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Episode 027: A Conversation on Our Mental Health Journey with Nick Wilson (Part 1)

A Conversation on Our Mental Health Journey with Nick Wilson Part 1

Join Sarah Noll Wilson and guest Nick Wilson as they discuss their respective mental health journeys, and what their challenges have taught them about being supportive partners for one another.

About our guest

Nick Wilson has been a media production professional since 2003 (and Sarah’s husband since 2007). He owns and operates Frame Shop Media, a video production company based in West Des Moines, Iowa, and has served clients across the United States as well as internationally. In recent years, Nick’s professional collaborations with Sarah have included directing and editing videos such as the Manager Minute series, producing many of SNOWCO’s virtual keynote and webinar events, and serving as the producer of this very podcast!

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Episode Transcript

Sarah Noll Wilson
Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of Conversations on Conversations, where each week we explore a topic to help us have more powerful conversations with ourselves and with each other. I’m your host, Sarah Noll Wilson. And joining me today is an incredibly special guest. I’d like to welcome to the show, Nick Wilson, who also doubles as the producer for the show, and triples as my husband.

Nick Wilson
Triples. Triples is best.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Triples is best. Welcome to the show, Nick.

Nick Wilson
Thanks. Thanks for having me, Sarah.

Sarah Noll Wilson
We’ll get our giggles out. But we’re actually really excited to have this conversation. We have actually heard from quite a few people who were like, You always talk about Nick, or we hear about Nick, and you should bring him on the show. And we didn’t want to just have a conversation between Nick and I for the sake of, of, you know, you joining in our conversations.

Nick Wilson
No, we don’t want to have any more conversations than we have to. No.

Sarah Noll Wilson
But we did – we did – There is a topic that we’re both incredibly passionate about, which is mental health, both from the standpoint of, How can we support ourselves? And as we explore this today, how do we support our spouses or partners or family members. And so that’s, that’s the topic we’re going to explore. We have both been on separate journeys with our mental health challenges. And we’ve been on separate journeys as we’ve been supporting each other through those mental health challenges. Now, before we get into that, we also realized that we didn’t put together, like, a formal bio. So if I may, I’m gonna whip this one together.

Nick Wilson
I’m excited to hear my bio.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Nick Wilson is the president and founder of Frame Shop Media. True. A video production company that specializes in – you don’t have a tagline, necessarily. Do you have a tagline?

Nick Wilson
No.

Sarah Noll Wilson
This is so good already.

Nick Wilson
Not really. I have a – Yeah, I do video production.

Sarah Noll Wilson
He does video production, with a particular passion in editing and animation. You know, which, for those of you who have seen our book, like, the book that I wrote, he did the illustrations for that. Any of our manager minute videos, he created those, so you get to see some of his work there. He is also a graduate from University of Northern Iowa. In e-media studies. Yeah.

Nick Wilson
It’s true.

Sarah Noll Wilson
He is an avid Kansas City Royals fan. Most of the time.

Nick Wilson
You should lead with that. That’s probably the most important thing for your audience to know.

Sarah Noll Wilson
He’s also a very, very committed son, brother and uncle. Welcome to the show formally, Nick. Hi.

Nick Wilson
Thank you, Sarah. Well, let’s have a conversation –

Sarah Noll Wilson
Where we say each other’s names a lot?

Nick Wilson
Yeah, this is how we speak to each other in normal times, we sit across the table and –

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah, we record ourselves.

Nick Wilson
We refer to one another by our, by our names.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah. Well, what else would you want people to know about you, in earnest?

Nick Wilson
Um, let’s see. I mean, you mentioned I’m a Royals fan. That’s, that’s definitely a key – I mean, I don’t know how many of, you know, your listeners are baseball fans, but a baseball fan can hear that and probably learn about as much about me as anything else.

Sarah Noll Wilson
That you’re really comfortable with disappointment.

Nick Wilson
Yeah, I’m very familiar with, with – Yeah, failure, you know, disappointment. All of those things very, very much kind of, in my, in my DNA, you know, from, from birth. So, no, that’s – Yeah, you – You did a very nice job of putting together an impromptu bio for me. I feel like you covered the basics. So yeah, you know, I’m – I would say, my, my focus in terms of the work that I do has shifted a lot in the last few years. You mentioned, I kind of started to focus more on editing, animation, graphics, things like that. It’s also changed a lot with the work that you and I are doing together.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah.

Nick Wilson
That’s, you know, one of the – I guess, for us, it was, it was a perk or a benefit of, you know, kind of being forced into virtual. You know, when when the pandemic hit and your speaking gigs started to go, you know, from in person to virtual, that created a really unique opportunity for us to work together in a way that I feel like we had talked about for so long.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah.

Nick Wilson
That’s been – So the last couple years have been, it’s been fun to, like, be able to, you know, do work together in what feel like meaningful ways.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that’s one of the benefits of being quarantined with somebody who did film and video, is that we could experiment and figure it out and then realize that we actually really enjoy it, and – Not just working together, we knew we enjoyed working together, which is why we were trying to find ways to do that. But to figure out how to do virtual different, so –

Nick Wilson
Sorry, I’m gonna open my drink.

Sarah Noll Wilson
You are gonna open up your drink.

Nick Wilson
I’ll cut this out.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Don’t.

Nick Wilson
That’s the nice thing about having some editorial control as the guest.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah.

Nick Wilson
I’m gonna take a drink. No, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to – I’m not gonna goof around the whole time.

Sarah Noll Wilson
No, no, we won’t. Because we’re gonna get into some real serious –

Nick Wilson
Yes, yes. Real, real talk.

Sarah Noll Wilson
So what – When, when you think about this, exploring this topic of how to be a supportive spouse, to someone who – or partner – and honestly, you could apply this to any situation, friend, family member. What’s important about that to you? And – Well, I’ll just, I’ll ask that question. And then I’ll come back to my thought.

Nick Wilson
I think, what’s, what’s important to me about it is, and you and I have talked about, that it’s – Hopefully, us discussing our experiences can, can help normalize or be a – I don’t know. Normalize, I don’t know if normalize is the word that I want to say. But just if other people hear this, and hear something that resonates or is familiar for them, maybe sparks conversations that they might not have otherwise had, or, you know, the types of conversations that people are afraid to have or don’t know how to have. I know that I’ve come a long way in terms of my understanding of mental health generally, and what it – what it means, what it means to try and be a supportive partner for someone over the time that, that the two of us have experienced our various challenges. And so if, if having a, you know, candid, real conversation about it can be, I don’t know, informative or helpful, helpful for someone listening, then that would be good. I think, like I said, I think there’s, I mean – You’ve talked about it, you talk about mental health all the time. It’s, we know that it’s a thing that there are still stigmas attached to. There are, there’s so many – There’s so many barriers that, that we all – not all, but many people have that, that prevent us from kind of bringing it up, having conversations about it, feeling comfortable talking about it.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah.

Nick Wilson
So. So yeah. Hopefully, that’s, that’s my hope, is that us having this conversation can, maybe, you know, decrease some of those barriers for, for someone else.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah, I think that, you know, I mean, so I feel like this goes without saying, but I do want to clarify, you know, neither Nick or I are mental health professionals. We are only going to be coming from the place of sharing our experience and not necessarily giving advice for what you should do, but sharing what has been helpful for us in our individual unique situations. So if you or a loved one is experiencing any kind of mental health challenge or a mental illness crisis, please make sure that you seek out proper support, and we’ll put in some links at the – in the show notes for you to be able to have access to that, that information. So we just want to clarify that we’ll just be speaking from, from our lived experiences.

Nick Wilson
Right.

Sarah Noll Wilson
And –

Nick Wilson
Yeah, I think – I think that is a really, I’m glad you mentioned that because I think that’s a very, very important thing to to, to get out there, right up front, is – Yes, we’re, we are going to speak to the specific experiences that we have had. There hopefully will be things in that that other people can relate to, or see, you know, some benefit from, but – Yeah, by no stretch do we want this to come – come across as, like, us, yeah, prescribing or, or proclaiming that we are, you know, kind of the experts on any of this. Especially, especially me. You, you have some expertise in terms of, you actually do some research and you speak on these things. I am, I am 100% layman when it comes to these things, so, yeah, I would, I would want everyone to know that I do not claim any expertise. And I also, like, want to be really – just transparent about, like, like I said, I’ve come I feel like I’ve come a long way. And that means, along with that, that when you know, back, however many years – Ten? However many years ago, when this all kind of, you know, the first seeds of this kind of started to show up in, you know, our relationship, I was clueless really. So I, I want, I feel like that’s a – maybe that’s helpful for some people, I guess, too, to know that, like, we’re – it’s not like – It might be easy to be like, well, this is Sarah Noll Wilson. She’s, she’s a, you know, she speaks professionally on things like mental health, and she’s, you know, she’s an expert on these things. And she, you know – Probably, you know, her husband knows stuff and they, you know, just kind of cruise their way through this. No, that’s not, that’s not the case.

Sarah Noll Wilson
We know stuff because we didn’t know stuff. And we had to figure stuff out.

Nick Wilson
We have figured things out. We’re continuing to figure things out. It’s, yeah. Continuous, continuous learning. So, anyway, is that is that enough disclaimers, do you think?

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah, no, I think that’s good. I think that’s good. Okay, so, so here’s where we, we talked about starting, was giving just some background on our respective situations. And then, And then really talking about and exploring – really focusing on exploring, What was the experience like for the partner, as their, you know, as like, what was my experience when Nick has had his challenges? What was his experience when I – when I have my challenges from a mental health perspective? And then also just talking through from our own individual experience, what were things that each other did that was helpful, or maybe, you know, we struggled through or trying to figure out, or things that we know. You know, the one thing, the one thing I will say – to the point that you were making of being clueless, you know, before I started to have my panic attacks – is that I mean, that was something that became really clear to me in my own journey of, how little I knew how to take care and support myself mentally, and how little I knew how to take care and support other people in their mental health challenges. You know, I think we have access to so much more information now. You know, almost 10 years, nine and a half years later, you have social media, people share stuff, there’s, you know, there’s just so much more access to information. But just because information is out there doesn’t mean people get it. So let’s start on March 3, 2013. That’s, that’s where our journey – well, in a formal way, began.

Nick Wilson
Right. Yeah.

Sarah Noll Wilson
You know, so for those of you who are unfamiliar with, with my background, you know, I’ll give just the, the short, the short and brief story, because we’ll get into it. I’ve likely had some form of anxiety my whole life, but it was undiagnosed. I was very much just the kid who worried a lot. You know, later in life, was diagnosed with ADHD, and we know there’s a strong correlation between anxiety and ADHD. But March 3, 2013, was the first time I’d ever had my first full blown panic attack. And, you know, in a little bit about that situation, too, because I think I think that’s an important place to start. Just because it wasn’t, it wasn’t a situation where it was like, Oh, I have a panic attack. Nick, I’m having a panic attack. And we’re both mentally aware of what was happening. I was actually getting a massage, I was treating myself to a massage because I just – Let’s see, I had probably left a fairly, like, overworked environment about six months earlier, and I was celebrating this new job. So I scheduled this, you know, amazing massage, and in the middle of the massage, I went from, This is the best massage I’ve ever had, to literally a strong sense of, of, of impending doom. Right? That’s the textbook definition, which also – I just want to do another disclaimer real quick, that because we are going to be talking about various mental health experiences and challenges, that I just want to put out a trigger warning that if there’s anything that feels overwhelming to you, or you’re having an emotional reaction as we talk through this, we do ask that you do what you need to do to take care of yourself. So we will be talking about things like anxiety, panic disorder, ADHD, depression, suicidal ideation. So I want to be really transparent upfront about what we’ll be covering today. So I, I’m on the table, getting my muscles worked, and all of a sudden, my heart starts racing, my hands start shaking, I start sweating. I feel like I’m going in and out of consciousness. I don’t know what’s happening. And the lovely therapist, massage therapist who is working on me, you know, was really gracious, was trying to get me to breathe, and I cannot describe it other than, It was like this switch had gotten flipped in my brain. And looking back, I’m able to piece together what triggered it. You know, with some good therapy, and honesty about, what was I thinking about at the time, but, but I had never had a panic attack before. I didn’t know what they were. So from my perspective, I just thought I was dying. And we called the paramedics, because I couldn’t calm down. And again, I just had this overwhelming sense that I was going to die. And, and I remember – one of the things I do remember of that is, I called you and said, I don’t know what’s wrong, but something’s wrong. And I don’t know if I’m going to make it. And this might be the last time I’m going to talk to you. Like, I really remember that. What, what was that moment like for you, when you got that call from me?

Nick Wilson
Well, obviously, I mean, it was, it was an alarming call to get. It was, you know, I was worried for you. And I think, you know, again, in the spirit of being really transparent and real about this, there, there was definitely a part of me that was stuck in a, in a mindset of, like, you know, She’s worrying about something, you know, Why does she worry so much about – You know, like you said, you’ve – Anxiety has been, you know, kind of present in some form. And so I think I knew, on some level, that, that this kind of excessive worry was part of, of your reality. But I didn’t, I didn’t understand that. I didn’t understand anxiety, I certainly didn’t understand what a panic attack was. All of this was – I mean, I was ignorant. And I can recognize now, and looking back on it – You know, I’m not, I’m not proud about, you know, having those kinds of thoughts. I – you know, but it was where I really was. I didn’t, I didn’t know. And I didn’t know what was happening with you. And so there was part of me, that was, yeah, kind of – I – looking back on it now, stuck in, like, an old way of thinking, or an uninformed way of thinking about, like, Well, you’re just worrying too much. Why can’t you just not, you know – I’m sure whatever this is that’s going on isn’t, isn’t a big deal. You know, like, I couldn’t conceive of what, what a thing would be that would actually put you in a mindset of feeling like, you know, you’re about to die.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah. Yeah.

Nick Wilson
I don’t know. So, so yeah. I – it’s, there’s, it’s a mixed bag for me, looking back on it. I think what it puts in perspective for me now, looking back, is just, you know, again, it kind of frames how far both of us have come from that point, in understanding and being – just, yeah, just being informed and being empathetic, and all of the things, you know, that I’ve tried to do. And I was, you know, I think, trying to show up at my best as best I knew how to do it at that time.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah. Yeah, because you never – In the early stages, you were never – even if maybe you had thoughts of, Gosh, here she goes again. Or, She’s worrying a lot. I mean, I don’t know if that – you know, but like, you know, This is a pattern for Sarah. I mean, this has been a pattern, again, undiagnosed anxiety –

Nick Wilson
Especially around health, right?

Sarah Noll Wilson
Especially around health. Right, yeah.

Nick Wilson
I think part of why there was a sense for me that – not that this, I mean, this was definitely an alarming and new situation to have you at this level of, you know, we’re going – you know, I’m gonna go meet you in the emergency room and we’re gonna figure out, you know – But the idea of what to me felt like irrational, out – you know, unwarranted worry or stress around health. And so, yeah, so there was. I, again, I’m not, I’m not proud of it. It’s not, it’s not a good thing.

Sarah Noll Wilson
It’s just a recognition of where you were. Right.

Nick Wilson
– of how that, how that moment was. It was – I – Yeah, I tried my best, and I think I, you know, probably said the things that I felt like I needed to say in order to kind of be there for you and get through whatever it was that was going on. But yeah, there was, in reality, I – if I’m, if I’m being, you know, being honest and candid –

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah.

Nick Wilson
There, there was part of me that was, yeah, thinking, Oh, geez, you know. Why’s she gotta be so worried about things? You know.

Sarah Noll Wilson
The health – like, so, for people who are listening, sometimes anxiety can be generalized. Sometimes it can be focused around a theme, if you will. For me, probably, again, my whole life, there’s some level of hypochondria. You know, I get a sense of where it comes from in my family. It’s, you know, worried about why am I so tired, or if I’m getting sick, how sick have I been? So COVID’s been great for my, for my, for my brain. But, but that was that – that wasn’t an unusual thing for me to maybe be worked up about or worried about. But again, to Nick’s point, this is the first time it was that sort of full blown, and so, so we went to the hospital, they ran a bunch of tests, I remember my heart rate being superduper high, they gave me some kind of anti anxiety medicine, which started to calm me down. The doctor came in and was like, Hey, your head looks good. Your heart looks good. Your lungs look good. And, you know, and I remember being like, Great. So what the hell happened? And he, you know, and he said, your sympathetic nervous system got overstimulated, which I’m sure we both were like –

Nick Wilson
Okay, thanks doc.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Like, where’s the bill? Yeah. And I think I remember being like, Okay, cool. So what is that again? And then he went, You had a panic attack. And, and, you know, and I think that it’s important for the audience to hear maybe more details about the story than I, you know – I know, I talk about this in the book, and, you know, have certainly shared this from the stage. Not in this much detail, perhaps, but – You know, it’s not uncommon for people to have a panic attack. That’s, that’s a totally normal thing for people to experience. I know that my sister had experienced panic attacks. I remember my dad talking about having, you know, a panic attack while he was driving, you know, his, his tractor trailer once, and so I thought, Okay, I can handle this. And then it became very apparent that this wasn’t a one time deal for me, and it was repeated episodes, especially those first couple of months, like repeated episodes of full blown panic attacks, repeated episodes of just heightened awareness. And when I say heightened awareness, I mean, I could – I feel like I could feel every molecule in my body, and was constantly – you know, or even just, I remember one time we were at the – we were at the ballpark, and I just gotten new glasses or something, and I remember looking off to the scoreboard and being like, Why are my eyes blurry? And my brain couldn’t comprehend that it was because I was looking out the side of my glasses, which aren’t clear. Or, or I was at an event and I became lightheaded. And as soon as I had a physical sensation that was similar to the panic attacks, it would then start me down – and it was like my brain couldn’t rationally understand, the reason you’re lightheaded is because you’re wearing your jacket inside and it’s warm. You know? I mean, that’s – it’s, it’s – It sounds – Saying it out loud, it can be really easy for somebody to be like, Why, why couldn’t you just make that connection? And it was just because, literally, my, my protect – my survival, my amygdala, my whole brain was in such a hyper state. And, and I remember feeling incredibly out of control. Overwhelmed, tender, weepy. Lots of wishing that this wouldn’t – Like, I was – I remember feeling very overwhelmingly sad about, like, why – Why do I have to feel like this? Why can’t – And just a real worry that I was never going to feel normal again. And, and I don’t know – You know, I don’t know, Nick, if you have, like, thoughts even around that, of when it became clear this wasn’t like a one off situation. And so just for perspective for people, there’s probably a good, like, six months at least of real emotional waves and – and like, what I lovingly call shockwaves, you know, that you could have a panic attack and then it was like these little attacks would come in the days after because your body was just so amped up.

Nick Wilson
Yeah, I – To the question of when it became clear to me, I can’t say that I – You and I both know my memory is sometimes not the best, so – So thinking back on that, on that timeframe, I have more of a general sense of kind of how it felt and, you know, just trying to get through it the best we could. I will say this. I – When you were speaking just now about the – how it, your brain couldn’t rationally, you know, that these things – if you were, if you were able to look at them rationally or from this, you know, kind of cold logical perspective, that you would be able to see that it – there’s no reason to worry about you know, that – that, Yes, my glasses are new and my vision is going to be a little – it’s going to take time to adjust. I’m feeling warm because this. Those things – That really resonates for me, too, in terms of the things that I’ve dealt with – you know, we’re going to talk about, you know, my journey or experiences with, with depression – that, I think one of the, one of the absolute, like, key things that I feel like I’ve learned, and we both have learned, in – and I think this applies to all mental health challenges – that it – Like you said, it can be so easy to think, from the outside perspective, Well, just, you know, this thing that you’re worried about is no big deal. Why are you worried about it? Why are you anxious about it? Or, You’re, you know, you’ve got a great life, you’re – Why would you be sad? Why would you feel depressed? All the things, you know, like, so much of it, that, that your brain just – That’s why it’s mental illness, right? It’s your – your brain is, in some cases, you know, lying to you, or it’s, you know, it’s just not – When your brain is being affected by, by a mental health challenge, by mental illness, it is not – You’re not able to sort of say, logically, No. You know, or it takes a lot of work to get to a place where you can recognize those thoughts for what they are. That’s, like, I think what it all comes down to. And so yeah, I don’t know. That just made me recognize – Or, you know, hearing you talk about that, with, you know, the realizations you were making about – or have made –

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah.

Nick Wilson
– in retrospect, about anxiety and the kind of irrational, you know – The brain refuses to take logic into consideration when it’s, when it’s dealing with these things.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Right. Yeah. No, I think, I think that’s a good – I mean, so if you, if you are listening to this, and maybe you have someone in your life, and you’re having those thoughts of, Gosh, why do they worry so much? I wish they wouldn’t worry, or, Why – you know, like, when we get into talking about depression – like, Your life is so good, what do you have to be – to feel worthless about, or whatever the case is. To, to understand that, one, our thoughts are not our identity, our thoughts are created – which that gets into a whole existential conversation –

Nick Wilson
We’ve had a lot of those.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah. But, you know, but, but recognizing that – and also recognizing that there can be this tension within people of, I know this isn’t logical, and there’s a part of my brain that’s like, And let’s freak the fuck out. Or I know this isn’t logical, and there’s a part of my brain that goes, But I think you might be lying. Or whatever the case might be. And so that’s part of it. So, you know –

Nick Wilson
But we get really, like, we get so – the, the, – One of the analogies that my therapists would use is the, like, the path in the snow. The path is really well worn. Like, if you are dealing with anxiety for years and years and years – If I’m – have depression for, you know, what was probably years –

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah.

Nick Wilson
– without realizing that that’s what’s going on, that – You don’t think about those thoughts as being anxious thoughts or depressive thoughts. They’re just, they’re just your thoughts.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Right.

Nick Wilson
And that’s the way you think, and your brain is so – that path is so well worn, that, that you can’t – you can’t see it for something other than, you know, like, it’s just how, it’s just how I think.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah. Yeah.

Nick Wilson
I don’t know.

Sarah Noll Wilson
And then, and then because that’s how I think, that’s who I am.

Nick Wilson
Right.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Like, that’s the, that’s the, that’s the, like, connection. For a lot of people, I know, right? Like, I’m speaking about our experience, but it’s like, because I’m having these thoughts, these thoughts must be true, and these thoughts – This must be who I am. You know? And then the other thing that I think is important, you know, as we’re talking about mental health, is, you know, when you – I don’t know, when you’re, when you’re, something’s wrong with your stomach, you go, something’s wrong with your stomach. Or if you, like, hurt your knee, something’s wrong with your knee. But when it’s your brain and mind, it’s, Something’s wrong with me.

Nick Wilson
Right.

Sarah Noll Wilson
And, you know, one of the things that – as I reflect back on my journey of navigating this, of how you showed up – and even in ways that I know you and I’ve talked about that you’re like, Oh, I didn’t – Like, I’m glad that worked so well –

Nick Wilson
Well, we’re establishing that so much of how I’ve shown up is, you know, trying my best, but not – Yeah, you know, there’s, there – I think there’s always some element of, like, There’s no, there’s no manual for this. I’m figuring it out, I’m –

Sarah Noll Wilson
Right.

Nick Wilson
I, you know, I’m gonna show up the best way I can to try and be supportive of you.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah.

Nick Wilson
And, yeah, there still might be things in my head that I’m going, I don’t get – I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know why this is happening. I don’t – you know –

Sarah Noll Wilson
And so there, there was. So, you know, fairly quickly, I started to see a therapist, was diagnosed with panic disorder, started to understand that. And one of the lessons that I learned in that work with that particular therapist at the time, and then continued on even now with my current therapist, is really trying to understand and create the Sarah manual. Right? Really understanding – and, and, and there’s two things that, you know, I’ll say that, you know, were kind of pivotal moments for me. So, I don’t remember how far in – It was probably quite a few months. Because again, it was, like, a solid nine months of – like, nine months to a year of this taking up an incredible amount of headspace, and heart space, and energy, and tears, and being present at work but not actually being present at work, and – and just navigating all of this. But I remember at some point, you asked me, What does it feel like? And I don’t know if you’ll remember why you asked that. But, but there was something really – and I assume – I don’t remember the circumstances, but I assume it was – I was coming off of – I’m sure I was coming off of a moment. And, and you asked me, you’re like, I don’t know what it feels like, I don’t know what you’re thinking when you’re – like, so talk to me about what does it feel like when you experience a panic attack. And I think that it was probably from a genuine point of just, like, I just don’t know, and I don’t know how to support you in this. But the thing that was really powerful for me, is it – like, the moment of you asking that, one, showed that you were – cared enough to want to know what my experience was like. It also reiterated that you weren’t being dismissive or critical of my experience. But also in dealing with mental illnesses, which can often be very invisible, externally, it validated it. It can be really easy for people again, to dismiss like, Oh, it’s not that big of a deal. And yada yada yada. So the act of you getting curious with me was really, I remember feeling very emotional in that conversation, because it felt very validating that what I was experiencing was real, and that you cared enough to know about it. So that was one thing that you did that was so helpful. But then the other thing was, as I was coming up with strategies, or trying to understand – you know, part of the work was trying to understand what triggered it, right? Like, things like sleep, things like – I mean, to this day, I try not to watch overstimulating, violent shows late at night. Like, just different things – and what helps it, and one of the things that, you know, my therapist at the time helped me realize was that being able to talk it out loud with you, as it was happening, was a really important part of my coping mechanism. Because what would happen is, I would spiral. I would start experiencing panic, and then I would keep it in, which just, like, made it worse, instead of being able to articulate, Hey, Nick, I can feel panic coming, I can feel it rising. Can you just sit next to me? Can you just physically touch me? Can you, you know, whatever. And, and it’s something I take for granted, because you never once made me feel like that was stupid for asking. You never once were like, Oh my god, here – When are you going to get over this? Like, there was never that. And that was, like, I remember that being one of my top sort of three coping strategies, was talk to Nick. And, you know, I think about how – how many times did I call you crying from the office? Because I was just like, I’m losing my mind. And I would just walk around the skywalk, literally crying talking to you. And you would just be like, You’ve got this. I don’t even know what you said, because it didn’t even matter what you said.

Nick Wilson
I just listened. I do my best in those situations to just, just listen and let you talk, because I know that – Yeah. You, you have learned that as the coping mechanism, I have learned that it is your, you know, that it is important for you to verbalize and talk through things when you are worried or stressed or, you know, having anxious moments. So, yeah, I – I’ve learned to not try or worry too much about whether I, you know – You’re not necessarily looking to me to come and be like, Here’s a solution for you or to fix anything. It’s just, it’s just hearing you. Just, you just need someone to hear you say it out loud. You’re working through it.

Sarah Noll Wilson
And that, I think that’s such a good distinction, because so often – and this comes up a lot, a lot, a lot in my work – you know is that we want to remove people’s pain and suffering, and we’ve also been rewarded for having solutions if we’ve worked in corporate America, or any kind of, you know, other job. And it also feels good. And sometimes I think a trap that I see people, particularly partners, fall into, is trying to solve the problem, instead of, one, being really clear about, What do you actually need in this moment? And being willing to, like, try things. Would it be okay if I did this? Would it be okay – You know, and, and I mean, to this day, nine and a half years later, if I – my stress is really high, you know, like, I’ll ask you to – Can you sit next to me? Will you brush my hair? Will you, like, snuggle with me in bed before – like, because I know, for me, that physical contact is a really good way of calming down that sympathetic nervous system and activating my para – like, like, relaxation. And so, yeah.

Nick Wilson
Yeah, I think – Just to, to put a button on that point of, of want – people wanting to fix things, or feeling like they need to fix things, I think two things are worth honing in on. One is, especially when it’s your partner. When it’s your, you know, someone that’s so important, so close, that you have so much love and care for, that, like, it’s – Yeah, of course you want, like, you want nothing more than to remove that person’s pain, to make them feel better. You know? That, I think, that’s just going to be there. And that probably makes it that much harder. Like, even just compared to whatever, you know, you talk a lot about, you know, relationships in the workplace or things like that. Not to say that those can’t be meaningful relationships. But I think the impulse to want to fix and help and solve and soothe has to be that much stronger when it’s someone that you care really deeply about on a personal level. The other piece of it, and I don’t know how, you know, how much of this we want to get into, but – I think there there’s certainly some, some gendered things that play into the need to solve, the need to be the solver, the fixer. I think that men – a lot of, in a lot of ways, in relationships, you know, there are those – whatever – cultural expectations, or the, you know, the stories that we are told, and that get kind of baked into our, you know – even just subconsciously, we think that, you know, that, as the man in the relationship or whatever, I need to, you know, protect and take care, and yeah, solve problems, be the fixer, and – and a thing that I can’t fix – I think you might, I think this is a conversation maybe when you had Coach Nick Papadopoulos. It feels like something that I think maybe came up in that conversation too. About this, the expectation of, Yeah, of a man. I should be able to fix any kind of problem that, that, you know, someone that is – that I’m supposed to be, you know, caring for, or, you know, protect – the protector is the thing, right?

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah, yeah.

Nick Wilson
So, yeah, I don’t know. I think that’s part – from my perspective, I think there’s part of it that, that also makes for a challenge. And probably not an uncommon challenge for people in that – I think the, the partner or spouse as the support, one of the biggest – it seems like one of the biggest, like, hurdles to get over is that idea of, I don’t have to – just, like, learning, I don’t need to fix this. I don’t need to come up with solutions. You know. I just need to be able to listen and hear what they’re telling me.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Yeah. And, and yeah, and to encourage people to, again, figure out their own manual, and what they need. And, you know, I –

Yeah, that’s a good point. Not everybody –

– because there might be some people that they want – maybe they want validation that I’m gonna get through it. You know, like so here’s a good example. So I recently was speaking down at Florida State HR conference, SHRM conference, and, you know, a combination of just – honestly, it was just lack of sleep had triggered probably, like, the first time in a long time, almost a near panic attack. And I was with my – just a lot of anxiety – and I was with my friend Alan at the time. And, you know, we were talking, and I finally was like, Alan, I’m sorry, I am really trying hard – and it started with feeling a little dizzy, lightheaded, right, and then that becomes a spiral for me. And, you know, he just got, like, real direct eye contact and was like, You’re going to get through this, bada-bada-da – I could tell that he was trying to meet me in the moment. And I was like, I don’t need that right now. And he’s like, I can tell you don’t need that right now. He’s like, I’ve only been with one other person who’s had a panic attack. And they were like, This is what I need right now. And he said, and I figured – I was like, I was just like, Well, I’m going to try what I did with, like, that person, and realizing that each person is different and unique. But even in, like, that moment is such a great moment of – he adjusted and adapted in that. And he was like, Okay, like, do you want me to check on you? Do you want to, like, go lay down? Do you need to – I was like, I need to, I need to call Nick. Because this is part of my coping mechanism. But yeah, I think, you know, I mean, it’s a hard thing to unlearn. And it’s also, it’s also hard – You know, I understand that now, being on the other side of the fence, it can be incredibly, incredibly difficult to know how to show up for somebody, when you just don’t understand what it might feel like. And so that feels like a nice segue into talking about your world, and what we’ve been going through for the last three years?

Nick Wilson
Yeah, I think that’s –

Sarah Noll Wilson
Three and a half years?

Nick Wilson
Yeah. I believe. It was some time in 2019 that I was, that I was diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder.

Sarah Noll Wilson
Thank you so much for listening to part one of this conversation between Nick and I. We realized we had so much to say that we decided to just go, and we will split it into two conversations. So come back next week, as we continue our conversation around how to support the loved ones in your life who may be struggling with mental illness. We want to hear from you. If there are things that, again, come up for you, feel free to reach out to us at podcast at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com. Or you can find me on social media. If you are interested in how you can learn more about this work of how do we create really deep, high trusting relationships, how to build that psychological safety, how to repair relationships, how to be more emotionally supportive and not emotionally dismissive. Check us out at Sarah Noll Wilson dot com. This is the work that we’re so passionate about. You can also pick up a copy of my latest book, Don’t Feed the Elephants! wherever books are sold. This is my love letter to my fellow avoiders of conflict. And if you’d like to support the show, please consider becoming a patron. You can visit patreon dot com slash conversations on conversations, where not only your financial support will sustain this podcast and our amazing team, but you’ll also get access to some pretty great benefits like swag and Patreon only content and events. And if you haven’t already, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show. You can do so on iTunes, Spotify and other podcast platforms. When you do this, this helps us get the word out and to continue bringing on amazing guests and having great stories and conversations like we did this week. A huge thank you to our incredible team who makes this podcast possible. To our producer Nick Wilson, who you just met. Sound Editor Drew Noll, Transcriptionist Olivia Reinert, Marketing Consultant Kaitlyn Summitt-Nelson, and the rest of our SNoWco crew. This has been Conversations on Conversations. Thank you for listening. And remember that when we can change the conversations we have with ourselves and with others, I really do believe that we can change the world. So thank you all. Please make sure you rest and rehydrate, and we’ll see you again next week.

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