One of the things you learn when you start talking about mental health and wellbeing is that the more you open up about your own journey, the more people will share with you of theirs.
I really think this is key.
If you're anything like me, you've probably spent a lot of your life feeling like you were inferior to everyone around you.
Like everyone else had their shit together and if you didn't fake it perfectly, they'd all find out what a fraud you were.
Certainly, I felt that way. I believed from a young age that I wasn't cool enough to fit in with everyone else, and so I tailored my life and my whole personality to being what I thought was expected of someone who was cool.
I wore what I thought I was supposed to wear. I listened to the required music and watched the right movies and spoke the right way.
I spent years in high school hoping that the cool kids would nod at me or shake my hand so that I could do the same nod or handshake back and prove that I, too, was cool.
I believed that everyone else in the world was just crazy secure and that they'd figure out I was an imposter if I didn't act just like them.
This is partly why I started drinking, and it's the kind of mindset that threatened to lead me down a pretty destructive road. Especially when combined with the notion that mental illness and depression is something to be quiet about, to hide from and be ashamed of.
But I remember opening up about this stuff, finally, to someone I really trusted.
He was someone who from what I could tell was extremely secure in his own skin: he was unapologetically himself; he liked what he liked and he wore what he wore and he was proud of that. He was a role model.
He was cool, damn it.
And yet when I told him about how I felt like I was secretly inferior to everyone else in the world, he nodded along with me and agreed with so much of what I was saying.
He felt the same way, a lot of the time. He got depressed, too, and insecure, and didn't know what to do about it.
He struggled, just as I did. But I was so caught up in my own issues that I just assumed his life was perfect and wished I could be him.
I think that talking about this stuff does a few important things.
First of all, obviously, it normalizes the struggles that we're all going through. And if we don't feel like we have to keep this stuff a secret, often it's easier to bear.
And second, it reminds us that other people have it just as tough as we do, if not tougher. I've often felt so caught up in my own mental health woes that I've felt justified in being selfish and self-absorbed and ignoring those who were also hurting and who I could have helped.
Talking about this stuff breeds empathy. Empathy is key.
We grow by nurturing each other. If we can get out of our own heads and concentrate on helping another person stand, just for a while, it helps the both of us.
I try to steer clear of the sappy stuff here, but this is a large part of why I'm writing this blog.
Hopefully, you're getting some use out of reading it.
Here's a powerful video piece my friends at PokerListings put together. The subject is another friend of mine, Ben Wilinofsky, a poker professional who's won millions of dollars in live games and online.
I love this piece because Ben is one of those guys who I'd assume has all of his shit together.
And he's someone who I admire all the more because he had the courage to sit down and talk about his own mental health issues.
Give it a watch, if you have a few minutes. It's worth your time.
And let's talk.