This “Human Condition” profile was created by combining stories of life experiences of a handful of individuals, who have never been diagnosed with a disorder – whether because they have never been to a professional for an examination, or the professional(s) who examined them did not believe their symptoms warranted a disorder diagnosis. This profile is partially meant to educate, but also partially meant “tongue-and-cheek” to open up eyes that even when symptoms have not developed to (or been diagnosed at) the level professionals may consider “disorder,” they are still mental health symptoms caused by life challenges we ALL face. We hope reading this profile will help bridge the gap between those who merely “deal with everyday symptoms” and those who have been diagnosed with disorder(s). For some, these symptoms may actually be at the disorder level, talked about on the other pages, but because of stigma, one may not have gone to a professional to find out, and to get help to live a healthier, happier life. It is important for us to share this page so that there is more of an understanding as to how mental health for ALL of us is affected – whether we have a diagnosis of disorder(s), or not. In fact, after reading these profiles, feel free to check out these stories of everyday #SameHere Heroes, as well as Celebrities, all of whom have faced their own mental health hurdles, showing that life challenges do not discriminate.
THE HUMAN CONDITION
Some Common Symptoms: Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, low energy throughout the day, general lethargy, falling asleep often throughout the day or insomnia/an inability to fall asleep at night, racing thoughts, fear of the worst case scenario always happening, upset stomach, headaches, pain in neck, back shoulders, abdomen, legs, ringing in ears, racing heartbeat, lightheadedness, lack of cognitive clarity, difficulty concentrating, lack of desire to participate in activities/hobbies or see friends during “downtime,” myopic focus on one aspect of life at the expense of others, whether it be work/a hobby/sports fandom, inability to feel intense highs and lows when it comes to emotions, etc.
Mark grew up in Denver, Colorado. He was the second child of Bill and Melanie, four years younger than his old sister, Lauren. From his earliest memory, his parents would have screaming matches. They deeply loved one another, but never seemed to see eye-to-eye on parenting decisions. Mark and Lauren would sit together on the stairs, and listen to their parents yelling at one another, often, hoping that the bouts wouldn’t last very long. Unfortunately, as they got older, the fights only got worse, and when Mark turned 8, and Lauren, 12, their parents sat them down and shared the news that they would be getting divorced. This was a crushing blow to both kids, as they adored both parents and enjoyed living all together in one house. The divorce meant that they would be splitting time between the house they grew up in – that their mom would be staying in, and an apartment in the city, that their dad would be moving into.
Despite the angst from the break-up, both Mark and Lauren fared well in school; both honor roll students. Mark himself was a great athlete, and in Junior HS, he played on three sports teams in three seasons: soccer, basketball, and baseball. Lauren, in HS, wasn’t as much of an athlete but was involved in student government, and the editor of the school paper. As the years continued on, they both continued to collect the accolades. Lauren was named the homecoming queen her senior year and eventually went on to get accepted to an Ivy League University. Mark, when he went on to HS, made the JV team in all three sports – although his favorite sport was clearly basketball. Despite the breakup of his parents, both his mom and dad were super supportive and would go to all of his games.
When Junior year came around, Mark’s grades were still amongst the top of his class, and he too was targeting going to an Ivy League school in a few years. He tried out for varsity soccer and not only made the team, but excelled, and made the All-County Team. When the time came around to try out for varsity in his favorite sport, basketball, he trained extra hard to make the best impression. The coach of the team had a reputation as an “old school” coach, who favored players who did all the little things right. To Mark, this was perfect. That was the type of player he was. Unfortunately, however, the coach seemed to view Mark’s game differently. After three days of try-outs, the final Varsity team was posted on the wall outside the school locker room, and Mark did not make the list. This crushed him. His dream was not only to go to an Ivy League school but to also play basketball for one. Not making the varsity team pretty much destroyed that dream.
Disappointed, Mark not only didn’t play basketball that year, he decided not to try out for varsity baseball. The coach at school wanted him – being that he was a tall lefty with a strong arm, but the wind had been taken out of his sails from the basketball disappointment, and he just couldn’t muster up the desire to play another sport the following season. He chose to focus on his grades, but even there – while he was getting above average grades, they paled in comparison to the grades he was getting his first two years of high school. Now, not only was his sports career at an Ivy League school in jeopardy, so too was just his ability to get accepted on the basis of academics and other extracurriculars, as his sister had.
The summer between Junior and Senior year of HS for Mark was particularly difficult. When Lauren came home from school, she was set to take on an internship, but both kids knew something was up when their dad showed up at their house, and together he and their mom had something they wanted to talk to the kids about. They revealed that their mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. While the prognosis was good, she was set to get a double mastectomy, to ensure they were getting rid of any/all cancer that might be present in her body, and to ensure it wouldn’t spread to other parts. Lauren canceled her plans for her summer internship, and both she and Mark (who canceled his plans to be a counselor at a summer camp), took care of their mom during and after her procedure. The reality that their mom faced a life-threatening disease such as Cancer – though the prognosis was good, took a huge emotional toll on both kids. To make matters worse on everyone in the family that summer, their close next-door neighbor from childhood, a very generous lady who lived alone but treated Lauren and Mark like her own kids, passed away suddenly in a fatal car accident at the hands of a drunk driver.
Nonetheless, as summer came to an end, Lauren went back for her senior year of college, and Mark for his senior year of HS. He decided to try to put the basketball disappointment behind him, and focus on excelling in soccer, and picking his grades back up so that he could be accepted to the college he had been targeting all along. That soccer season he once again made All-County, and even more excitingly, his team won the County Championships and his mom was healthy enough to come to games and be a part of the celebrations. Mark was named one of three scholar-athlete award winners by his school, despite only participating in one sport, and achieved one of his dreams of getting accepted to the Ivy League school of his choice, out on the east coast.
Lauren moved back to Denver to start a job in marketing, and to be closer to their mom, and dad. Mark learned to love college, despite being away from home, and not playing any sports for the school’s team. He did, however, join a fraternity, played in sports tournaments representing them, and his Junior year, even met and fell in love with a woman he believed he was going to marry one day. He continued to excel in school and got offers to enter the workforce doing his dream job as a creative at a big advertising firm in New York City. The problem was, his girlfriend, who he had viewed the rest of his life with, was from California, and right before graduation, laid the news on him that she was going to move “back home” after school, ultimately ending their relationship. She was in love with him too, but she feared long distance greatly and wasn’t ready to commit fully given how far apart they’d be.
This break-up crushed Mark, and despite getting his own apartment, and working for a company he greatly admired, doing exactly what he believed he was meant to do, he longed for the connection he had with his ex-girlfriend. He pleaded with her early on, to reconsider the long distance, but to her, it was too risky. She’d eventually meet someone a six months after graduation, in California, and Mark had to find out about it through mutual friends. To make matters worse, one of Mark’s best friends from college, was himself a Colorado native. He had been convinced that Mark would be moving back to his roots after school. After learning that Mark was staying on the East Coast to chase his professional dreams, this friend actually went out of his way to make Mark feel guilty and told him he wanted nothing to do with him moving forward. It was a sentiment that Mark just had to accept because he didn’t have the energy to try to convince his friend otherwise.
Work then became Mark’s “escape” from the pain that he felt. He found himself spending extra hours at the office, fully immersed in projects. He became one of the ad agency’s top creatives within a just a few years, and someone the rest of the organization relied on greatly. However, he had stopped going to the gym, wasn’t dating much, and rarely flew home to see his parents or sister. He’d come home from work each night, exhausted, and would do it all over again the next day. It didn’t matter to him though…he found a comfort level in his routine and enjoyed the credibility and trust he had gained at the office. The office became his life.
One morning, Mark was called into his boss’ conference room, This man was the head of the entire creative department, and broke the news to him that the company was being sold, and unfortunately, Mark’s position was being eliminated along with 5 other creatives in their group. The news came completely out of left field. He was given a generous severance package, but he hadn’t been through the interview process for some time, and did not feel “himself” to begin the song and dance of looking for other spots. He had tremendous confidence in his abilities, and although the elimination of his position was not related to those abilities, he couldn’t help but take the loss personally. Ultimately, when his lease ran out two months later, he moved back to Denver, and in with his mom, unemployed.
Feeling more lost than ever, he called his ex from college, now being closer to the West coast, to see if she’d be open to exploring a relationship once again. But, by this time, she informed him she had gotten engaged, and while she still loved Mark as a person, she was now in love with this other man.
Fast forward 15 years, and Mark is now a successful executive at an ad agency that recruited him in Denver, shortly after his return from New York. He’s not yet married, but he’s finally moved past his ex after all these years, and has been dating and living with a woman for 3 years now, someone he intends to propose to one day, and to start a family – a little later in life than most of his friends, but he’s ok with that. His parents are a little older, and have not been well, but being near them has brought him comfort that he can be there to take care of them, the way they were there for him and his sister, growing up. Overall, Mark deals with the ebbs and flows of life. He knows he’s had some highs, had some lows, and he’s doing “just fine now.” Some days are more difficult than others to get motivated and to start his day, but once he does, he gets into the flow and is able to coast well and even feels like he excels. He goes through streaks where he’s excited to go out on weekends, and then he also has streaks where he staying home on the couch and watching a move with his girlfriend is all he can muster.
Still to this day, Mark has never been to a doctor beyond his general practitioner. He’s shared his up and down energy with that doctor, but it’s been described back to him as “what everyone goes through.” He’s heard about the “trend” related to mental health, and how many around him feel better about themselves and their outlook, but Mark believes he fine where he is, and doesn’t see the need to try anything different. He’s content and looking forward to the “lift” he believes he’s going to get once he does get married and starts a family.
This probably sounds like many of you out there – because we ALL deal with challenges in life, like Mark has. Some of our challenges have been greater, some not as much. However, whether the cumulative stress and traumas coming from Mark’s life challenges have actually caused him to reach the disorder level or not, the point is, he never addressed them. He can use STARR Practices to overall feel “better” and move further and further to the right, thriving more and more on the mental health continuum. That’s something we should all want for ourselves – to be the healthiest, and happiest we can be .
Learn STARR Exercises that can help those of us who are just “surviving” and maybe even “dragging” at times, enjoy a happier and more fulfilling life: