I'll typically plan to have the same blurb above all guest writer's posts. Because this isn't just about me, this is about you. The goal of this 'what does it mean to be a human brand' is to connect. Connect with a stranger through a mutual experience. Or maybe just learn what it's like to live as someone else. It's easy to forget that multiple stories are making up us as people. Whether you meet someone in person once, have known them all your life, or develop a relationship online, they are human at the end of the day. They are more than just one interaction, one moment, or one mistake.
I hope as you read these stories, you can connect or at least appreciate the spectrum that is humanity.
As a reminder, these stories are personal and hard to recite. Please be respectful when commenting.
WARNING: self-harm is referenced below. Do not continue reading if you feel you might be triggered.
The battle with my thoughts began at an early age. In fact, some of my earliest memories are struggling with clothes or shoes that did not fit tight enough. Sure, that seems insignificant on the surface, but as a five-year-old, it consumed my mind. Mornings were spent before school throwing tantrums and getting blisters on my hands from tying and retying my shoes because they would never be tight enough. Luckily, with supportive (or just exhausted) parents, that led to my first introduction of seeking some sort of help for my mental health.
My parents took me to my wonderful pediatrician. She diagnosed me with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and prescribed me Prozac, which in my childhood became known as the “shoe pill” (in reference to my biggest trigger at the time). My first experience with “help” with my mental health was also my first experience adding pills to my morning routine. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel cool and grown-up having to wake up in the morning and take my pills, just like many adults do for various ailments.
There is a lot of debate about medications, particularly for mental health issues, and whether they are best for children or adults. Shouldn’t they go to therapy first? Probably. Should we try to approach this holistically? If that’s what you think will help. Why wouldn’t I medicate my child/myself if that has been the quickest, most effective way of helping me? As someone who has struggled with mental health my entire life, and as a teacher with students who struggle with mental health issues, I frequently ask myself these questions. And I still struggle to look for the answers.
I took the shoe pill for a couple years, and it helped clear my head so that I could learn coping strategies and learn that it was OK if my feet didn’t hurt inside my shoes; they weren’t going to fall off. Should I have gone to therapy? Absolutely. Should we have tried a more holistic approach? Maybe, but this was our approach. This is what worked for us, for me, at the time.
In my adolescent years, I wasn’t taking the shoe pill or going to therapy. Really, I wasn’t taking time to care for my mental health at all. I filled my time and mind with sports, friends, and school, as many adolescents do. In hindsight, though, I should have been paying attention to my mental health. During this time, I was developing unhealthy coping strategies that I had no idea would still be affecting me today.
College was a significant change for me. Given the lack of attention to my mental health over the years leading to college, I struggled quite a bit. I no longer had sports to turn to. I still had friends and school, but the absence of athletics for motivation and physical outlet was something that I did not think I would have to deal with. For reasons I can’t really explain; maybe the violent nature of football, perhaps something else, I developed an unhealthy coping mechanism of self-harm. At first, it was just occasional, but it became more and more frequent as time progressed. At this point, I made a call to my general practitioner. I again began taking medication, this time for Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Nearly seven years later and I am still taking my medication, still battling inner demons and self-harm. Do I need to go to therapy? Absolutely. Am I a little scared to take steps to do so? YES. As a straight, white male in America, I don’t have a lot to complain about. I’ve lived a relatively comfortable life. I haven’t had to face the terrible oppression that so many in America do. However, something that my inner demons allow me to struggle with is the idea that as a man, I’m supposed to express some sort of macho confidence that I just don’t have. Yet, here I am, struggling and trying to work up the courage and confidence to request help through therapy.