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Mental Health,  Perspectives

Strength and Mental Health

To start, I want to say that, that human worth has nothing to do with human traits unless they negatively impact others due to your deliberate actions. It doesn’t matter if you are weak or strong, tall or short, obese or thin, introverted or extroverted to be a worthy human being; all that matters is how you treat others.

If you treat yourself poorly, that’s your choice and, in a sense, your weakness which will not lessen my opinion of you. I feel empathy for you. If you deliberately treat others poorly, then you might feel my wraith. That is when you lose respect and value in my eyes.

Michael Landsberg is a Canadian sports journalist who had a successful TSN career. He retired early to deal with his own mental health issues and has started a movement called SickNotWeak, an effort needed to help normalize mental health issues. Dialogue that we need to have in society.

I decided to write this post when a comment I made on Twitter on this topic was misinterpreted. Something that can happen in 140 characters!

Sadly in society, weakness is represented as a negative in a way that lessens someones worth even when it’s not meant that way. I could write many blogs on that topic alone. Mental health issues which are a challenge for those with mental health conditions, often get perceived as weak, so I love how Michael has decided to focus on normalizing it and correctly identifying that sickness and weakness are not the same.

I think Michael Landsberg is stronger than most, and his efforts are heroic, which I admit is an overused cliche at times. I don’t know him well; however, I think he’d humbly deny such praise. I need to share some analogous examples to justify my opinion.

As a Tweet comment to one of his posts, I said:

Who is braver, the soldier that is fearless while fighting, or the soldier that is afraid and fights anyway?

Who is stronger, the person without anxieties or pain that lives each day or the person with anxieties and pain that keeps on fighting each day through the discomfort?

I meant that doing something easy for you is not a show of strength, while doing something hard for you is. So, for example, a soldier that doesn’t fear death isn’t showing bravery or strength of will because that soldier isn’t overcoming fear to perform their duties. Soldiers with a tremendous fear of dying doing their duty show bravery and great strength in overcoming their fear. That is admirable.

So someone with anxiety or physical or mental pain while living days as best they can, overcoming their challenges is strong whether they or anyone else believes it. We can compare what is their best to ours because we can’t measure that strength; we can’t measure what it takes to overcome it. For them, it might take all their energy and power to get out of bed and do what they must to survive.

We can’t expect them to be smiling and happy as someone with no anxieties to overcome. We can’t unfairly judge the effort it takes for them to survive. They aren’t weaker because they aren’t living up to your quality of life expectations. In most cases, they likely are expending far more mental strength to survive than it is for someone without anxieties or challenges to be happy.

Michael Landsberg likely retired with enough money that he could have withdrawn and hidden away. I’m sure he wants to do that sometimes; however, he has shown great strength and bravery to be vulnerable. To share his journey. To invest time and energy in helping others even though I guarantee he expends more energy each day than those without mental health challenges to get through the day.

That is what makes him strong and heroic to me!

My mental health challenge has been severe anxiety and severe ADHD. I’m proud of my efforts and the strength it has taken to overcome my anxieties. The first woman that loved me and I loved called me a Desperado after the song by the Eagles because that’s how I lived my life. I had massive walls. I didn’t let her love me, nor did I love her as she deserved, so she walked away. I’m no longer that weak, fearful man.

My anxieties weren’t why I called myself weak back then; how I handled them made me weak. I made excuses and didn’t do all I could to overcome them. Months after the woman I first loved was gone, I got angry at her when really I was angry at myself. I had to mature and grow stronger to realize I’d been weak. In fact, it was only last year that I realized the extent of how I’d failed, which is another post I have to right and partially why I’m writing this one.

A year ago, and about 4 months after being discarded by a covert narcissist ex-girlfriend I loved that didn’t love me:
I realized how I’d failed in that first true love.
I realized the lessons I’d learned from that first and only valid loving relationship didn’t help me.
I realized that despite being an authentic, strong, fearless, caring, kind, affectionate, wise, and generous man, I had been fooled and used.
I realized my first true love would have stayed with me had I been the same man when I was with her.
I realized I wasted my time, money, and energy on someone that didn’t love me and could never love me.

I sank into a deep depression.

As bad as it’s been, and it’s still tough on some days, like a passing storm, I know I’m lucky because my depression is situational. Michael, I think, has clinical anxiety and depression. He will have to manage it for the rest of his life while mine is almost gone as I’ve healed, reset, and regained hope.

That depression was the deepest and longest of my life that I’ve experienced. I’ve had tough times that led to short-term depression or even languishing for long periods out of exhaustion; however, nothing like how I felt nearly a year ago.

So I would never say I’m stronger than someone with clinical depression day after day by any comparative measures. I think I can and should be capable of great things now that I’ve healed, licked my wounds, and learned my lessons.

Whether true or not, I see people who deal with mental health issues that I believe are more severe than my own as having great strength without comparing their daily activities to mine. I would never see them as weak or in a negative light and will only cheer them on, hoping they have the strength of will to do their best more days than not.

That is what true mental strength is. Doing the best you can more days than not with the hand you’ve been dealt. You are a hero if you can do that while helping others along the way.