Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month

Anger, loneliness, lack of motivation, lost mission, lacking value, questioning life. That was me some 8 years ago now. For the most part in life to this point most people around me would have thought that I had it all together. I had a great family that was finding success in school, sports, relationships. We had a great house and traveled to sports events with the kids everywhere they went, We all were doing ministry work for our church and I working on a start up business that had several good clients that I enjoyed working with.

But deep down under the mask of what the world saw was a broken man that had lost a career, that had reached a point in his boys life’s where I had influence but they also didn’t need me for much it would seem, and my wife and I were struggling with many parts of our marriage. I would sit in my recliner at night, every night, just waiting for my family to engage with me. I would go to work daily worried of what other thought of me and if I was going to fail on the next step. I struggled with finances and was more focused on possible bankruptcy and what I could lose than I was on rebuilding a career or building a business to the level I knew it could become.

The 40’s in life were supposed to be a time of triumph, a time where we celebrated success, laughed and giggled about our fun filled family life, full of prosperity, friends, and dreams.

Charlie Pankey looking over Young Lakes

Awakening to illness

I cant tell you the date, as I had no idea at the time of the significance of that moment. but I can still remember the words and the moment that my wife told me to go. Not “Go” in like get out of my life, but “Go” in the sense of stop waiting for your family to go and do everything with you. Go find your peace and happiness. Go be you!

The word “go” was the freedom in my life to let go of a set of expectations that I had built up inside my mind that were just not realistic. It was the action word said by my best friend that allowed me not to fear being myself and following my passions. To let go of the anxiety I was carrying that if I let myself be the real me that my family might not like me or that my wife might feel someway separated from me and not like the direction I was headed.

And it was the Word “Go” that I have reflected on many times over the past eight years that awoke me to reality that my mental health played a key role in so many past, present and future outcomes in my life. Positive Mental Health and Negative Mental health moments have dotted my life so many times. I always separated myself from the idea of therapy and counseling as they make me very uncomfortable, but I am thankful for the people in my life that have listened and guided me in many of my emotional swings over the past eight years and if I really dive deep, my entire life. Whether it was a teacher or coach that listened and helped guide me in positive directions, my mother who was always just loving no matter how screwed up I might be feeling, a good friend just to hang out with and enjoy a laugh or a mentor in business who could help me see that life was more about momentum in direction and that all things tend to swing both ways depending on our focus. I have always been blessed with caring people in my life willing to listen.

Asking for help was maybe the hardest thing to do in the past 8 years. Sitting and talking with a friend that was in counseling to help me understand the struggles that my wife and I were having. Sitting with a pastor and getting guidance on how to hear from God regarding direction and my worth in this life. Inviting friends into my life that had been kept at distance while i was raising a family was such a blessing.

The Discovery of Maps and Trails

Ok, I honestly have always been a geek for a good map. But leaving my recliner and deciding it was ok to go explore and be outdoors by myself was like biting into a desert I didn’t know I was going to like and then realizing that that desert comes in a million different flavors and styles. After my first few explorations I bought my first Sierra Nevada map and the world just opened up in front of me. So many places to see and explore.

I met an old man on the trail to Cathedral Lakes in Yosemite National Park, he was backpacking out after a few days in the wilderness, and he shared a tip for a great vista view in the cathedral lake basin and then mentioned something about other lakes in the area. That day and that conversation changed my life. Not only did I take the strangers advice, it drove a passion in me to see more and discover more about the places I would soon visit. Later after this hike I bought my first Yosemite National Park map and became very familiar with Google maps. I loved Yosemite National Park and I wanted to see it all.

As time proceeded in front of me the people in my life started to see the changes. They were curious where I had been and what I was seeing. I always astonished when I spoke with locals that I know have lived here much longer than I that said , ” I didn’t know that existed”. So I started opening more maps and looking for more locations to explore. I started blogging, which eventually turned into this digital magazine. I realized after sometime that it was the power of Go in my life that filled me with life , energy, clarity and happiness. I have come to understand in the past few years that it is a natural part of the Enneagram 7 personality type. The desire to see what is over the next ridge is consuming at times.

Of course there is more to life than just trails and beautiful locations. So I naturally started to think of ways that I could use my passion for hiking and the outdoors in other parts of my life. Volunteering with the Desolation Wilderness and Tahoe basin kid programs provided me a way to meet others like myself and to give back to the community. Starting sierrarec.mystagingwebsite.com is a way for me to be creative and to connect with the larger world. It adds value to my life in so many ways. The more places I explore and trails I walk the people i potentially can help find , fun, peace, happiness, connection to a world that inspires me and so many others.


Mental health challenges still are part of my life. I believe it to be normal and healthy in this chaotic world today. The challenge is in the recognition and healing processes that we develop in our daily life. Eight years have passed, both my boys have now moved out of the house and graduated from college. They have both found women they love and individual passions. Over the years I was able to enjoy many great moments with them in the outdoors, including backpacking trips in Yosemite National Park that were the kind of life memory moments you never forget. The best part is that our relationships are great, they come to me for advice now more than coaching and fathering.

My wife and I are in probably the best season of our friendship and married relationship. People like to call this time in life the empty nester period. We both hate that term, we were not raising birds! Our family has developed and grown and now we have two lovely ladies in our family that have brought amazing love and laughter to all our relationships. And my wife, who still encourages me to “Go”, and I have become pretty adapt at realizing in each other when we need couple time and when we need alone time.

Mental health healing is a continued process in my life. It involves daily objectives like bible studies that keep me grounded and focused on important details in my spirit. It involved maps and reading about locations to go see and discover. It is about communication with friends, inviting them to be part of my life. It is waking up everyday with my wife and choosing to love the person that is invested in sharing their life with me, but not always by myside in the wilderness.

Mental health healing for me is about not waiting and wondering any longer and just cpmmiting to the action step of “GO”.

Now I know that is a flowery, positive attitude, simple approach. But it is working for me. And on the days it is not working I have become adapt to asking for advice or seeking council from friends or professionals. What is funny is that often the advice is about similar action steps. Go spend time with God, Go spend time and Talk with your wife, Go find a book that inspires you etc… It seems to me that the best action step I can recommend for mental health is to commit to “Go”.

It’s more important than ever that we all take care of our #mentalhealth. This Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re joining @AFSPnational in sharing actions everyone can take to support #MentalHealth4All

This article was written to provide hope for others by telling my story. If you are in crisis or need help with your mental well being seek help.

If you are currently in crisis please call or talk with someone.

Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.



Publisher of Sierra Rec Magazine. An avid hiker and explorer of mountain lifestyle and adventure. I love to discover new trails, hike along rivers and hang a hammock along the shores of a mountain lake. I often great people on the trail and have found some of my favorite places from the advice of people I meet in the Wilderness. I love the sierra and just like sharing what I know.

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