To the 30-Something Parent of 2+ Kids
An honest look at your mental health.
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past few years, you’ve noticed a trend in our society. Mental health awareness is one of the most popular topics flooding social media — outside of politics and other social justice issues.
A lot of focus on mental health seems to deal with the specific Generation-Z age group (ages 7–22). I’m a firm believer that it’s vital for us to help children and teens with all of the issues their facing today. I think bringing back programs like Mister Roger’s Neighborhood would go a long way to helping kids process information and feelings — instead of Disney and Netflix movies.
But what if you’re not a “Generation-Z’er”? What if you feel like you never experienced mental health issues as a child, teen or young adult? Now you’re 30-something and are raising kids of your own. Now you’re experiencing things like anxiety and depression.
With so much focus on assisting children with their mental issues and feelings, which like I said above is absolutely vital, what about you? What are you to do with so many new thoughts and feelings that are bombarding your mind?
I mean, you’re not some little kid who is weak minded. You’re an adult! You’re a man or woman with a house and a car and a beautiful family. You’re a mom or dad and just got a big promotion at your job. You work out. You eat healthy. You seem to be thriving!
Welcome to the Masquerade
Then out of nowhere, your mind is in a fog. You’re filled with so much anxiety that you avoid social environments like the plague. No one understands what you’re going through or feeling — not even your spouse. Your own family and close friends don’t even notice a change in you because you keep putting on your costume and mask.
“Suicide thoughts come and go like a guest to me, but I don’t wanna die, I just wanna get relief”
Song lyrics from Hate Myself by NF
Underneath that mask, you’re dying inside. You’re filled with so much shame and guilt because you think you’re not supposed to feel this way. If people only knew a fraction of who you “really are,” your whole world would crumble in on itself.
I recently completed the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. I loved seeing all the origin stories of all the superheros I’d always seen in memes and gifs on social media. Thor and his strength were amazing. Iron Man was so intelligent and hilarious. Black Widow could knock people out in hand-to-hand combat like a ninja warrior. And of course Captain America was so strategic and the greatest leader of all-time.
The Avenger I related to the most though was the Hulk. The Hulk was just a normal guy, though he had a genius mind that rivaled only Iron Man. While his intelligence didn’t relate as much to me, he seemed to have it all together on the surface. Inside of him, though, there was a monster who longed to be released.
Every time Bruce Banner — the Hulk before he turned into a huge, scary, green terror — would experience a feeling of fear or anger, he wasn’t able to control the beast inside. The Hulk wanted to manifest and explode into a rage of destruction.
It wasn’t until the last couple of Marvel movies when Bruce Banner finally came to grips with who he really was. He learned that he would never be able to control the monster inside and keep him locked away in his mind. It was only when he accepted the things he was feeling inside and shared his thoughts and feelings with others that he was able to truly control the beast.
My favorite Bruce Banner/Hulk quote was from Infinity War when he said:
“For years, I’ve been treating the Hulk like he’s some kind of disease…something to get rid of. But then, I started looking at him as the cure. I put the brains and the brawn together…and now, look at me. Best of both worlds.”
While I don’t think it’s healthy to use your anxiety, depression and fear to destroy buildings and other human beings, all that stuff has to have an outlet. Bruce Banner found a way to let the Hulk out AND coexist with these feelings as he became the best version of himself.
I think we are the same way as adult human beings. There’s no way to control your mental health issues on your own. For years, Bruce Banner tried to control his inner thoughts and feelings. He even ran away from everything and everyone — even those he loved. It wasn’t until he opened up and faced the music that he was able to break free and feel the freedom of his darkness.
FREEDOM THROUGH DISCLOSURE.
Friend, if you don’t read anything else I write, read this: opening up about your thoughts and feelings is the only way to truly be free from their prison. You must come clean. It doesn’t even have to be some public post on social media or some blog site. You don’t have to shout it from the mountain tops. But you do need to open up to someone, likely a professional.
The reason I say a professional, is because all too often we try to open up with the only person we know we can trust with everything. We open up to our spouse. While I think it’s a great think to have an open line of communication with the love of your life, I don’t think they’re always the best person to help you heal.
Most of the time, our spouses are not able to relate with how we feel. Because someone so close to us cannot relate with how we feel, we think that no one will be able to relate. This is a lie that we’re fed to keep us trapped and enslaved.
Our spouses, unless they’ve experienced their own bout with mental health issues, will probably never be able to understand us. The best that they’ll be able to do is be a support system and encourager, but that is even nearly impossible.
Your spouse won’t be able to understand what you’re going through completely because they are living in a different reality. Your reality is what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling. Because they aren’t in the same state of mind as you, it’s like you’re on the same battlefield, but both on a different mission.
I suggest reaching out to a trained professional. That’s exactly what I had to do a few years ago when I was trying to fight off my demons alone. My wife did the best she could to love and support me, but at the end of the day, she just couldn’t understand what I was going through or why.
It was like trying to explain to her the entire Marvel timeline when she has never even seen a movie in the fantasy genre. She loved me. She listened. She tried to understand. But unless she watched all the movies with me or had experienced a movie in the same genre, there was no connection with my mind to hers.
I didn’t know what to do or where to go. It was hard for her to see someone struggling so bad and wanting to help, but not knowing how to make me feel right. She suggested I seek professional help from someone who could understand what I was going through. So that’s exactly what I did.
It was a relief to the both of us.
I hated the idea of counseling. I was so scared to open up to someone about the way I felt. How do I explain all these when the origin of most of my thoughts and feelings were unknown to even me? I was so scared and hated feeling so weak. I was always taught to toughen up when I felt weak. I was told to “Just stop being so sensitive!”
Part of breaking the stigma of mental health issues is coming to an understanding that what seems like the weak thing to do is actually the strongest and most brave thing you can do. Conversely, what seems like the tough and brave thing to do is actually what will mentally kill you. The weakest thing you can do is to keep your thoughts and emotions trapped inside you. One day you will burst and the Hulk will explode as he reigns down terror.
“It’s OK to not be OK, but it’s not OK to stay there.”
Through the counseling I received from a doctor associated with our home church, I realized the only thing I really knew was that I didn’t know anything at all. I was so uneducated and believed so many lies and stigmas about my mental health.
For years I couldn’t understand how a Christian could feel anxiety and depression. I mean, if we truly had faith in God and believed Jesus could heal us, why would I feel so trapped and alone? I felt so much shame and guilt. I felt like a hypocrite telling other people that Jesus heals while inside I was dying from my own “disease.”
One thing my counselor focused on from the beginning was all the verses in the bible that pointed to God’s people feeling anxious, depressed, alone, betrayed, and struggle with their own mental demons. She helped set me at ease by showing me that I wasn’t alone in my feelings. Even the heroes in the Bible felt some of the same things I was feeling.
It was so freeing to open up to someone. Opening up to a stranger who had my best interest in mind helped start me on a path to recovery. It helped get the beast out in a positive way and blew away all my preconceived notions of therapy.
One amazing resource you can utilize is from our friends over at 33 Forever, Inc. They have an incredible foundation they started in the memory of their daughter, Danielle Leedy, and her own personal battles with depression and anxiety. Check them out for plenty of resource material and helpful information!
Everyone’s mental health story is a little bit different. Not everyone needs to seek professional help in order to heal. That’s just something I needed to do and something that could be your solution. The one thing that is essential to everyone, though, is that you MUST open up to someone about what you’re experiencing.
You’re going to think you’re weak. You’re going to think it’s shameful or embarrassing. But all that will go away when you experience the feeling of release — when you finally throw down all the baggage you’ve being carrying and experiencing the weight being lifted off your shoulders. You’ll finally realize that you’re not alone and you haven’t been alone this whole time.
When you open up, I believe that two things will happen — along with experiencing your own personal freedom.
- You’ll recognize that there are many other people who are in the same boat as you. You’ll understand that many other people have been fighting the same silent battle as you.
- There will be many others who will be set free from your testimony. They’ll see your courage in stepping out into the water and it’ll give them the strength to do the same.
WHY YOUR STORY MATTERS
More than anything I want you to understand that you matter. Your story matters. Your story needs to be told. Not only will you benefit from telling your story, but so many others will benefit from your story. Your story can also be an example to your kids as they could face the same issues as you at a younger age. You’ll also be able to help minister to other people who are fighting this silent internal war. You have the power to change many people’s lives and set many captives free.
Don’t keep that potential locked away deep inside you as you slowly begin to suffocate yourself. Your freedom is on the other side of your fear.