By John Driscoll EdD | CNBNews Exclusive
Recently, I found myself volunteering to speak about the correlation between one’s physical health and mental health. I volunteered because of several reasons. First, I think of myself as a good guy, and I want to help people that are currently in a position that I have found myself in over the years. That position would be that of a person struggling with mental health while trying to move through life. I say move because sometimes the best you can do while struggling is to keep moving like treading water- you don’t really make progress, but you survive. Second, I wanted to prove to myself that, once again, I have progressed or moved in a forward direction. The greatest demonstration of achieving or mastering a new skill is to teach it to another person. So, every time I successfully write an article or present to a group- not only am I hopefully helping someone else, I am building a new foundation for my recovery.
I guess a limited background is needed for those who may not know me or my story, but I don’t want to dwell on it in too much detail as it is a part of my past, at least most days. Additionally, we all have a past, and many of us have experienced very challenging times. However, the intention of my post today is to hopefully help someone else move to a better place.
Anyway, about a decade ago I came close to breaking. I was exposed to a few unrelated very difficult events, some on the last day that I donned the uniform of a police officer, others over my careers as a police officer, and as an EMT, and a few events not-career related. After this day in July so, many years ago, the negative images of the past all found a home in my hippocampus. At least, that’s what the doctors told me. Thus, I found myself barely able to function. After that day,I became someone else to some extent.
I tried many, many therapies, and medications… to help but most left me lethargic and somewhat empty. I was fortunate during those days to have my wife and kids who helped sustain me. And eventually, I found what worked best for me. I found that taking better care of myself helped greatly. It’s not a perfect solution to my challenges, and it takes work, but once I started trying to eat healthier, sleep more sound, exercise more often and to get some sun, I started feeling better. These health activities parlayed unto each other, overlapping and impacting each other in a significant way. Another thing, I swore by was taking time off for myself when I was spent or saturated with negativity. I always had a hard time taking time for myself unless I was dying with a high fever and chills. I didn’t take a day off. However, nowadays, I tell myself I wouldn’t go to work with the flu, so why would I go when I am mentally fatigued, or at least most days I tell myself to take a day off.
Nevertheless, I do not always follow my own advice, which brings me back to volunteering to speak. My employer asked me to submit a mock presentation with a PowerPoint and a video of myself presenting, so I did, and they liked it. Unfortunately, the date they asked me to present is a challenging day for me. I knew that but shrugged it off. The night before, I slept like shit, my demons were working overtime and were dragging me through the muck. I was tired, running late, hadn’t eaten, and never saw the gym. Things I swear by to get me through. There were so many signs as to why I should not present, but I chose to ignore them.
Anyway, I decided to persevere. At first, I probably looked good, I was using the same PowerPoint that my employers approved, I had a fresh haircut, and I was wearing a new suit, but as soon as the presentation began, I crumbled like a pringle. When describing the event to my wife, I compared myself to the spitting, stuttering lawyer from “ My Cousin Vinny”. Oh, I was a complete mess. I was sweating like a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch or that one with Jordan Peele in the Key and Peele sketch.
This may not be the best demonstration or my most successful or positive experience, but feel free to learn from my mistakes.
Consider these next few items as steps to help you during your challenging times but remember sometimes you will need to do the work, walk the steps when things are going well for it to help when things aren’t.
The first step, try getting healthier, as it is helping me, and there are plenty of studies you can look up online that show the negative impact of sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, and not getting enough sun… There are also many that show the positive impact of taking care of yourself. It takes work to break the cycle, but it is worth it. Second, DO NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS- it is okay to take some time off- don't go to work with the Flu, Covid, or Mentally fatigued... Third, if you fail, even if you fail at presenting your success of how you should take care of yourself mentally and physically, don’t give up, learn from it, wake up again tomorrow and try again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mr. Driscoll is a former Gloucester City police officer, a Gloucester City EMT, and a City Board of Education member. Presently he is an Automotive Enforcement Investigator for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
image courtesy of unsplash.com