You matter. We need you.
Full disclosure, I wanted to post something like this last week when BYU played Utah State. Earlier in the week, Aggie head coach Blake Anderson had just opened up about the passing of his son, who died by suicide last year. BYU and Utah State were both wearing helmet stickers for the Ryan Helinski Foundation. Helsinki, if you recall, also died by suicide. The former Washington State quarterback seemed to have all of his dreams coming true, but mental health is no respecter of football accomplishments.
I wanted to post something like this then, but ultimately, I didn’t. I don’t know if I was scared or just got preoccupied, but I definitely battled back and forth, debating whether or not I should post something for the better part of last week. Ultimately, I decided against it.
But I changed my mind today. For the past few days, I’ve been mentally taking note of my thoughts, feelings, impulses, and other actions throughout the day. While sitting in the airport waiting to board a flight, I looked around at other passengers and saw familiar looks of faces.
I saw a dad with his kids, seemingly unaware of the chaos around him that the kids were causing. The look on his face seemed stressed out, even distraught. Something seemed overwhelmingly hard.
I saw a young woman in tears as she was on the phone with her mom. I don’t know what the cause of the tears were, but it seemed as if she was running from something - like something in life had just ended. A marriage? School? Some kind of trauma?
A couple behind me was talking and I overheard them discussing the details of the passing of their family member (a brother in law, I believe). He had just died by suicide, and this couple was en route to comfort their family member.
As I saw all of these things happening around me, I decided to move forward with the plan I had set out to execute last week.
An important preface: I’m just fine. I look at myself and I see a completely normal, average, run-of-the-mill guy. This is not a call for help, this is not an attempt to attract sympathy, or anything else like that.
This is a brain dump into the thoughts in my head today. I’ve been taking a mental tally and notes of my feelings, waiting to put them all onto paper like this. So today is that day. With the best of my abilities, I want to show you what my day looked like to the outside world, what the day felt like to me, and how my day was in my head. And I do this in an effort to illustrate the complexities that make up our lives, and potentially, to help someone learn that they’re not alone; or to help give someone else context to how others might be feeling in seemingly normal circumstances.
I really don’t want to go on this trip. Maybe if I don’t get out of bed, then the clock will stand still and I’ll never have to actually go. I don’t want to leave my family. I don’t want to get on a plane. I hate the airport. Did I clear out the balance on my corporate card? Do I even have the money to pay for the hotel? Did I even book a hotel?
Ugh, one minute has passed since I looked at the clock. So much for time cooperating and standing still. Just go back to sleep, Jeff, the sun still isn’t up.
Bode, my middle child, was the first kid to wake up this morning. He immediately turned on all of the lights and started to play with his toys upstairs. Naturally, he didn’t do any of this quietly. But, like a sixth sense, I woke up just before the noise started to get out of control.
It was only a matter of minutes before I had to pull myself off the bed and get into the shower to start my day. On my way there, my wife, Jessica, asked if I would get the breakfast process started for the kids. I grabbed my phone, started checking emails, and then went for the kitchen to start breakfast.
The first email I opened was a flight reminder, “You are on an exit row, please see the requirements for exit row seating below.” I read the requirements while putting together breakfast.
It says I am not eligible for exit row seating if I have to use a seatbelt extender. Do I need a seatbelt extender? I’ve never needed one before, but maybe I’ve gained a lot of weight? Wear thin pants, Jeff, give yourself every inch you can. You don’t want to be the guy who is reassigned a seat because you’re too fat for the exit row responsibilities.
A little familiar tweak of pain hit my sternum. No biggie, it went away quickly.
Breakfast was finally prepared and I made my way to the shower to get ready for the day. On the way, I saw the bed again and elected to try pretending that time was frozen again. So, I crawled back into bed.
This trip really isn’t a huge deal. I am headed to Texas for a work presentation to our sister-office. Once that presentation is over, I will head back on a plane and go right back home. I could give this presentation in my sleep and I have an employee with me who will do the majority of the work. I’m here for support, for the most part.
After I get back home, I will be headed to Las Vegas to unplug for a few days before taking in the BYU vs. Notre Dame game.
The time freezing trick failed me again, so I finally got up and moved to the shower. While brushing my teeth, I the ‘It’s time’ notification from BYU Football’s Twitter account.
Ugh, the new uniforms are out. I have to write an article about that. For as much as I love managing that website, I sure hate managing that website. I will be the fifth article that is published about these uniforms today, and it’s news that most people know already anyways.
Okay, that’s a pretty dope release video though. Oh - I need a haircut before I go. This won’t work. Thin clothes… what the hell do I have that is thin so I can avoid this whole seat belt extender situation? How can I possibly write an article about uniforms that even sort of stands out among the rest?
Before hopping in the shower, I cut my hair. Good thing I’m balding, this was easy.
At long last, I finally got in the shower. It only took about 10 seconds of being in the shower before my youngest came running in to tell me all about his pumpkins that he picked on his field trip for the 53rd time.
“That’s awesome, Daxy. Can you go eat breakfast?”
Of course, he responded exactly how you would expect a four-year old to respond. He threw himself onto the floor and started saying that he couldn’t.
Oh yeah it’s the first weekday of the month so I need to pay the mortgage. I really need to get around to setting up that auto-pay. But what if something were to happen one month where I didn’t want to auto pay and I needed that grace period? But I forgot I had auto-pay set up and then those funds that I needed in some far fetched emergency aren’t there. I’ll keep auto-pay off. What is that stupid phone number?
Oh no, I missed a spot on my haircut. Don’t forget to go back and get that. Did I add that extra slide to my presentation with the pricing update that I got approved? I can’t remember. I better check that before I get into the office tomorrow in Texas. I wonder how those black helmets will look on the field. This is a good look, but these helmet just feel so exotic for BYU. What can I say about these helmets in this article?
With the shower under my belt, I move to the closet to start finding thin clothes. That’s when Jessica walks in and says hello.
“I want some beef tacos. Maybe you can go to the grocery store with me and then I’ll take you to your dad’s house so he can take you to the airport,” she asked me.
I don’t want to go grocery shopping. I have to pay the mortgage. I don’t have time for grocery shopping. I should probably make sure my dad can actually take me to the airport.
“Sure, babe. That sounds great. I can do that,” I responded.
At this point, I have thin clothes on. I go into the living room and give a huge hug to my two oldest kids before they go to school.
Quick sternum pain again. Just a millisecond’s worth of pain.
“I love you guys so much. Have a great day. I will be in Texas tonight, but I will see you tomorrow. Yes, if I see Dude Perfect I will tell them you said hello,” I said as they head to the car.
While Jess is taking the two oldest kids to school, my job is to get the smallest kid in his clothes so that he is ready for preschool in an hour or so. I also have to log onto work and get some things approved before I leave for the day, so I carve out some time to do that.
Don’t forget that chunk of hair you missed, Jeff.
After some convincing, Dax goes upstairs and starts to find his clothes. At that point, I started to check more emails and respond to the morning’s pressing matters. I scheduled a meeting for later this week. I postponed a call that I forgot to cancel for this afternoon. I checked on an employee matter to make sure it was addressed.
While my email was being sent, I called the bank hotline and got my mortgage payment scheduled for today. What a terrible day, mortgage day.
I really do need auto-pay.
“Dad, I want to wear these shoes so that I’m fast like a cheetah,” Dax says, holding up a pair of tennis shoes.
“Okay buddy, if you want to wear those you need socks. Or you can wear these colorful ones without socks.”
Of course, that was like making him choose between having his legs lopped off or having his skin being turned completely inside-out, so he freaked out about it.
“Just wear these shoes, Dax. You’re going to be fine.”
The emails were sent, so I packed away my laptop for the day. Jessica, who got home a few minutes earlier, asked me what kind of meat we needed to buy for her beef tacos. I went through the options and some recipes off the top of my head.
What if I have to poop on an airplane? Being the fat guy on an airplane sucks. Seriously there isn’t anything worse. I hope it’s a fat guy who sits next to me. I’ll be uncomfortable, but at least he’ll understand.
I pack away my pills, my toothbrush, and my deodorant and I’m ready for the day and the trip. Jessica showers and we get into the car for the grocery store.
Sternum pain is back again, but it’s more of a pressing feeling this time. It’s nothing that is foreign, just something that happens when anxiety sets in a little bit. Feels like a toddler is standing on my chest. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s not normal either.
My phone rings and it’s my dad.
“Hey mom is going to take you to the airport. I can’t. Sorry,” he says as he quickly hangs up the phone.
That was weird. I hope he’s okay. I hope whatever it is doesn’t jeopardize the Vegas trip. I seriously don’t have time for the grocery store - especially for beef tacos that I’m not even going to be eating. I just need to get to the airport. I really don’t want to go. I have 90 minutes to fill and 20 minutes worth of presentation material. I really told them that I didn’t need this long but it was scheduled anyways. And just to get back on a plane as soon as this is over. I really don’t want to do this. I forgot to check my corporate card when I was logged in. I’m sure it’s fine.
Jessica is debating whether or not she should get some tomatillos while we’re sitting in the produce section. After some deliberation, she decides she is making tomatillo ranch and picks some up.
“I really don’t have time for this, Jess,” I snapped at her. The reality that I’m going on this trip that I don’t want to go on is setting in. It’s not her fault I’m going. I shouldn’t take it out on her, but I do. This trip will suck as much for her at home with the kids by herself as it will for me.
“Okay, you’re right, I can come back,” she kindly says.
Great. She’s mad now. She doesn’t act mad. She won’t ever say she’s mad. But I’m sure she’s mad. I should have taken a Xanax before I left. If I sit up straight, maybe I won’t need a seat belt extender? How big do you need to be to need an extender? Have I ever been close to needing one? How do I ask for one?
We arrive at my parent’s house and my mom is outside waiting for me.
A headache is setting in. It’s dull right now, but it’s coming.
My dad has apparently hurt his back. He’s in bed, asleep when I’m there. My mom knows he’s hurting pretty bad, but doesn’t really know how to gauge the severity of the injury. Is the hospital bad? It is muscle relaxer and a nap bad? Nobody knows. And my dad is asleep.
I say goodbye to Jess. I can see in her eyes that the reality of me leaving for the day is setting in. It’s not that I’m going for weeks, I’m literally only going for 24 hours. But the weight of all the kids and everything else she has to do by herself is very apparent. Also, who doesn’t want to have conversations with some sort of an adult after kids go to bed?
She really is the best. This sucks for her.
My mom and I have a nice chat on the drive to the airport. It’s been too long since I’ve talked with just my mom. She’s really great.
I get through security and make the trek to my gate. That’s when I start to see the people alluded to above.
The headache has arrived.
I really don’t know what to do for this presentation. There just isn’t that much to talk about. What do they think I’m going to say for 90 minutes? How bad does it look if I only take 20 and then we have a 70 minute gap on the agenda? I forgot the chunk of hair on my head so hopefully nobody notices. I still don’t know if I need a seat belt extender.
What a world we live in. My worth is going to be dependent on a presentation. If I fail, I might not impress the bosses. If I succeed, I might make more money in a few months. What a weird world that my worth is decided on by the accomplishments that I have.
What would I do if they didn’t like it? What if I got fired? Would they fire me for this? No, no way. I’ve been here for 10 years, this is so minor. But what if I got fired? What would Jess do? Seriously, if my choice is to fake a heart attack to get out of this trip or go make a fool of myself and get fired, I need to fake a heart attack.
Oh my gosh those people behind me, I wish I could hug them. Suicide sucks so bad. Faking a heart attack feels wrong. Insensitive. There are people really struggling, Jeff. Don’t be such an asshole.
I get on the plane and take my seat. My employee is sitting next to me. The seat belt fits just fine. The flight comes and goes. The only highlight was that the wi-fi wasn’t working.
At this point, we find an Uber and get to the hotel. My card works fine. My reservation is there fine. The room is great. My employee and I talked about the presentation and put the final touches on it.
“I think this is great. Not much more we can do now,” I tell him.
We’re 20 minutes. Max. There is no way this goes longer than 20 minutes. Do I need to be more dressed than what I packed for? I really shouldn’t be here. I miss my family already. I wonder if my dad is okay. Did my mom make it home from dropping me off? If she got in a wreck on her way home from doing me a favor, I don’t think I can live with myself. This headache is getting worse. Don’t have a migraine, Jeff. You can’t have a migraine. Just muscle through this.
After dinner, I called my dad. His back is sore, but he’s going to live. My mom, who made it home safely, is there and helping him. All is well.
My chest feels a little prick of pain again - the anxiety pains coming back for a minute.
I called Jess and talked to the kids. They had a great day at school. Maelyn did a bunch of subtraction. Bode checked out a new book at the library. Dax learned about the letter ‘D.’
Jess made her beef tacos.
“They’re a little dry,” she said.
We say good night. The day is over.
Tomorrow is going to be so tough. I don’t want to do this presentation. And then back to the airport. What if I need a seatbelt extender? What if I’m going home as an unemployed man because I only have 20 minutes worth of a presentation?
Great, that uniform article sure didn’t do very well. I won’t have time to write anything tomorrow, either. Sorry, CSI.
I hope I have a ride home.
I hope this goes well tomorrow.
I really don’t know if I’m good enough for this.
I really don’t know why I’m here.
I don’t think I can do it.
I’m just not this guy. I don’t know what guy I am but it’s not this guy.
Who even am I? Jeff, you’re losing it.
“You’re losing it, Jeff,” I said out loud to myself.
Headache. Time to sleep it off.
“Good luck tomorrow. I love you. I’m proud of you. And I’m thankful for you,” Jessica says to me in a text.
Wow. She really is the best.
To reiterate, I’m not calling out for help or looking for sympathy. I really am fine. Since these thoughts that I have written down happened, I’ve had dozens and dozens of additional thoughts. I really am just fine. There is nothing that anyone needs to worry about.
All things considered, my life is pretty simple. Today, I woke up, had a great family there by my side, went on a plane to travel for a great job where I’ve been employed and respected for years, and now I’m comfortably going to bed knowing that my family is safe and protected at home. My life, truthfully, couldn’t be better than it is.
But even with the perfect life that I have, my mind still went to all of the places that you see above. My chest still tightened with anxiety pains throughout the day. I still stressed out. I still got scared. I still felt overwhelmed.
The things in people’s heads might not perfectly align with the things in their lives. Sometimes they need help. We all do. Sometimes that help is real help. Sometimes, it’s just a message of love.
You matter. This world is better with you here than it would be without you in it - no matter what the voice in your head may or may not say.
When that voice gets loud, please remember that - You matter. And things aren’t as good without you.