Wednesday, September 21, 2016

“Manly Men” Can and Should Communicate

Image result for manly man

I am a 6’ 7” 240 pound man whom was raised by a Marine and an avid outdoorsman, knows how to build houses, loves shooting guns, hunting, and fishing, and hits the gym.  There has always been a stereotype that  men don’t have the best communication skills and sometimes this is true.

I have worked as a nurse for many years and have experienced saving lives and watching lives end. Communicating with families about their loss and helping them through their tough times seems to come natural to me. Despite years of communicating and helping others with whatever they need, professional or personal, I always thought that the only person I was able to talk to was myself.

When my baby girl was born, I promised her that I would always have an open heart and an open ear, something that I never felt I received from my own father. I have made the same promise to all four of my children;  they know they can talk or ask me anything at any time. There would never be any judgment, any abandonment, and I want to always have open communication for them to be able to talk to me about anything.

I am currently happier than I have ever been and more open to communication thanks to my beautiful wife (for those of you who know her, she’s a talker!) I can say I am better now at communicating. Through better communication and opening up, I came to realize a lot about my past.

The FIRST thing I realized is I’ve always wanted to talk. I’ve always wanted someone to listen. I’ve always wanted to get it off my chest.

The first experience that I have with feeling like this is when I was in Cali and dropped my daughter off before I had to fly back to Missouri. At this time Heather and I have only known each other for a short amount of time, but as I drove away breaking down emotionally, I picked up the phone and called her. Till this day I don’t know why I did, but it felt right. She didn’t say anything to me but just let me talk, cry, blabber about random stuff, and drive around my old town for what seemed like forever.

The SECOND thing I realized is that even if I wasn’t communicating to others doesn’t mean I didn’t try or want too. As a “manly man” maybe my way of communicating was different. We don’t like to share our feelings with friends and really do our best to hide our feelings. But there are always hints, there is always a tell that we can’t hide. The reason we can’t hide it is because we want someone to see it and we want to talk or get help.

The THIRD thing that I have come to realize is there is that one person for every man (or person) that we can and SHOULD communicate our feelings to. It doesn’t have to be your wife, your brother, your mother or father that you go and speak to or open up to. However, there IS someone and that person is the one that we show our tell to but we need to go farther and COMMUNICATE with that person. It may be hard to say the words “I’m feeling depressed” or “I’ve been feeling down lately” but we definitely show it in other ways.

The one thing I want others to see is that no one emotionless. Look at your “man’s man” and tell him that you love him and you are here for him. Watch for his tell and be open to conversations that might not make any sense or seem like they are going anywhere. Going from a tell to actually having a conversation about the way we feel is scary, uncomfortable, and vulnerable. There have been so many conversations that get cut off or brushed off because they might not make sense, but we are sometimes just beginning to try to get it out, try to open up, and try to communicate.

We all like to say “if I knew then what I know now, I would of…….” But today is the now and now is the time to make a change. I have gone through my ups and downs, shut down to all others around me, and looked for other means to bury my problems but that never did anything good for anyone else. I am a very confident “manly man” and I am not afraid tell any of my friends and family I love them no matter the time or place,  show affection to those who need it, talk to anyone who will listen, listen to anyone who wants to talk, or cry and breakdown to my wife if I am overwhelmed. No one is too big or strong to be loved or love someone. No one is too big or strong to communicate.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Suicide Prevention - 3 simple things anyone can do

Suicide Prevention day… no wait Suicide Prevention every day

Today I have had a little time to see all the information about suicide prevention that is flooding social media for World Suicide Prevention Day. It is great as I seen some information about suicide prevention month as well as suicide prevention week.  It warms my heart to see so much information going out, and then I began to ponder how great it would be to not only have a day, a week, and a month dedicated to suicide prevention, but I think it is time we declaring a Suicide Prevention Year.
Imagine all that we could accomplish if we had society that focused on suicide prevention every day for one year.  I can’t take credit for the idea; I got the idea from a blog I read earlier “Suicide prevention must be year round”

I know that suicide prevention is something I do every day. I know when I struggled at my darkest moments, I felt all alone.  But I was never really alone, in my darkest depression, I felt like no one else could ever feel this way or have mental health problems. In 1993, I don’t remember anyone talking about suicide prevention, and admitting to having mental health problems; it just didn’t happen.

Three simple things we can do to help make suicide prevention an everyday thing

1.  Be aware – look around, do you see people hurting, do you notice behaviors of others that are 
     different than usual.  Is there someone who appears to be in distress, overwhelmed or sad?
2.  Education – get training in mental health and suicide prevention. Then educate others, encourage 
     them to get trained.   When you hear someone saying things that make it sound like mental illness 
     or suicidal thoughts make someone less than a person --- educate them.
3.  Act – because awareness and education mean nothing if we don’t do anything about it.   The truly 
    amazing thing is anyone can help and it is the simple things that make a difference such as; “I’m 
    concerned about you, are you ok”, “I can see your hurting, what can I do”, “are you having 
    thoughts of suicide”.   If someone is suicidal and you aren’t able to help, or you get unsure of what 
    to say, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number yourself, while you are with 
    them and start the conversation.   In case it isn’t already programmed in your phone please do that 
    now 1-800-273-8255.   Acting can also be about getting involved in great organizations like The    

Awareness + education + action = saved lives

Maybe you are someone who has never been affected by suicide, you can still help.   If you want to get a better understanding of what someone may be feeling who has had thoughts of suicide in the past, but also to understand the hope that can come, I encourage you to go to  Craig Miller’s website and review two of his videos:  what if and This is How it Feels

My Pledge for suicide prevention every day

I will make every day about suicide prevention by being aware of the people I am around whether it is one of my clients, my friends, my family, and strangers.  I will be aware. 

I will continue to educate myself about suicide prevention and interventions.   I will continue to work to educate others who need the knowledge.  I will work to educate those that are struggling, that life can get better.

I will take action, when I see someone who may need help.  I will continue to be involved with the AFSP, I will continue to participate in SPSM where I constantly learn new and cutting edge information about suicide prevention.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Want to Help People? Put on your Football Pads, Y'all!

Helping people hurts at times. It hurts because the same thing that makes us great at helping others-empathy-also makes us more vulnerable at being hurt. I believe in people. I believe in the good in everyone and sometimes that results in my being hurt. This is where we can learn a thing or two from Drew Brees*.

Drew Brees? Really Heather? Yes really. Not only Drew Brees but football players in general. You see, Drew wears football pads to protect him from being hurt when/if he gets sacked (zip it Saints haters).  Not only does he wear football pads, but he also wears a helmet. Each part of his protective equipment has a particular purpose and protects certain parts of his body. We need to wear our own type of football pads to aid ourselves in not being hurt.  

My friend (and bad ass) Ursula wrote a blog this week about being a MF Monster. In it, she stated that one should “find your clan”. Yes. Who protects Drew from getting sacked and hurt? His offensive line. Our clan can serve as our offensive line. Our clan can protect us from when life tries to knock the hell out of us.  

Another bad ass friend of mine, Josh, recently wrote a blog that spoke to me as well. He writes about the importance of ignoring the naysayers that try to “zap you dry and steal your sunshine”. This is another part of our protective pads. Ignore the critics that want to see you fail. Focus on yourself and your fans. I can assure you that you have fans.

 We need to be aware that we need football pads instead of full-on body armor. We sometimes need that protection to keep us from being hurt but we don’t need to be completely hard.  After being rejected or hurt, it would be easy to give up and stop attempting to help anyone ever again. But, I won’t. You won’t. Wearing our football pads helps to protect us while also giving us the protection to continue reaching out and helping others.  It gives us the protection to get knocked down, get up, and play another quarter.


*I used Drew Brees because I am a HUGE Saints fan. Anytime I can combine my love of the Saints and  mental health advocacy, I will.