When I mentioned in my blog that mental health is a topic close to my heart, it's not only because of the experience I had surrounding the once-taboo subject — still is among close-minded individuals or groups. But also the relationship I have with people who struggled with or are still struggling with mental health problems.
Grant Gomez is one of those close individuals. I've known him for quite a while now. I've witnessed the long process it took him to get settled in Dubai as his new home thousands of miles away from the US.
I asked him how he's doing in his new-found passion in the music/media industry. A little flashback at how he got the gig. "People kept commenting on my voice, asking if I was in radio or telling me I should be in radio. I'd been looking for ways to earn more [money], but I had no experience in radio whatsoever. With a little bit of encouragement from my wife, I decided to simply walk in; maybe I could do some voice-over work. After about a year of that, the station began auditioning for freelance radio presenters for the weekends, and the production manager told me to give it a shot," Grant narrates.
I've known him to be a person with a positive outlook in life. No one would suspect — at any point — that he's going through a mental struggle based on a mere facade. What triggered his depression? "I had a promising career in the US Army, but I left it to be in Dubai with my wife. Given my experience, I had high expectations with finding a decent job here. Unfortunately, things didn't work out as planned. There were few good job prospects, and things kept falling through. I was in limbo for years, like nothing was going right."
I was in limbo for years
The actual trigger for my depression, I would say, was my wife's miscarriage. We had been wanting to start a family for years, and despite praying harder than I'd ever prayed before for God to save our baby, it wasn't meant to be. It felt like God let me down. I tried getting over it, like I would for any other disappointment, but my thoughts kept bringing me to a dark place. It got more and more difficult to maintain my usual friendly demeanor around others," he recalls.
Grant was honest enough to admit that he is still dealing with depression, taking it one day at a time. "First, if you start to notice the signs and symptoms of depression, I would suggest meeting with a therapist." he said. "Mental health is just as important as physical health. Ignore the stigma, the outdated thinking that 'it's all in your head,' or that you can simply 'get over it.' Thankfully, more and more people understand and accept this, so go ahead and talk to a psychiatrist to help you with your mental health problems, the same way you would go see a physician if you had the flu," he adds.
Openness about these experiences with those whom you trust is of grave importance. "Keeping it to yourself for too long will likely make it worse, and it took me awhile to be honest with my wife about what I was thinking and feeling. Honestly, I was scared to actually admit it to her, but I had to say something, not just for my sake, but for hers and my [other] loved ones. On a similar note, expect that not everyone can understand, and might offer unsolicited advice or push you to open up or talk more about it when you're not ready to. It's best to find that trusted someone who can listen and provide support whenever you're willing to discuss it."
I was intrigued by his view on how music helped him. Listening to music, among other activities, can be cathartic. Paradoxically, listening to sad music can make sad or depressed people feel better (of course, avoid any that promote self-harm), and studies show that they tend to prefer sad songs over happy ones. "I'm not sure exactly why, but perhaps listening to sad music is like talking to a friend that can empathize with you. Listening to happy music on the other hand might seem like you're trying to force it, and it likely won't work for everyone."
Sad music made me feel better
Others feel better when they try out new hobbies. "I've noticed on social media that houseplants are the 'in' thing at the moment, so give it a try!" he exclaims.
When I asked how his faith helped him, he said it's a little more complex to address because of its "extremely personal nature." "Not everyone has the same set of beliefs, so dealing something like that might require spiritual counseling. In my case, I had to sort of step back and 'separate the wheat from the chaff' regarding my own beliefs, and ultimately it made my faith stronger."
There's no surefire way of telling if someone is suffering from mental health problems judging merely on how people project on the outside. We hope that in creating awareness on this issue, people who are suffering from it will find the courage to take the first step — open up.Follow Grant Gomez: