This week my friend and colleague Taylor and I had lunch. She said, “Ron, you seem ‘lighter’ today, like you’re not as ‘heavy’ in your presence” and I laughed because I was so glad someone noticed. Carson Daly opened up last week about his struggles and mental health on the Today show. In the segment, he spoke to a broad audience, but it felt like I was the sole target. It was nice to hear from someone else who shares the same struggles, and that feeling is my intention behind this post this morning.
Mental health has been a struggle of mine for years, and when I say years, I mean 37 of them. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been blessed with the ability to step outside myself an d say ‘Hey, Ron. Something isn’t right.’
It’s tough and embarrassing hard to explain and , it’s hard to understand too.
For a very long time, my mind hasn’t been running like a well-oiled machine. Of course, I’m speaking from hindsight. For as long as I could remember I assumed that everyone’s brain worked like mine. My brain told me, “Ron, everyone eats when they’re bored,” or “Yes, it’s perfectly fine to lay in bed all day because today may be the day you drop dead” or “I need to block this person on Facebook and cut them out of my life so I can abandon them before they abandon me.” Calling it a ‘hellish way to live’ is quite the understatement. Imagine your brain telling you every day, every hour that you’re not good enough and a piece of shit and undeserving of whatever it is you want. It’s like being in a perpetual state of buyer’s remorse, this tug of war over something petty like what to make for dinner or in some cases buying something. In those moments, I want something so bad then when it’s within reach or in my hands, I throw it away, like the ‘hot potato’ game in Kindergarten.After two years of weekly therapy session, I began to make progress. My therapist saved my life, eventually telling me she doesn’t get to treat people like me too often as brains wired like mine make living in the world, a world not built for people like me, people like us if you’re shaking your head, because we kill ourselves before seeking help. After an Gifted Inattentive ADHD diagnosis from one of the leading experts of ADHD in Houston I was also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.If you too suffer from any anxiety disorder then you know the flip-side to that coin which is depression. Unable to move I’d suffer from a paralyzing lack of motivation to do basic things like getting vertical when I’d eventually wake up. For every ‘high’ my brain got from anxiety, it was given a low to balance itself out. The more anxious I’d get, the deeper and darker my depression.
“Just snap out of it” or “Just think positive thoughts” or “If you’re anxious you’re living in the future and if you’re depressed you’re living in the past” are wonderful catch phrases to have printed on a poster for your desk but they’re not realistic thoughts for my brain. I could never ‘snap out of it’ for some reason. I found myself in these rumination cycles that would make getting out of whatever headspace I was in very difficult.
I decided that something was missing from my personal therapy work and I decided to try meds after two years of CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. I was against medicating for a variety of reasons, the main one being the stigma that our society has towards people who are on pills like Zoloft, Prozac or Xanax, the same pills I assumed I’d be put on. I didn’t want to jump into meds, not knowing what to expect. Another reason I avoided the pills was my mother and how I was raised.
My childhood wasn’t great, and without getting too far into it, I’ll say that I have many memories of arguments in my house and hearing my mother say/scream, “I’m not going to have some doctor put me on pills and dope me up.” For a long time, I looked at mental health as being bad with the only outcome being medication on a permanent basis. Those words my mother spoke to me as a child still resonated with me as an adult, giving me an honest look to where a lot of my issues stemmed from.
I started seeing a shrink several months back, someone who’d work closely with my therapist so that we’re all on the same page. She’s also someone who doesn’t believe in over-medicating, and I felt safe allowing her to treat me. After more honesty, cognitive behavioral therapy and meds to treat my diagnoses, there was still something missing. We did some digging and I was diagnosed with something else, a personality disorder.
Of course, I rolled my eyes when I heard that but remained open to learning about it. After much research and reading from the DSM IV, I found that I hit 8 of 9 points for Borderline Personality Disorder. My ADHD, Anxiety and Depression are so prominent and have so much overlap, my BPD was missed. And looking back it’s probably the same reasons my ADHD and other acronyms were missed growing up.
I started a new therapy strategy, added new and stronger meds (non of which are Zoloft, Prozac or Xanax) to my daily routine and my brain hasn’t been better. I feel leveled out and while I’m not medicated to the point of being a zombie (I’m FAR from that) I can at least function in ways that I’ve never been able to function before, and that my friends, has been quite incredible. I am going to the grocery store and not feeling like the aisles were going to collapse in on me. I can talk to people without getting escalated because they don’t look directly at me. I’m also not upset if someone is two-minutes late.
The problems that most would view as paltry and which have plagued me for the entirety of my life have started to subside, like the high tide. I know the root causes will return – I’d be remiss to pretend otherwise – and that’s where my CBT will help carry my brain. At least, that’s my hope.
I’m going to fail. But I’m also in a place where I can function, recognize the fall and dust off my Levis after getting back on the path.
But my struggle is far from over. I’d LOVE to say ‘Yes, I’m cured’ but that’s not going to happen, at least not right now. Having a veil lifted from my brain has also transformed my thought process. My black and white way of thinking is gone and I’m not given an opportunity to see shades of grey. Imagine experiencing this after an entire lifetime of only ‘black and white’ options in the world. It’s been an adjustment. One that I’m not crazy about because it feel unnatural. But, it’s gotta be done so I can get to a better place.
As always, I share this not out of pity or because I want attention. I want to shine a light on a topic close to me, hoping that maybe my sliver of light will catch someone’s attention and they’ll be able to get the help the deserve.
If you are sealing with some shit, please talk to someone. You can even talk to me. But please, talk. It’s the only way people like you and me and the millions who have yet to know they have a voice will be able to get the help that’s needed. Here’s to living the best life possible….even if it’s with a little help from colorful, little pills.