The Mighty Logo

Why Being a Good Father Means Being Open About My Mental Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

The following story is brought to you by The Movember Foundation. The Movember Foundation is the leading charity dedicated to changing the face of men’s health around the world. With a singular goal to stop men dying too young, the Foundation supports the following causes: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. Since 2003, the support of more than 5 million participants has funded over 1,200 innovative projects across more than 20 countries. To donate or learn more, please visit

If I can be one thing, I want to be a good father and set an example for my kids. Not setting an example of being tough and invincible, but being open, being affectionate, being compassionate.

All I want to do is be there for my kids and this was something that really stood in the way.

My name is Adam Anava. I’m a father of three boys and I struggle with anxiety and depression.

For me, it really started when I had a child. He was about 1 year old. My wife had gotten into a car accident.

Neither of us was prepared to deal with the sort of psychological problems that came from this, even to acknowledge or identify and understand what exactly was happening. I started to cave under that pressure. I started to slowly pull away from all of my friends and decline to go to social events. The weight of not speaking about it really just piles on top of that and gets out of control really quickly.

At one point, I couldn’t function. I was a shut-in. I had a park across the street from my house, maybe 50 feet from my front door; I couldn’t even go outside with my kids.

You feel choked, suffocated. I am throwing out all these words to try and describe it and it’s hard to single in on it. It’s something where dealing with it on your own is not possible.

The first time I really felt OK to speak up about what was happening was actually out of a moment of desperation.

I was out of the country with some friends at a wedding, in traffic, and I started to have a panic attack.

There were two friends in the backseat. I was trying so hard to talk myself out of it, to not let them know what was happening, and I broke down.

One of my friends who was with me realized what was happening and started trying to calm me down, letting me know everything was OK, there was no need to feel that way and started to open up about how he had gone through something similar.

In my panicked state, I didn’t know what else to do and I started talking out of desperation. It was a weight coming off. It opened a door to move forward, to start to overcome these issues. It gave me hope.

I can’t imagine how anybody could go through this and overcome it without talking about it.

I have three sons now. I don’t ever want them to go through parts of what I’ve gone through. I think it is inevitable that we all face challenges. They are going to have their hard times, but they don’t have to suffer alone.

To be a better father, I really had to open up about these issues. It’s the only way to really overcome any of this.

Image via contributor.

Originally published: June 4, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home