As I sit here looking out my office window at a beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah blue sky I can't help but smile. Life is such a marvelous and wonderful gift, and every day that we are alive is a new chance to create a powerful future. As we say in my non-profit organization, The Athlete Outreach Project, "there is always hope."
Yet even as I smile, I cannot help but sigh at the tragedies and darkness that fills this world. As a former journalist I know only too well the number of wars and conflicts that rage around the globe. I just spoke at a suicide prevention event and often study the statistics surrounding those struggling with mental illness. I have participated in countless cancer research fundraisers and visited cancer patients in the hospital on several occasions. I have seen marriages fall apart due to infidelity, abuse or just plain apathy. I have seen lives destroyed through the use of drugs or other addictive substances. I have visited with youth incarcerated for foolish choices and helped save at least one life from ending through an eating disorder.
Even as I write this I'm mentally reviewing the tough circumstances that so many in my own life face. I have one friend who survived a potentially fatal car accident only to have her ex-husband force her and her daughters out of their old home and onto the streets. I have another friend who just got out of the hospital after some major surgeries. I could go on and on and so could you, and that doesn't even include all the struggles we have in our own lives.
As a dear friend of mine reminded me this week, "We all get tired, we all get discouraged, and we all have days where we want to give up. But we can't. Life is too amazing. And we are not alone in it."
Several years ago while sitting with a trusted friend we began to reminisce about high school. As I talked about the good and bad that comes with that "joyous" time of life, I thought back to my younger self's battles for identity and the additional silent wars fought against anxiety and depression. Imagine trying to define yourself while dealing with those particular ghosts in the closet?
My friend immediately noticed the quiet change that came over my face. "You ok?"
"I feel sorry for him," I said quietly. And I did. When I thought back to all that my 15-18 year old self had to deal with, I silently wanted to applaud the fact that I had survived. Depression sucks at any age, let alone to a barely-able-to-drive kid who thought his world revolved around bobsled, girls, good grades and my faith. I didn't know words like "cope", "share", "vent", "heal" and "support." All I knew was that I was supposed to keep it together, put the big smile on my face and make it through. Like many guys, I would be damned before I admitted I needed a helping hand.