Despite the fact that I’ve been writing for over a decade and a half, I’m still relatively new to leveraging social media in the endeavor. Doing so involves understanding how to communicate with the human collective, rather than with a single person or small group like most of us are accustomed to. The good news is that, once I get people to the point of reading my articles, they have generally found them impactful or at least moderately entertaining. The bad news?
The bad news is what it takes to get them there.
My most successful article thus far (mind you that I’m still working on a relatively small scale) was entitled, “Terrorist Generosity Gave me PTSD.” Doesn’t that seem a bit…provocative? Well, that’s the crux of my position.
In our world of extremes, people expect to be offended (or to defend an idea that others would find offensive) before they are willing to engage in discourse.
It can be seen all around us, in every facet of life. An author can’t write about religion without either attacking it or accepting it wholeheartedly. You’re either defending atheism or attempting to prove that God absolutely exists. You can’t write about politics without incorporating images of dead fetuses (on the conservative side), or of young immigrants in tears (on the liberal side). In addressing generational gaps, it’s always either a “lazy millennial” or a “close-minded baby-boomer.”
What happened to the 80 percent of people in the middle – the ones capable of having a reasonable conversation without resorting to violent rhetoric and posturing? How have we let the outliers become our socially acceptable norm, and how to we return to a world of reason?
The challenge is this: authors make money when people read their work. They make more when people engage, comment, and share. Culturally, we now HAVE to use provocative language in order to coax complacent people to simply click the hyperlink.
So, how do we fix it?
As journalists, writers, and others who sort of “steer” human culture, we have to learn to use extreme language to coax people back toward reasonable thought. We have to provoke them toward acceptance, and anger them toward open-mindedness. It’s the ultimate challenge in persuasive writing.
“Terrorist Generosity Gave me PTSD” was really just an article about learning to accept the situation, culture, and beliefs of people who are different than we are, but the title stung enough to make a few people who didn’t give a shit about me feel the urge to click. And once they clicked, they were in my world. I could use powerful imagery and wordsmithing to coax them toward a thought they, perhaps, hadn’t considered before. I could weave a story that would lead them into considering the root of one of our world’s major problems.
Any thoughts from other “Guides of the Human Terrain” would be most appreciated.
People are still reasonable. We just have to remind them how to communicate reasonably, and that’s a multi-generational endeavor.
I typed in the name of my new website just now, so that I could begin sharing its intent.
As I did so, I felt a bit burnt out. More than that though, I felt the weight of conviction and a rebellious sense of purpose in a world that tells me I don’t have one, or that I can’t have one, or that I’m not qualified to achieve it. That I’m not qualified to achieve my purpose.
You see, I already know what my purpose is. Ever since I was a child, I’ve felt the strong urge to help others. To advocate for the broken, mistreated, or misunderstood. To heal them, show them how they should be treated, and to understand them. It’s all been inspired by my journey to to heal myself, to find those who treat me with kindness, or to find the people I can be understood by.
And they’re out there. You’re out there. It’s just such a complex problem to digest and address with a tone of victory.
The Quiet Visionary. Maybe I’m being too quiet – I’ve never been one to self promote, and I always feel like advocating for my own skills and purpose is too proud a thing to do. I think that a lot of people who can heal our world feel the same. But I couldn’t just start typing after I entered my web-address – there was another step before I got to my present screen. I had to click one more link.
And that’s what this is, right? My site. My blog. My space. My voice.
Mental health awareness is such a huge issue that almost everyone from almost every walk has to at least acknowledge it. Which one of you doesn’t know a person who has ended their life early, or tried to? Which one of you hasn’t thought about doing it yourself at some point, but refused because of faith, honor, love, or fear? How many more could be reading this if they hadn’t already lost that battle?
Fuck mental health awareness. We’re already aware of it.
The problem is that so many people who could honestly contribute to the healing of our country are held back from doing so by misconceptions that have existed for FAR too long. I’m held back from doing so. And that’s not a complaint or a pity party, it’s a challenge. So many people survive adversity and come out on the other side with a story to tell, only to be warned that they shouldn’t tell it.
It’s too private. It’s too shameful. It’s too real. You’re not educated enough. It’s too late to become educated enough – you have a family now. You have responsibilities and bills and all you can do is keep working your life away in a desperate grind to stay afloat.
Nah, man. It’s time to challenge that.
Every single day people are literally choosing to blow their brains out or hang themselves in their own “living” rooms because the way we are treating mental illness is NOT working. NARCAN is now available over the counter, because people choose to run to drugs where a more obvious solution is absent. Almost every veteran I meet has been diagnosed with PTSD, because our nation would rather throw money and mind-numbing drugs at problems than to see them properly addressed. Many within my own circle will judge the stance I’m taking because people should just “turn to God.” I believe that God gave us the tools to overcome adversity together, and it’s not always enough to just project the things that pain us into the sky and be freed of them.
Most of the people you engage with beyond the surface level are proud to share with you conditions which replace their own names in illustrating the adversity they’ve overcome. You’re not a person – you’re a person battling depression. You’re a person battling bulimia, anxiety, PTSD, or anorexia. You’re a person battling. As if anyone out there is not battling.
You’re so thankful when you finally find someone else who is battling the same disease that you are…perhaps they can understand you. Disease, when written regarding mental health, is a word created by other people to monetize issues that have been faced since the dawn of humanity. The truth? The truth is that mental diseases and spiritual brokenness are the same damned thing. Honestly, at this point – with suicide rates skyrocketed and diagnosis at an all-time high – what’s the harm in trying a different approach?
I may not have a master’s degree, or a doctorate (though I hope to find the means to add those tools to my kit), but I think I have an even more valuable tool. MY story. I can help the broken to heal, because I’ve healed from being broken.
Anyone who scoffs at this post or the language in it hasn’t been in the place I’m talking about. But SO many have. And SO many are still there, and hiding it. Military leaders. CEO’s. Waitresses and strippers and whores and soldiers and children and happily married men and women and preachers and teachers and cooks and druggies and the homeless population that we try SO hard not to see. None of them is more important to me than the rest, and none of them has less potential than another. They all just need an advocate. Someone to give them the time of day, an open ear that won’t judge and can offer advice based off of practical experience, not some text book.
That’s the crux of what America’s mental health issue is, and it’s also the key mission of The Quiet Visionary. People don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to a therapist who tells them only that they’re “intellectualizing their emotions” and lacks any hint of empathy or compassion. If that sounds like a story based on experience it’s because it IS. The one time I sought professional help, I found someone who was professionally disconnected from the world’s problems. Someone who lacked the experience to relate to the world’s darkness. People bound by a code of ethics that prevents true connection or understanding, people who seek to drag the broken into the light without understanding why they haven’t been there in the first place.
Humanity is not a shameful experience. Real answers do exist. Cut yourself some slack. Pain is not something to be hidden. It’s something to be shared that others might better avoid it.
I may not have a degree like they say I should. And now, well into adulthood with a wife and child of my own, I’ve found myself thus far incapable of dropping everything to return to school. Sure, education is a great enhancement for tools forged by hard experience. By what use is a tool adorned with jewels if it’s never been forged in fire and quenched into its most durable form?
Better a plain and humble sword that was made properly than a jeweled one made of softest metal.
I can help you climb out of the pit. I know the path. I’ve been there before. And I’m working so hard for you, behind the scenes. Processing my story into something digestible. Not something to cling to, but something to learn from. And not because I’m better than you or because I’ve been through more, but because it is simply my purpose to do so. To change the broken stigma of mental health “awareness,” and give folks who are in pain actual solutions to their problems.
But every advocate needs an advocate. Help me build my platform so I can help those who are in the dark to understand the darkness, and thus overcome it.
You will hear more from me. If you need help, reach out to me anytime. It doesn’t matter who you are or how we’re related. I see the world’s hidden pains. The only real solution is unconditional love. Whatever happened to unconditional love?
I recently had a very magical wedding ceremony with my wife (who I legally married in January) at the Grand Canyon. My best friend (a historian) officiated the wedding, using concepts from the middle ages and ancient Latin language, and it was one of the most magical moments of my life. I’m forever grateful to all involved, and wanted to share the words I wrote for my wife. What’s the point in freelancing if you can’t express thoughts from your personal life while doing so, and use the work to honor those you love? A few of the day’s photos are included below the text.
“Steven recently asked me if I had anything that I wanted to say during this ceremony, and I realized that there is a huge difference between “Not having anything to say,” and “not having to say anything.” Since that time, I decided to write a full-length speech about not having to say anything.
If you know me well, you know that public speaking and crowds are my greatest fears, and I chose to say these words not because they needed to be said – I know that this moment is as sacred to Amanda as it is to me, and nothing could change that. I chose to say them despite knowing that I’d probably get emotional because this without a doubt the single most sacred moment I’ll ever live through, and I want to honor it with authenticity and vulnerability by sharing it with all of you.
Since the moment I met Amanda, she has always understood me and accepted me for who I am – accepted how I came to be this way. That may sound like some innocent, puppy-love statement, but the truth of the matter is that life and its lessons will always leave scars behind. You’ll rarely meet a person of compassion who hasn’t been denied it, or a person who advocates for others who hasn’t been beaten down by them.
From the outside, the world sees a couple that met during a college field trip and returned the following year to take the plunge. They see pretty Instagram pictures and read adventurous blogs about hiking and the outdoors. They see love. And there is an indescribable amount of that shared between us, or I wouldn’t be standing here. But there’s so much more than that.
What the world doesn’t see are the things we’ve overcome together, and the things we have yet to. They don’t see a medic who wakes up in the middle of the night, screaming from nightmares that torture the mind but paralyze the body. They don’t see a man clinging to the hope that there’s still goodness in the world, and kindness. And they don’t see the days where I lose that hope and plummet into a darkness that I have to scratch and claw my way out of.
Yes, I’m a gentleman and I can be charming. Yes, she’s stunningly beautiful and wicked smart. Yes, we’re ferociously loyal to one another. But there’s a negative to balance every positive, destruction balances creation, and yin balances yang. I used to have so much noise in my head, and it doesn’t matter to me if anyone here can relate to that. When I’m in the presence of the person I trust the most in this great and terrible world, the noise goes away. I try to be aware of projecting, not to be too dependent, and not to cling to the comfort she gives my soul, but I always end up losing that fight and just appreciating the fact that she’s there and chose to love me back. And I think the thing that makes that okay is that she somehow feels the exact same way about me.
We’re two humans who were so sick of the world that we were just about ready to move on to the next one, but instead, God – the universe – whatever synonym you choose to use…”The powers that be” decided to grant us the mercy of each other. Of friendship. Of a life where your inner voice becomes the outer one, and you know that your person would follow you into the pits of hell, but that they won’t have to because you met in those pits, where you’d each learned to survive alone, and together, were resurrected.Persuasive writing, empathy, and intuition have always been strengths of mine, and I have to say that it’s been utterly refreshing not to have to convince, explain or justify anything to Amanda. Any emotions this speech has invoked are baseline compared to what each of us see when we simply look at each other. Our connection has been so organic and natural since day one – a connection fostered by living in a tent for the first three months of our relationship. Unconditional love is an increasingly rare gift – but that’s what we have for each other.
On the surface, I’m the emotional one. I choose to wear my feelings openly, on occasion, to prove that the human experience is not a shameful thing, but one of beauty. Nothing is more beautiful than the moments when I can connect to her emotions, though. To her spirit. To a thing that is so well sheltered because the world is such a cruel place. And it’s not that I break down walls to get to it, it’s that she trusts me enough to break them down for me. I promise that, until my last breath, I will dedicate every tool that I have to making her world one of beauty, and comfort, and trust. Thank you all for being here to witness our enlightenment – our Nirvana. For two souls that have been tormented by their lifelong separation have at last been reunited into one.”