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Jason Medows’ story begins in a small rural town in Missouri. He is the youngest of 5 children but was basically raised as an only child. Three of his older siblings were moved out and married before he was even born, and the fourth had lived at home while attending college until Jason was 11 years old. In 2002, Jason had graduated high school and pursued pharmacy at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy. He states this is where he realized how important his life on the farm was to him.
“I think that’s the real time where I understood what rural life meant to me because I took it for granted. It was taken away from me.”
In fact, after Jason had graduated from pharmacy school, he moved back to the farm and started working at the local hospital. It was there that he met his wife Keri, who had just graduated from nursing school. Jason and Keri married a year and a half later and now raise 4 boys together.
Struggling with Anxiety
While in college, Jason began to struggle with anxiety. It seemed to be a complete 180 from the life that he was used to. On top of adjusting to city life, college was incredibly stressful and demanding, and he was isolated from friends and family – he was struggling to cope. Jason grew up in an environment where it was common to bottle up and hide one’s struggles from others. He turned to alcohol as a means to hide his feelings and shared that he was well on his way to becoming an alcoholic.
“I married my wife after pharmacy school, and I quit drinking. It was good that I quit drinking, but at the same time, all that anxiety was still there and I had to face it. I didn’t know how to face it and it freaked me out.”
Though Jason had stopped drinking, his anxiety began to pour out in different ways, which caused a huge strain on his wife and their marriage. Initially, he struggled with self-stigma. He had internalized the belief from his upbringing that he must put on a strong front and suppress his anxiety. However, she encouraged him to seek professional help, which led to him seeing several counsellors. Although the counsellors were helpful, Jason states that it was once he took ownership of himself, that he began to get better.
Dealing with Anxiety
Currently, Jason has discovered ways to manage his anxiety in a healthy and productive way.
So, what helps?
- Taking antidepressants.
Even though Jason is a pharmacist, he still struggled with the thought of having to take medication. There was shame and self-perceived stigma around this initially, but he realized that it helped him feel like his normal regular self. He compared it to taking medication for a physical issue: “You wouldn’t fault someone for taking their blood pressure medicine to prevent them from having a heart attack, right? Same is true for this.”
- Exercising more frequently.
For Jason, physical exercise goes hand-in-hand with taking antidepressants in order to help keep him mentally and physically healthy.
- Talking to a friend.
Having a support system or friends to talk to can help validate feelings and experiences so it doesn’t feel as overwhelming.
“Everyone has their own individualized approach that is highly customizable,” says Jason.
Creating a self-care plan is unique to an individual. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. It could take some time to perfect – and that is okay!
Ag State of Mind Podcast
Jason also hosts a podcast that he started just over a year ago called Ag State of Mind which is tailored towards breaking stigma in agriculture. In the beginning, there was worry surrounding finding guests on his podcast, however, he quickly realized that everyone has a story to share. His podcast touches on various topics including mental health, financial planning, physical health, and more.
He takes a unique 3-pronged approach which allows him to take a holistic approach to mental health in agriculture:
- Healthcare approach
Being a healthcare provider, he has some medical knowledge surrounding the topics he discusses.
- Agricultural approach.
Jason currently runs a cow calf operation. In addition, he was brought up and worked on a farm, so he understands the stressors that individuals and families in agricultural and rural areas face.
- Lived experience.
Jason has had his own lived experiences with mental health and anxiety. He is able to openly share his obstacles and identify how he has overcome them.
“You have nothing to be ashamed about. There’s no reason to hide yourself and what you’re going through. There’s no award for being least vulnerable and most tough. You can be tough and still have problems. Part of being tough and resilient is reaching out and getting help. You can’t do it without being vulnerable. You don’t just necessarily help yourself, you help others too when you share your story. This issue is bigger than you. We all have mental health.”