This is Nick Stagge

I struggle with anxiety and depression.
It's a battle I've had for 30 years.

It comes and goes in waves. Sometimes the water is smooth and I can sit back and enjoy the moment. Sometimes I can see the waves coming with enough time to swim to safety. And sometimes I'm completely blindsided as they crash over me.

It’s unpredictable, unprompted, and unexplainable. And it sucks.

I have a loving wife, beautiful kids, a wonderful family, and caring friends – yet my anxiety and depression often make me feel alone and isolated. It’s hard to explain and it’s even harder for those around me to understand. But it’s real. 

It’s as if I find myself living in a place I’ve come to call ‘the in-between’. Because of my anxiety, I struggle fully experiencing the moment. I’m pulled into conflicting thoughts, torn at every decision, and lost in the possibilities of unanswered questions. This makes it difficult for me to truly connect, leading me to experience the existing moment as if it were a distant foggy memory.

Because of my insecurities with my own mental health, I’ve tried to hide this from family, friends, & co-workers. So much so, that I've lied about playing with a set of poker chips – telling people I have a gambling problem. Because that felt safer then letting people know I used them to help manage my anxiety.

And while I’ve avoided addressing my mental health directly with those closest to me, I’ve held resentment with those people because very few have noticed my struggles managing my mental health alone.  I've wanted it to be known without having to speak it into existence myself. 

But as I'm maturing, I'm learning that this isn't a battle I have to fight alone. This is real life. This is hard. But there is hope, and there are people willing to help. Lots and lots of people. I don't need to be embarrassed. I don't have to live in shame. I don't have to worry about being judged, or looked down upon. I can be real, knowing my family and friends will wrap their arms around me.

As I've become more public about my ongoing mental health journey, I've discovered there’s comfort and power in speaking up. There are countless people working to improve their mental well-being; many of whom have felt that they need to keep their story to themselves. But this is changing – people are standing up and speaking up in ways I’ve never thought possible before now. I'm encouraged seeing so many people being vulnerable & sharing their personal stories of mental health. 

Even more, I'm touched with the warmth, love, and support shown to those openly sharing their journey with the world. People are offering an empathetic ear, listening without judgement, and simply showing up for one another. It’s through these types of conversations that we can begin to create change. 

If you feel down and out, know that there is more good than bad – and you deserve to feel the good. But you must become an advocate for yourself and an advocate for others. Stand up and speak up. I’m confident that as you do, you’ll find comfort and support. There are incredibly great people out there who understand your struggle – and they're forming to break the stigmas, create support systems, and offer a helping hand.

Accepting help should not be thought of as a sign of weakness or a shameful act. Instead, it should be celebrated, because it represents a step forward in your journey – whatever your journey may be.