EDITOR’S NOTE: Mental health speaker Jeff Yalden took himself to the emergency room at a local hospital near his home in the Myrtle Beach area on October 8, after experiencing a bout with anxiety and anger over the weekend.
Yalden lives with mental illness, and is a staunch advocate for full disclosure.
“I think if you are really going to make a difference in this field, you have to be someone that deals with what you are talking about in order to make sense to the people living it with themselves, and that you understand what they are going through,” he said.
The following was recorded Monday, October 9.
I want to be completely transparent with you about what happened last night.
I know there are a lot of people that don’t think that I should put this out there, but in my opinion, mental illness is rapidly becoming one of the greatest healthcare crises of our time. If we are unwilling to talk about it – if we are not willing to get comfortable being uncomfortable talking about mental health and mental illness – I think we are going to be doing a lot of people wrong – including ourselves, our loved ones and society.
For those that don’t really understand why I do it: I am very passionate about mental health – very passionate about mental illness. Number one, it’s my greatest challenge in my journey of life. Number two, it’s my work. I am very passionate about my work.
I got home Friday, and I realized that I just didn’t feel happy. I felt edgy, and I knew that I wanted to relax on Saturday and Sunday. My schedule is very intense. I am doing a lot of work with teen suicide, suicide prevention and mental health in schools. I know some of you understand my work, but it’s hard to understand the depths of my work.
There are times when I am in homes until the wee hours of the morning, talking to families. Sometimes I am just being supportive, giving hugs and saying it’s going to be OK – teaching the grieving process and talking about the grieving process – and understanding that, here’s a family or here are friends that lost a significant other or a child.
I love what I do. I am not making any excuses. I’m passionate. It’s so deep in my heart.
But I just wasn’t feeling good. Saturday, I just wanted to watch football and take it easy. I didn’t want to be around people. And Sunday, same thing, but a couple of triggers kind of set me off, but I was doing good emotionally. I was just taking it all in. I was dealing with it. I was breathing. I was like, “OK – responsibilities – this is going to be OK.”
Finally last night, something happened, and I’ll tell you – there are two things you can’t take back. You can’t take back time, and you can’t take back words.
For somebody with bipolar or somebody that’s on the edge with major depression, words can trigger an emotion – and then as much as you try and calm down and relax, like, “it’s going to be OK,” I just flipped. And I tried really hard to keep it inside and to calm down.
I took my Yeti and threw it at the wall.
Folks, I’m not proud to tell you this.
I would never hit [fiancee] Janet. I would never hit anybody. But then I just had some real choice words. Again, you can’t take back words, so I get it. I know Janet is really, really hurt. I am really, really hurt.
I don’t really know what all this means tomorrow, going forward.
I have to sort some feelings out. I know I need to make some changes. I have to catch a flight today. I want to take my meds and make sure they are all good, and do a lot of self-care – fix myself – because the most important thing right now is that I am healthy for my client.
There’s nothing more important than that, because they put the trust in me professionally, and I put trust in me for my responsibility – being with young people – but the bottom line is simply this: I threw something last night. I had some very choice, angry words. I didn’t throw anything at Janet. I just threw it right at the wall.
You know, something about mental illness too is that you can say you are the adult, that you are responsible – that you have to control your anger. And I agree 100 percent. But sometimes you get in this fit of rage. Folks, I haven’t had this fit of rage in nearly 20 years.
I just ran into my room, jumped in bed and tried to get comfortable and breathe it out – and I just couldn’t.
Janet ended up leaving and going to her family, and that’s one of the things that was the trigger. It was Sunday night. I’m home. I have to leave on Monday. I didn’t want to go out at eight o’clock at night to go eat dinner. This has nothing to do with my love for the family. I just wanted time out for me – in my house, in my four walls. And Janet didn’t really understand that, so she ended up going. I didn’t mind her going. I just didn’t want to go.
So, I was in bed last night and was having trouble calming myself down. It’s just really hard.
I went to the ER, and I knew what was going to happen there. My doctor says, “Jeff, you know more about mental health that probably I do.” I study mental health. I live with mental health. I teach mental health. I get it.
I think I was just going because I wanted to know in my heart that I was asking for help and doing the right thing.
At that time, I did not know that I wasn’t taking my Lexapro [depression/anxiety medication].
I had a good talk with the doctor. No, I am not thinking of harming myself or harming other people. I get it. They have to ask those questions. But I needed to calm down.
I am not one to take medications if I don’t need to take medications, but I knew that there was something else going on, and I told the doctor that I just need to bring [my] heart rate down. I need to just be able to go to sleep.
The doctor gave me Klonopin [a sedative], and I researched it on Google. I took Klonopin when I got home. I didn’t take it before I was driving home. I let the dogs out and went to bed.
I woke up this morning, just feeling that my heart is really hurt.
I’m calling the doctor first thing this morning – and my therapist – and just going to try to work on some self-care. I have got to hit the road, and I am on the road for quite a bit. But I think making sure that I am taking my Lexapro is going to make me feel a lot better.
Part of the reason why I am sharing this and being so transparent is that this isn’t just about me. I know that I have a large following of people that value my opinion, my advice, and respect me as a person.
I work in mental health, and part of me talking about it and part of me in the work that I do every single day – is really telling people that when you are struggling, it’s OK to ask for help. Folks, that’s exactly what happened last night.
I know I hurt Janet, and I am sorry.
She ended up leaving and going to be with her family and have fun – just leaving me alone. I get it. I can’t expect her to sit with me when I am in this anger and hate. I didn’t want to be alone, so I went to the ER. I just needed to calm down.
Here’s the thing: When you are dealing with a family member or a friend that is suffering or living with mental illness and having an episode, first and foremost – do not ever let that person stay alone, because it is at those moments – I am speaking professionally right now, not speaking personally – it’s at those moments when someone is alone that they are not in their right frame of mind that they are more willing to do something that could be deadly.
Let me recap: I was not there in that position last night. I know that I am not suicidal. I know that I would not take a gun. I know that I would not take a knife. I know that I would not hang myself. I know enough to just figure out how to take a timeout –to go get help – go for a walk – go to the hospital. I know all that.
But on the personal side – you, my friends – do not ever leave someone alone, even if you are not talking to that person. You’ve got to be patient if you are choosing to live with this person. If it’s too much for you, get out of the relationship, because it’s a lot – and in some regards, it’s not fair. I understand. But the worst thing you can do is ever leave that person alone.
If you know someone who is not in their right frame of mind, and they are not able to make healthy decisions, doesn’t it make sense that you need to be there to make the healthy and the right decisions for your loved one? That’s one thing a lot of people don’t understand – ‘Jeff, how do I help?’ – You are not going against the person. You are just thinking more clearly for the person that can’t think for themselves.
Some triggers can prompt a response. And when you are dealing with mental illness – depression, bipolar, PTSD – it gets in front of you. In that moment, you might want to react.
I don’t think people want to take their life. I think there are a lot of people that just don’t know how to ask for help.
I know there will be people that are going to message me after saying this – “you know, Jeff – you give too much information.” I know. But I also feel like, with the work that I do – if I am not transparent, I am not as effective as I should be.
I woke up this morning and I am asking “why”– why am I going through this and what’s going on. I haven’t felt like this for a long time.
I took out all my meds – how I have them packed for my trips, and I wanted to go through them. I go right to my Lexapro. That’s my depression and anti-anxiety [medication], and it works so good for me – and I realize that I haven’t been taking my Lexapro. When I put all of my pills out, how did I miss not putting my Lexapro in there?
And I knew something wasn’t right, because when I was putting my pills together, it went so much faster than it usually does. But for seven to ten days, I hadn’t been taking my Lexapro. When I noticed that, you’re damn right I took one right away.
I in my transparency to you, I want to just leave you with with this:
- Living with mental illness does not necessarily mean that your life is forever change, and you can’t live a healthy life. No. Not at all.
- You have to be aware and you have to be willing to ask for help – and I am good at that.
- Talking about it. I think we have a responsibility to talk about it – to help give other people awareness that mental illness is real.
- I want to be an inspiration to those that are dealing with mental illness themselves – to say it’s going to be OK. It’s OK to ask for help. It’s really important that you practice self-care.I think it’s really important that you manage your eating and your exercise. That’s self-care too.
- Surround yourself with people that are understanding, compassionate and empathetic. If that’s not the case, then those are people that you probably need to put back into your acquaintances category of relationships.
I hope I made sense.
To find out more about Jeff’s speaking programs, including suicide prevention, mental health, teen coaching and more, go HERE.
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