I am sharing my story after struggling for over three decades with mental health issues and going undiagnosed for years, but more importantly, to let other members know they are not alone.
I never understood what was happening with my brain - On the outside, I appeared very happy laughing and joking around on the Jobsite with coworkers, my friends, and at home with my family. For a long time, I buried the darkness, sadness, and anger keeping my secret hidden from the world. I continued to bottle it because I did not understand or know how to cope with it. I learned to survive by becoming a chameleon so that others could not spot my triggers and I could continue hiding the truth; however, that eventually took its toll. At times I could not get myself off the couch or out of bed for days because I would physically crash from emotional exhaustion.
My world eventually took an unfortunate turn with several damaging events. I had been through enough and couldn’t go on living this way any longer. My life had spiraled and gotten to a point where I could not see a way out and believed it would be better if I just ended it.
Somehow, in some way, I found the courage to reach out to our EFAP (Employee and Family Assistance Program.) From there, I started counseling with a psychologist and then was referred to a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with ADHD, Impulsive Explosive Disorder, and Bipolar 1 & 2. The ups and downs of bipolar are draining, and the rage that accompanies Impulsive Explosive Disorder was harming me and others around me.
As difficult as it was to receive the diagnosis, it gave me a sense of peace to know that what I was feeling all those years was real and that I didn’t have to fight this battle alone anymore.
I now take a small amount of medication daily that helps my brain function and maintain a healthy balance and emotional state. I am so much happier without pretending to be.
Sure there are rough days here and there, but I am so thankful when I look back at how life used to be. I am grateful that I didn’t follow through with my “exit plan.” I finally love life and waking up each morning to a new day and with my beautiful family close to leaving behind – I realize now that wouldn’t have been fair to them. I have had to forgive myself and am thankful to others who have forgiven me too. I accept that not everyone will, but I have learned to be ok with that.
There is still a stigma that exists, especially in the construction industry, where workers are expected to be rough and tough and hold everything in to hold everything together. I am living proof that mental illness affects even the most unsuspecting. I have worked in the trade for most of my life, have a successful career, tattoos, a bushy beard, and if you were to pass me on the street, my guess is that you would never comprehend the battle I fought for years. The truth is, the more we bury it and the longer we choose to ignore it, the more damage it creates. Not understanding what is happening or why we feel the way we do is a lonely place. It isn’t easy to admit we need help, but it is there.
Trust me; it’s worth reaching out because you are worth it.
In my opinion, it takes more strength to ask for help than to conceal what’s really going on. Mental illness exists, but is rarely talked about, recognized, or addressed in our industry. We need to work harder at educating our members, contractors, and the world to break the silence and increase awareness.
Proud Canadian UBC Brother