Hello there! My name is Philip Hambrick. For those who don’t know me, I am 29 years old, a husband, and a father. I write here today for Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month. I hope my story can bring light and provide support.
My mental health journey started back in my childhood, long before I could understand what mental health was. Around 11 years old, I started to feel overwhelmed with emotions. These emotions started to take over my mind. I had no clue what to think, feel or how to explain it in words. Happiness for the kids around me seemed so easy. But for me, it became very difficult to smile and hide these feelings. Happiness soon faded away entirely.
Around this same age, when my family started to notice, I was provided with a professional therapist to speak with. Thoughts of suicide and the suicide hotline number was put on my nightstand before I was 12. After years of sitting with the same therapist every week for an hour, I still had not said a word to him. He would ask me questions and I would sit completely frozen in total silence the entire time. I could not process what I was feeling or why I was feeling it into words. Honestly, nor did I want to at the time. I didn’t want to sit down and process what I was feeling, I just wanted to hang out like other kids being happy like them.
As the depression progressed, it started to become part of my identity that made me unique. Embracing it, physical activity, and physically hurting myself in solitude were the methods I chose to cope. The first outlet I found to successfully deal with depression was golf. Finding a skill that I was awful at and honing it in was the best way I found to manage my feelings in any kind of healthy way.
Although I found some healthy outlets, I kept all my thoughts and emotions to myself and said nothing to anyone about it, even my therapist. After years feeling this way leading to a failed suicide attempt, this led to my first words at the therapists office starting trials of a few anti-depressant medications.
Throughout the testing, none of these medications worked great for me. I took a break from these medications and tried Cannabis. It turned out that Cannabis THC was by far what worked best for me in learning to process my depression. For the first time in a long time, I felt the feeling of happiness smiling for no apparent reason. My brain opened to acquiring the knowledge on how a depressed brain worked and the walls slowly came down diving into why I felt that way.
As I have grown older, having the time to learn and look back to why I felt such a strong way at a young age, there was no major catalyst. For those with depression, it is very important to understand that depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. While this chemical imbalance can be triggered by a major catalyst such as mourning a death, this imbalance can also occur naturally. Knowing this makes overcoming depression a more digestible mission of how to rebalance brain chemicals. That is why antidepressant medications can have success; this re-balancing is their primary action. However, there are many natural methods of balancing brain chemicals but that takes consistent intentional practice to gain the experience.
Understanding the power of how depression can work against you is the first step to turning that power into the strength needed to live with it every day. I feel a great way in understanding the way a depressed brain works is going on a run or doing some form of uncomfortable physical activity for an extended period of time. When your body gets tired and starts to feel pain, your brain tells you to slow down and stop. Perhaps even your brain starts to say that you do not have what it takes and that you are not good enough. Negative thoughts start to creep in out of nowhere. It's your brain and it knows exactly what to say to break you down. From my experience, this is similar to the way a depressed brain thinks immediately upon waking up and naturally throughout the day when performing any and every action. At a point over time, you can’t hold back the resistance anymore and then thinking about negative things becomes your natural, abusive subconscious mind. Suicidal thoughts can become natural over time because this voice is utterly exhausting to live with day in and day out. Like a physical disease consumes your body, depression can consume your mind without your permission.
Around 21 years of age, the most impactful point of my journey to understand depression was when I started to see a pain management specialist for chronic pain due to an injury. At this point in my chronic pain and depression path, my goal was always to make the pain go away; a cure. Unfortunately, that’s not a matter I had control over. What I do have control over is how I let that pain or limitation affect my mind and my life. Getting to the point of acceptance was the absolute hardest part. But once accepted, it was no longer a crutch holding me back, it became an obstacle to overcome and an opportunity for growth.
Depression is not cured, it is managed.
It is a daily process of steps taken one after another moving toward achievable goals. It is very challenging but building strength in any form is crafted through discomfort. I genuinely believe that those who feel the emotions of depression have a special power when learned to channel it in a productive way. Not everyone understands a chronic overwhelming power of feelings for negative or for positive. Learning the negative power is an initial insight to how it can be turned into a positive power. Struggles make people stronger. Learning this as a fact, I was empowered with the thought of: ‘if I have been constantly challenged by my own mind my entire life and I can overcome that, what else is in the way to do anything I can imagine?
Managing depression to me has become a series of a few things. First and foremost, gratitude/meditation. Second, establishing clear core values and goals. Third, seek challenges daily to build mental strength, discipline and self-belief. Fourth, but MOST importantly, give total effort and NEVER give up!
For me it’s: Family, Finance, Fitness, Friends, Fulfillment.. In that order. It is a lifelong journey to achieve wealth in all of these categories. When things get tough and I want to quit, I rely on all four of my core rules to give me strength saying I am grateful, discomfort is part of the process, and I DO NOT QUIT. With my core rules in action towards my goals, I can use the power of my emotions for productivity and progress. With an unwavering focus on the opportunity, I gain the strength needed to get out of bed every day ready to fight my demons as soon as that alarm clock goes off. It is a daily battle without a doubt, but one I have forged a path to take complete ownership of. If I can do it, anyone can too.