Many of us trust Matt Clifton, pictured here, behind the tea cup, with our lives. Matt is an IT expert, a wizard under the hood of lots of computers, tablets, smartphones, and other sorts of devices. Matt is an open advocate for mental health awareness, and speaks about it in his social media. Sometimes he highlights men’s mental health, reminding us that men can suffer from depression too.
In this time of Smash The Patriarchy, it can be hard to remember that men can be soft - despite their stubble, stubborn ways, and sometimes opposite ways of understanding women. It is nice to have a friend be open and honest about his life experiences, which include emotions one might not guess upon speaking with him in person.
We’ll share with you here Matt’s big message for May, Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s comforting that despite his jovial, good friend, generally cheery nature, social anxiety can take him over. As a young person (and sometimes today), I remember feeling so shy around certain groups of people, that I would have trouble walking. Being in the mall was the worst. Recess could be tough. I just wanted to hide. Today when I go to the Beacon High School track to jog, or to soccer practice/games for my son, it’s a conquering-my-fears type of thing because I was too afraid to ever go to high school football games in the stadium.
Today I have a young son who is also shy. Looking at him, I can’t see the shyness, or understand it. He’s just so cute and fun! Yet his fears are real when we first start a new group activity, like soccer or camp. Nudging him out of the nest is important, but it’s also important to acknowledge his fear, to let him know we know, and it’s OK to have a hard time. I remind myself to be patient, and to tap into the feelings I know very well.
I’ll let Matt take it away from here:
I’m Matt and I have general anxiety, social anxiety and depression. This is something I’ve had all my adult life - I first started experiencing severe social anxiety at university, which continued through my 20s. It affected my social and professional life. Some days at the office, I’d get panic attacks and have to hide in the bathroom just to breathe. I found noisy and crowded bars and social engagements almost unbearable. I didn’t talk to family or friends about my feelings, and I didn’t go to therapy until my late 30s, but I did find it helped me - even though my issues are not based in any kind of trauma, just talking about them allowed me to define what I was feeling, and not let them define who I was.
I also now take Prozac, which is an SSRI. I go to occasional yoga classes, which help me most by getting me focused on the movements and getting out of my own head! I try to be mindful throughout the day as much as I’m able to, to keep myself in the moment and not dwell on the past or worry about the future.
I’m a freelance IT consultant, as well as a serious science-fiction nerd, and have a really great life in the Hudson Valley, New York, with my wife Emily, dog Arya, and assorted cats and chickens. We run a cooking blog called Nerds with Knives and it’s really become a huge and fun part of our lives. I would like to be better at baking. I drink a lot of tea.
I’m very proud of the life I’ve made for myself, and the steps I’ve taken to get myself to a better place addressing my mental health. I’m not so embarrassed at talking about it any more. You wouldn’t be able to tell that I have mental health issues. You might just think I’m a little quiet. Most days I’m doing great, but I still have a lot of trouble in social situations.
If you’re struggling with the same issues, you might be surprised to know there are way more people who are sharing that struggle with you. You’re not alone. Mental health issues aren’t a failing of character. And there are people who love you. You can always text NAMI to 741741 to get help from trained counselors.
Matt’s mention of NAMI reminds us of another reason to be grateful for the Rock Out 4 Mental Health concert. I had seen the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) ribbons each year, on trees around Beacon, but had never looked into what they were about. By being on the Planning Committee for the event, I sat next to someone from NAMI’s Mid-Hudson affiliate almost every Tuesday in the Spring, as we held our planning meetings.
We’re looking forward to meeting more people at the concert, and absorbing more of what is available.