Andy Heaton

There was a moment in high school when I found myself sitting in my car (ok, it was an old van that my siblings and I shared) in an empty parking lot, feeling completely dead inside. I felt a massive emptiness and my thoughts were circling around the idea of piping the exhaust into my car with a hose. I had just been playing tennis, the activity that brought me the most joy at the time, and I remember suddenly dropping my racket and walking away.

At another point during that same year, I was so full of anger because the only reason I hadn't ended my life was because of my religious beliefs. I hated where I was so much that punched a punching bag repeatedly until all the skin had broken and peeled away on my knuckles. It was really hard to explain the scabs to friends at school.

The thought that I was constantly ruminating on was some variation of one word: almost. Everywhere I looked, I saw the same message: "You're almost good enough. Almost smart enough. Almost good-looking enough. Almost strong enough. Almost talented enough. Almost, but not quite." I spent a lot of time loathing myself. I didn't know how to talk about it with others. I kept it mostly to myself. But I was dying inside, while outwardly I was trying to be a goofy kid who made others laugh. From my perspective, I was an expendable friend. I was just, "good ole' Andy". I believed a lot of lies and had no self-awareness of the damage my thoughts were doing to me.

Ever since those years, I've been on an ever-more encouraging journey to empower myself starting with my mind. I've had a lot of ups and downs, and I still feel overwhelmed by depressing or anxious thoughts somewhat regularly. But I now know a lot more about how to combat them.

Mental health has become one of my greatest passions because of what I've experienced. I am so comforted to hear stories from others who have been on similar journeys and feel a sacred responsibility to help people know that they're not alone. It's so hard and hurts so deep. But we don't have to feel alone or powerless.

There is so much we can do if only we can stop drowning long enough to see the good, the helpful, the inspiring, the way things actually are. I have become a firm believer that reality is so much brighter and more hopeful than it can often feel like in my head. I hope that my story can join with others in normalizing mental health challenges and removing the shame from mental health conversations.

Thank you Mind for the opportunity to reflect on my journey!

- Andy Heaton