My Story - How I, Jordan Brown, Got Into the Mental Health Field
I was interviewed on a mental health podcast a few days ago, and I was asked this question:
“How did you get into mental health?”
It’s a question I’ve been asked many times, but for whatever reason, it’s stuck with me longer this time.
It got me thinking about issues larger than mental health.
It inspired me to take a broader look at how anyone gets into anything.
It could just be random, an errant stroke of fate.
Or it could be something more.
I think it’s something more.
How I Got Into the Mental Health Field
I got into mental health because, long story short, my mom dealt with a mental health crisis.
It was one of the scariest times of my life, and I felt woefully unprepared to deal with it. I had never received education in school about how to support someone dealing with a mental health crisis. And so I made the decisions that felt right at the time. I felt so guilty about it. Thankfully, it all worked out — and my mom is doing better now.
But it was that combination of love for my mother and disgust that I had never learned about this before that sparked something inside of me.
It eventually led me to find the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. They do fantastic, grassroots work in the United States and a few other countries to teach people about mental health issues, all while giving support to individuals and family members dealing with them.
Little did I know, even though I ended up teaching classes and running family support groups for NAMI, that I would need their support for myself at one point.
I won’t get into my whole story here, but I also suffered a mental health crisis after having open-heart surgery in 2012.
Something about the surgery broke me. It changed my brain in ways that have never been fully repaired. Now I have the skills to deal with it, but the time right after the surgery was an onslaught of anxious, depressive, and obsessive-compulsive symptoms.
In many ways, the system failed me. I was so angry at how broken it all seemed.
Eventually, as I got on the road to recovery, I used the disgust I felt when trying to help my mom, and the anger I felt when trying to help myself, to do something about it.
This, in a nutshell, is how I got into mental health, through pain and misfortune, through searing anger and overwhelming disgust for the status quo.
But, deep down, I know it was already inside of me.
It just needed these events to be brought out and shared with the world.
How You Get Into Anything in Your Life
And, in a similar way, I think this broken-open process is how people get into anything in their lives, whether they want to admit it or not.
We all have reasons for what we do. We all pursue our passions because we derive meaning from them in some way. Where the meaning comes from sometimes feels like a mystery. But if we look close enough, if we engage in careful self-analysis, we can usually spot the sources of the meaning.
How did you get into whatever you’re doing?
You probably got into it through meaning. Maybe you don’t love what you’re currently doing. But, for whatever reason, it’s meaningful. Maybe you have to provide for your family, and this is the best way you know how to do it. Still, that’s meaningful to you.
Or maybe you believe in something that’s bigger than yourself, much like I do. There’s meaning in that as well. Can you connect the dots that led you to this point? What happened to you to break you open and expose your true calling?
We are who we are for a reason.
We get swept up into the big waves that are our lives for a reason. You needed the events that happened to you to get where you are right now. What you thought was a disaster ended up being the exact sign that you needed to move on in life.
That’s always how it is, isn’t it?
It Starts With a Question
This broader analysis of my life and the meaning of it all started with a recent question: “How did you get into mental health?”
Now I’m not so sure I ever got into mental health.
I think it got into me. I think it was always right there, right inside of me.
I just needed the jarring events of my life to shake it loose.
I needed the crash of the waves to find the placid pool of meaning underneath.
Here's my interview with the Pushin' Thru Blu Podcast that I mentioned at the beginning of this post: