I want you to use your imagination for a second. Picture yourself on a basketball court with the ball in your hands. You hit your defender ever so swiftly with the A.I. crossover and now you’ve got a step on your man. You get inside the 3-point line, take two dribbles, gather your feet, pogo stick off the ground like Lebron, and just when you hit your peak elevation – you torpedo into an invisible wall that you had no idea was there. What I just described to you has happened to me every single day of my life for 27 years. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I realized that something was wrong with me. It was the most difficult thing I have ever had to admit.
I can’t pinpoint where it all started, but if I had to guess, I think it all started as a child. There’s a toxic standard for young boys that calls for them to internalize when we feel any sort of emotions.
“Shut up and suck it up. Be a man! Men don’t cry!”
So, you sit there and suck it up. You hold back your tears and you keep pounding. You hold on to all that bottled-up anger and frustrations and never talk about it. That built-up emotion turns into underlying issues that you never get over; those feelings haunt you forever.
To this day, it’s hard for me to sleep more than a few hours a night. I can only sleep during the day when there’s commotion going on around me. Growing up in the neighborhood I did, it was never quiet. Police sirens and gun shots used to be the soundtrack to my life. I always thought moving out of the hood would fix this, but it’s only made my anxiety even worse. How’s the old saying go? You can take the boy out the hood, but you can’t take the hood out of the boy.
When I’m in my quiet neighborhood I walk around feeling like everyone is out to get me. I walk past people and I feel like I have to be on my toes. I call it my “hood spidey senses,” it was funny as a kid, but as an adult, it is physically and mentally exhausting. What’s even worse is that I don’t know what the underlying issue behind all of it is. It’s fucking terrifying knowing that something isn’t working properly inside of you and you have no idea how to fix it.
I go through phases where one second in the happiest man in the world, the next, I’m sad as fuck and I’m mopping around in the corner. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do to stop it. At times, I can almost feel the chemical imbalance in my brain happening and my mood starting to shift. It’s so scary. I can’t control how my body or brain feels sometimes.
I was inspired to share my story by Kevin Love’s Player Tribune piece. In it, he speaks about how hard it was to open up and talk about his feelings. A lot of it came back to the same point of toxic masculinity. I related on so many levels when he talks about mental health being as real as a sprained ankle or broken hand. It’s as real as that invisible wall I told you about earlier.
That shit hit me in the heart because it’s true. It rattled me to the core because all my life I’ve been told that my brain was special. Everyone always told me that it would take me places I couldn’t even dream about. Now, I’m living with the realization that the one thing I could always rely on, may not work as great as I once thought. Imagine a painter realizing that his hands may never be able to paint the same again? My brain is how I eat.
After reading Kevin Love’s article I knew what I had to do. His words moved me to tears, but more importantly, it moved me into action. Kevin’s words promoted me to get in contact with my HR director and ask for help in locating a therapists to help me cope with some of the thoughts I have.
If you know me at all you know I’m the most prideful human being on this planet. I will starve before I ask anyone for help, it’s a very flawed trait, but that’s just how I’m built. So, for me to open up to her and tell her, “I need help,” was the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I had to erase everything I’ve ever known about talking about my feelings right then and there. Before I hit the send button I was terrified, I was hyperventilating. I couldn’t control my breathing, it felt like I was getting one of my panic attacks. But, the second I hit send I felt a release of energy. I felt like I had already done the hardest part, I felt like the rest would be easier.
I typed out all those words before to simply say this, it’s ok to ask for help. It’s ok to feel like no one will understand if you open up and talk about it. It’s ok to feel like you’re all alone and depressed. We all have problems, no one is going to judge you.
The important part is to find someone you can confide in and talk about it. I know how hard it is to reach out. You think people will think you’re crazy and look at you weird. Don’t worry about them, focus on you.
If you need help I’m here. All that matters is that you seek help. Would you not go to the doctor if you snapped your ankle in two? This is no different.
I’ve spent the last few years of my life making content for people to consume in hopes that they smile and feel good. I thought I did it because I loved to entertain, when really, I was sad on the inside. I wanted to make people smile and laugh so they’d never have to feel like I do when my mind won’t stop. I always thought I could put my feelings on paper and let them out that way. I was wrong, way wrong. So, if any part of what you just read hit home, talk to someone. Let it out. I promise you, these feelings never go away by themselves. The demons get bigger. Let someone help before it’s too late.