Let’s Talk About Mental Health

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I broke down today.

In a gym.

While running on a treadmill.

The cause wasn’t exhaustion; it was my mental health. Sounds weird, right?

Well, not quite, let me explain.

I was listening to a specific song that usually pumps me up in a gym. The song is about the struggles of life and overcoming those struggles and obstacles and rising to whatever challenge you face. At the same time, there was an Olympic race in biathlon on a TV. It showed a guy that won as he was becoming very emotional and started to cry. A combination of that scene and a song I was listening to triggered a down-spiral response in my body.

I became emotional as well. I was trying my best not to give in, but it was too late. My unconscious mind already progressed to the point of no return. At first, I’ve felt a sudden sensation all over my body. Soon after that, my eyes began to tear up. Before I could stop and reach my locker room I’ve burst into tears and broke down. As I reached my locker, I threw clothes on as fast as possible and got out of the gym immediately.

So what happened? To truly understand what just occurred I’ll have to tell a story.

I’m a highly driven individual. As a kid, I’ve played almost every sport in my hometown. From usual sports such as football and basketball to more unusual ones such as underwater hockey. The exploration stopped when I discovered skateboarding. As soon as I’ve stepped on that piece of wood I was hooked. And this feeling never went away. I’m as passionate about skateboarding as I was 15 years ago. It’s a big part of my identity.

Skateboarding has taught me essential life lessons. It taught me to be yourself, take risks, learn to fall – and most importantly – strive for progress.

Around the same time, I discovered skateboarding I’ve experienced the adversity of life as I’ve seen my parents killing themselves on the job they didn’t like for a paycheck (if you can even call 500€ a month a paycheck). They’ve been doing this hard-aching physical labor since their early twenties. They’ve long forgotten about their dreams, sacrificing their lives so my siblings and I could have a brighter future. I will be forever grateful for what they did for us.

Crushing your dreams and aspirations isn’t an easy task. It changes people. This resulted in my parents going through a divorce. As a teenager that was extremely difficult to go through. It was that moment when I promised myself never to be average. I said I would do whatever it takes to avoid going through what my parents had to go through.

When my parents divorced, and my father moved out, I felt responsible for filling in the gap of a man figure as the oldest sibling of three. I was 13 at the time. This is clearly not a weight a kid should carry at that age. Despite everything, I was appreciative of that experience. It taught me leadership and how to be responsible not just for yourself but others as well. It taught me that sometimes you have to prioritize others over yourself and put down the ego.

This is the reason why I do what I do. That’s why I’m always so hard on myself. It’s because I feel responsible for not just improve my own life but the lives of my whole family.

It is this exact reason why I have so many things going on in my life right now. I’m currently in a transitional period where I’m trying to get out of UI/UX design into photography/filmmaking. I feel restrained by four walls both physically and mentally as I can’t spend 14-16h a day locked inside a room on a computer anymore. I need a more dynamic lifestyle where I can experience life rather than looking it through a computer screen.

Transitional periods are hard for two main reasons:

• Firstly it’s because when you have a new shiny thing, you lose motivation to do the other job. And low motivation means you have to push harder to do the things you have to do and spend more mental energy. Just think about that time in school when you had to learn about something that didn’t interest you where all you wanted is to go out and play with friends.

• Secondly, it is hard because you have to work two jobs at the same time. The first one pays the bills whereas you hustle on the other one in your evenings and weekends so you can grow it to the point where you can quit the first one. This is called the overlap technique.

If that wasn’t enough, I’m building a digital agency on the side, trying to get in the best physical shape of my life and reading books daily while getting asked when is the next Sketch meetup I’ll organize in Ljubljana.

By now you can start to get a sense of what’s happening under the hood. I’m overwhelmed. Having a full-time job while grinding every day to build a digital agency business on the side in addition to building my personal brand as a photographer/filmmaker and hitting the gym 5-6 times a week is just too much to cope with. It’s a ticking bomb waiting to explode.

And today it exploded, splattering blood, sweat, and tears on the floor creating an open wound for everyone to see.

Luckily for us, most of these things can be easily prevented if we just stop for a second and listen to our bodies and mind. All the answers are within ourselves. If we don’t listen to ourselves, the body will have to reset itself by force. This results in two things; mental breakdown and physical illness.

Everything in life is a balance. Action creates a reaction. We live in a modern era where it’s hard to keep a balanced life. We were born into a system where it’s common to sacrifice our body and mind for money. And once we accumulate enough money the other two are so out of balance it’s hard to bring them back.

The world wide web connected everything together, and it is a great thing, but what came with it is information overload. Our mental health is suffering because of it. We try to fill every single minute in our days with something. This busy lifestyle has driven us to the point where we stopped spending enough time with ourselves. We get distracted by notifications all the time. To cope with this imbalance, our body produces stress and anxiety – a warning sign that something is wrong.

Depression is the most common mental disorder which affects more than 300 million people worldwide. What is more alarming is that the number is rising every year. Close to 800k people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

To be truly happy in this very moment and all the moments to come you have to re-connect with yourself and become present. This is the only way to get your mental health back in balance.

I love this quote from Alan Watts:

“We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions, and ideas.”

– Alan Watts

We can’t change the past, and we can’t control the future. All that’s left is this very moment. And this moment is your life.

Take some undistracted time today to spend with the most important person in your life – yourself.