Why Speak Out About Stress and Mental Illness?

I spent 12 years at the Police Academy in Goldenwest College of Huntington Beach, California. I was cultivating and coordinating the presentation of a course called ‘Crisis Intervention Training’ in which Orange County’s policing community gained insights about mental illness. I provided some instruction within the course course curriculum, and there were some exhausting days on which I questioned whether it was all worth it. I got my answer one afternoon when one of the officers attending our intermediate level course slipped me a greeting card on his way out at the end of the day. It read…

“Scott – I’ve been meaning to write this for years but on seeing you again, it’s a great chance to THANK YOU. In CIT I (a former class sitting) you shared your experience on duty. You opened my eyes to my own mental health struggles. After that class I finally sought out help with my depression. I tried a few Docs and Meds until I found a good fit. 2 years ago I started Lexapro and started life all over again. My current happiness would not have happened if you hadn’t removed the stigma of mental illness. It is just an illness, medically treatable. Thank you for sharing your story and for your continued work with law enforcement. It probably saved my life…Rob.”

For anyone who speaks publicly to educate others about any of life’s difficult journeys – the answer is a huge YES! It is very much worth it and the messages we send are touching lives in so many beautiful ways. Thanks for the card, Rob. It really meant a lot to me and I will treasure it.

Oh…And That’s Why!



Run up the Flags…

Apparently men with depression present with irritability. I’ve been thinking about this, and in my case it is certainly true. My diagnosis includes mood swings in both directions, depressive dips and manic moments. It strikes me that both directions of travel must therefore have a signal flag. In my case, irritability travels hand-in-hand with my depressive cycles. On the opposite end – being manic, I am argumentative. I can use both of these states; they will be my signal flags.

Recognize that being irritable, and being argumentative are two completely different and recognizable frames of mind in my world. Each can be equated to a direction of travel: up into mania or down into depression. The trick lies in being aware, and in the moment to recognize the path you are on, when either of these two flags are/have been flapping in your prevailing wind.

  • Depression: I’ll notice that I start grumbling under my breathe towards people I love, particularly my wife. She’ll make a suggestion of some sort or ask me to do something and my immediate reaction is very negative and usually internalized. I am smart enough not to say everything out loud! Usually the first few trending reactions will slip under my radar, but I will eventually recognize this early onset behavior and I can then label the direction of my travel toward a depression. I then go to my resilience and recovery model to select strategies that will bend the latest depressive curve into an upward climb. Typically, I go to strategies like exercise, hobbies, social supports and sleeping habits to accomplish this intervention.
  • Mania: I argue while manic because I’ve thought about my latest idea’s a whole lot more than you have. I’ve run the ideas through my mind repetitively 24/7 and have been so excited by my latest branches of discovery that my mind refuses to slow down or squeeze in a healthy sleep …anyone else would be left exhausted. You are asking me to slow down and explain the many facets of my thinking to you. I can tell you that my super energetic powers will lend themselves to some delusional beliefs that you are probably not going to buy into, at least not without a healthy dose of convincing. There’s an argument brewing in this somewhere I’m sure!! When I recognize the urge to argue, the direction of travel for me is going to be manic. I turn again to my resilience and recovery model to select strategies that will bend this ascending curve back toward comfortable middle ground. I like to explore strategies of relaxation at this point to slow my mind down.

My argumentative look is different from my snarly, irritable appearance. Learning to recognize both of these mood flags has been an enormous help in being better able to manage my own mental illness.