“In a room full of mirrors, there is only one way out.” –
When I was 20 years old, my college baseball team played in the regional finals against a team superior to us in every aspect. Bigger, faster, stronger we knew going in we were out of our depth, but we also knew we wouldn’t give up until all our at bats were exhausted. To this day, it ranks as the best game I’ve ever had the honor of playing in. Back and forth, every top inning had us scoring a run, and every bottom inning had them counter punching to retake the lead. I remember the feeling of the incredible high when we took the lead, and then the utter despair when we couldn’t stop them from taking it right back. Every inning, I would go out to the mound, slam the ball into the pitchers glove and say, “This is our stop. Right here, right now.”, only to find it harder each time to go back to the dugout once again trailing. In the bottom of the ninth, ahead by two, they eventually came back and won on a walk off. I found myself still crouched behind home plate, in the middle of their team celebrating. No anger, no sadness, just acceptance. After their team finished celebrating, I was still behind the plate, mask on staring out into centerfield. I felt a tug on my chest protector to lift me up and I turned around into a giant hug from the opposing team’s catcher. We stood their for a moment just talking about what we both experienced, and how we would both remember this for a long time. He shook my hand and told me that sometimes sports is just like life. You learn to keep battling until there are no more innings left.
I turn 51 this week, 31 years removed from that moment in time. A moment I had somewhat forgotten in all honesty. I recently connected with that man on social media, which brought the story around. During this Mental Health Awareness month, I can’t think of a more clear metaphor than that day to describe life for those dealing with mental health issues. One year ago, I felt compelled to use this space to try and bring light to a dark subject. One year later, I ask myself, what has changed? The news is still littered with stories of high profile deaths. I, personally, have had four touch close to home in 2019 and we are only five months in. The answer to what has changed, much like that day when I remained crouched behind home plate while twenty-five people celebrated around me, is my acceptance of it all. Whether acceptance is good or bad is not my torch to carry, but it is the banner that, as someone who struggles daily, has decided to place in the front yard of my life. And I’m truly starting to believe that acceptance is the KEY to fighting this disease. Don’t confuse acceptance with giving up. By no means – acceptance is the catalyst for pushing forward.
Acceptance That Modern Medicine Is Limited but Trying
We deal with a disease so feared, so misunderstood and often mistreated by the medical profession. The ones who prescribe, prescribe and prescribe some more until your side effects are far worse than what was originally being treated. The ones who decide to lock you away, robbing you of your comfort, routine, support and financial stability. And they do so not for your well being, but only so they do not have to answer any questions should something terrible happen as in the case of my best friend ten years ago. You break your leg, you go to the doctor with no fear they will do something drastic like amputate. You break your spirit, you hide it away because you can’t trust the doctor to not do something rash that always, always, ALWAYS makes it worse. Do no harm – unless we don’t understand than let’s just lock them away and deal with it later. Is it fair to broad stroke the profession? Of course not. So why do they broad stroke us?
Acceptance That You Must Help Yourself
I’m not sure who said the quote captioned above. I’ve heard it in music and movies, but I’m not sure who originally said it. I know ten years ago, my friend said it to me in one of our conversations outside by the fire pit. I always thought it meant that he had to take his own life to escape his pain. I now understand he was saying that no one can help you but yourself when you deal with this disease. We are all responsible for ourselves. Family and friends can only support you so much, and the biggest mistake you can make is putting your faith in someone that doesn’t understand what you deal with. Someone you have invested your heart and soul in only to discover their heart and soul is going in a different direction. Perhaps because they have bigger goals in life, or perhaps because you exhaust them with your roller coaster ride. At some point you just have to accept that you are alone when it comes to managing and coping with this disease. Don’t isolate yourself, but don’t lean too heavily on anyone. You will begin to hear things like, “I’m not sure how to help you…I just want you to be happy.” The people saying this aren’t evil, just human, and have nothing left but sayings they hope don’t upset you too much. They know they can’t help, and they still want you in their lives, but they are trying to navigate the mindfield that is your brain without blowing their own life to hell. Embrace their honesty because the lying is far worse. Accept what they are saying, accept what they can offer you and accept that it will never be enough of what you need. However, what they are saying IS what you need to hear.
Acceptance That You Must Know Yourself
There is no greater fear than not knowing who you are. It’s sad to not be able to tell friends why you are feeling the way you feel, but it’s far more terrifying to not be able to understand it yourself. The only person you cannot lie to in life is yourself. I’ve come to accept that I’m not lying to myself when I say I have no idea why I’m feeling the way I do. I realize it’s because I don’t understand. The first step towards helping yourself is understanding yourself. Medical professionals cannot truly know what goes on inside your brain. Friends do not have the time or power to understand and deal with what is going on inside your brain. Take the time to document your day. Document the highs and lows. Be brutally honest with who or what caused the high, and caused the low. Don’t lie to yourself, and maybe over time you will better understand what is causing this disease to rule your life. I’ve accepted that until that happens, until that step is complete, everything else I accepted above are just words without actions.
Without trying to offend, I stand amused at the thought of Awareness Months. I feel if you specifically have to create a month for a disease that is linked to 45,000 deaths annually, we are doing so just to tamper that feeling of helplessness. Of course we care, don’t you see my ribbon? I do, in general, support anything that brings more awareness to any problem in life. For people like myself, we are AWARE every day. And I, for one, feel bad for all of you because I have no guidance to offer you on how to truly help and be supportive. And because of my personal experiences, even if I did tell someone EXACTLY what I needed, I know it can never be given because I’ve yet to understand why I’m asking for it. I’ll keep taking my at bats, take the strikeouts that life rings up on me personally and professionally, and try my best to understand ME so I can get that stop before the game is over. I encourage all of you out there struggling to do the same. I don’t believe it will magically make everything better, but it will keep you in the game for another inning.
One parting thought – this is my call to everyone out there who struggles to know yourself, understand the limitations of all support systems, learn to help yourself and keep moving forward. Don’t end up a picture on a Mental Health Awareness month post. If only the people who posted these pictures knew as confused as they are by what happen, it’s nothing compared to the confusion those dealing with the disease feel daily – https://www.boredpanda.com/face-of-depression/?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=organic