As a male living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Bipolar Disorder, it often takes us years to figure out what is wrong with us, and sometimes we create a lot of destruction in the wake of even finding out that something is wrong.
It’s hard to remember exactly when my story began, but I can recall being a teenager when I started to feel that something was terribly wrong. I was a hard mess to handle. I was continually getting suspended from school, in trouble with my parents or I was in trouble with the law. I acted out in many ways, sometimes in criminal ways, even to the point of being caught with a gun in parking lot one night when I was 17. I remember being extremely depressed, excessively worrying about things and feeling like I was drowning in obsessive thought. No matter what I did, it would send me into what I call a Negative Though Blackhole. I would continuously feel dread and panic, and I remember feeling like I was going crazy. I had a lot of shit going on at that time in my personal life, and I can remember asking myself if I was going crazy.
I remember my body feeling like I was constantly under a threat, and losing sleep each night worrying about things. I even started to feel suicidal because I felt I completely lacked any control of my mind and what I was feeling. It always felt like there was a dark cloud hanging over me, and that pain became too much for me to handle. Like most teenagers, I got farther into smoking weed and drinking alcohol, as well as dating a lot of women. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was self medicating and doing what I could to escape this deep pain, that I wasn’t allowing myself to understand.
But I can remember waking up many days, with this deep blackness in my heart, and wondering, “How the fuck I am I supposed to continue living my life like this?” It seems to me that fear and dread turned into anger, and my anger seems to invade and infect my mind more and more. I still had no idea what was wrong with me, and blamed everything else and everyone else. In my 20’s, I was arrested twice at two different times, both for my anger. I even had to take an anger management class and another time I took a domestic violence class. The good thing about this was, this was the first time that I started to understand why I was acting and being this way. Unfortunately, I also went through two marriages, and even ended up in a mental health hospital after suicidal thoughts. Twice. I was deeply concerned that I felt like I wanted to die and I didn’t even care, and wasn’t even going to tell anyone. I knew that if I didn’t get help, that I would go through with it, and nobody would even know until it was too late.
By the time I found out that I had generalized anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder, I was already pushing near my 30s. That is just too much damn time to be suffering, and making the people around me suffer. I started to dig deep into finding out why the mind works this way, continued to seek therapy, and I continue to this day to fight these demons. As a male, sometimes it is harder to admit we have a problem, but I knew that if I wanted to have a better life for myself, and now my current wife and kids, I had to do what it takes to step up to the plate to learn this stuff. This is why my wife and I are very passionate about psychology.
Life is already hard enough as it is, and we need to get rid of this stupid “stigma” label so others can start to live their lives and get the tools they need to reduce the suffering. We as men need to step up to the plate and be real men and take responsibility for ourselves and get the help we need to be can be there for the people who matter the most, even if it’s just ourselves. Mental health effects million of people, and some of those people are your family and friends. Some of those people in some cases are effected by addiction, are in prison, and worse yet, have ended their lives. Many more suffer quietly. I think it’s time we put a value to talking about this shit, and start giving the tools to people that would help our society more. The word stigma can kiss my ass. Some of us are fighting our asses off to much to gain some peace in our lives to be worrying about what some people do not understand. But we need to push forward, because in the end, it’s our lives that matter. How will we choose to live them?
Ben Fama Jr. is a filmmaker, podcaster and thought leader who likes to break boxes and challenge the status quo.