Finding Your Value During Mental Health Awareness Month

By Tyree Dingle, MS

Suicide Prevention Program Development Practicum Student at OHSU/Portland VA

Something many people do not know about me is that I play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) with my friends almost every weekend (I’m embarrassed to admit on a social platform that I play the game, but the values I am serving by writing this for you – whoever you are – are worth my embarrassment to share this with you). When I think about why I like playing, it’s not because I’m a fantasy geek (which I am) or because I like to work on my John Wayne impersonation (which I do). I enjoy it because when I sit at the table with my friends, we are all truly present. We aren’t distracted on our phones, we aren’t “somewhere else” mentally – we are together. We laugh, smile, joke, make funny voices, and wave our fists to the sky when we fail a roll. We are all unashamedly ourselves for those hours.

For me, the ability to connect with people in a genuine and authentic way is so important and during those hours every week I intentionally practice being open, honest, and present with everyone. Connection is a personal value of mine and though it may sound silly, I have never found a way to be more connected with friends than when sitting around a table with dice, ready to fight a dragon.

This isn’t without its fears. There are times I worry that perhaps my friends may think I’m being silly, or acting stupid, but for me, the process of authentically connecting with my friends is worth that fear. Even writing this in an attempt to connect with you on some level, I have fears that you will think I’m odd or strange for playing – and that’s okay. Connecting with my values is not about the outcome, it’s about the process, and I have to remind myself that over and over again.

It doesn’t matter what happens in the game. I don’t play for financial reasons, and I don’t play because it makes me “cool,” I play because for me, D&D gives me time every week to genuinely connect with my friends and some of my values. So, I encourage all of you to go out and find what your D&D is – it’s out there. I promise.

What is a Value

  • A value is freely chosen, meaning you decide that it is important to you independent of other influences (i.e., not picking something you think you should value).
  • The value is in the process of doing, it is the quality that we bring to the activity we are engaging in, it is not the activity itself or the outcome.

A Strategy to Identifying a Value of Your Own

  • Ask yourself, if money didn’t matter, and people’s judgements didn’t matter, what is something that would still be meaningful to you? And why would it be meaningful? What qualities, or aspects are present in that thing, whatever it is, that has meaning for you?
  • You might also use the Values Card Sort Online Game to help explore what values might be meaningful to you.

Taking the First Step

Taking the first step to acting on a value can be both an exciting and a scary thing. Connecting with a value can be challenging. For example, sometimes to connect with a value of family, we must have a really challenging conversation with a loved one or perhaps in the process of connecting with a value of sobriety, we may have to stop talking to some people in our life. Values aren’t always easy.

But very often, they bring meaning, joy and purpose into our lives. Though values often bring a richness to our lives – I mean, they are literally the things we care most deeply for – they can carry with them a fear. A fear of failing, a fear of not being good enough, a fear of rejection, a fear of hurt. That is why a value is something we care for so deeply. It is worth the possibility of the hurt, pain, rejection or failure. Whatever your values are, they will undoubtably bring up pain at some point and that is when we need to connect with our values most.

A Final Comment

Connecting with our values is important for our mental wellbeing. When we look back on our life, having connected with our values allows us to feel proud of who we were – even if things didn’t always turn out as we hoped. Values bring meaning and purpose to our lives, and in many ways, they define who we are.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I truly hope you will take some time to reflect and explore on what your values might be, and how you can start – or already are – acting on them. At the end of the day, it’s less about the label we put on it and more about the qualities we bring to each moment. I will leave off with some wise words from Gandalf the Grey, “‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us‘” (Tolkien, 1954).

Here is a resource that could be of help to you in your own values exploration:

Online Values Card Sort – https://motivationalinterviewing.org/value-card-sort-online-game

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