When I was 11 I moved from Ohio to Massachusetts. After moving, my (already low) confidence and introverted personality grew at scale. I become even less confident in myself, continued to not develop self-esteem, and became more introverted. One of the reasons? I had serious body image issues. I was overweight. As a result, I was slow, bad at sports, and in general, didn’t fit in. Like so many others, I found solace in food, being alone, and taking no risks at all. Concerns about body image turned into depression, which took a toll on me for years.
When I was 26, on August 27, 2011, my son, Hunter, was born. Following his birth, my wife fell deeply into a combination of worst case postpartum depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. This forced me to be a single dad with my first child. In general, I changed all the diapers, fed him every bottle, read him every book, sang him to sleep, and did every other “first” with him for those first few months of his life. My wife wanted nothing to do with him.
Besides the obvious, what do these two situations have in common? They were both horrible and quite honestly, I don’t want anyone to have to undergo either one of them. What they have in common is opportunity for something great to come as a result.
I know you’re probably wondering how something great could come from someone being horribly depressed. Both of these situations presented positive experiences, and I unknowingly captured them.
Out of myself being depressed as a result of body image issues, I became introverted. As a result of being introverted, I found myself gravitating to a girl who was also pretty quiet and, in her own way, introverted. As a result of those things happening, we ended up really hitting it off and she is now my wife and mother of my son. We have been together for 16 years.
Out of my wife experiencing postpartum depression, anxiety and panic issues I learned what it takes to really be a man. Do I consider myself the manliest guy in the world? Certainly not. I do know this though – prior to this situation, I never knew what it meant to have to step up and completely ignore my wants and needs in order to take care of someone else. Once I experienced this, I realized what it takes to put someone else completely before you and literally focus 100% on them instead of yourself. If I never experienced this, I never would have developed this perspective and understanding.
These two experiences, which were horrible, also helped me understand what I really want to do. My mission has shifted to helping develop treatments and approaches to helping research mental health issues, specifically among kids. This is an area that is a passion of mine, and is very close to home. I want to help, I believe I can help, and now I understand that I need to help. I feel that it is my responsibility now to pursue this and take it as far as I can go, and I know I never would have felt this calling if I didn’t undergo those experiences previously in my life.
Positivity exists everywhere. It may be impossible to see sometimes, but it is always present.