Mental health, ALS and Movember: Looking back on 2016
This past year has been a yo-yo of emotions for my family. Just when things were beginning to settle months after my wedding, my father was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, around the same time Ashley and I found out we were expecting our first child. The diagnosis was news nobody wants to hear and something that has really taken a toll on everyone around us. We don’t know why it happened and if there was anything that could have been done differently to prevent it. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get upset about how unfair and undeserving my father is of this incurable disease. If any of us thought we were depressed before, well, that was nothing compared to how things are now. It has fractured our family and it’s sad to say, but none of us, especially my father, are fully equipped to deal with this devastating news.
I haven’t told many about what’s been happening behind-the-scenes this past year, but I think it’s important in illustrating how unaware even the closest of friends can be when you choose to hide thoughts, emotions or even an illness from people who actually care about you. Even though ALS isn’t a mental health issue, dealing with depression, anxiety and helplessness become the new normal almost immediately. I’ve always had a hard time getting my father to speak candidly about anything, but when he does, I know he feels a little bit better. Even that tiny amount of relief can go a long way during his sleepless and lonely nights knowing what’s ahead. Even when my own anxiety was at its worst years ago, I can’t imagine what’s going through his mind as he sits in his wheelchair, relegated to the first floor living room because his motor skills are slowly deteriorating. That same room he spends his days in is his bedroom, bathroom, kitchen table and, ultimately, prison cell.
This isn’t me fishing with guilt. This is me telling a bit of my story in hopes that it resonates with you on some level and makes you realize or even appreciate the power you have in helping someone else cope with whatever they wake up to every day. It could be a magnitude of things like depression, an eating disorder, an illness or a fear. I certainly don’t wake up to a chorus of angels showering me with joy and happiness, nobody does. But a Facebook message or text could be all someone needs to get out of bed and get on with their day.
I would be lying if I didn’t mention how hard it is to help someone in need. It absolutely takes its toll. Trying to balance tragedy with your own priorities is definitely a test of fortitude. For me being an only child, living as far away as I do from my parents certainly doesn’t help either, but for the sake of being there for someone, it can and will be done.
Life is funny and unexpected sometimes and it’s best to laugh about it in the company of others. That’s why I’m growing a hideous and out-dated moustache again for Movember. As an advocate for mental health treatment, I want people to stare at me and be reminded that a lot of men are proud beings who suffer in silence. They need the same love and care anyone else does – they just need a little nudge or a slap in the face sometimes.
November has become a month where we take a moment and open the floor to meaningful conversation for all the dads, brothers, grandpas, uncles, cousins and friends who might be suffering from a men’s health issue. Think about it and I hope it inspires you to take action of your own.
As a final thought, I would like to thank the March of Dimes Foundation and ALS Foundation for setting my father up with some much needed equipment and health care professional visits these past months. If it wasn’t for these non-profit organizations, there would have been no way to find the funding my father has needed to make his life a little more comfortable. Thank you.
I would love it if you could share this post to help further my story’s reach. Thanks for reading.
If you wish to donate to my Movember campaign, I would encourage you to do so. Any amount helps and it’s definitely appreciated.