I don’t think it is all that surprising that in the years since I last wrote a blog post, I haven’t been doing so hot. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been on a journey with lots of ups and downs. Hunting through my life, looking for all the little nuggets of truth I could forge into the puzzle pieces I needed to put together that whole image of myself.
And I think I’ve gathered enough to make some decisions.
Diagnosing the Undiagnosed
The elephant in the room. I have known for a long time I have mental health issues, but I never had the resources or the wherewithal to seek help. This is one of the worst tragedies in our nation. The quality and state of health care is unforgivable. Where I have been fortunate is that I found myself in the best possible place to be when you have a nervous breakdown.
I was at work in September of 2017 when I got an e-mail that made me irrationally angry. This was an innocuous e-mail, and it did not deserve the rage that it triggered me. But there I was with my heart set to explode in my brain on fire and my body refusing to do anything I told it to do. I’ve written about that episode a few times in the past and don’t necessarily think this is a good place for me to repeat it again, but it was the catalyst for my entire deep dive into the dark pit that I call my psyche.
I didn’t know it at the time because early medications put me into a much better place, but I had one hell of a dark path to traverse before I got to where I am now. What I thought was a low point was just a dip in the road. The real darkness was still ahead of me.
So it was that in October of 2021 I found myself in the darkest place I had ever been in. I was starting to get scared of myself, which I had never had before. Depression and anxiety had never gotten to the place where I thought I was dangerous to myself before then. It was enough for me to finally go to my doctor who had been doing his best to give me medications they’re ultimately hadn’t worked in the long run and ask for a referral to a real therapist.
That decision completely changed everything about my life, and I will consider it the single greatest decision I have ever made. If I found a magical lamp that gave me one wish, it would be that every single person on this planet has access to therapy when they need it, where they need it, for as long as they need it. Because there is absolutely nothing that would have a more positive impact on our planet than that.
Help Makes a Difference
I should take a moment to point out that I have read over 100 self-help books, productivity books, and books on dealing with depression and anxiety. I bring this up because I want everyone to understand going into the next section how much raw knowledge and information, I had about coping with mental health issues. So, when I tell you the importance of working with a professional is not about knowing you will understand what I mean.
Having a person in your life who can help you steer through the treacherous shallows of your own brain is an immeasurable boon. And it cannot be replicated on your own.
Talk therapy is not psychiatric treatment. I am also seeing a psychiatrist and can very much tell you they are not the same thing. One is focused on the medical condition of mental health and the other is focused on this collaborative process of building toward your idealized version of yourself.
A therapist acts as a coach. I mean that in the most obvious terminology possible. If you are a professional baseball player, you work with a batting coach. The batting coach might not be as good as you are hitting the ball, but they have an ability that you are never going to be able to have, they can watch you from outside your own perspective.
For me, that is what talk therapy was. It gave me a person who could hear my thoughts, my feelings, my stories, and see from outside where I could make small changes to start moving through these issues and finding long-term solutions. My therapist coached me through my problems and helped me apply all of that crap I had learned in all of those years of trying to find answers on my own.
See, the thing is I knew the answers to all the questions. I just couldn’t see that I knew them.
You are miles may vary and you might not have been obsessively looking for answers before going to therapy in which case you might be being taught skills and knowledge that you didn’t have before, but the goal is the same. Someone is there to help you figure out who you want to be. They’re there to help you figure out the life you want to live.
This is the process that ultimately helped me find some of the biggest puzzle pieces I was missing from my collection so that I can start putting them together. Without therapy, I never would have been able to start piecing it together let alone get even close to finishing.
I had a stack of truth chunks and was ready to shove them together.
So, what are the pieces?
To be honest, there are so many of them that it isn’t worth getting into the individual pieces. I have a draft of this post where I did just that and it was meandering garbage. But, there are a few that I think are relevant to what I am trying to do next I want to share.
The first is my passion for collaborative storytelling. There are only a handful of things I can look at in my life as these consistent powerful threads tied deeply to the core of who I am. By far, the most powerful one is my time working with others to create stories. I enjoy writing but I am alive when I am running a role-playing game. Whether I am being the Dungeon Master for a game of D&D or the Story Marshal for a LARP event, my soul wakes up.
The second piece is the fact that I feel like the most valuable thing I can do as a human being is help other people understand the world better. I believe knowledge is sacred and it is a nearly divine duty to help share, spread, and foster the growth of knowledge. In the past, I haven’t been healthy enough to do that in a good way and it has caused pain for people I care about. Through therapy I’ve realized I was missing a skill set I needed to make that passion a constructive and positive one. That missing skill set is a piece of the puzzle and a big factor in my plans moving forward.
The final piece worth mentioning came from a casual conversation at work about Dungeons and Dragons. The movie was coming out and the coworker of speaking with was going with me to see it and knew nothing about the game. As we talked about it and some of the things, I have found beneficial from my time playing it. I also got into some of the toxic behavior in the tabletop gaming culture and how I think it is the responsibility for some of us older more veteran players to actively fight against that behavior and teach younger players a better way to be than we were. This was also brought up around the idea of me perhaps running a game for a friend ‘s kids and serving in that kind of nerd mentor role to help kids find a way from the dark side of geek culture.
It took a long time for me to connect that to something very painful for me.
Twenty years ago, I was living anyone bedroom apartment with roughly five other “adults.” I use quotation marks there because though we were all legally old enough to vote, by pornography, and sign contracts, I don’t know that any of us were mature enough to live a functional life. Which is an important thing to note to go into the next part of this story.
Across the hall from us was a geeky, troubled, lonely kid. He was 14 and saw this heard of nerds just a few feet away and wanted to be part of our world. And we let him. He was like us and we let him hang out with us. I think almost every single person in that friend group could look at him and see themselves as a lost adolescent kid trying to find a place to belong and be and we adopted him as one of us.
Every single one of us wanted to help him reach his potential.
It’s hard for kids to help other kids especially when they don’t have the skills or knowledge, they need to be adults on their own let alone provide those things for the people around them who look up to them and need them themselves.
Unfortunately, we lost him a few years ago. He overdosed. Possibly an accident and possibly not. We’ll never know for sure.
What I do know is I wish 19-year-old me had the skill set necessary to help him.
That’s the last piece.
This week, I enrolled in a program to become a certified strategic life coach. It is what I consider a first step in moving towards the thing I think I was built for. I want to help people rewrite their stories. I want to help them find their pieces of truth and how they fit together. I want to be able to give them the help they need before we lose them.
Especially for those who feel lost and alienated from the world.
The coaching certificate is just the first step. I think my plan right now is to work towards developing a client base I can use to start making an impact while also getting to a point where I can go back to school and earn a degree in something along the lines of social work so I can become a licensed therapist and maybe I can still be the person I wish we’d had 20 years ago.
That’s the goal. That’s the picture on the box. Puzzle solved.