TL;DR: Movember is a great charity for men’s health, and I am focusing on the mental health/suicide prevention aspect. I have had serious struggles with mine in the past stemming from self-confidence issues along with anxiety and depression from a traumatic breakup. I eventually went to therapy to get the help I needed, and my life has improved beyond belief due to the work done through that.
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Movember is a charity focused on bringing awareness to prostate and testicular cancer along with men’s mental health and suicide prevention.
I am participating in this charity with my focus on bringing awareness to men’s mental health and suicide prevention. 4 out of 5 suicides are men and this is an area where for a long time, men have thought that they need to just tough it out and get over things which has led to more harm than good.
In support of this charity, I will be launching a fundraiser with all proceeds going to the Movember cause along with taking part in the “Move for Mental Health” initiative in which I will be running/walking (mostly walking) (ok, probably all walking) 60 miles in remembrance of the 60 men lost to suicide every hour across the world.
I will also be shaving and growing out a moustache. The moustache is the symbol for healthier men in a healthier world. It’s the first time I have shaved in over 3 years… Probably going to look like a 19-year-old, but for men’s mental health awareness, no problem!
With the start of Movember and my participation in raising awareness about men’s mental health, what better time to share my story and why I am choosing to support this cause.
For about the last 5-6 years, I have struggled with depression and various forms of anxiety. Sometimes it hasn’t been bad, sometimes it has been crippling. Many of my problems are rooted in self-confidence issues that extend far beyond that time frame. I’d say I have spent close to 12 years in a mentally unhealthy state with a tipping point into larger and more severe issues starting in that 5-6 year ago time frame as the result of the traumatic end to a relationship. I’ll spare the details because it’s not worth either of our time.
When it happened, I went to work for approximately 20 minutes before I walked into my boss’s office and could barely keep it together before asking to head home. Should I have driven to a therapist right then to sort things out? Probably. Instead, I chose the next best option. I drove home to chug Crown Royal and listen to Drake (slow songs only).
Luckily, I had a supportive system of friends and family, but I would never fully take the time to process everything and try to move forward. This would come a few years and even more bad decisions later. Instead, I took the road that is unfortunately too often traveled by men and resorted to trying to ignore it and use hate to block it out. I resorted to destructive behaviors and extremely unhealthy mental habits. Classic!
The self-confidence issues became very apparent as I second guessed all my decisions, didn’t trust other people or even myself and blamed other people when things went wrong because I couldn’t take accountability. I went back and looked at all the mistakes I had made along the way and what could have been done differently and started to hate myself for allowing something like this to happen. It became a viscous cycle of a mistake, blaming someone else and then making another mistake compounding the damage. When you hate yourself, you just end up being a miserable person to be around because more often than not, your internal issues result in external actions towards others that are not deserving of it. Of course, at the time I didn’t realize that is what was happening. I wasn’t aware of how internally broken I was, so I handled so many things the wrong way with little regard for the feelings of others. “Hurt people hurt people” was proving to be wildly true.
It’s funny (not really) to look back on so many situations, mainly with relationships, after that point where I would blame anyone or anything I could to take the burden off me. However, it is very clear now that so many of these things resulted in the fact that I was dealing with unresolved trauma and mental health issues.
Paraphrasing a saying I recently heard from a psychiatrist Dr. Paul Conti, M.D.: “If you navigate your map with a broken compass, it will lead you to bad situations or others with a broken compass and you’ll be stuck wandering” Brother,,, my compass was shattered.
I eventually hit my rock bottom a little over 2 years ago. I was binge drinking heavily, using drugs more often, I had developed a mild eating disorder, my emotional wellness was shot, and I was sabotaging relationships, I was miserable going to a job I had no interest in and had zero idea what I actually wanted to do with my life. All in all, I was moving through life pretty mindlessly day to day. It is scary to look back on that time period; I really have a vague or no recollection of so many incidents because I was never fully engaged for long stretches. I always try to keep things light and funny, but when you are struggling with depression it is so draining on your system. I didn’t want to let on to anyone that I had these issues and it ended up feeling like I was working on overdrive to keep up the appearance of someone that is healthy and loving life.
I knew I had to make a change and the first thing I did was commit to online therapy through Better Help. Those podcast ads finally worked… (Promo Code: TAKE for 20% off your first month). I have now been in online talk therapy consistently since that time.
When I finally found a therapist I thought would work for me, I was scheduled for a 1-hour session, once a week. I honestly felt like the biggest bitch for doing therapy. Like a lot of other guys probably, I thought there was a very negative stigma surrounding therapy. You wanna talk about things because you’re sad? Just get over it dude. Oh, you have anxiety about something that might happen? Shut up. I was hesitant to open up in my first several sessions. I would reluctantly answer some questions and go through some exploration when probed to explore my reactions to certain situations. The first few months there was little progress. It honestly felt like I was getting on camera just to talk about how things sucked and how I hated my life.
As I became more comfortable with my therapist, he started to challenge me to change some of my habits, lifestyles and ways of thinking. These were all things that had become second nature to me, but as we talked about them it became clear how some of them were probably causing more harm than good.
This sounds INSANE, but one of his first challenges was to not weigh one of my meals each day. I had a physical reaction to that suggestion. Don’t weigh the amount of tuna I eat as a snack? Are you trying to kill me?? Side note: yeah, I was eating tuna as a snack, low point. I had become so strict with my diet that I was turning down dates and events because I couldn’t stand the thought of not hitting my macro count exactly. I was under eating, over training and running myself into the ground with how strict I had become in day-to-day life. He noted how I started basically squirming at the idea of not weighing something and how that clearly was not a healthy reaction. I had given myself no flexibility or room for error trying to be perfect with my physical health while complete disregarding how detrimental this was to my mental health.
I continued to challenge myself to breaking my normal behaviors and thought processes over the next couple of years. It is extremely true that therapy works if you make it work. I continued to make progress month after month. There were setbacks along the way, but improving your mental health is not a linear journey. The important thing is that I stuck with it.
As I progressed through each issue I was struggling with, the next one became a little easier. I was building up the confidence in myself and my abilities to take on challenges and overcome them. Not only was the future looking more promising now (something that seems impossible when you are depressed), but I did not look back on the past with as much hate and disappointment. I was able to look back with a sense of acceptance. I could see my faults, my destructive behaviors and all the different situations in which how I acted was wrong. The blame I had for others had begun to fade. I was taking responsibility for my actions and seeing how my shit mental health and lack of self-confidence had caused so many problems.
If you are not able to learn and grow from your mistakes, then what was the point in making them? Did all of it suck to go through? Oh hell yeah, but there is no way I would have made it to the point I am not now without all of that. Everything happened for a reason, good and bad. However, would a depressed guy with anxiety, no confidence, working a job he hated, be able to write about his mental health journey and feel comfortable sharing it? Not a fucking chance. Obviously, it would have been nice to not get crushed and go through a massive stretch of A&D, but here we are. The haters have to be furious I made it.
It was not easy, but I put the work in to change and improve my mental health and in doing so I am able to consistently try and show up as the best version of myself. I am living life with gratitude for the position I have put myself in and what I went through to get here. But also, after starting Watling Wellness, I have a purpose and a clear vision of how I want to live moving forward and try to make decisions to support that. Finding out what you actually want to do with your life and who you want to associate yourself with has been one of the most liberating and gratifying steps in my journey.
Those weekly hour-long sessions eventually moved to every other week, then once a month. And now, not to brag, but they’re down to a half hour each month and that is mainly as a compromise with my therapist who probably thinks I could do even less. He’s not getting rid of me that easy.
I am at the point now where I am proud to share what I went through and how I struggled with anxiety and depression and the fact that I was able to get help. My life has improved exponentially since I started. I still have my bad days, but that is generally all they are now. A single bad day. I have the tools and experience to learn how to bounce back and shift my thinking to a better and more productive mindset. I have discovered my passion for educating people in wellness and providing value to the world that has given me focus and a purpose. Not only am I better armed in the present, but I have the confidence moving forward that if a situation presented itself that would normally spike my anxiety or depression, I do not fear handling it. I will sort through it like I have all my other problems in the past. I did not make it this far just to make it this far.
Unfortunately, there are so many men that never reach this point before it’s too late. I am definitely not saying that this is the only way, but it is A way. And it is possible to overcome those problems you think are unsolvable. Even if one person hears this and decides to make a change or go to therapy or partake in some healthy way of overcoming whatever issue they are dealing with then this has been a success. Just know that if anyone ever shames you for going to therapy, then what you should do is refer them to a therapist. You get a free session and maybe they can sort out whatever internal battle they are having that is causing them to try and put you down. A win-win!
I will continue to post content regarding mental health on my page. This will mainly be comprised of more of what I have learned along the way, but also some insight and tools by people that are much smarter than I am. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re doing well, but if not, there is no better time than the present to start getting better. Thank you for being here. 🤝