Has it really been two months since my last post? Jeez.
I’ve been busy. I’ve been tired. I’ve been sick. I’ve been in love.
It’s been a busy two months.
It’s been a busy year.
I started this blog a year ago today because I felt compelled to say something about myself. Part of it was cathartic. I’ve always used writing as an outlet for the worst feelings that well up inside me, spilling them out onto a page to empty them from where they can cause the most hurt.
After I wrote my first post, something strange happened to it. People shared it with each other. They shared their stories with me. They asked me questions about how they could help themselves. They asked me questions about how they could help their loved ones.
They asked me questions about how they could help me.
Some of these people were friends. Some were acquaintances. Some were strangers.
The strange thing that happened to this blog was this: it ceased to be about me.
The stories still were stories of my experiences, but I was no longer venting to the faceless void of the internet. I wasn’t trying to push the unhealthy things away from me any more. I started to hold them up, to scrutinize them more closely, because they were going on display. The void had faces now, and they were people I could help by showing what I had done right and what I had done wrong.
This blog became about those people.
It became about being honest with them (sometimes brutally) so they could be honest with themselves.
It became about being hopeful with them so they could be hopeful with themselves.
I noticed something else, too. The more I tried to sort my experiences into things other people could understand, things they could take and use in their lives to help themselves and help others, the deeper I understood them. I got better at identifying the things that caused me anxiety or triggered my depression. I got better at understanding the things that kept those feelings at bay. Trying to be completely open and honest with others was forcing me to fully grasp the nature of my issues. It was helping me get better.
People started messaging me saying things were getting better for them, too.
I got this message from my mom on Facebook yesterday:
“I wanted to let you know that I heard about someone who read your blog, and decided to get help for their depression. So, there are definitely people who have been helped by your efforts. xo”
I’ve had a smattering of first-person comments on various posts in a similar vein, but this was the first time I had heard a third-person account of someone who was helped by something I wrote. Hearing these stories is always the best part of my day, but it was a little strange hearing about it with a degree of separation in between. Whoever you are, I’m glad things are getting better.
Last year, when Movember added men’s mental health to the causes it was raising money for, I pledged to grow a terrible mustache in order to raise money for research and, more importantly, as a conversation piece. I wanted to talk openly and without shame about my illness and the things I was doing to get well. Together, my followers raised over $7,500, which I matched, bringing our total to over $15,000. I was very proud of what we accomplished.
This year I’m going to grow once again. I’m also going to do something I wasn’t able to do last year: take an extended break from poker to focus on getting better. It’s been a month since I played last and I am happier than I have been since I was a child.
Without playing, I can’t really guarantee a dollar-for-dollar match. However, I do want to do something more than simply look gross for charity. So: I will be keeping this blog, and my twitter feed, updated with ways you can engage with me and “encourage” me to contribute.
The first one is this: I currently have $400 worth of donations. There is a $2500 tournament not far from me that starts on Friday. If I have $1000 of donations by Thursday night, I will take a break from my retirement to go play. (Editor’s note: I realize this is short notice. I have been working on this blog for a few nights now.)
This is where it gets complicated. The US government withholds 30% of my winnings until tax time. That’s basically found money! By the time it rolls around I will have forgotten all about it and it will practically be a windfall when I get it back. So I’ll donate it all. First place should hopefully be around $100,000, so I could be donating up to $30,000 if I play my cards right.
So make me go. Donate here.