Singer/Songwriter, Mental Health Advocate, Supporter of Dreamers

It's okay not to be okay

"Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about, Be kind Always"

It took me 8 years to mention to the public that I struggle with addiction. I should have done it sooner, but I guess I just wasn’t ready. I’m writing this to let people know they are not alone. I released my first album Lonely Traveler back in 2004. There is then a long gap between records. Music is my world! I continued writing songs and performing shows to help spread the word in support of Lonely Traveler, but soon lost my way. I was in and out of behavioral health units and rehabs for 2 to 3 years. I had my last drink(God willing) on November 16th 2010. I’m lucky to be alive. I was diagnosed with depression and bi-polar disorder while in the behavioral health unit. I’ve had panic attacks and anxiety since I was 12 years old. Panic attacks that were so bad I ended up in the hospital. When they first started I had no idea what was happening to me. I thought I was dying, or having a heart attack. They were very scary. Over the years I’ve learned to deal with them much better. They aren’t as frequent or severe. From the outside looking in you’d never know I had any mental health ailments. I always greet people with a big smile and my dimples do a good job helping cover up my darker days.

That being said, I think all humans are depressed from time to time. Some definitely more than others. I also feel addiction and depression/anxiety are cut from the same cloth. I used alcohol to self medicate for years. It worked for a long time to help with the pain until it didn’t work anymore. The wheels eventually fell off the bus and the train derailed from the tracks. I write this to let those out there that are still suffering know that there is hope. There is also nothing to be ashamed of. Admitting that you are sad or depressed or have an addiction problem is hard. I can promise you though, that once you face your demons and accept them you’ll feel relief. When you do ask for help you’ll immediately feel relief. Once you surrender, you start winning.

There is definitely still a stigma in regards to mental illness in general. Mental illness isn’t treated the same as other ailments. People feel sorry for those with cancer, but not people with addiction problems. I think the general public has come around more in the last few years, but there is still a long way to go. Also, there are some that truly understand that addiction is a disease. The stigma isn’t categorical among all people.

Being a guy, people commonly say, “Ah get over it, toughen up” “You shouldn’t let this or that affect you”. “You have nothing to be depressed about”. Guess what? Depression, anxiety, and addiction doesn’t need a reason. Furthermore, showing your emotions is a sign of strength and not a weakness. It takes more strength to show your emotions and feelings than to hide them. In addition, men have been taught to hide their feelings and remain stoic. They don’t want to appear weak or less than. Sometimes I’ll wake up sad for no reason. Honestly, my life is absolutely wonderful and I have so much to be grateful for. I literally have zero reasons to feel sad or depressed. However, there are some days where my head feels heavy like a thick gray cloud. My thinking is muddled and the world feels like its caving in on me. I can’t explain it. Some days are just like that. I tell myself that this too shall pass and it always does. When I’m in that fog though, it feels like the world is ending. It is hard to function. I then get mad at myself for not having the energy to be productive. In these tough moments I need to remind myself that it’s okay.

I take paxil to help with anxiety and depression. There is nothing wrong with taking medication to help you feel normal. It doesn’t make you weak! I’ve also used meditation as another way to calm my mind. Another key ingredient to keeping myself in tip top mental shape is exercise. Exercise is the number one thing I can do in my life to help keep me healthy in general. It really is that simple. There’s a trickle down effect. Exercise releases the happy endorphins such as dopamine in the brain. I also use a lot of positive self talk to keep me in good spirits. The mind is very powerful and will believe everything you tell it.

If you’re feeling down or struggling with addiction, nobody is going to shame you and those that do aren’t worth knowing. The people that care about you most will support you. They will respect you, and they will be happy to see you happy. If you’re feeling low, please call a friend or family member to chat. Friends and family have saved me many times over the years. There is no shame in admitting you need help. We’re all human, and we all need help sometimes.