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Coffee on Sundays at Planet Bean, a local coffee shop, has become something of a routine for me. I always get my usual “Chatty Maddy“, hopefully find a spot close to the window and peer out on MacDonnell  St. Before I even crack open my computer, I just sit there. Listening to whatever is streaming through my phone, today it’s Kendrick Lamar’s “Section 80″.

For any of you that have read any of my previous articles, it’s quite easy to see that I enjoy listening to hip hop and rap music. I find the lyrical flow that it provides to be rather soothing, no idea why, but I don’t think that matters. Songs like “Things Are Looking Up”  by Canadian rapper, Classified and “I” by Kendrick Lamar – are tracks I can listen to daily and just get lost in the lyrics.

Today is different though. Today is a day where I find myself doing a lot of reflection. Trying to look with a certain perspective. Isn’t it funny how certain dates can mean so much to us? Just numbers on a calendar, but for all of us certain dates have powerful meanings. As of this year, I have a number of new dates that have drastic meaning to me.

August 8th. Why does August 8th mean so much? Well that was the date of my first article I wrote for HMC. I realize that there is authors out there who write and have pieces published on a regular basis, not this guy, not me. I’m not a writer, I feel by deeming myself a writer I do an injustice to those who make a living off of it. For me I simply write. There isn’t much structure to how I write, it’s actually quite frantic and all over the place; what I like to call – verbal vomit. Matches my personality really.  Back to my point though. August 8th was the day I broke down my biggest hurdle, it was the day I shared my struggles publicly.

The relevance to this, is that unfortunately this will be my last article for HMC. From start to finish it has been a ride.

Every week that I knew I was going to have an article go out, my anxiety went sky high. I mean, really – think about it. I don’t know any of you, but yet my hope is that by sharing my personal experiences, my struggles – It could offer perspective. I often said to those closest to me, that if anything that was released only effected one person, it was entirely worth it. There is something incredibly humbling to receive in inbox message from a complete stranger saying what an article meant to them. My time spent going for coffee with people has gone up, and I’m ok with that. I thoroughly believe it’s something that needs to be discussed more.

Through my time writing I was asked a lot of questions in private. Some from friends and others from complete strangers. The one that most reoccurring was:

Do you worry that others will judge you now, or not know how to talk to you?”

In all honesty, I had thought about that before writing. In my experience, I had not noticed any changes. With that said, it was still something that I continually thought about article, after article. I was worried about it, it caused me further Anxiety.

Because Mental Health carries a weighted stigma, it would make sense that anyone that openly discusses it could feel judged. What I will say, is at some point that doesn’t matter. This is a topic that needs to discussed more and encouraged more. If anyone were to disagree, they are entitled to their opinion as you are entitled to your own – and that’s okay. I have made a point to read all the other bloggers post while volunteering with HMC, let me tell you something – there stories are incredible. To anyone that does read this, please, when you have a moment read them all. You may not always need it, but chances are you will know someone that will.

Another question  I have been asked quite a bit, was:

“Do you feel the way you speak to others has changed since opening up?”

Truthfully, yes. I joke about my alter persona I call “my inner hippie”. *Disclaimer* I mean nothing offensive by that phrase, simply just referring to a calmer state of mind. That’s the best way to describe it, a calmer state of mind. I share a little bit more of my mindset in certain situations. I express to others situations that cause me higher levels of Anxiety and what I do to avoid them. As a whole I would say I am more open. However, I still find it easier to write thoughts and feelings as opposed to verbalizing them. I would never turn away a conversation about Mental Illness if the situation presented itself.

The last frequent question I was asked:

“How does it feel that people know the real you, now?”

Well truth be told, I have never written about the real me fully. As I wanted to, I focused solely on my struggles with Mental Illness. But, there is much more to me than my diagnosis. That is one part of me. So let me introduce you to the full version of me.

(You might regret wanting to get to know the “real” me) Kidding…Well, maybe.

As you may have guessed, my name is Joel Wheeler. I am 27 years old, born in Scarborough and raised in Guelph, Ontario. I enjoy many things. Unfortunately I am a Toronto Maple Leaf fan (although they are trending in the right direction). I am a Blue Jays fan, as mentioned – I love music. I consider myself to be a foodie, pizza specifically. Off topic, but if you like pineapple on your pizza – we can no longer be friends! I love stand up comedy. Aziz Ansari, Dave Chappelle and Kevin Hart, are a few of my favorites. I love to read and love art, I find both to be calming. My favorite color is blue. I am terrified of snakes and frogs. I am a social butterfly, but am scared shitless to be in large groups of people.

Lastly, until the day I die – I will find flatulence to be hilarious.

You see, I’m an average person. There is nothing “wow” about me. The only thing that makes me “different” is my diagnosis. My question to this is:

“Does it have too?”

I honestly don’t think so. As I have said in many of my articles, times will be tough. With that said, they will be tough for everyone, not just those who deal with Mental Illness. We all battle, in fact everyone you meet will be fighting a war that you know nothing about.

As mentioned, I’m an average person. I don’t think there is anything the makes me overly special. I live a good life though. Yes, I have been battle tested and will continue to fight, but guess what?

So have all of you.

My premise to why I began to write in the first place was to help myself, I’ve done that. I will continue to do so. I wanted to help bring awareness to issue that has gained traction, yes – but there is still much work to do. I’ve learned much over the last few years, more specifically this past year. You are your greatest asset and like any monetary asset, you need to protect yourself.

So here is what I implore you to do. Make a list of what makes you, you! When you’re done, keep it someplace safe. My suggestion? Be generous to yourself. Don’t be so hard on yourself, we always tend to be. What do you like to do, what are your goals and your ambitions? What kind of music do you like? We all like food, what’s your favorite?

No, were not all celebrities or have specialty skills, but we all have something to offer. For those battling a Mental Illness, you can do anything you set your mind too. At times it won’t feel like it, but you can; better yet – you will.

I chase this notion of wanting to be a son that makes my parents proud. I know my sister falls into this category and even more so now with my adorable niece being a part of our family. This is hard for us, it’s hard for me. I will forever be triggered by spontaneous memories of my father and his passing. When that happens, I want to break down, I want to yell and just sleep my sorrows away. I refuse, I know he would want me to keep going, as well as my mother. Aside from that though, I need to be a person that makes myself proud. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.

This is a grind, and it will continue to be. But me, you and everyone else that battles Mental Illness and even those that don’t – you are special.

I want to take this moment to thank Healthy Minds Canada for giving me this opportunity, it’s help me in more ways than I could even begin to express. Thank you, truly from the bottom of my heart. I’m on the road of recovery and the opportunity to help myself while hopefully helping others has been nothing short of incredible.

To the readers, I leave you with this. I have this saying I like to say to those who are down.

Smile, because a real smile is beautiful and the world is a better place when it’s on display.

One last quote from the Hip Hop culture from the previously mentioned, Kendrick Lamar:

Don’t you know your imperfections is a wonderful blessing”

My name is Joel Wheeler, and I live with anxiety and depression. I am not weak, and I am not alone. Neither are you.

About Joel Wheeler

Sales Manager for a local supplement company by day, free thinker and mental health advocate by night. Joel has become outspoken about his day to day struggles about mental health and has brought him to Healthy Minds Canada to share his stories with the hope to help others and offer support.

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