People often ask my motivations for starting NoStigmas. Of course, losing my father to suicide when I was six has a lot to do with it. Living with anxiety and depression are also part of the equation. But it was a single phrase that showed me the reality of mental health stigmas.
Once upon a time, I was VP of Sales for a growing computer hardware company. I earned a generous living, had a nice car and a lofted condo in River North, Chicago. But I was miserable. Two or three meals a day were eaten at my desk, workouts were nonexistent and I was on a mind-numbing pharmaceutical cocktail. I had an ulcer, my anxiety was out of control and my depression was so bad that sometimes I just couldn’t get out of bed.
But it was when my sales numbers started to slip that things really came to a head. The owner assumed that I just didn’t care or had one foot out the door. My well-rehearsed excuses were no longer effective. After four years of working together, it was finally time to tell him the truth. I admitted that I’d lived with debilitating anxiety attacks since high school and that my depression was hindering me from functioning at a base level, let alone performing to the best of my ability.
What an incredible sense of relief! I hadn’t realized the weight I was living under having to hide the biggest thing in my life. For the first time in forever I had hope. I knew I would make it though the darkness if I just had a little support..
He said, “It sounds to me like you just have a weak constitution, Jake.”
He said, “It sounds to me like you just have a weak constitution, Jake.” A weak constitution. Meaning that my very makeup was flawed. This man who I had considered a friend and a mentor had just cut me down to nothing in one fell swoop.
I realized two things that day:
Since then, I’ve made it my mission to help dispel the negative stigmas surrounding mental health issues. Along the way I’ve learned how to have wellness in lieu of anxiety and depression. I’ve also had the opportunity to help many people find their own powerful path to living well with mental illness. It’s all proven, beyond a doubt, that chemistry does not equal character and my constitution is anything but flawed.