Friends, it is mental health awareness month. During much reflection and thought over the last couple months amongst this Corona virus and all it has brought with it; some deep pondering has served me well. Whether you have been diagnosed with a mental impairment, depression, or not, all of us have our up and down moments, and the season of the “Corona virus” has been triggering these moments much more than usual.
I thought this would be an appropriate time to talk about my own struggle through the years, especially after my diagnoses and battle in the hospital with Bacterial Meningitis. While these struggles have been and are real and, to a point, still at large, I also thought I’d talk about the depression and some struggles of a fellow speaker and friend who I met a few years ago and someone who inspires me each day.
February 21st Marked 22 years since my diagnoses of Meningitis. That is 21 years since my parents rushed me to the hospital and then spent 3 months hoping and praying for me to wake up from my coma. After waking up, I came home from the hospital totally blind, hearing impaired, and unable to even sit up. Night after night I cried myself to sleep, wondering what the heck I could do with my life, what hope was left for me. Waking up in the morning still more afraid than ever, I was still blind, still hearing impaired, and still very weak, but I had a renewed spirit, and a sliver of hope. Through challenging work with a physical therapist and the support of my family and friends I was able to go back to school, graduate college, become an inspirational speaker, and an award-winning blind triathlete. Though I was never diagnosed with depression or any mental impairment, I have my moments, and for me it is getting stuck in my head and bringing myself down that affects me the most.
Scott Sargent, my friend whom I mentioned earlier, has experienced much loss and trauma himself, though of a different kind. He has inspired me so much through the past couple of years and gave me permission to share some of his story in attempt to help others with their own struggles both mentally and whatever else life throws their way.
In Scott’s own words; “April 22, 2020 marked 21 years from the fateful day that heartbreak, old triggered wounds, emotional pain, sleep-deprivation, desperation, exhaustion and an uncontrollable volcanic eruption inside myself of so many things led me to purposefully, willfully, defiantly, and tragically dive headfirst down a flight of concrete steps in an attempt to kill myself, which seemed like the best choice I could make at the time to get out of the constant and intensifying emotional pain I was in.”
Scott shared with me that it was only three years ago that he was able to come out and share his life changing story with others in the attempt to inspire and help as many as possible from going down the same road as he did.
Scott was an incredible athlete, a great student and person on the outside, but inside he was plagued with shame, guilt, and the feeling of “not being good enough”. It was this silence, the intolerable pain that he kept buried inside along with the real thoughts of suicide, that launched him down that set of stairs in an attempt to kill himself.
Since that fateful day, Scott admits that there are still many scars and wounds that continue to be healed as he helps others. Probably the biggest lesson he shares, and something I strongly believe in as well, is that we cannot do it alone. If Scott had just reached out and shared his struggles and thoughts to a friend, a stranger, or a professional he could be in a totally different situation.
Friends, in this time with so much isolation and uncertainty, I urge you to reach out to others to ask for help; but just as importantly reach out to those you care about and ask how they are REALLY doing, underneath the sunny-side social media veneer, and let them know that you care, and that you are there for them if they need someone to talk to. “To the world you may just be one person, but sometimes to one person you can be the world.” When we can do life together and help each other, only the best is yet to come!