The “after-party”

Occasionally I give a speech.  Mostly to Military/First Responder/Veterans groups.  Sometimes to business’ or sports teams.  One thing that is always compelling is the “after-party.”

Let me explain; when I give speeches, I “wear my ass for a hat.”  Which is to say I do not hold back.  I am wide open about my shortcomings and failures.  Based on my experience, it’s the only way to be.  Admitting that I put a gun in my mouth in front of my wife and acted an ass and a fool on many occasions is not enjoyable.  It is however necessary. Why? Because of the “after-party.”  In the after-party, I have people come up and hug me and tell me very personal things.  Occasionally they are so personal that I get emotional with them.  I have done enough of these after-parties now that I have a few resources I can share with people who are suffering.  Sometimes I have to reach out to the people who’ve helped me so that I can find help for one of the after-party-goers.  The craziest part about the after-party is that I wish people could talk openly DURING the Q and A, the part before the after-party, because the things they say and the feelings they feel are very very common and it might encourage everyone to be more honest and forthcoming.

When I was dealing with my heaviest troubles, post being wounded and very suicidal, I felt like there was no way anyone could be as pathetic as I was.  I felt like I was the only human on the planet who couldn’t keep their shit together.  I was embarrassed and ashamed. I spent too much time comparing my insides to other peoples outsides.

I was also very wrong.

People are hurting.  People, all of us, go through tough times.

Waiting til the after-party to share them is an error because you don’t realize that there are other people who feel like you do.  Other people who have struggled with the things you are struggling with.

Today we hear the word “resilience” ad nauseam. We also hear “stigma” when we talk about mental illness.

Those two words are almost as over-done as “thoughts and prayers.”

What counts?  What isn’t worn out?  Finding a place where you can be true.  Where you can talk to someone who can help you get to the after-party, before the after-party.

Another thing that counts is stepping in for a friend when they can’t see that they are getting into a bad spot in their life.  That’s what my crew did for me.  They basically told me that I needed pros to help me sort through my suffering and self-pity and get on with being a human.

Ask for help.  If you don’t know where to go to ask, ask someone you love to help you.

If you see someone in your circle that needs help, do what you can, with love, to get them to a place, either physically or emotionally, where they can find relief and the tools they need to continue on.

We need to move past the mental health commoditizing and just take care of each other.

Seems simple.

Like the after-party.





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