IF best, nothing changes, at worst, sometimes senseless tragedy is the consequence of not taking action.
WHEN I work with clients as a psychologist they only know me as a psychologist. It is not just my perception of their thinking, but their actual perceptions of me, that I must have it ‘all together’, have no issues in my own life etc.
Truth is, I am human first, father second and psychologist is somewhere down the ladder in 3rd or 4th place.
I was most aware of clients’ perceptions of me when I had to cancel a week of appointments one week in March 2018. I had suffered a personal loss of someone close to me and attended the funeral that week.
On March 12, 2018 I received a call that would turn my life even more upside down than it was already. I was a bit over a year into being separated after 13 years with the mother of my children.
Separation is never easy, and we did a good of it for our kids. Yet the change and adjusting takes time. Until March 12 I was going ok. Work was good and was on the way to embracing my ‘new normal’.
Then, my phone rang: ”Marcus, ah, it’s Dr xxxx, your appointment this Thursday with Dr xxxx has been cancelled, ah, Dr xxxx has died”. I remember this as if it was yesterday. Dr xxxx was my therapist and had been helping with my personal and professional development, also with navigating my new life as a single dad.
I was seeing him every week for three years. It was a profoundly positive and life-changing experience for me personally and helped immensely professionally. I was very sad, obviously, but sadness became trauma and tragedy when I found he had not died of ‘natural causes’ but he had taken his own life.
Dr xxxx was someone I held in very high regard and esteem. He had been so wonderfully helpful to me and I still to this day I’m forever grateful for him. But behind the veil, my perceptions of him being an ‘expert’, was a man obviously fractured and broken, finally becoming overwhelmed by his unresolved emotions and psychological pain.
He took action I guess, but the most tragic kind. In fact, truly, and it saddens me to say, he failed to take meaningful action. But I get it. It is really difficult when you have depression.
From that experience, among other challenges I encountered over the next year or so, I fell into my own depression of sorts.
I had to work less with clients and even tried to start another different type of business hoping that something very different would help. It did not. Things got worse before they got better. But better they eventually did.
How? Why? One thing I have taken from Dr xxxx’s passing was: “That was the worst cost of doing nothing, the ultimate price……and thus I must (and encourage others to) always take meaningful action, always!”
If there’s one thing that I would say about my character overall in my life, not only out of that tragedy, is I always take action.
When you take action, any action, you are one step closer to where you need to be: whether that be to closing or solving a problem, or one step closer to achieving a goal.
It’s an avoidable phenomenon
Many of us share this core belief around failure and fearing it. There is truly no such thing when it comes to mental fitness, health and personal growth.
Inaction and avoidance are the silent and slow killers, not just physically but lead to needless misery, stress and anxiety; and yet avoidance of our problems comes so easily to us humans and maybe more so for us men.
Better to ignore the problem, bury it “she’ll be right” is absolutely an old school belief that has maybe led to many more men suffering needlessly.
I truly believe that many men’s mental issues and worse, suicides, are an avoidable phenomenon if as men we can realise that there is ALWAYS a course of action: 1. Talk to a friend, family member 2. Ring Lifeline or Mensline 3. Write down your goals or problems and set plans and work on them daily 4. See your GP and a psych or counsellor 5. Basic stuff too like have a balanced lifestyle, routine, exercise, be involved in a hobby (ideally one with other men or communities) 6. Reading, learning about self-help, practising self-care like meditation and relaxation exercises. 7. There is a tonne of self-help info on social media and Google. If you struggle with stuff but don’t know where to go, join a group that does, subscribe to psychology and mental health sites. 8. Take action!!!
I truly get and understand that when in the thick of crises, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees. Taking action now, every day not just if you need it is critically important. I always say and maintain this philosophy that prevention is always better than intervention. And easier!
Whatever you take from this story or any others you’ve heard, change and addressing problems can be hard and challenging but not taking action is always harder for you, and for your loved ones.
Do it now. Ring that friend. Solve that problem, set that goal. See your GP. Go for a run. Whatever, it doesn’t matter – Just Do it Now!
Marcus Whelan is a Registered Psychologist and Mental Fitness Coachwith 10+ years’ experience in private practice. He holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in psychology and education. Visit: www.marcuswhelanpsychology.com.au