier than you.
Many of the greatest literary, artistic, and political figures in history either drank themselves to death or took their own lives.
I bet you didn’t know that Princess Diana, Ernest Hemingway, Drew Barrymore, Elton John, and Ronda Rousey all attempted suicide at one point in their lives. Or that Ellen Degeneres, Kristen Bell and Eminem have all battled severe depression.
Did you know that one in four Americans suffer from a mental health problem in any given year? Which means that someone in your immediate family, office, fantasy football league, or Game of Thrones group chat, probably has a mental illness.
So, for the sake of me rambling on about what defines “crazy”, let’s just shatter the stigma right here and now.
2. You Can’t Just “Get Over It”
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just get over a mental illness. And I learned this one the hard way…
Just because I wrote a book about my depression doesn’t mean it magically disappeared. I STILL struggle, every day. And I will struggle every day for the rest of my life.
And I’m okay with that. You know why? Because I’m not the only one. We all have problems and the only way we solve our problems is by working on them, daily.
3. Talking helps (like, a lot)
Mental Illness is not a sign of weakness. There, I said it.
I know you’re over statistics, but please consider this…
-14 million people die of cancer every year
-29 million people develop diabetes
-53 million people have arthritis
-61 million people have a mental illness
So, I have to ask… if having a mental illness is more common than cancer, diabetes, and arthritis – then why THE HELL are we so afraid to talk about it?
Men, I’m going to single you out on this one… we need to be better with talking about our mental health. Just because you’re struggling, doesn’t mean you’re weak.
In fact, I’d be willing to argue that it makes you stronger. Being able to admit you don’t have all the answers will get you that much closer to finding the answers.
When I dropped my ego and decided it was time to open up about my problems, I came to find that people who I had known for years were struggling, too. And guess what… we helped each other.
4. The Little Things Affect People More Than You Think
Here’s a tip – watch what you say.
You know how many times I hear these in a given day — “Im so ______ I wanna kill myself” or “Stop being so sensitive…” or, my personal favorite, “Why are you so quiet? Are you nervous or something? You’re acting weird.”
Do you even know what you’re saying? When you say hurtful things like this to someone who is struggling with mental health, you are feeding into the stigma and affirming what these people fear the most.
These things may seem small to you, but I can assure you they are not small to us.
Oh, and for the record… In case you were wondering why your mentally ill friend is quiet or went “mia” on you – here’s the best I got…
5. Small Wins Are The Key To Better Mental Health
Why is it that we’re always searching for the next big thing to come our way that will drastically change our lives and bring us the joy we’ve been longing for?
You know what I’m talking about… “Man, if only my boss would give me the promotion I deserve…” or “Maybe if I swipe right ONE more time, the chick of my dreams will magically appear and we’ll live happily ever after.”
Big wins are the soul reason people play the lotto. Did you know you are more likely to get hit by lightning, attacked by a shark, and become president of the United States than hitting the lotto?
Big wins consume us all. And it’s that reason alone that we fail to see the small wins, everyday, that ultimately determine our happiness.
I believe small wins are the key ingredient to sustained happiness.
So, make your bed, walk outside, have a meaningful conversation, or simply write out one small thing you want to accomplish today and only focus on getting that done.
Accomplish any of those and then celebrate the fact that you did it. And then over time, those small wins will grow into bigger accomplishments and your life will be changed forever.
6. Own It
In my mind, having a mental illness is not a disadvantage. If anything, it’s an advantage.
Now, I’m much more in tune with my emotions and I understand people on a much deeper level. I’m aware of the world around me and I see things differently.
Am I overly emotional sometimes? Yep. Do I get sad and agitated for no apparent reason? Everyday. But, do I let people get away with treating me poorly or calling me crazy? Absolutely not.
And you know why? Because I don’t have time for the bullshit anymore. Life is too precious for me to fake it and spend my time worrying about what people think of me.
Why hide my idiosyncrasies when I’m better off accepting them and then expressing them?
So, I own it. And you should own it too… if you’re struggling like me.
Then, we can strap on our boat shoes and sit on a yacht together, calling the rest of the world crazy for hiding from their issues and hoping no one notices them 😉
That’s all I got for now. Stay tuned, friends ✌️
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