Difficult times have slapped me in the face a few times in my 31 years and six months on this giant rock spinning around the sun. My father died by suicide in 2009 -- and in 2011 after surviving my own crippling depression and a suicidal episode, I worked hard to find information from numerous blogs and websites in order to learn about what I was experiencing and how to get help.
In 2015, my significant-other was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma cancer -- a fancy way of saying she had a nasty flesh-eating tumor on the back of her tongue.
We made phone calls and did countless hours of research to make sure she would receive the best course of treatment. In addition, we had to navigate her insurance company, financial aid, loss of wages, and potential recovery time. We did our best to make a sound decision, relying on what little information was available and seeking out friends of friends who went through something similar. Even in hindsight and with my significant-other's successful cancer treatment; it's still not clear whether we made all the right choices or chose the proper course of treatment.
But after sitting in dozens of hospital waiting rooms, and looking across the room at people with illness, slumped over and sitting all by themselves, I couldn't help but wonder: what if I had to overcome my experience with depression and suicide all by myself? What if my significant other didn't have friends, or loved ones, or support to help her through this living nightmare? Some people do this all alone and don't know where to turn to for help -- because of the stigma around certain health conditions, or isolation, or because of a preexisting physical or mental health condition that hinders them in seeking help.
While working in the suicide prevention and mental health fields, I recently did some crossover work with physical health and found people doing tremendous work in the fields of inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pain, and diabetes. These are individuals who have foundations dedicated to finding a cure, and people with blogs whose mission is to let others know "you're not alone" "we've been here before," and here's how we've managed to "bring an ostomy-bag to the beach," or "take our kids to soccer while managing chronic pain," or "go back to work after dialysis."
We need more of this -- more unsponsored, unfettered leaders who are willing to help their peers with their physical and mental health.
It's common to rely on peer-to-peer advice or product reviews when buying an oven, a tractor, or even when looking for a new school district for your children. Why isn't their as much availability for advice, mentorship, or reviews when seeking out help for our physical and mental health?
In this magnificent digital age there are so many avenues to be a peer mentor or a healthcare product reviewer that don't begin and end with Yelp or Amazon.
You want to make a difference and help change the world but don't know how? Share your experience by starting a blog, sharing a post on Facebook, writing an oped for your local online newspaper. Tell us what you think of Sir Thumps-A-Lot brand pacemakers, how to deal with your ostomy bag when going to the prom, or which new upstart in-home healthcare service is the best.
You will eventually find a tribe -- be it minuscule, moderate, or gargantuan in size -- who will appreciate your honesty and your voice.
We need each other, we demand better than self-validating marketing and advertising. We are part of a new movement for better through mass connectivity.
You can share your story as part of The i'Mpossible Project, a non-profit dedicated to curating inspirational peer-to-peer stories about overcoming obstacles and life in the aftermath.
You are important, and your story needs to be heard so we, the human race, can learn how to live and love better.
#shareyourexperience #peertopeer #iampossible