Moustaches and Mental Illness

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I felt pretty down and out. For awhile.

I didn’t know exactly what it was. I thought I had identified the problem(s) as well as a number of solutions.

But I didn’t realize that the problem(s) and solution(s) ultimately resided in myself.

I knew I needed a change. I first started to “see someone” in June.

Yes, I was in a relationship at the time.

But this new relationship was not to run from my relationship with my love, but to find my way back to her. I was having trouble finding my way on my own.

So after battling with myself for much longer than I realized (something I came to understand only over time), June was when I first started to see a therapist.

Though I knew this before, I never fully appreciated how many of the challenges in our relationships with others are often rooted in the challenges we have with – and within – ourselves.

See, it’s easy to tell stories. Stories that we believe ourselves and tell to others. But sometimes those stories we tell others are the path by which we run away. Our energy is driven by fear, not love. And even those closest to us have a tough time seeing that. They only want the best for us – they listen to us, comfort us, console us, and hope that we will feel better.

But how many of them realize when there is something deeper lurking underneath?

And even when they do, can they be impartial to help us sort things out?

We all have our own stuff we’re sorting out. We have our own histories and experiences, even if we have grown up in the same home(s), gone to the same school(s), worked at the same job(s), or have spent social time together. Each of us are unique, our own selves. We don’t always come in pretty packages. We carry around various amounts of baggage in various forms.

It’s not until we’re able to spend a focused amount of time, over an extended period of time, with someone who is trained to be impartial, that we have a chance of finding someone to talk to that will not project their own feelings and biases on us and our situation.

What I didn’t realize about therapy is that it isn’t about anything or anyone else as much as it is about ourselves.

Did you know there are therapists who won’t keep photos of any kind in their office?

Even things like photos can serve as distractions to those who come to the office already distracted by far too much input.

Because when we’re dealing with me, myself, and I, it can already be confusing enough.

We think or feel this way and that way.

Then we add in all the feedback from others.

This person’s opinion, that person’s opinion, and other peoples opinions.

And the thing is, they all have good intentions. But since there is so much noise. It can be confusing.

But what do we think – deep down inside? And how do we navigate through the noise and find these thoughts in places that can be so lovely, yet so dark, and deep?

Writing was my compass on my journey to find the light at the end of the tunnel. But, it was a process.

I didn’t fully realize I had been depressed until this past November. And I’d like to give some credit to the month of Movember. The moustache truly is an incredible catalyst to bring about change and give men the opportunity and confidence to learn and talk about their health and take action when needed.

We can trace early efforts to improve myself as far back as Fall 2013. That said, my intellectual promiscuity was also close to its peak. That was a phase. And in its wake, change was slow-going. I did make some progress in the winter and spring that followed. And this past summer changes were more significant. Though the real turning points didn’t start to emerge until I chose to “see someone.” Regularly.

Because you can recover from most things if you choose to focus on it, to face it, to work through it. I spent so much time talking and thinking about it, but was never truly focused. I created space, filled it up with other people and things and “projects” and neglected to focus on what was most important.

The way I went about it was just my form of running away. I had convinced myself I was working on it, but I was just waiting. And in the meantime, I couldn’t express myself, I couldn’t focus on anything else, get much of anything done, make decisions, see much of any future beyond what was in front of me, and I alternated between waking up way early or not being able to pull myself out of bed.

That had never happened to me before. I rationalized it all as me being able to see the problem(s). But the biggest problem was that I couldn’t see or prioritize the right problems.

These days, I realize that during that time I was blind. I’m so happy that I can see again. And this time, what I see is a present and a future that is brighter and full of more texture than ever before.

You see, depression is all about love, actually. It’s about forgetting – or neglecting – to love ourselves.

Many of us know from experience that love can be painful.

Not loving yourself can result in the greatest pain of all.

And loving yourself? Can result in the greatest love of all.

Some people who know me may just see great energy.

Some who know me better see elements of the old plus some new or improved elements in a better me today.

People have told me about things over these past few years that I did and said that I don’t remember or recognize. And there are quite a number of other things that I absolutely do remember and am not proud to admit.

Again, let’s come back to the idea that in depression we can’t love ourselves – or others – fully.

On my road back to love, I have needed to own my feelings of inadequacy, to recognize all the running I was doing, and to reconcile and be willing to understand, consider, and face doubt. Doubt in both myself and the doubt that would come from others.

These are things that I needed to own, have taken steps to own, and own today in order to move beyond where I was to who I am.

Once you start to move beyond the depression, you start to embrace parts of yourself that you haven’t embraced before, or perhaps just a long time.

And things are different. Sometimes even the people that love you most can have the hardest time realizing and accepting that you’ve changed, even when that’s what they were always hoping for.

We find solutions to our problems when we seek to understand, choose to accept, and find the confidence to accommodate.

Embracing a solutions-oriented approach takes great courage. It is one of the highest form of love.

I write this post not so whomever reads it will feel sorry for me or what happened. This isn’t a sob story, but a story of hope.

It’s me being honest with myself as much as I’m being honest with you.

And the internet.

Mental illness has such a terrible stigma.

And you hear stuff like that all the time. There are a lot of things out there that are stigmatized.

But I can speak about this one from personal experience.

Though I can only speak about it like this now, with this kind of confidence, because I have been honest with myself and others about my depression. And I have chosen to embrace love over fear.

I used to be afraid of being judged. But now I realize those who judge me for the problems of my past may still be grappling with their own problems, which may not be past.

I hope we can continue to find kindness in our hearts and to be kind to each other.

But either way, for those who will judge me, I will forgive them.

And if that’s you, I forgive you too.

Please make no mistake. Depression can happen to any of us. Though not every problem is because of depression. And I’m not suggesting that we’re all depressed, we’re not.

But whatever is keeping us down, we can’t hide from it. We sometimes must open ourselves to the things that hurt us most, in order to move beyond.

And we must be honest with ourselves and with others.

There are things we may be dealing with that we and the others who care about us most are unable to see or are not equipped to be impartial. To listen to you, about you, only. Some people are trained for this. That’s why they have initials like MD or PhD at the end of their name.

The rest of us just think we’re experts. We have feelings, don’t we? Well we must be in a good position to give others advice on their complex thoughts and feelings given we’ve had plenty of complex thoughts and feelings ourselves.

It does take time and it does take work to move beyond where we are, wherever and whatever that may be. It takes time talking to others, but specifically talking with people who can be impartial. I didn’t have that in my life before. I felt I could only confide my most important challenges to a small circle of people.

And it’s important to note that the problems I had did not stop when I started seeing someone. The problems stopped when I started to stand up for myself and put in the necessary work on myself. Some parts of this journey have been a solo mission.

But, however you choose to deal with what might be holding you back, your challenges need not constrict you. Life is full of paradox. As humans we’re able to feel both love and fear simultaneously. But that doesn’t mean we can’t choose one over the other.

Which would you rather win out?

And who will play the role of impartial judge to keep you honest with yourself?

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Today’s photo comes from the good folks at Movember. And as far as Movember goes, I would encourage you to explore this quick rundown of 5 reasons for the poor state of men’s health. There’s a lot to do with prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and cancer in general. But the oft-forgotten, stigmatized, and misunderstood dynamics of mental health are real.

It’s a possibility that we may be dealing with it, just not able, or willing, to see it. Not everybody has a clinical condition.

And it could happen – or be happening – to someone you love. Or someday even you.

Be careful. And be kind to others – and yourself.

When Time Becomes Irrelevant

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We often talk about time being the scarce resource it is, but isn’t it funny that it is probably one of the hardest things to measure, or even keep track of where it goes?

Circling back to Movember for a moment, when engaging one of our program leaders in a conversation about joining in the cause and the EWC team, he was a bit hesitant. It had been a long time since he had shaven, and while I thought I had gotten attached to my beard after a handful of months, for Lance it had been years.

But the thing is, between him and Christina, they couldn’t exactly agree on the general time frame for when the beard stuck.

Maybe Lance was pretty clear on the general time frame and didn’t feel the need to pinpoint. And maybe it was just a fun exchange, cycling back through history, slightly challenging to pinpoint the exact timing in that moment. But sometimes these dates just get a little fuzzy, especially with stuff like this that isn’t exactly of paramount importance, despite their appearance.

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When you search “time” in google images, you can probably imagine the number of clocks that might appear in the results. But that would have been far and away the easy way out. Up until this point in selecting images for my posts, I usually find several to chose from, but am oftentimes ultimately drawn to one particular image. Time was a much more difficult choice than expected. Maybe I’ll find a way to incorporate other images at some point … in time. Which got me thinking, time is a pretty interesting concept that crosses a myriad of topics.

But we’re here to give mention to Time Warped, a book by Claudia Hammond. While you’ll find plenty of reviews with a quick search, here’s the overview from the spot where I found the image, posted on the Barnes & Noble website:

Why does life speed up as we get older? Why does the clock in your head sometimes move at a different speed from the one on the wall? Time rules our lives, but how much do we understand it? And is it possible to retrain our brains and improve our relationship with it?

Drawing on the latest research from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and biology, and using original research on the way memory shapes our understanding of time, the acclaimed writer and BBC broadcaster Claudia Hammond delves into the mysteries of time perception. Along the way, she introduces us to an extraordinary array of characters willing to go to great lengths in the interests of research, including the French speleologist Michel Siffre, who spends two months in an ice cave in complete darkness.

Time Warped offers insight into how to manage our time more efficiently, speed time up and slow it down at will, plan for the future with more accuracy, and, ultimately, use the warping of time to our own advantage.

Movember

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I wonder if you’ve heard about this before? A little movement called Movember. It’s a month dedicated to gaining a better understanding and appreciation for issues in men’s health.

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After spending an evening reading up about the event, which led me to forgo my longest beard growth of 4 months for the cause, I found so many fun blog posts, videos, and images centered around this month-long event.

For starters, how about this campaign from TWBA\Singapore from back in 2010?

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While simple creative ideas like the above serve as reminders that a moustache can turn an ordinary person into a historic figure, there are also a number of educational resources to offer ideas on How to Grow a Moustache (this video is with Nick Offerman).

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The Movember team has done well to find like-minded partners, as evidenced by the nature of the collaboration with Tom’s Shoes. Not only is there a brief video on their site here to offer a perspective on what it feels like to participate in Movember, they’ve also designed an interactive mini-calendar with suggestions for how to structure the 30 days of moustache pared with education around men’s health. Of course, there are shoes for sale. While this year’s edition have a classic feel, I’m a bit partial to an earlier iteration.

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I am also intrigued by how impact is communicated.

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As for my decision-making process, it really came down to Halloween night. Most of my contemporaries, especially the ones who were set to celebrate Halloween for the first time, were preoccupied with important all-consuming questions like, “what will my costume be”? While debating whether I would make it to experience a Honolulu all hallows eve (apparently people get super into it here), I was reminded that the following day was to be the first day of Movember, the beginning of a special month with a curious name.

Movember, which started in Australia back in 2003, is a month-long event where a million men around the world last year decided to shave down on the 1st of November and grow a moustache. By doing this, the goal is to bring greater visibility to issues in men’s health, particularly prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health, while having fun and resurrecting a facial fad from days past. Changing the face of men’s health is a noble goal, here is more specifics on the causes we are fighting for. As for more on the back-story, take a quick look at the history of Movember (there’s a great video).

And speaking of video, MovemberTV offers a whole slew of fun and informative content for your viewing pleasure.

Here are several important reasons why I joined as a full-blown participant in the month of moustache growing:

1. The Story

Movember has steadily grown over the last 10 years. Perhaps we could even say organic? Did you take a look at the history yet?

2. Conversation

There is an interesting and intelligent conversation that engages people around a crucial conversation with humor. And I’m quite interested about how they frame the conversation around impact, as well.

3. Clarity in Vision, Values, and Goals

The vision, values, and goals are super clear and well-articulated through a variety of mediums: the written word, still images, video.

4. Super Social

You can do it with your friends. You can join a group of strangers. It brings people together in a fun and unique way. And you don’t just have to be able to grow a Mo to join the festivities, Mo Sistas are equally encouraged to Movember.

Besides, team play is much more fun than playing alone. The more people involved, the more interesting the exchange. So, we started a team at the East West Center here in Honolulu.

5. What does the Future look like?

Interesting questions. What does the future of men’s health look like? What does the future of the Movember Foundation and their activities look like? What does the future of my face look like when it sports a groomed moustache at the end of the month? How about yours? Few of us really look ready for what is to come.

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While this is my first time participating, I gather that Movember is not about how much your moustache will grow, though however much or however little you do, will likely be fun and funny. It’s also not about how much money you raise in donations, although the donations will contribute to implementing these important programs centered around men’s health. But ultimately, from all that I’ve seen or heard about Movember, if anything is important, it’s the conversations about health. For men. For women. For all of us.

I leave you with several reasons the why the folks at Movember see men’s health in a poor state:

• Lack of awareness and understanding about the health issues men face
• Men not openly discussing their health and how they’re feeling
• Reluctance to take action when men don’t feel physically or mentally well
• Men engaging in risky activities that threaten their health
• Stigmas surrounding both physical and mental health

Movember 1st is behind us, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still join in the conversation. For me it started with the idea that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. 1 in 6 of those men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. While there are plenty more facts to inform you on the current situation in men’s health, you can also begin your journey on the Movember homepage where you will find some incredible energy building around a healthier future.