Today’s #SameHere Hero: @menalhealthbylee from Coleraine, Northern Ireland. After months of following his work on IG, we finally got a chance to video chat, and I really love this dude. He’s a larger than life “character” – a real “guys guy” who you wouldn’t expect to open up and share his emotions the way he does. But you know what’s larger than his body and his beard? His heart!
We’re gonna do this Hero story a little differently than normally – and I’m going to recap his story, because unapologetically, Lee struggles with dyslexia, and has a difficult time writing out his experiences. You might ask – well then how does he do such great advocacy work on IG? The answer is, he uses voice to text on his phone, to help spell things out for his graphics and messages. Because of how engaging and full of life he is, people gravitate towards him. He’s an open book, and we are proud to now have him as the newest member of our #SameHere Advocacy Alliance – the first from Ireland. I hope I do his story justice (the remainder is on the link in the bio):
Lee describes that major difficulties started for him after about 6 years of marriage, when he realized that his wife no longer loved him. He adored her, and felt on top of the world to be married to her, but when they were together, she never returned the feelings or actions. Despite having 2 kids together (4 and 2 years old), Lee decided it was best to pick up with just a single bag of his own clothes, and leave. He was sure visiting his kids would not be an issue, as he felt (because of the way she was acting), his wife wanted him gone and out of her life and would let him come see them whenever. He figured this was the best time to do it for the kids…when they were still too young to fully remember the pain of a break-up themselves.
Two weeks after leaving, Lee came to find out that his wife had been sleeping with his neighbor who had lived on their street. This came as another major blow, as again, he loved her immensely, and he couldn’t believe she was engaging in this behavior behind his back.
For years after leaving the house, Lee “sofa surfed” between the houses of friends and family. He started drinking and sleeping a lot outside of work, and this combo made him an angry individual. But, as he had seen how alcoholism had affected other family members, Lee decided he needed to stop the drinking – and he had the fortitude to do so. Lee was working as a Care Worker, himself, and he knew he had to be responsible to others.
After some time, Lee went on to meet another woman, who herself had two kids. In a way, Lee was excited to act as a father figure to these two kids as well. He was sure to mention to me that this woman was very attractive ;), and because he struggled with Obsessive Thoughts, he often thought too much about how other men were showing her attention. After getting down on himself about these thoughts, Lee visited his parent’s house, and after some highly intense words were shared between them, his parents threatened to call the police on him. He was displaying erratic behavior and didn’t believe the meds he was on were properly helping him.
Leaving his parent’s house, Lee got the idea in his mind that – alcohol wouldn’t help, and he couldn’t go back to living with obsessional thoughts and the fear that his new girlfriend was getting attention from other men, so he decided he was going to drive his car off of a cliff to end all of his pain. He’s not sure what power ultimately came over him to stop him from such action (he believes it was the thought of what it would do to his kids), but…he ended up going back into his parent’s house and formally asking for help. He told me he’s never cried so much in his life, as on that day. He was taken to the hospital and assigned a crisis team who put him on new meds and explained to him that he was suffering from PTSD from the traumatic events he had experienced with the breakup with his wife.
After taking the meds for some time and feeling better, Lee decided it was ok to go off them. He thought things had just magically gotten better. Unfortunately, being off the meds, he started to spiral again. His girlfriend told him that he was using his mental health issues as an excuse. This time, to try to get him to change his behavior, she actively told him about the guys who had been chasing after her. Lee felt like she was doing this purposely, to ruffle his feathers. In his mind, just like what had happened with his ex-wife, he felt like – “here we go again, this is happening all over again with a woman leaving me.” It got so bad one night, with the combination of what she had been telling him and his obsessional thoughts, that he started driving to all the local bars in town, looking for her car and trying to find her. He knew things had gotten out of control for him.
He ultimately sought out a psychologist at a mental health hospital and asked to be admitted. However, they told him that he’d be better suited living at home, not sheltered, and instead facing the pain he had been dealing with, related to both women, head on. He did get back with his girlfriend, and as he described it, rushed an engagement to sort of “make up for” all the bad things that had happened in the past with her and his ex-wife. However, this didn’t work out, and ultimately things fizzled out with this fiance, and they ended up breaking up.
Lee got his own place and as he describes it “learned to finally live on his own.” He went back to the doctors and advocated for himself, and asked for different meds, which he says have been working much better than anything he’d been on before. To get healthier, he stopped burying himself in work and has taken time off (previously he had been working 90 hour work weeks to escape the pain he felt from the women he had been with). For two years now, he has not dated any women, has not drank, and he feels that is what’s healthiest for him. He completely changed his friends group – to ones who support him and “allow him to be himself.” He says that support has meant the world to him. He started a recovery action plan that taught him how to appreciate what he DOES have (and he’s even tattooed those reminders on his body so that he never forgets). He even told me he’s opened up to local store owners and patrons about his thoughts and issues, so that he feels comfortable going there. He says that without opening up, he’d feel uncomfortable going out and seeing them on a daily basis. He truly lives the term “vulnerability.” Unfortunately, Lee’s mom passed away not too long ago, but with a more supportive group around him, he has been able to handle the tremendous blow. He still has days where he finds it hard to eat, or even leave the house, but, that’s why he believes others feel so comfortable with him, and open up to him.
He started his Instagram page this past March, and people naturally are drawn to him. At first, because of his difficulty with his dyslexia, he would just post inspirational quotes. Although I am not surprised by it, Lee himself is totally surprised by the responses he has gotten. He says that people out in the town recognize him from his page, and have even told him that HE is the reason they have gotten out of bed some mornings – because he is pushing himself to do it, publicly in front of them, so they feel empowered too. Lee also wanted me to point out that he’s actually gone TO the houses of followers, to meet them face to face, and help them physically get out of bed and go to places like the gym.
What an amazing guy, to be fighting himself – to get back to a routine, to get back to feeling emotions, to get back to days where it’s easier to get out of bed – and while doing so, dedicating time to help so many others. That’s a true #SameHere hero story!