NOTE: Farm Bureau is in the fight against farm stress and the too-long-overlooked challenges to farmers’ mental health. We’re sharing resources with every available audience because you never know when you’ll have an opportunity to help someone through a tough spot.
We are not exactly first responders on the farm stress and mental health scene. This blaze has been smoldering, rekindling and flaring up for longer than any of us have been alive. But if lousy prices, flawed trade pacts and/or a global pandemic are catalysts for bringing Farm Bureau to the table, I’ll file that new focus under ‘silver linings.’
And in an environment where folks grumble about the number of committees, task forces, initiatives and “other duties as assigned” cluttering their schedules, this was a cause I eagerly volunteered for. It’s personal for me because it wasn’t that long ago I was part of the problem, not the solution. I’ve since learned the error of my ways and now, here, have an opportunity to lend my meager talents to helping out in whatever way I’m able.
That’s Latin for “confession,” more or less — to come clean and accept fault by confessing wrongdoing is a mea culpa. My confession here is that I used to think mental health issues could be readily dispatched with a little “mind over matter” and a heaping scoop of love and support.
Long story short, I dragged my heels and took too long to accept the science of it: the fact that mental health issues sprout from a messy tangle of environmental influences, brain chemistry, our accumulated experiences as imperfect human individuals, and dozens of other factors.
By the time I came to understand and accept this, it was kinda too late: I was alone, caught in a cycle of “bad choices” and soon struggling to claw my way out of my own mental health crater (which I’d dug myself, of course.)
My first-hand experience barely nicked the edge of the vast mental health universe. My diagnosis — low self-esteem — is a slap on the wrist compared to anxiety, depression and the darker places they can lead.
I didn’t deserve to get off that easy, but I got lucky: found a great therapist right off the bat and got myself mostly squared away and back on track in a few years. (It takes time.)
Therapy’s another topic for another article, but for now understand it’s one-third of a three-legged stool supporting the balanced mental health approach many can expect to encounter: therapy, medicine and your own mental elbow grease.
I emerged from the pit I’d dug me with a better perspective, improved attitude and a deep new appreciation for our capacity (even as imperfect humans) for change. Sweet, sweet change… Thing is you really gotta want it. Like kicking a bad habit, you have to want that change.
In my case, I mostly wanted to look myself in the mirror again and like that guy instead of hanging my head in shame.
(Am I being too open? We’re family, right?)
I’ll stop there for now after one last bit about why I’m even sharing all this in the first place: because it’s everywhere — it’s everyone’s issue — and trust me life gets a lot better when you can open up and let it out.
Jeremy C. Nagel is MFB’s member communications specialist.