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    May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The slogan for this month is “End the Stigma”. There are many stories. This is mine.

In October of 2015 I sat at my desk at the Maryland State Department and started to cry. The annual Maryland Association of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance Convention was quickly approaching, and Convention crisis and politics were happening on what appeared to be an hourly basis. At work I had a new boss, a new office, a lot of new charges and a feeling like my cubicle walls were collapsing in on me.

With a 2 and 5-year-old at home and pressures mounting at work I found myself on a Monday morning sitting at my desk with tears rolling down my cheek when my office partner came it and said, “Are you alright?” As a forty-year-old man you’ve learned that the answer to that question is “Of course – must be allergies”. I gave her the wrong answer, I said, “No, I’m not”.

That started a personal journey with encouragement from those close to me to find some help. I was having a decent amount of professional success and my home life was very good; supportive wife, caring kids but something was not right. Thank goodness Debbie (the aforementioned officemate) took time with me to just talk and listen. I don’t know where I would have spiraled had she not.

After getting through Convention, I did one of those things you aren’t supposed to do; I took sick days. I went and saw my primary care doctor, I scheduled appointments with three therapists until I found the right match for me. Through a combination of counseling and prescription I was able to function much better with the anxiety I have lived with since 1974.

With finding help my life got better. The relationships I had with my family improved greatly. I was able to still achieve at work but I wasn’t thinking work 24/7. Most importantly, I was a much better Dad to Gabby and Ryann who was present far more with them. Mental health cannot be taken for granted. Since then I’ve become a big fan of the Headspace app, joined a gym to move more regularly and kept up with doctor visits.

Many of us live with mental health challenges or live with someone who is challenged by mental health issues. Help is out there. I’m thankful my friends and family encouraged me to find help for me.

End the stigma.

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