Dan Hanrahan recalls his past mental illness experience as a deluge of waves. They would crash over him in periods of depression, and he would feel adrift, isolated and anxious for the next that wave to come.
It hit the hardest in 2012. Hanrahan was going through a divorce. He had started his own off the farm business. His father received a difficult health diagnosis. Emotions were at an all-time high.
“Everything was happening all at once,” said Hanrahan, who works as a farmer in Cumming. “You were trying to figure out how to set your own course.”
Hanrahan sought out a mental health professional, who helped him work through his emotions and got him to think again. To this day, Hanrahan continues to dive deep into understanding the intricacies of mental health. He attends a bi-annual mental health conference in Des Moines.
RELATED: Common mental illnesses | Tips for talking about mental illness
He now looks at mental health as something everyone can improve. Just like our physical health, mental health can be worked on and strengthened.
“I’ve learned so much about myself and mental health, and I’m in a much better position than I was eight years ago,” Hanrahan said. “I never would’ve been introduced to it if it wasn’t for my struggles. Some of the things I found out, I doubt I ever would have discovered at all.”
“By focusing on mental health, I’ve got out of those waves, into my own boat, with a sense of direction."
Now 43, Hanrahan has found himself more present in relationships and day-to-day experiences and says he is grateful for his journey.
“There are still things I work on, but we all can,” Hanrahan said. “By focusing on mental health, I’ve got out of those waves, into my own boat, with a sense of direction. Every day I learn a little more about sailing. It’s the journey of a lifetime.”
RELATED: Read more stories like Dan's
Make It OK is community campaign to reduce stigma by starting conversations and increasing understanding about mental illness. Start by learning what a mental illness really is. Then, find out what to say and not to say when someone opens up to you. You can also help others by sharing your own story to help people know they aren’t alone. Learn more about how you can get involved at MakeItOK.org/Iowa.