Becoming More Aware: One Man’s Realization
When Steve Varpness agreed to meet with Mark Meier and Bill Dehkes in 2014, he was a bit apprehensive. After a dozen or so years of therapy and various cycles of medication, he didn’t feel like he was making any progress. How was this going to be any different?
He quickly realized he’d made a wise decision.
“It didn’t take more than about 15 minutes to see that they understood me, that they could relate to me in a way that was really amazing,” Varpness recalls. “That choice pretty much saved my life.”
Varpness, one of the Face It Foundation’s many success stories, quickly learned that the group doesn’t offer a magical solution to everyone’s problems. What it does, however, is even more powerful. Through his time at Face It, Varpness learned the keys to managing his depression, and he learned that he had it in himself all along.
“Face It can’t change you. But it can help you change yourself,” Varpness says. “Face It gives you tools that you can use to help yourself, whether it’s awareness, mindfulness, or how to forgive yourself. They give you a toolbox of things that are at your disposal if you need them and you’re willing to work at it.”
The key, Varpness says, is that he’s learned to embrace emotions, acknowledge his feelings, and process them in a healthy manner.
“I used to be a runner. If something wouldn’t go right, off I ran — I couldn’t handle it,” he says. “But life isn’t just a flat, smooth ride. It’s filled with ups and downs and things you don’t like. I’ve learned it’s OK to have feelings. You can get angry, as long as you identify it and move on. I’m much more aware of how I’m feeling now, and if I’m starting to go to a bad place, I can catch that a lot better now.”
Face It has helped demonstrate how a concept as simple as gratitude can have a major impact on one’s daily life.
“I used to not be able to come up with anything in my life to be grateful for,” Varpness says. “Now I can come up with all kinds of things. I’m grateful for my life. I’m grateful that when I wake up every morning that I’ve got a job. I’m grateful for my kids, the people I work for, my house. I’m grateful for hearing the birds sing in the morning. It’s been a big awakening.”
These nuggets of wisdom are unearthed and polished up every two weeks when Face It’s peer support groups meet. Up to eight men form a cohort and a group leader steers the conversation, but it usually doesn’t take much to get them talking.
“There’s a comfort level being in a group of people that understand you and don’t judge you,” Varpness says. “I think guys are really good because they’re patient, they listen, and they don’t interrupt all the time. Everybody’s very respectful. It’s just an amazing feeling. There’s guys who come and in the first half hour they start to talk about really personal things, and it’s a really special thing.
“There’s a certain kind of bond there,” he continues. “You get really comfortable with them and you get a lot of support. You’re able to give back, which I think is very important. You can give back to the other guys in the group just by being there. You don’t have to give a ton of advice or anything. It’s just the support they get from you.”