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Let's talk about mental health
Today, an episode of Two Sides of FI was released that served as the inspiration for this post. That episode was filmed almost a month ago, so I’ve had some time to think more about the topics we discussed in it. I’ve also taken action on some of what I spoke about in the video. If you’ve not yet seen it, and even if you don’t normally watch very much on YouTube, I’d strongly recommend watching the show as important background before reading this post.
I’d originally pitched the topic of that episode in a text message to Eric, as one concerned with wellness in retirement:
Already a focus of mine, it had recently become a topic of even more importance to me after reading a recent hit book: Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Peter Attia, MD. I’d describe it as a summary of the author’s findings from his quest to not merely prolong lifespan, but more importantly “healthspan”; that is, maximizing the period in which we are in sufficiently good health, preventing and/or delaying chronic disease, so that we may enjoy life to its fullest. While I found a lot of value in the whole book (do read it!), most of my conversation with Eric ended up being focused on just one element of it.
You see, not long before the episode was recorded, I came to an important realization: Despite being happy with my decision to retire early and truly enjoying so many of the experiences I’ve had since, I had to admit it: my mental health was not where I’d like it to be, probably hadn’t been so for many years, and it was high time that I did something about that! Reading the book was just one part of coming to that realization, as were recent conversations with a good friend working through his own depression, as I described in the video. Importantly, the 3+ years since I’d retired early had provided me ample time and space to focus on myself much more, and now without the handy excuse of “work-related stress” underlying anything negative in my life, had made clear the opportunity in front of me. As Eric asked about in the show, I’d made an appointment to meet with a psychiatrist.
Since that time I’ve had two appointments with them, as well as an initial session with a counselor to whom the former referred me. While it is certainly early days for my work with both, I feel really good about starting this process. I’ve had great conversations with each and have begun a course of therapy for anxiety and depression about which I’m optimistic. I was surprised to find that simply taking these first, intentional steps towards being “the best me that I can be”, felt so good. And I’m already seeing benefit from medication despite it being early in my treatment.
As anyone who knows me can attest, this post and that 2SFI conversation (you did watch it, right?) are a very high level of vulnerability for me and therefore pretty uncomfortable. As Eric and I discussed, my default position has always been to portray stability, denying offers of help, and to avoid having anyone being concerned about how I’m doing. I’m a true master of downplaying anything that’s going on with me, insisting that “everything is fine”. I don’t (yet) know the origin of that behavior but I have been long aware that it is a very real thing. But doing Two Sides of FI with my great friend for nearly three years has helped me realize just how important it is to share openly, so that we can grow and others may benefit from our experiences.
And so here I am, doing just that! It’s ironic - not an hour after we filmed that episode, I realized we’d unwittingly done so on World Mental Health Day. That makes me feel even better about talking so openly on a topic many if not most would elect to keep private. And that made it easy to approve the footage Eric had edited, electing to air the entirety of our conversation about mental health. I didn’t want to cut any of it out. My hope is that even one person who views it might realize they, too could benefit from a focus on their own wellness, and take positive steps towards improving their own mental health.
As always, thanks for being here on the journey with me. I sincerely appreciate your support, encouragement, and thoughts that some of you share with me. Mahalo 🙏
PS - As I say in the video, I doubt this content will be among my most popular - but I'd sure be happy if it was. Health isn't well covered in the FIRE space and in particular, mental health topics. So if you've never shared a 2SFI episode or a blog post on Reddit or via other social media, please consider it now. Thanks for your consideration!