Mental health challenges are no joke. They suck. Suffering with anxiety, severe depression, and ADHD has made “adult life” challenging. Not that it was easy as a child either. For me, an always-busy childhood helped keep everything in check. I would spend the school year going 100 miles per hour between school, sports, and other extracurricular activities. Then in the summer, I would work six days a week, work out seven days a week, and do all of the preparations needed to continue the high octane life I had built. Then, when I had the opportunity, I would completely crash. Zero miles per hour, clutch disengaged, rolling wherever gravity would take me.
I went to a top-tier college and joined a high-octane consulting firm after graduation to keep up the heat. 15 hour days? On the road 250 days a year? You bet! I still didn’t realize what was going on. I was hiding my condition from work. But I couldn’t hide forever.
I got married, which meant that I was about to share my life with someone—and that I could no longer run away from my mental health. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the best gift anyone could have given me.
When I was 27, after years of erratic mood swings, periods of hyper-activity—always in “gotta-be-productive” mode—and days-long breaks from everything and everyone, I finally broke. Still traveling for work, I had, for the fourth week in a row, fled an entire state without telling anyone so I could come home and curl up in bed for multiple days. Daily panic attacks were now part of my routine. I wasn’t able to function outside of the 27 steps a day I logged on my pedometer.
I had been medicated for about three years at that point (and still am today), but had never thought to try therapy. My wife helped me find a therapist, and through that, daily life slowly became manageable again. I was back at work and going through the motions, but I still wasn’t “better”.
For the next year, I would attend therapy, build a mental health advocacy platform, work full-time, and go between being “fine” and completely depressed, to the point where I thought the best thing would be to end it all. But my wife, family, and friends were (and are) always there to support me when I’m down. The platform I built, Challenge the Storm, allows me to share my story and encourage others to do the same. I am not alone.
I spent months off of work learning to love myself again. What I’ve learned is that we all have a story to share; we must always love ourselves unconditionally; and that even during our darkest days, there is always a brighter day ahead.
The sunlight shines
Shines so bright.
After the darkest
Darkest of nights.
You’re tired or fighting
Fighting this fight.
But tomorrow brings hope
Hope of new light.