Until the end of 2018, I had never struggled with mental issues of any kind. I’m blessed beyond words, and my mental health was always in seemingly pristine condition. I never even thought anxiety was real. I was someone who believed anxious people needed to chill out and take a deep breath. Embarrassing to admit now, but true.
My streak of luck ran out when paralyzing anxiety snuck up on me before Christmas. A life event triggered an avalanche that uprooted deep issues from childhood and my short adult life. At first, I did what most men probably do and tried to “tough it out.” After a few weeks of no progress and only worsening anxiety, I needed a new strategy. I realized that my anxiety was there for a reason, so I sought out professional counseling to work through it.
My anxiety was crippling. I tried to distract my mind by diving headfirst into work. The problem was my mind and body were so numb from anxiety that I couldn’t focus. I wasn’t productive for weeks, only adding to the anxiety.
Slowly, I confronted issues one by one and learned more about my anxiety. My crippling daily anxiety gave way to stand alone anxious days. I learned to cope better and calm myself while at home or, more frequently, while traveling. My anxiety began to transform from a liability to an asset.
Despite my progress, I still have days where anxiety creeps in. I was anxious all day yesterday. I couldn’t focus on work. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the constant discomfort in my life or pressures from running our business. I felt worthless and frustrated.
For those of you that don’t know, I share my struggles with anxiety regularly on social media. If I have a rough night’s sleep, I’ll share about it online the next morning. Most everyone is more than positive, but there are always a few miserable folks out there who tell me to quit complaining about my fabulous life. Yes, my career and life are fantastic. But does that mean I’m not allowed to feel anxious?
I share to be relatable. It’s not easy and took me a long time to overcome the mental barriers to reach such a level of vulnerability. I had to work through questions like “Will people think less of me?” and “What will our clients think if I’m cheery when we meet in person and then sharing about crippling anxiety online later that same day?”
Construction and mining are macho industries. Everyone feels the need to act like they’re bulletproof. Everyone’s a tough guy. Why? After much thought about it, there isn’t a real reason for it.
I’m on a mission to change the industry. I’m changing marketing and will soon be changing hiring and training, yes, but I want to ultimately change mindsets — Mindsets of both our clients and everyone who views my work.
I view my vulnerability as leading by example. If I want others to be vulnerable, I need to be vulnerable first. I can’t tell a client in good faith to be more open online when I’m not out front leading the charge.
I’m finally secure enough to talk about my issues without worrying (most of the time) about what others think. It’s new freedom I’ve never enjoyed. I’m learning to love my struggles and challenges. My anxiety is an asset. It’s here for a reason, and I’m proud to share it!