Stack Your Victories
October 10, 2022, is World Mental Health Day, an international day for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy against social stigma. Leaders need to share their experiences, no two of which are the same. Many endure unimaginable pain themselves, and for some, it gets better. Leaders are far from immune to mental health issues, nor should they forget the silent challenges those they lead could be going through.
I keep a baker’s dozen empty Wellbutrin bottles in my closet and look at them once in a while to remind myself of the 13 months of hellish depression I went through several years ago.
The cause doesn’t matter. Once depression grabs you by the throat or the soul, you don’t care about the reasons. When you are in the depths, burning the last package of Pop-Tarts in the toaster or running out of Nutella could set you back. It is unpredictable and unimaginable. After a couple of doses of medication, my equilibrium faltered, and unfathomably, I felt worse. I knew I’d have to give my body time to regulate and adjust. On days I could summon the energy, I exercised, meditated, listened to music, and all the other things people recommended. I was not averse to anything because I was too apathetic to raise an objection. Nothing held pleasure or excitement.
My kids saved me with their laughter, stories, curiosity about the world, and the fact that I needed to hold it together for them. I created important habits, like dinners with plenty of discussion about the day, goals, and future planning. I posted our family charter, which they helped craft. I welcomed meals from family and friends and long phone calls with those who checked in. Every day was sluggish, sad, and punctuated with tears that leaked from my eyes without notice or cause.
There was also laughter. I worked, wrote, and created every day, even with the burdensome weight on my chest. I felt fraudulent. How could I advise others to manage better and lead well if I couldn’t manage my own affairs? With help and time, I learned I was managing. Each day I did not succumb to dark thoughts was a victory, and those victories began to stack up. Inevitably, something in life would knock them over and throw me back. I could retreat to the corner, curl up into a weeping ball, or I could stand and persist, still weeping. I permitted myself to be vulnerable, to allow each emotion to wash over me. I committed to learning from the experience, not ignoring or denying its existence.
Thirteen months is a blink of an eye that takes place over an eternity. The daily battles were real, unwanted, and not thought away with happy platitudes. Depression is hellish, and it is conquerable, although your pride will not serve you. You need others.
I can be stubborn, and I was not going to allow myself to be defeated. Even when the bleak fogginess enveloped my head and robbed my passion, I trudged through to meet my demons, looked them in the eye, flashed an FU signal, and hissed, “Not today. You don’t get me today. “
So many ailments, diseases, and epidemics plague our fellow citizens. Find one to help defeat. Do not sit on the sidelines while others plunge into private hells. Begin to lead and become a persistent, dogged opponent of the things that cause pain and suffering. Help others to know it’s okay to have bad days. You can get a handle on them, and though you may not be one hundred percent, you can manage better and lead well.
Is Culture Truly Important To You?
You don’t get to only lead when it’s easy or comfortable.
It’s a good day to reflect on the number of genocides you’re aware of; those in your history, perpetrated by your forebears, and those who victimized your ancestors.
- Is the land you live on today granted to you at the expense of another culture?
- Are those violent acts now water under the bridge for you because your side survives?
- Has there been a reconciliation?
- And do you recognize the acts that are currently being committed as you read these words?
If you are tirelessly trying to strengthen workplace culture yet ignoring real-world culture, you may have a credibility problem.
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