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It’s been awhile since I have posted on LinkedIn, as I was dealing with a mental health issue I never thought in a million years that it would happen to me. I was battling with depression a good part of this year and I am here to share what I learned about the fragile life as a leader and achiever. Today is Easter Sunday and I am in my last full day in a psychiatric hospital - a place I called home this entire month. It’s pretty ironic that Easter symbolizes a kind of rebirth and I metaphorically get discharged tomorrow. I swear, I didn’t plan it this way to leverage my creative license...anyhow, this is my story.

From the outside, I appeared to have it all – a successful career, recognition in my field, and a seemingly perfect life. However, beneath the façade of success, I battled with overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. The weight of impostor syndrome, coupled with the relentless pressure to maintain a flawless image, took a toll on my mental well-being and plunged me into a dark spiral of depression and hopelessness.

The decision to seek treatment in a psychiatric hospital was one of the most difficult and yet liberating choices I have ever made. I was under the care of my psychiatrist Dr. Hitchcock on Cape Cod for a few months now and pressures from my work and personal life were seeming to peak, causing me to have a bit of a existential crisis. Dr. Hitchcock enlisted me into a 10-day partial hospitalization program (PHP) at McLean Hospital, which is touted as #1 in the country for psychiatric care  - with notable patients like mathematician John Nash (Russel Crowe’s Character in A Beautiful Mind) and singer Ray Charles.

Stepping into the hospital, I was met with a supportive and non-judgmental environment where I could openly address my mental health challenges and receive the help I desperately needed. During my time in the PHP, I was introduced to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – a therapeutic approach that would become a cornerstone of my recovery. Through CBT sessions, I learned to identify and challenge the relationship with my thoughts + feelings + behaviors. I developed practical strategies to reframe my thinking, manage my emotions, and build resilience in the face of adversity.

But on my tenth day, I had planned to end my life that afternoon - and on my last hour, I’d broken down and confessed this to my social worker. I was immediately sent to the ER to check my vitals and the admitted me back as an inpatient, with an indefinite length of stay (or LOS in hotel lingo). I was assigned a team of doctors, nurses, social workers and mental health specialists. Surrounded by dedicated mental health professionals, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery and healing that would change my life forever.

One of the most profound aspects of my journey in the psych ward was the opportunity to be under the care with a certain Dr. Philips. She limped in the room with a walking boot on her broken foot, and with her thick Belarusian accent she asked me “tell me, why are you here Jeff?” Knowing that she treats the highest faculty at Harvard (her patients literally win Nobel Prizes) I found she was one of the most cerebral - and most intimidating - people I have ever met.

Her first directive was to record my dreams. So every night, I downed my Remeron with some slimy Metamucil (although I must say the hospital food was quite good for the most part) and prepared for my overnight homework. Armed with a mini flashlight and composition notebook, I jotted random shit from my dreams in real time as I assumed she had a knack of interpreting my subconscious. 

My first dream was a mishmash of Rhianna, Godzilla, dodging a flying train during a hurricane, and the shock of discovering everyone I knew watching me pee through the skylight in a head of a boat. What I thought was crazy talk was for her manna from Heaven, divulging my innermost psyche as she bashed keys on her laptop while I threw these nocturnal obscurities at her.

Dr. Philips also noticed I was sketching an apple, and asked me to go back and draw it again. The next day I drew it, this time taking the time to make it more realistic and refined. She looked at it and said nothing (but her eyes read as a disappointing “meh”). A week later I drew another one just to surprise her. This time I did it freestyle and I had fun with it and didn’t think to perfect it. She happened to look for me and saw it in my room and screamed down the hall looking for me. She pulled me from my outdoor break (like recess for level 2 patients), again yelling for me. She said loudly “Unbelievable!! Congratulations!! Come with me….” It was embarrassing but like a scene out of movie. She named my first apple “good boy” and my second apple a more condescending “good boy”….but my third she said “finally that’s YOU”.  She interpreted that it was not perfect (see paragraph 2) as it was erratic and borderline sloppy. It was not literal, not smoothed out, not refined - but nonetheless it was a different type of beautiful.

Just like life.

Just like….


I felt my imposter syndrome crack open when she said that. I gave the drawings to her - she asked me to sign it and for my permission to share this with a class of cohorts at Harvard, whatever that may mean. Maybe some Nobel Laureate gets to see my apples.

It was then I began to unravel the layers of self-doubt and fear that had held me captive for so long. I discovered a newfound sense of self-awareness and empowerment, realizing that seeking help for my mental health was not a sign of weakness but a courageous act of self-care. With each breakthrough in therapy, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders and a renewed sense of hope and purpose blossoming within me. Professionally speaking, I finally realized my WHY while I was here. *Not the one on my website, but the reason I am where I am right now.

So I said to myself, fuck all the haters (including me hatin’ on myself). As Drake eloquently said “If they ain’t hatin’ - you ain’t poppin…” My why in my profession is that I am put on this world to inspire others that a dishwasher like me rise up to become a President and a business owner. My why is to mentor and be mentored. My why is to follow Mr. Rogers pathological evangelism of humanity through hospitality. My why is to create a culture of do-gooders. In my profession it’s all about head in beds, butts in bar seats, member acquisition and operational profitability. That is something I have the aptitude to do as a byproduct doing it for the last 30 years, but that’s my profession. My why is my vocation. My why is my calling.

Notable executives who have publicly shared their struggles with mental health, including impostor syndrome, have inspired me on my own path to recovery. Leaders like Sheryl Sandberg and Elon Musk have spoken candidly about their battles with self-doubt and the importance of seeking help for mental health challenges. I love basketball and I finally started to understand the plight players like Kevin Love (fellow UCLA Bruin) and DeMar DeRozan had to go through and still perform. Their openness and advocacy have helped break down stigmas surrounding mental illness in the workplace (and basketball court) and encouraged others to prioritize their well-being.

As I look back on my month at McLean, I am filled with gratitude for the impact it had on my life. From this point forward, I will make it a priority to integrate CBT into HR workforce training as it’s crucial to promote mental well-being, foster emotional intelligence, and eradicate stigmas surrounding mental health. By equipping staff with the tools to recognize and address their mental health needs early on, we can empower future generations of leaders to prioritize self-care, seek help when needed, and cultivate a culture of compassion, authenticity and resilience.

“Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.” - Fred Rogers


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