Content Advisory: Please note the following content can be directly or indirectly related to topics about mental health, depression, suicide, and or self-harm.
The Gift of a Story by Ben Romberg
As someone who has experienced depression and anxiety for their whole life, I know the tremendous struggle it takes to function on a daily basis.
When I was a child, an adolescent, and in my 20s, I didn’t understand what was going on. I always felt isolated and not good enough.
I’ve struggled my entire life with forming friendships, and when I finally started coming out of my shell in my late teens and into my 20s, I just wanted to feel needed. I didn’t always have the healthiest friendships and make the best life choices, but from my viewpoint at that time, that’s all I knew at the time.
I was struggling a lot with my mental health in my early 30s, when I met my life partner. It took some time, but over several years, I started to see the impact on how my depression and anxiety affected our relationship and work.
My partner was very honest with me about considering getting help. Ultimately, I had to make the decision to do something about it, and I did. I started to see a therapist to help me navigate work and general life issues. I made the choice, the decision. No one else could do it for me.
It was a start.
Towards the end of 2017, I decided to start taking medication for my depression and anxiety. You can only WILL your mental health so much and I was getting run down from doing so. I took my first dose in January of 2018, and as I like to say, I haven’t looked back since. Well, that maybe isn’t entirely accurate, but I try each day to keep a “moving forward” attitude, no matter how many times I spin in circles.
Starting in 2019, I created a Facebook page, called “The Upstairs Battle”, where I began sharing all things mental health related. This was the beginning of my advocacy work. I did a number of videos where I talked about my own journey of mental health.
I felt that it was important to share my story, in the hopes that others could relate to some portion of it. I received acknowledgement back, which was and continues to be extremely important to me. Feedback means the world to me. It lets me know that I’m making an impact, however big or small that may be.
When the pandemic hit the U.S. in March of 2020, and I was furloughed from my job, I began to really delve into mental health advocacy. I created “The Upstairs Battle” website, that lists important resources, my personal “TED Talk” story on my mental health, as well as a blog. I had just started volunteering at my local NAMI chapter in February, wanting to learn how to develop speaking skills to become a public speaker on mental health.
Throughout the rest of 2020, I was fortunate enough to be able to share my story to others in my local community. While Zoom is not my ideal choice to share my story (I’d much rather work on my skills of physically speaking in front of an audience), I’m thankful that I was able to do so. Later on in the year, myself and a few others from my NAMI chapter, were featured in a local online publication, discussing our journeys with mental health and offering support during what is probably the most turbulent year in anyone’s life.
I also was able to do my first ever podcast in December of 2020. As of now, January 2021, I’m looking forward to seeing where my advocacy takes me. I believe sharing our stories have the real power of changing lives. Sharing our story isn’t just for mental health change either. People have been sharing stories for thousands of years. The power of story telling is enormous!
At the end of the day, being connected and being able to relate to others gives us purpose to keep going on. For mental health, sharing our stories amplifies our voices and helps us educate, and in turn reduce stigma. Don’t ever give up, no matter how high your personal mountain gets!
One of the most difficult things is to stay in the present some days. It’s important to take baby steps each day for your mental health. Somedays, it may be just getting out of bed at a reasonable time. Other days, it may be deciding to let go of things or people who no longer serve your well-being. And that’s OK. It’s also critical to know that you are NOT ALONE! Having a support group/accountability group, family/friends that you trust, and a good therapist are essential to your mental health. I know it’s easier said than done, but keep trying. If you keep reaching out to people enough, you WILL find those that seem to stick and you are able to connect with.
Take a day or two to just rest. Just don’t ever give up. Your well-being matters!
Check out Ben’s awesome website and mental health advocacy at : https://www.theupstairsbattle.com
Talk. Share. Help.