When experiencing suicidal thoughts for the first time I can recall feeling an overwhelming sense of shame, guilt and weakness. I was ashamed of myself for not bearing the strength to end such thoughts, and I felt guilty for the fact that, despite how loved and lucky I was in comparison to many, it clearly still was not enough for me.
There’s always more work to be done, more stories to share and mysteries to solve. I’m not willing to lose this weird, wonderful world to my genetic encoding and environmental influences. One brain in one-hundred works like this. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. To the contrary—wouldn’t those odds be considered unique?
Despite the fact that schizophrenia hides the truth from me just for sport, if my personal experience has taught me anything, it is this: we are all connected. Profoundly connected. We don’t have to live life alone. Ever. Desperation will tell us otherwise, but someone is always there. Volunteers, an EMT, or a trusted friend—someone will listen, someone will come. You are a gift that deserves to be cherished. Your light keeps others safe in the dark. Shine brightly, survivor. Shine brightly.
I can’t even say in public how I really feel at times, because sometimes I’m not ready to put my freedom in jeopardy. Why do people suffer in silence? Because we can’t be honest. And when we can it’s for one hour twice a week at max with a therapist, who we get showered and dressed up for and smile and say I’m fine. We might say we’re depressed, but we know the keywords to avoid the therapist from being legally obligated to institutionalize us.
We are in a crisis. At the root of the chaos going on in the world, is the fact that we don’t know how to listen to one another. If we start actively listening, then the tragedies will subside.
We can literally save lives just by listening. Please share. #Itonlytakesamoment to listen.
I never aspired to be a mental health advocate. I’m an entrepreneur, a business guy, a creative type with an appreciation for the bottom line. If things don’t work, you fix them.
When one of my three beautiful children became sick with a mental illness, our family faced tremendous pain and confusion. Stigma kept our struggle private, fear kept us on heightened alert, and treatment options were hard to navigate. We were now on the front lines of mental illness, and experiencing stigma first hand.
My father was dead at 51, a casualty of the manic depression he had fought for years. The New York Times, citing its suicide policy, declined to print his obituary. He lived in a time when mental illness was an embarrassment for families and a weakness for men. For Dad it was a crushing blow. He had left Harvard early to join the marines, and flew dive-bombers in the Pacific. He came home from the war to a different world, a wife, two small children, no money and bipolar disorder. He prided himself on his toughness and never discussed his demons.