What you don't see

What You Don’t See

Pics on social media are cool but its what you don’t see that’s most important.

People who see my Facebook account will see, for the most part, my face with a smile on it; or perhaps there are they’ll come across pictures of me out for a bike ride or me at the gym. I look like I got the world by the ass, right? Wrong! Don’t be fooled. Although it may seem like I’m enjoying life to the max, it’s what you don’t see that tells my actual story.

In reality, what’s going on beyond the one-tenth of me you see in photos; is but the tip of the iceberg. When I took the fire safety officer course, many moons ago, they taught us something that resonated with me. They taught us this: Perception is always reality and man, this is so very true.

So, what am I talking about? Well, simply put, what you see with your eyes doesn’t always marry up with the assumptions you conclude. Getting back to my smiley faces and gym poses on social media, the real question here is; “Am what I am seeing actually what’s what’s really representative of what’s actually going on?”

Sadly, in my case, the answer is no. As much as I want these pictures to represent me as a fun-loving, active guy who has his shit together, it would be a foolish to believe. Firstly, let me say that I am indeed a fun-loving, and active fella, however, to say I have my life together, is not at all what those pictures suggest.

The impact of social media photos on our mental health.

Underneath the flesh and bone and bouncing around in my nervous system is the mental health disorder called PTSD. If that weren’t enough, my brain has been afflicted with a huge dose of major depressive disorder; Crappy.

What you don't see
Photo by Raphael Brasileiro on Pexels.com

What you don’t see is the days and sometimes weeks that I am living in a tiny bedroom, burnout form PTSD’s symptoms and exhausted from depression. In this state, just looking at my phone can seem daunting. This is my reality, often, I am broken.

Want to listen to people’s mental health journeys? Go to A New Dawn podcast.

Remember, a smile, an action shot on a bicycle or even a statement pronouncing one’s gratitude, can be deceiving. Furthermore, making judgments about what you see in a photograph is not justification to conclude anything really.

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My truth? My pictures are proof of my incessant desire to get moving forward. Getting down the road to mental wellness requires action so, when I’m able I do. That’s what you are seeing. A forced smile, may help others, a chronicle of my good days may inspire someone else to fight their own inner turmoil. That’s my hope. Plus, let’s not forget, when one has a blog and is an author, one must make the most of their good days to get content out there and sustain it.

Now you know my truth when it comes to my health and social media activity. What’s your story behind the pic?

Checkout the book I helped to write:

Lemonade Stand: Vol. III 

Created by Josh Rivedal and Kathleen Myre, Lemonade Stand: Vol. III is a compilation of 20 stories from those who have served in the emergency services and the military.  In it, the authors talk about their battles with PTSD, a debilitating and for many, a life-long mental illness.  So, if you are from the military or emergency service’s, perhaps this book can help you combat the feelings of isolation and fear that frequently comes with post-traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes, just knowing that there are others out there, just like you, can provide you with the strength and courage to speak up and or get the help you need. The intention of this book is to help with that…. You’re not alone.

Also, Lemonade Stand: Vol III was written to help combat the stigma that often accompanies mental illness, best of all, it attempts to give all you served their countries and communities a voice… Which is amazing!

Lemonade stand
Pre order today

If you are struggling please go here for help: Crisis Services Canada


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What lies at the center

The other day, a friend kindly pointed out that my battle with PTSD is not a sprint but rather; a long and painful marathon. While I know this to be true, those words resonated with me. As a result, it got me thinking about what lies at the center of my mental illnesses.

Over the years, I have often wondered what lead me down this road; what factors caused my health to veer so far off course? More importantly, what would the answer do to help contribute to a better way forward? Or, could my history simply be irreverent?

I, as time went on, I grew into a man with low self-esteem, low self-worth and absolutely terrified to try new things.

The only way to know for sure is to step out of my comfort zone and explore my past and thus, what impact, if any, has had on my life. But where does one start? So many questions.

Thankfully, my background in counselling has provided me with some options as to where to start. After careful consideration, I decided to start with the concept known as the inner child; a theory that we all have, within our subconsciousness mind, a child we used to be. Moreover, this inner child comes to the fore when our experiences illicit similar challenges from our youth.

What lies at the centre.

For example, as a boy, some adults in my life made me feel as though I couldn’t do anything right. As a result, my “inner child comes to the surface today when I perceive that someone is questioning my abilities.

Looking back on such incidents when I was a kid, I would react in anger when an adult would say; “You can’t do that.” Now, as a grown man, when something similar happens I get, you guessed it, angry.

While the answer isn’t as straight forward as I would like, it does seem, at least in part, to have its origins in my childhood.

As one might imagine, the damage was burned into my brain over time; its side effect was a life long belief that I am stupid and worthless. What’s worse is its damage is so great, that I often mistake legitimate assistance as I would have when I was growing up; as someone implying that I can’t do it.

Not only did I grow into the mindset that I was stupid, I, as time went on, grew into a man with low self-esteem, low self-worth and absolutely terrified to try new things.

How to build your self-confidence and self-worth

So, here we are, back at the question; the question of what lies at the center of where I am today?. While the answer isn’t as straight forward as I would like, it does seem, at least in part, to have its origins in my childhood.

if we delve into the by-product of this childhood treatment, it’s not hard to imagine that it is potentially the fertilizer that helped to cultivate my major depressive disorder.

We can heal when we know what it was that damaged us.

And, even though I tried my best to pick myself up and dust myself off, the accumulation of pain became ingrained; each time I was made to feel this way, the open wound would widen and cut a little deeper. Multiply that by forty years, heck, twenty years even and you’ve got a recipe for depression.

Wirth all the above in mind, I feel that exploring thw inner child has some real validiy. It may help you to uncover the source of your mental pain. In my example, we saw that my outbursts of anger appear to have come from my treatment in childhood.

So, if you’re at a loss as to why you are feeling the way you do; maybe its worth exploring what lies at the center. We can heal when we know what it was that damaged us.

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Didn’t See It Coming.

Didn’t see it coming

Didn’t see it coming: As if anxiety and PTSD weren’t enough, major depressive disorder too?

Out of all my mental health conditions, the one I never thought was an option was major depressive disorder (MDD). It crept under the radar, cloaked in my anxiety disorder; at least this is what I thought was the source of my woes. I guess I didn’t see it coming.

I have always been a fairly positive, up beat person so it came as a surprise when the psychiatrist diagnosed me with it. However, after exploring the symptoms and looking back on it now, I see it plain as day.

Signs and symptoms of major depressive disorder.

Not only can I see it’s influence on my life, I can say with certainty that it’s been in the background since adolescence. In my teens, it was masked as moody teen behavior. Perhaps this is why the heavy dread went undetected.

“What’s more imperative is finding ways to minimize its impact on the quality of my life”.

Robbed of energy and full of inexplicable sad, I rationalized it away by thinking that everyone gets the blues now and again. But the Blues don’t generally cause mental exhaustion and physical pain, a fact I failed to observe for years.

These depressive episodes only became clear after I was diagnosed with PTSD. It was at this moment when I realized how interwoven the two mental health disorders were. The trauma I accumulated brought to my attention just how cyclic the moments of “blue” are. I have several episodes a year. How could I have mistaken this for normalcy?

This is a question that I struggle to answer, now at almost forty-four, I have excepted that I will never know. Honestly, I am ok with that. It’s source is now irrelevant. What’s more imperative is finding ways to minimize its impact on my quality of my life.

Treatment options for depression

Although it exacerbates my disconnect to the outside word; a disconnect that comes with the post traumatic territory, I work hard so I’m not swept away by its unrelenting feelings of worthlessness.

“improve your quality of life by doing your best to squeeze every drop of happy out of this life you’ve been given. “

One thing I recommend for you, is talking to those closest to you. Get their feedback on what it is they see about you. For example, you might think that you’re simply tired all the time and that’s why you sleep in a lot. but i is there more to it? Remember, be gentle, you are asking for their help.

Didn’t see it coming

Pay attention to how you feel, really stop and think about it. Am I feeling inexplicably sad and want to cry? Do I feel this way for more than two weeks? Do I withdrawal from things I used to love, family get togethers etc?

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If through your investigations you find cause for concern, maybe it’s time to see a mental health professional. Once you know for sure, you can restart your way down the road to mental wellness.

For me, I do most of the work between the lows so as to help me cope when they hit. Diet and exercise are key players in my recovery. Changing my eating habits have taught me the importance on good food’s health benefits, including mental health.

I know MDD can be discouraging but try and keep in mind it’s not something you can just get over. If in doubt, do some research you will discover that it is a real, legitimate illness that can be chronic and debilitating. You didn’t ask for it but you must tackle it. Is everyday going to be filled with joy? Not likely, but you can improve your quality of life by doing your best to squeeze every drop of happy out of this life you’ve been given.