Fighting For Pilots' Mental Health

Life is meant to be filled with joy. However, many people go through each day not knowing how to experience life to their full potential. Enjoying life does not always come natural. Some people actually have to work at being happy. However, just because life is not always easy does not mean that life cannot always be enjoyed.

I know my last statement seems somewhat odd. Well, I have never been accused of being normal. But yes, even in times of dismay and difficulties life can still be enjoyed. Many people may ask how do you enjoy life in times of tragedy. That is a fair question. Here are some examples.

One of the most difficult things to experience in life is the lost of a loved one. Yes, the death of someone close to us is tragic and causes great emotional pain. Depending on who that person is there may be sadness that will be felt the remainder of the survivor’s life. However, do not mistake this sadness for the lack of joy in life. Sadness is a natural emotion people feel for a variety of reasons. Sadness does not need to diminish the joy you feel about life.

How on earth can someone feel joy and sadness at the same time wold be a fair question right now. Let me go deeper into my thought process. When we loose someone close to us we most certainly feel sadness. Some people go into deep depression. But that deep depression is an entirely different topic than what I am talking about today. Lets focus on normal sadness. 

There are some religious funerals that the service is more of a celebration of the person’s life than anything else. If we take the time during our sadness to remember the good times and what that person meant to us then we are experiencing joy amid our sadness. Yes, it is a difficult time. But we can still make the best of these times to become better in our own lives. 

I have experienced great loss in my life. I am also a survivor of childhood abuse. For years I let these difficult things in my life keep me from what was important. The important thing I refer to is enjoying life and doing the best I can at being the best me.

The best me. I like that phrase. I just came up with it. What does it mean to be the best me? The answer to that will differ for everyone. Each of us has our own limitations as to what we can do in life. For example, being the best me to someone confined to a wheelchair is certainly different than the best me to an NFL football player. We each have things in our lives that we can work on to improve and become better in our lives.

I do not talk about personal accomplishments either such as sports. I am talking about being the best person each of us can be in life. When I was without my FAA medical beginning in 2008 I had to learn all over how to be the best me. I was a pilot. That is who I thought I was. I did not have a medical and could no longer fly. This was a great lesson to me in life. I leaned that flying was something I did, but not who I was.

Most of us relate our lives to what we do for a living. As we do this we fool ourselves into believing that is what life is all about. Life is not about flying airplanes, playing football or anything else related to what we may do for a living. These are simply things that we do.

Life is about becoming better people each day. Life is about doing for others. Life is about growing through our personal joys and pain. Life is about finding the courage to move forward when we are certain that we cannot. Life is about treating ourselves and others in a positive manner and with dignity.

When I could not fly I could have just thrown in the towel and gave up on life. But I did not. I moved forward. I overcame the odds that were placed before me. I became a better person for this. I was able to take this negative thing in my life and turn it into something positive.

Each of us has good within. It is up to us to tap into that good and do something with it. I have seen people who have severe mental and physical disabilities yet they were able to do something that helps others. In some cases these disabilities may be so severe that they are confined to a wheel chair and do not even have the ability to speak. But what they did was smile. If you have ever known a person like this and had that person smile at you, then you know the heart warming feeling when that person smiles at you. There is no denying the great feeling to receive a smile from a severely handicapped person like I have just described.

This brings to mind a fond memory from years ago. I was at church and feeling down. I do not recall what had me feeling so bad. I was sitting in a chair in the foyer of the church I attended. There was a family that had a sixteen year old down syndrome child named Cody. As I was sitting in this chair Cody came along and sat on the arm of the chair. When he sat down he put one arm around my shoulders. With his other hand he gently stroked my left arm in an attempt to comfort me. He did this for a couple of minutes, then he stopped. When he stopped he pointed to a picture of Jesus that hung on the wall behind us. As he pointed to the picture he said, “Papa.” Cody then returned to caressing my arm. After a couple of minutes of doing this he again stopped, pointed to the picture and said with more emphasis, “PAPA!” After doing this Cody stood up and walked off. I will never forget how warm this made me feel and the wonderful thing that this young man did for me. Cody was being the “best me” that he could be.

Yes, sometimes life is difficult. Life is not always easy. Some people will say that life is never easy. But whether or not life is easy we should always strive to be the “best me” that we can be. We should each look at our own abilities and not our limitations to do the best we can each and every day. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Life can only be enjoyed if we make an attempt to do so.

Keep an eye on the sky!

Collin W. Hughes 

The Prozac Pilot

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