There seems to be a lot of public outcry for different awareness programs, but before going forward, I want to be very clear that the details that I am about to express are very real to me. However, I also want it to express that the ideas and emotions I will be sharing are not the same thoughts and emotions I have now.
Please understand that while going forward, I am writing this to help shed a different light of awareness and to help others understand depression and the struggles with suicide. Keep in mind; this is not just about the struggle or the problems of desperation. No, this is about the other side of depression.
I would like to detail this for those who cannot or could not explain their side of depression. Therefore, going forward, I will ask that while you read this, be mindful that this is about the survival of depression and not the other way around. This is about the fight for hope.
For as long as I can remember, I had always felt different. I was never quite sure why I felt this way. I was never told I was different and no one ever pointed me out as “Special needs” or anything like that.
I just knew I couldn’t process information the same way other people did. There was a disconnect of some sort between me and the world. And mind you, this was not by choice. I never asked to feel the way I did. I certainly never wanted to feel uncomfortable or different; however, regardless to my need to fit or feel as though I belonged, there was always this invisible line around me, which I could not cross nor could anyone cross over to comfort me. This uncrossable line kept me from feeling is if I was able to join in or be welcomed amongst other people.
At a very young age, I can recall the need to create a feeling in others to help them like me. But in my nervousness to be accepted, I often overstepped and said the wrong thing. My approach at friendships was too forced and too coerced; therefore, I always felt a fear of loss. I was afraid of being alone or unlikable. I was afraid of being unwanted or unwelcomed, and of course, I was afraid of being unremarkable or simply ordinary and unnoticeable. And try as I did, no matter how I tried to move away from these ideas, the fears and anxieties were always closing in to punish to me.
I never asked for this. I never asked to worry if others would like me or want me around. I never asked to struggle socially or feel awkward. In fact, no one ever asks for this.
I was a young buy, but yet, in my frustration while feeling desperate to fit in or believe I was welcomed, I began to contemplate the idea of life itself and what it means to live. I started to wonder if this was all truly worth it.
I saw other people smiling happily. I noticed others and it seemed to me as though they were able to live easily, but yet, in my head and in my heart, everything seemed to be a struggle. I could not feel the way others felt nor could I understand or process information the way others would.
I struggled in class because I was unable to translate the lessons in a way that I could understand them. I had learning disabilities that went undiagnosed; however, to a kid, the words “Learning Disability,” is socially cancerous.
Therefore, I never spoke out or asked for help. I was too intimidated and too frightened to find out that I was even more different than I already believed myself to be.
At the age of eight, I was very sick with gastroenteritis. I was hospitalized for a decent amount of time, which in my mind’s best recollection; I believe I was hospitalized for somewhere around two weeks. I was sickly and small and thin and meanwhile, other kids my age were outside playing. Other kids my age were able to walk down the hallways at school and understand that they were totally and completely normal—but not me. I thought there was something wrong with me. I believed there had to be something wrong with me. Why else would I be afraid all the time? Why else would I feel so raw to the touch and so exposed? There had to be something wrong with me because why else would I always feel the vulnerable fear of being exposed.
It occurred to me that I was a burden. Although I knew there were people that loved me, I saw myself as a burden to them. I believed my parents loved me and cared for me the way they would if I were paralyzed or worse, even brain dead.
And while yes, I was shown love; somehow, I always believed that the world would be better off without me. I believed deep down to my core that my family loved me, but yet, if I were to go away, yes they would mourn me, but at least now they could live their life without having to take care of a young, scared boy that never knew how to fit in. As I saw it, I saw unworthy of love. And equally so; I saw myself as unworthy of living.
One night, I grew tired of believing that I was a drain on everyone else around me. I was tired of believing I was emotionally retarded or handicapped —and dare I use these words, however, I used them with apology; but I use them because this was an accurate description of my thought process.
Nothing I could say would ever come out right and nothing I did ever seem to happen the way I wanted it to. I believed myself to be in a constant state of disappointment; therefore, at the age of eight, I decided to climb up into the cabinet where they kept the Excedrin.
I then proceeded to take as many as I could swallow. At most, I believe I took close to 10 pills. And I thought this would do the trick. I believed if I did this that I would fall asleep and simply never wake up. Fortunately, I was too young to know that Excedrin cannot kill you.
I recall saying goodbye to The Old Man while he sat on the couch in the den. I am sure he wondered why I was saying goodbye to him but he probably wrote this off as only mildly suspicious. I said goodbye to my Mother as well. And sure, I suppose she wondered why too, but then again, I was young and I always said odd things.
I was only home from the hospital a short while and then I resigned. I resigned to the fact that no matter how I tried, I could never live a good, normal life. I resigned to the fact that I could never get away from my thoughts or my feelings. I resigned to the idea that my life would be better if it ended —and more importantly, I resigned to the belief that this was fairest to all around me; therefore, I chose to make by best attempt at suicide.
And no, the pills didn’t work. And yes, I had to return to the emergency room. And no, I cannot recall what happened after. But yes, I do recall trying to explain to my Mother why I took so many pills because as I saw it, they used Excedrin to as a pain reliever—and well, this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to relieve the pain.
I lived this way for a long time. I can say that gratefully, I survived another attempt when I was older. This time, my neck slipped from a noose which I tied around my throat and the other end around a sprinkler pipe in a bathroom at an upstate treatment facility. When I regained consciousness, I was on the floor and coming out of my convulsions. I was unsure why I lived or why I made it. I was unsure if I felt more like a fool or a failure. But more, I was unsure why I survived. But nevertheless, I did survive.
I have heard speakers and doctors and other professionals discuss drug addiction and alcoholism. I have been at awareness events. I have listened to keynote speakers discuss their lives and their truths; however, I never walked away feeling inspired to better myself. Instead, I walked away with a lesson on drinking and drugging. I heard several tragic stories and listened to people overcome themselves, but I never walked away feeling as though I have a road map to my own personal betterment.
When I heard a speaker discuss bullying, I listened to the sad accounts of what happened; however, I did not hear how they overcame this feeling. Of course, this was the real reason I listened because I felt bullied too. I literally felt intimidated and threatened by everyone —but yet, I was never inspired or taught in a motivating way that my thoughts and feelings are not always accurate. I was never show the relation between my thoughts of my feelings and how this explained my behaviors. I was never shown how to overcome. I was just told about what happened and that yes, people hurt, and people survive pain, but I was never felt hopeful afterwards. Instead, I just believed more of the same.
I knew what the word depression meant; however, I didn’t know this was me. Besides, whatever it was that I had seemed too complicated to be summed up in just one word.
I was told I was emotionally disturbed at a young age. I was told several different things like this but all I heard in my head is there was something wrong with me. I believed I was emotionally and mentally diseased.
Since this was apparent to me, I believed this was also apparent to everyone else. It was painful. Yes, painful.
I say it this way because I saw no way out. But in the same regard; I understood pain. Pain was at least dependable. This made sense to me; however, emotional pain has no way to physically manifest itself, which is why I fell into the struggles of self-harm.
My behavior and my choice or life was a direct relation to who I saw me as. This was how I felt.
This is the other side of depression. This is my definition on some of my struggles but in the depth of this, how could someone ever find their way out of it? How could one find value in them when they believe they are a worthless burden? How does someone come back from the ideas of soulless desperation?
Where is the awareness on this part?
Why is this not spoken about as passionately as we are when we talk about drug overdoses or the other epidemics that plague our society?
Put simply, how can someone just walk in a room, sit down or stand, and not feel uncomfortable?
As best as I could see this, the only way I could handle this is while medicated in an altered state.
So yes, I became a teenage addict. I drank. I smoked. I hurt myself both physically and emotionally. I cut myself. I put myself in dangerous situations to dare the edge; this way, if I died, it wouldn’t be my fault.
I found myself alone a lot, drunkenly rehearsing the things I would say to people in the mirror. I rehearsed the things I would say to those who bullied me. I detailed my revenge and rehearsed my plans of violence. I rehearsed how I planned to defend myself. I rehearsed what I would say to the girls I wished would date me —but at the time, I was out of my head and no matter how I tried to say them, the words I used never seemed to come out right.
I didn’t understand why my life was the way it was. I couldn’t understand why I always believed I was always so unwelcomed, but as a result, because I felt unwelcomed, I behaved in such a way that eventually led me to being unwelcomed.
It was easier for me to stay away or stay high or sit on the roof of my home in my suburban town and drink gin from a small flask while watching the cars drive by my home on Merrick Avenue. It was easier in the post addiction years to behaviorally keep people away from me and find other methods of escape to help soothe my inner pains and insecurities.
Whatever I did was done because I believe this is what I would have to do. Else, I believed I would have been vulnerable or hurt and exposed. Wort to me was to feel fear all the time. I hate fear. I hate fear to the core because of what it has done in my life. I hated the way I looked and the way i felt . . .
And the echoes were the worst. What I mean by this is the echoes of the last few words I would say to someone and how they would repeat over and over in my head because they came out wrong (Or stupid.) This would bother me so much that I would have to try and fix it by saying something else; however, each thing I said to fix the last was only sinking me in deeper and making things worse.
I never wanted to be like this. I wanted to be more like you, or someone else, or anybody else for that matter. I just wanted people to like me. But more importantly, I just didn’t want people to hurt me anymore.
Do you remember when you were a kid and you had a cavity? Well, this may be a sign of my age, but somehow I remember having a piece of tinfoil in my mouth and the tinfoil hit my filling—and somehow, there was this uncomfortable feeling; it was almost as uncomfortable as nails screeching across a chalkboard.
I always felt on edge. I thought the world was going to tumble on me and I always was afraid f that feeling of impending doom.
I would tease the edge between life and death by slowly euthanizing myself to soften the blows of life on life’s terms. I found ways to become numb. I found ways to deaden the pain and to silence the thought machine which spun in my head.
Although deadly, I found ways to live while dying alive. And yes this is sad. Yes, this was nearly deadly. Yes, this was painful, and yes, I would have been fine with dying.
The truth of the matter is my behavior matched my feelings of myself. The truth is my intention and the intensity of my behavior were in direct relation to all of the following; I was depressed. I was afraid. I was a bully and I was bullied. I was so terribly insecure. I never thought I would ever be able to make it on my own and that somehow, I would have to live in a discounted, disregarded way because in my heart, I believed that I was emotionally retarded and handicapped.
I was never good at school. I was never good at sports. I was weaker than most, smaller, and very thin. I saw myself as ugly and unwanted and the only source of importance I ever felt was through criminal activity.
I stole because I felt as though I was always robbed. I sold drugs because this brought on a source of attention. I tried to create a persona that was deadly and dangerous enough that it would protect me.
But this is the problem with the depths of depression; nothing can protect you. At least in my eyes, nothing could have protected me.
I believed I was painfully alone; however, I have spoken at several engagements and while expressing me and detailing my past; I notice a sea of nodding heads with eyes wide-opened, as if to facially express, “Oh my God, I never knew anyone else felt this way too.” I have noticed this in my presentations for people of all ages.
Most notably, I spoke in a gymnasium to the count of roughly 130 9th graders who at first, behaved as 9th graders would. But it was not long until I grabbed their attention. Although my part in this particular presentation was approximately 15 minutes long —it took me nearly two hours to leave the gymnasium because put simply, the students would not leave until I spoke with each of them. And put simply, I would not leave until I spoke with every one of them.
And what I saw was this, a group of kids who thought like me and were close to the attempt, but instead, I watched them all huddle and tell each other why they were going to stay alive and how they would be there for each other. I listened to them make pacts with each other, promising they would never consider the ideas of suicide again.
God bless them . . .
God Bless every one of them
There is another side of depression. There is a surviving side. This is where the direction of awareness needs to go. There is another side of alcoholism and addiction as well. There is the surviving side; there is a side of empowerment and encouragement. This is what I choose to discuss. There is light in this world and although times may be hard, there are ways out of the darkness.
There is a way out. Believe this.
There are tools which we need to discuss. There are ways to replace thought with action. We need to explain more about the promise of wellness instead of repeatedly warning about the dangers of drugs or alcohol or dangerous living.
It is pointless to focus on the behavioral symptoms. We need to get to the reasons behind them and help others find their way out of their own personal darkness so that they themselves can see the light.
We need to help others translate the information in their minds into a way they can not only understand but so that they can relay their feelings instead of feeling like a prisoner to them.
This is what I am here to do.
With all of my heart, please help me help you and maybe we can change the face of world we live in