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How I'm Living in 2020 With Anxiety and Depression, but No Fear

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Many people don’t like resolutions.

The mere concept of announcing a sudden and major change in your life just because the planet completed one more trip around the sun on an arbitrary date set thousands of years ago seems even more silly when you actually type it out. But what if a resolution was more a culmination of a series of changes or realizations from the prior year and represented an end, not a beginning? What if the accomplishment was in celebration of what concluded, not what’s about to start? Because the future is truly unknown.

That’s where I am today. As some or many of you know, I “came out” as someone who openly struggles with depression on May 2, 2019 via a LinkedIn post, “Living with Depression: My Long Shadow” and have since dedicated virtually every free moment of my day to doing what I can to break down the mental health stigma — whether it’s through blog posts, podcasts, tweets, shares, discussions, events or simply in the day-to-day interactions of my life, talking with friends, listening to others, etc.

At my company, Momentum, I’ve built a culture where employees can speak freely about their mental health challenges if they choose, with no fear of reprisals or repercussions. I openly share my need for mental health breaks, even letting the whole company know when I need to step away for an hour for a “mental restart.” My hope is the more people see me, the CEO, do this, the more comfortable they will be, too. Culture change starts from the top.

On the professional side, I helped launch the employee wellness summit for law firms and professional services my company is running in February as part of my effort to spread the virtue of good business practices of employees’ well-being. I have also been working on another event that will be announced very soon that is so very near and dear to my heart and passionate purpose. (Stay tuned, you’ll love it!)

So, I feel good about what I’ve done in 2019 to help drive awareness of mental health, reduce the stigma and in the meantime, meet some unbelievable people who share my purpose and help my efforts to make a big impact in their communities. (If you’re not following #pinksocks, you must!)

As the page turned to 2020, I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about my stated intentions for the new year. Not a “resolution,” but more a target, a goal based on where I’ve been and where I want to be. All of this led me to one glaring conclusion: if I had to summarize the root of my mental health challenges, it would be one word: fear.

Depression is the fear generated from reliving dark parts of one’s past, and anxiety is fear these negative outcomes will only repeat in the future. It is this constant struggle with fear that, at least for me, prevents me from living in the present as much as I would like to. Armed with this realization, I buried myself deeper into a subset of my passionate purpose, psychedelics (more on this to come later) and how this (now re-emerged) approach impacts an assortment of behavioral health issues from depression to anxiety to addiction to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In full disclosure, my fascination began about a year ago when I read Michael Pollan’s “How to Change Your Mind” (I referenced this in my “coming out” post from May 2019) and since then, I have learned more about psychedelics than I could ever have imagined, and I greet each morning with an appetite for even more knowledge.

The general conclusion I have come to is when it comes to psychedelics and depression and anxiety, through proper treatment and guidance, the medicine can help one “reset” their mind and approach the present (and future) without the fear that has been virtually cemented by the past. (Again, more on this in a separate post to come.)

So, for 2020, I decided to state my intention and create a simple reminder I hope impacts every facet of my life: no fear.

This actually began during Christmas when my wife, sensing this was the direction I was going, got me a gift certificate for skydiving as nothing says “no fear” like jumping out of a perfectly good plane, right?

I promised myself I will continue to expand my horizons, face fear in any form and work hard to remind myself fear is the ultimate form of bondage and I choose to no longer be held by these restraints. This doesn’t mean there won’t be bad days, rough days or sad days (there’s already been enough of those in this young year), but sadness is a natural emotion and managing it from a position of strength, not fear, is what I intend to do this year — and hopefully forever. As I have learned all too well, when you battle a disorder like depression and anxiety, the best you can do is take one day at a time. So while I do not know what tomorrow will bring, and I do not know how I will feel 24 hours from now, as of now, this moment, in the present, I feel #NoFear, a culmination of a series of changes from 2019 that represent the end of a chapter.

Do you want to join me?

Unsplash image by Nathan Dumlao

Originally published: January 10, 2020
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