What I Learned About Mental Health From Failing My DIY Project

I’m the kind of guy who, when my father-in-law asks me to pass him a tool, I grab a random gadget with faked confidence and pray it’s the right one. When he sends it back to the box, I blame the mistake on poor vision or my manly aversion to using any tool besides my two God-given bare hands.

He sees right through me, and both of us know I’m no handyman.

As a homeowner, I have had to challenge myself in the world of DIY. I have a growing tool collection, expanding capabilities and knowledge, and I’m refining my Tim-the-Toolman-Taylor persona. Just last week, I put up a baby swing on our front porch, a lock box on our garage, built a bookshelf, and I even fixed the kitchen sink. Feeling pretty great about my newfound sweaty self, I began tackling the biggest project of all–those daunting cabinets in the basement.

I’ve been determined to mount them in the laundry room since riding the high of a successful two-screw project to get the swing up. To my utter exhaustion, the studs in our basement are made of pure concrete and surely are cursed by a spell making them as indestructible as the walls of Jericho. I spent hours convulsing on a hammer drill, I borrowed many (many) tools, and I practically bought an Ace Hardware franchise only to make a whopping half inch dent in a single stud that mocked me with the words of Gandalf, “You shall not passssssshh!” Finally, I surrendered my hands to the air only to slap them down to sketch a new plan; one that didn’t include having to drill into the odious pillars of Mordor.

That’s where I’m at right now. Uncleaned tools and sprawled 2x4s taunt me in my basement, and a sense of defeat weighs upon my soul. But if there is anything good about having a blog geared toward men with mental illness, it is that the maintaining of Dadding Depressed offers the opportunity to reflect on situations and explore how they might relate to the everyday struggle of the mentally ill. In doing so, I’ve recognized four important things you need in order to accomplish household projects and appropriately battle depression and anxiety. To grow in these areas, you need to have the right tools, the right people; and you need to have a healthy amount of grit and patience.

You Need To Have The Right Tools

I made so many trips to Ace Hardware in one day that I earned the reputation among the staff as being an easy up-sell. “Oh yeah,” coworkers likely discussed in the break room, “that guy will buy anything you tell him to.” Then, there I go, doo-doo-doo’in’ out the door with a cart full of junk seen on TV.

Half the battle of this project was figuring out what tools I needed and how to get my hands on them. I didn’t even know that a hammer drill was a thing, or a lag bolt for that matter, or that concrete supposedly needs a wall anchor. But, having the humility to be open to fresh ideas or age-old wisdom was key to finding the right tools. Likewise, when seeking mental health, it is vital to know what tools are needed to succeed, where to get them, and how to best use them. And there are things that we think help but might actually hurt.

Perhaps alcohol, food, sex, pornography, even Netflix-binging might be your go-to coping mechanism. Set those tools aside, and start exploring the tools you actually need to succeed in the long run, whether that be counseling, doctoral help, or any other practical next step that will benefit you like exercising, healthy eating, or just facing that one daunting fear. (Check out the Quick Tip section for more pragmatic ideas!)

You Need To Have The Right People

My father-in-law is a faithful DIY resource, my dad is only ever a call away, and my brother-in-law is an experienced home renovator. Success in just about anything is dependent upon teaming up with the right people. The pursuit of mental health is no exception. We need to rely on those in our day-to-day lives for support, wisdom, and perspective. To try and go it alone is only setting a trap for yourself in which you’ll fall defeated and discouraged. Open up to friends, family, and loved ones.

Talking to a professional could also be a needed resource. Professionals know what they’re doing and can help provide many valuable tools and resources to help you succeed.

You Need To Have Grit

Grit is defined by Google Dictionary as being “courage and resolve; strength of character.” This is a foreign concept for many in the darkness of depression or anxiety. When feeling mocked by our failures and discouraged in defeat, it can be extremely difficult to refrain from grasping onto the wrong tools for a taste of comfort or relief.

We should develop our grit by building resilience. This can be as simple as forcing yourself to get dressed for the day, or instilling a positive habit,. Or it could be a bigger task like making yourself see a professional. Whatever it is, grit doesn’t come naturally, it is something that needs to be cultivated and made a habit. Just don’t give up; hold on; hang in there. Whatever your next step is, take it. (Read my piece, On Clint Dempsey And Being In The Right Place At The Right Time for more thoughts on grit).

You Need To Have Patience

I’m still waiting for dad-knowledge to someday come knocking on my door, but, the thing is, it won’t. Learning about tools, knowing who to talk to, and developing grit all takes effort, but it requires even more time. So, have patience, dad-knowledge and mental health will come in time if you just take the small steps to challenge yourself in little, achievable ways.

You can accomplish that DIY project, and you can make positive strides against depression and anxiety. Find the right tools, the right people, muster grit, have patience, and above all, hang in there, champ.

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