On Hope

There are two types of people in this world:

The Pepsi Drinkers. And the Cola Drinkers.

The Toilet Paper Overs. And the Toilet Paper Unders.

Those who use the Oxford comma. And those who don’t.

Those who’ve worried for their safety when walking over bridges because they fear that they might jump off. 

And those who haven’t. 

Well, now - that got dark fast. 

May is mental health awareness month. 

Men commit suicide more than women at a rate of about 4:1. 

It’s a pandemic. 

And it’s getting worse.

I’ve met a lot of dads struggling lately. I thought this is as good a time as any to talk about it.

For a good part of my life, I understood those with serious mental health problems from an objective perspective; like knowing that people use wheelchairs or have cancer, but I had no first-hand experience. 

But then one day I started taking naps on the floor of my office in the fetal position. 

And tearing up and not knowing why. 

And having fits of rage where I would yell at my kids (to stop yelling most of the time).

And had the words “I want to die” running through my head like a drum beat. 

And eventually, one day, I was picking the kids up from daycare and I started shaking and crying and couldn’t drive home. 

And, all the while I thought I was fine.

Didn’t realize that I might have a problem.

Not a clue.

I went to the doctor - finally - the day after my first breakdown - thinking - “oh, I’m probably low on iron or something.” 

He did a standard assessment. 

Everything normal. 

And then he got me to take a test for mental health. 

He took a quick look at my answer sheet and said: “I think you might be depressed.”

It was like scales falling from my eyes. 

“Oh, ya, duh;” It started to make sense. 

All of it. 

You can purchase Charley Mackesy’s art and books here

The first few months were the hardest. With four kids under three, finishing an MBA, moving into a new house and having a job that was a bit too much knocking your head against a wall; I was burnt out like a candle down to the end of its wick. I spent many days in bed watching Netflix and eating ice cream; thank God for family and friends stepping in on the home front and for stress leave.

Years of not taking enough time to myself and having little concern for a balanced life had done me in. 

Drinking too much coffee and beer and not enough water and exercise.

But through counselling, I also found unresolved grief. It was coming up on the ten-year anniversary of my much-loved sister's passing. 

And though I have had it better than many in terms of painful baggage from childhood, we all have our own story and hurts to come to terms with. Usually, this part of our story means we have a hard time loving ourselves.

Especially in the last six months, I feel as though I’ve shored up some gains. I still feel sort of woozy writing this and remembering the pit of doom from whence I came. But - here - now - I am actually pretty excited about life.

It’s been a long walk back. 

I was helping Silas, my two-year-old get dressed the other day. He got his head stuck in his shirt and he had a moment of panic. Like he didn’t know if he was going to get through and couldn’t breathe and had the world closing in on him. And then he popped his head out and went back to his smiling happy self.

I remembered that feeling. 

The being stuck and the panic. 

And I thought of the years I spent struggling and the weight on my chest, and the tears, and deaths’ drum beat always there. Anxiety brewing in the pit of my stomach like gas after too many cheap tacos. A feeling a bit like you’re always looking over the edge of a balcony and not sure if the ground is going to give way. Constantly thinking to yourself “smile now,” because that’s what people expected you to do. 

And then I thought - here I am - breathing the fresh air - most days, now anyways - like it almost never happened. 

A blip. 

It’s your story. I won’t cheapen it by comparing it to my own. I’ve been where I’ve been but it’s not “there”. 

It’s not what you’re going through. 

But when you’re depressed, I think it’s helpful to remember that something's wrong.  

Because that means

That it’s not supposed to be this way

And that you can get better.

I pray together with all of you for the souls of the departed who we carry with us who never got the help they needed in time. Who went off the deep one way or the other.

May God grant them rest eternal.

But for those of us still living, still fighting,

Know in your boots:

You do matter. 

It does get better.

You’re not alone.

I would like to share more on what’s helped me through it. A more balanced life, a deepening of self-knowledge and self-love, and most especially, friends and prayer; that’s the just of it. But I feel like that’s enough for now. 

Have hope, friends.

That’s what I’ll say today.

8 comments

Theresa Yawney

I say “Well done, Joe!”

Peter

Thanks for sharing, brother. Thinking of you and sending positive vibes. Proud if you too. You have tapped into lifes’ greatest gift, meaning, and are using it to build bridges. With your why, any how is possible.

Joe

It’s a tragic thing Jen. So hard. I hope we’re back to spending time at the lake before long

Joseph

Thanks Liz. Big hugs to you too

Joseph

Thanks, Matias. Love following your California adventures. Hopefully you guys will be back hosting at the farm soon!

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