This all started when my mom had a serious and shocking mental health crisis.
She received sudden, traumatic news, which kick-started a multi-year challenge of dealing with horrific lack of sleep and mental health issues.
This was my mom, a person who was always there for me, and I suddenly found myself trying to care for her as a parent would care for a child.
I was terrified and lost, but we got through it, and my mom is back to her old self again.
Little did I know that I would get much worse than my mom ever got.
I’ve mentioned my heart surgery here in the past, the sudden realization that my aortic valve was failing fast and that I would need surgery within two months of learning about the condition.
That was when I was 24.
I made it through the surgery, and the physical recovery wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. But the emotional recovery was another story. In fact, I think I’ll always be in recovery from how that massive surgery changed my brain.
I’ve always had anxiety. And I’ve had obsessive-compulsive thoughts since middle school at the very least. But the surgery did something to me. It altered something in my brain and led to months of insomnia, massive depression, shame, and increasing suicidal thoughts. It was, by far, the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through.
That was when I was 25, 26, and 27. It was the worst period of my life, and I never knew how much emotional pain could hurt until those years of my life.
But I got through it with the support of others. My then-girlfriend-now-wife stayed with me when depression and anxiety wrecked my brain. She listened to my comments about deep feelings of shame and self-loathing. My parents listened to. I found the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I went to years of therapy. I found new therapists when others let me down. I kept pushing and hoping that it would get better, that I deserved to be happy again.
And, throughout they years, I’ve turned to writing to express myself. Eventually, I tried my hand at poetry to make sense of what I was experiencing. For whatever reason, it resonated more with others than any of my longer essays.
So I kept writing. And I found healing in words.
The last therapist I had gave me a writing assignment one session.
“I want you to get a pen and paper and write, without lifting your hand, for five minutes. We’ll go over it next session.”
And so I did. It seemed silly. I thought nothing would happen. But it led to a magical, stream-of-consciousness experience.
The next session, my therapist asked me to read what I wrote.
I sheepishly read the pages I had come up with. My therapist looked at me in silence. When I was done, she thought for a moment and then said, eyes wide, “You should publish that one day. Did you really write that in 5 minutes?”
“Yeah, it’s just how I write. Why? Is it really any good?”
“Let me just tell you this. That doesn’t happen. I’ve given this assignment a lot, and no one writes likes that.”
Her words have stuck with me. It’s just how my brain is. My mind has always made sense of the world through questions, words, and associations. I can’t visualize any pictures in my head, but I’ve always been able to use words to describe my experiences, good and bad.
I truly believe this is my best work so far. It’s a collection of my best writing from years of poems and essays. It’s something I wrote for you. It’s something I wrote for anyone who is questioning if life is worth living.
Because the answer, I’ve found, is a resounding yes.
There’s always magic beneath the surface. You already have it.
And I think the words in In Search of Happiness will show you that.
Thank you for being here for 7+ months of The Mental Health Update. Thank you for reading, responding, and asking me to write more. I’m making the ebook .99 until Monday, which is when the paperback comes out. If you’ve received healing from anything I’ve written, you will get so much more out this book. I hope you’ll consider buying it and sharing it with your loved ones.