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    Posted May 17, 2014 by
    Annandale, Virginia
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Going public with mental illness

    More from AJR23

    Sharing a Letter to Coworkers and Bosses

    After reading several of your stories last night, I was inspired to step up and engage my own place of employment on behalf of those that struggle with what is commonly referred to as "mental illness." I have never been diagnosed by a clinician, but perhaps I would not fall into any particular category anyways. I have a great deal of reservations about the industry of modern psychology, as they appear to be a twin brother of western religion. They are both a part of the mental health industry, but they don't speak much to each other. While modern psychology is getting better at reaching into the "spiritual" side of things, it still seems to be as afraid of the church as the church is afraid of God, primarily in that psychology will not challenge the authority of the church any more than the church will challenge the authority of who they think God is.

    This gap seems to be the place where many people fall into the cracks of both systems. I read stories of those that have tried both....and are still left without a way out.

    Since there seems to be a great many questions that still have yet to be asked, I have begun to build a bridge between these two brothers using a wide array of techniques. I don't know if they will work for anyone other than me, but they have been very effective in helping me navigate my own mental health. I do not have the education in psychology to offer any professional advice, so I don't publish anything, nor would I charge for what I write. You are the ultimate authority on your own mind, and if all I can do is "help you find your keys," then that may be enough to help you get on your way. I am not an authority by any means on this...and I can pretty much guarantee it won't work for everyone. I just don't want to develop tools that might actually work for some people and not share them.

    So, below is the letter that I sent in to my bosses and coworkers today, unsolicited. If something like this helps you to step out into your world and start some conversations, then by all means copy, modify, add, or subtract from what you see here....or start over and make your own version. I just know that if you can't ever talk about it, that alone will drive many of us crazy. So, here goes:

    Email sent 5/17/2014, 10:27am
    Subject: The Month of May

    As many of you have probably heard on the news or the radio, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a subject that is rarely discussed in the workplace, primarily because most people have an innate understanding that the more imperfect we look, the more likely we are to lose our job. In many societies (including our own), there is a very narrow bandwidth of what is seen as acceptable forms of human behavior, and when we tie public perception to our ability to make money, it is very predictable to see an attempt to exterminate all forms of imperfection in order to make people feel comfortable. After all, when people feel comfortable, they tend to spend more money.

    This is one of the greatest challenges we face as humans. It's not that we don't want to care about the world around us, but when the stakes are high and we feel that the power and influence we have worked so hard to achieve is threatened, our minds go into survival mode, and we default to what we have been trained to believe.

    For example, somewhere along the way, we stumbled upon the belief that time was equal to money. Since that belief coincided with the assumption that money would give us the things we want and need, we repeated that phrase to ourselves over and over again until our entire culture became indoctrinated with it. Once we were indoctrinated, we then decided that this belief was normal, and anyone who would dare question it could easily be presumed to have a disorder.

    If we were to be honest with ourselves, though, I don't think that we would hold so tightly to this belief if given another option. I will spend time with my wife and kids in a few weeks going camping, and there is no price I could ever put on that. We all have timeless activities that would fall into the same category. A more universal belief might be that "time is non-refundable." Once it is spent, we will never get it back. Once the future becomes history, we cannot ever undo it. While this belief would place me at odds with our current view of success, it is a mental health strategy that stabilizes my mind and allows me to make strategic, healthy choices at both home and at work.

    Some of you know a little about my personal story, and some of you do not. I will not go into that here, but suffice it to say that writing is one of the coping mechanisms I employ on a daily basis to make sense of the world around me and establish the parameters that help me function throughout my day. Most of what I write are the things that people don't want to talk about because when fear shows up, people stop talking, and I have no choice but to face my fears. To the best of my ability, what I write stands in the gap between what modern psychology and religion are too afraid to discuss. It's the practice of naming the elephants in the room that we cannot talk about, tracing their patterns, and predicting their behavior. Once we get the elephants out of the room, we begin to relax and function a whole lot better.

    To bridge this gap, I blend philosophy, transitional theology, child development, and the principles of engineering. Most people don't think that's possible, but it's all in the analogies that are used and the comparisons that are drawn. I don't publish anything because naming the elephants can be rather controversial. I also don't have the educational qualifications to dispense mental health advice. So, I write mostly for myself because it makes a ton of sense to me, with the hope that at some point, I will find a way to help others that the system has failed.

    For those of you who know someone that has struggled with their own mental health, I wrote this as a way to say that you are not alone. In honor of the millions of people that spend most of their energy throughout the day trying to cope and function within the parameters of perfection that our society deems acceptable, this is for you.


    Adam J. Read
    Construction Superintendent
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