It’s the first question we are asked as parents: Why? Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to clean my room? Why can’t I have ice cream for breakfast?
Add having major depressive disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and PTSD, and those whys become a little more important. ‘Daddy, why are you crying?’, ‘Dad why are you sad?’, ‘Why are you impatient today?’.
As a mental health advocate, I firmly believe that questions about mental health can’t go unanswered, nor should they be met with untruths. These ‘whys’ are part and parcel to my recent outspokenness about my mental health journey.
I want to share my journey to having the best mental health possible. Admittedly, it’s hard at times. Being hard doesn’t prevent me from grabbing the microphone or tapping keys on my keyboard. In fact, because it’s hard I am even more motivated. But this isn’t about those kinds of ‘whys’, this is about why, just like the growing number of people, I am so outspoken about my journey with my mental health.
As a child who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s in the northeast of the US, talking about our feelings and thoughts wasn’t looked upon favourably. I have since learned that it is the same for a lot of places in the world, especially when you are male. Suck it up, get over it, stuff those feelings down, etc. We’ve all heard them all.
What I have experienced in nearly 40 years of life is this: You can’t ignore your feelings. It’s that simple yet so very difficult. I’ve lost too many people by suicide. People I had no clue were tormented by their feelings and thoughts. When I lost Jason, who was my biggest cheerleader in my mental health journey, I cracked. It wasn’t my first crack, but it was the first crack that I filled with gold. The gold I filled this crack with was made of love and strength.
There is no magic pill to fix things. In order to live the best and most fulfilling life possible I need to do a lot of things all the time – taking time for myself, writing in my journal, doing therapy, and medications. Knowing what I’m putting into my body: Sharing, talking, caring. Most importantly, understanding myself and how it impacts me. Doing all of these things allows me to be a contributing member to society. But that doesn’t answer why I do what I do so vocally and openly.
I’ve lost too many friends to suicide. There are too many people suffering in silence thinking that they are alone or that no one will understand them. By allowing everyone to peer into my window and see my soul, I’m giving others hope. I let people know they aren’t alone, and others struggle. Not only struggle but overcome and live with hope. I know this as many people have reached out to me letting me know that I have helped them. It all started when I shared my experiences with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
Now I speak for NAMI, have accepted the chairperson position for their New Hampshire Family Network and sit on a steering committee for Mental Health Awareness Training. I’m able to do this because I live with hope, understand myself and am helping others find their own gold to fill broken pieces.
Robbie Millward takes his lived experiences with major depressive disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and PTSD to bring hope and better understanding. As a father who lost friends to mental health conditions, and struggling with his own mental health, he has made his voice and his story accessible to all sides of these important conversations. He reaches to people through his blog, his public appearances with NAMI, as a chairperson for the New Hampshire Family Network, as well as taking a seat on the steering committee for the Mental Health Awareness Training team in New Hampshire.