reconnecting my head and my heart
My name is Lucas Krump, I am 41 years old and I live in Hudson, New York. Mental health has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father had bipolar disorder. This condition would cause dramatic swings in his mood and behavior. As a young boy I did not know the words “bipolar” or “mental health.” What I did know was that I never knew what mood my father would be in. He could be angry and violent and would then want to play catch in the backyard.
After my parents divorced I can remember being told my father was sick. My father's condition fractured our relationship; not knowing what mood my Dad was going to be in on the weekend left me on edge, afraid of his anger, hopeful for his affection, and most of all just wanting to be a kid.
My father passed away when I was 32. I longed for a relationship with him but time did not give us the chance to heal the wounds of the past. I’ve forgiven him of the hurt and found compassion for his struggle. As I work to normalize mental health and reduce the stigma associated with mental health for men, I often think about his struggle, the terror and loneliness of his own thoughts, the inability to get treatment due to stigma and science and most of all the shame. My own shame is what led me to take my mental and emotional health more seriously.
I lived overseas from ages 23-32. My lust for adventure took me to Africa and the Middle East before settling in Asia. While living in Bangkok, my grandmother passed away, shortly followed by my grandfather. When my grandparents passed, I decided to not attend their funerals. I grieved their passing by further disconnecting from my emotions. I opened a door inside myself and stuffed away my feelings and defaulted to strength instead of vulnerability.
In the first five years living overseas, I learned to cope with my feelings of homesickness and loneliness, made worse by being a minority in the country I was living in at the time. I would disconnect my head and heart. I used adventure, alcohol, and drugs to distract myself from my desire to be at home with my family. As the pain grew, so did the disconnect. My coping strategy worked for a few years, until it didn’t.
Then my father passed away. By that time the warmth of my heart had grown cold. I was surviving life, not living my life. I grieved the loss of my father by further disconnecting from my emotions--stuffing away the pain and telling myself I was okay. I wasn’t okay.
Six weeks after my father passed, I woke up in the middle of the night. I was living in Singapore at the time thousands of miles from my family, my home. My heart had burst. The dam had finally broken and the flood of emotions was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was frozen, a mix of fear, sadness, and loneliness. My first reaction was to take my own life. Anything to stop the pain. My rational mind overrode the madness. I walked out into the street, and hailed a cab. I can remember entering the emergency room, the reception nurse asked me, “What’s wrong?” I responded, “I am lost.”
The next day I woke up in the hospital. I was alone, hurting. Despite feeling lost, in my heart I knew I was found. This was my surrender. I accepted that my coping was no longer working and I needed help. My surrender forced me to open the trap door inside my heart. With the help of a therapist I faced the pain of my childhood, the loss of my grandparents and father; I stopped drinking and learned to love myself. I worked to reconnect my head and my heart. I didn’t do it alone, I found other men who had walked a similar path. I found strength in their vulnerability and in time I was able to heal some of the wounds of my past.
Today, I am still working on reconnecting my head and heart. I’ve made progress, but like any workout, it takes sustained repetitions to get stronger and fitter. My journey of self discovery led me to co-found EVRYMAN, an organization that provides men the tools, resources and community to proactively support their mental and emotional health.
We call it “CrossFit for your emotions,” because quite literally we are doing the emotional reps to support both our head and heart together as men. Mental health and emotional health does not just impact those who are “sick.” We are all at risk and as men we must develop the tools and community to support ourselves and each other when times are good, to prepare ourselves for the difficult moments we will all face.