Mental illness is not a game.

Nor is it a joke.

Prior to September 3rd 2009, I was a relatively normal, mostly happy, pretty well adjusted person.

Then I lost one of my closest friends.

I’ll never forget that day. Depression robs you of so many things (including your memory), but some things are forever etched so firmly into your memory that no matter what you do, you can’t forget even if you wanted to (and yes, sometimes you really want to).

Everything changed for me that day, I didn’t know to what extent until quite some time later. I just knew that I wasn’t OK and didn’t feel like myself. I had never lost someone so violently and so unexpectedly until that point. I’m no stranger to death as most of my family is gone. It wasn’t until several months later that I started to do some digging into what was wrong with me.

Diagnosis: Type A-Typical depression (typical when you suffer a traumatic event including death or a really bad break up and more). It generally doesn’t last forever and if you’re fortunate, talk therapy is usually the ‘cure’. I say ‘cure’ because depression doesn’t truly go away. It’s a disease and it can lie for a long time before rearing it’s ugly head again. Something that rears it’s ugly head whenever I loose someone that I love.

I also got diagnosed with anxiety, which is depressions best friend.

Along with OCD.

Having to live with all three of these things changes you, it changes who you are. It constantly affects every aspect of your life. Personal and professional and there’s not much you can do except learn to cope with it.

Depression is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting. It robs you of your memory, it robs you of energy, it robs you of having a normal life.

It’s not something that I often talk about, there’s a huge stigma and a lot of ignorance surrounding these things. People mean well, but it’s so frustrating that it’s just easier to not say anything at all and try and deal with it the best way you know how. I am also a private, somewhat introverted person. I don’t often share my feelings with most people because they really don’t get it.

I don’t hold that against anyone because it’s not their fault, they haven’t walked the same path(s) that I have, nor have they suffered the same losses that I have either.

It does not however, make it any less real.  

Just because it’s not something that you don’t understand, it does not give you the right to dismiss it, nor does it give you the right to mock someone who suffers from these things (and more) so that you can have a laugh at someone else’s expense.

So needless to say, it really upsets me greatly when I hear incidents of people being the butt of someone’s jokes or the punchline or people who deliberately go out of their way to upset someone because THEY think that’s it’s funny.

Because it’s not. 

Mental illness is not a game. We have no control over how we react to things, believe me, if we did, we would. So when you openly mock someone that you know, care about or love, you are not only dismissing them, you’re also dismissing their disease.

That’s not okay, that is never, ever okay. 

When I see/hear/experience these incidents, it calls into question a persons character. I can’t speak for anyone else but it truly makes me wonder what on earth is wrong with you.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

End the stigma, don’t contribute to it.

A walk on the dark side.

Anonymous sent this into us. I wanted to share with anyone who was feeling this way.

I was sitting in the chair at my appointment waiting to be seen. People were coming in and out. I had the feeling that this room was one that wasn’t used very often, seemed like a bit of a catch all room of sorts. There was noise all around me, sounds of normalcy. I sat there and bit back the tears that threatened to fall. The feeling had come back, one that I hadn’t had to deal with for a really long time.

The feeling of not wanting to be here anymore.  

What most people don’t understand about being suicidal is that the will to live is intense. It’s the most powerful feeling of all. Think about it for a moment. It makes sense doesn’t it? All those people who managed to hold on, even though they should have been gone long before they did.

That feeling of complete emptiness. The feeling that you are pointless, worthless of existing is dark, scary and painful. I am no stranger to this feeling. I have been down this scary road once before.

Depression is a dark and ugly beast. You get sucked into a state of mind that is so dark, twisted and ugly that you loose sight of who you really are. Nothing matters to you, you have no motivation, everything seems bleak, dark and endless.

It’s exhausting and that darkness? It appears to be so soothing and so comforting.

I’m fighting to hang on. One minute at a time.


How do you say i’m sorry?

*This submission comes from Robert, who allowed his first name to be used.

Dear Friends…

I am looking for a more powerful word, compound word, or sentence-in-a-word–in any language–that conveys “I am sorry” in a much more powerful way than the lameness that seems to be how “I am sorry” has come to be regarded. Why? Well, most of you know who I need to say I am sorry to and why, but years of my depression have left it in a way that “sorry” is just woefully insufficient.

In fact, I hurt four people who need to know just how sorry I am, who need to know that it is more than a passing blurting of “sorry”.
Sorry seems to me the word you use when you accidentally step on someone’s toes in a crowded metro station, it’s not powerful enough to convey what I need to say to the four people I hold most dear. It is not powerful enough to really get the message across to any of them, and most especially to my lovely wife who I hurt the most in all of this.

How do you say to the woman you yet adore, who you still want to grow old with, who you want to be the first and last person you see everyday for the rest of your life, how do you say to her “I am sorry that I hurt you while I was depressed” in a way that doesn’t just seem as casual as the way you say “sorry” to stranger as you navigate that crowded public space.
Do you know what I mean? Sure, we mean it when we say sorry to someone in public like that, but it’s shallow. It’s of no real consequence because, well, so what right? We’ve already stepped on their foot and we’re moving on. We probably don’t have to see them again–ever.

This is why “sorry” is not enough to say to the woman I have loved for well over 20 years, to the woman I married in 1996, to the woman who gave birth to our three beautiful children, to the woman who held my hand so many times that I needed support, to the woman who encouraged me all this time to find my way in breaking free of depression.

This is why “sorry” is not enough when it comes to three children I love so dearly. Sorry lacks the depth to tell them “I do love you, I wish you had not seen me feeling so badly for most of all of your lives. I have so much more to give to you as a father who loves you.” Sorry doesn’t convey that, sorry just says “oops, I did it again” and leaves it hanging out there.
Sorry doesn’t take away the sting. Sorry doesn’t ease the pain all four of them have felt over the years.

Sorry doesn’t make go away the fear that Robert will lose it over what seems trivial yet again. Sorry doesn’t immediately make a child forget that for most of their lives even the smallest little thing–like knocking over a pile of recently folded clothing, mandating it be refolded–will not turn into Daddy shouting again. Even when this time he laughs and says “rats!” and just picks things up and sorts them out. The memory of what had been the typical response does not fade in one moment.

Everyone I know, my lovely wife included, knows that I want to end this separation. I want to make my every single day about living sorry rather than just saying it. I want to improve the lives of the four people I love the most in this life. I want us all back under the same roof–I want us all living at the same address.
Yes, it has only been 30 days since my wife left. But it feels like it has been 30 years. This is the first week of rotating custody weeks for our three kids. It has only been a couple of days and I feel like I have been in solitary confinement for an eternity.

The sad thing is that I know now just how long my misery was affecting my little family. Until things started clearing up for me only 75 days ago, I was not only oblivious to what I was doing to them, I was unable to remember most of what I said and did. My memory was affected by my state of mind. Now, oh my gawd, I see it all. My pain is now not depression but sorrow for how I know they must have all felt as they watched me suffer.

Oh yes, some of you know that there was an underlying physiological condition that at the least magnified–if not caused–how badly I felt. I understand fully how it can and does seem unreal that this condition may have existed for a decade, maybe more, maybe even preceding the day I first met my wife. What convinced me that it has been around for over a decade was the disappearance of a very big problem I started facing in 2004 that limited my ability to enjoy many situations in the years since–my apparent “allergy” to parfum. Anything that had parfum in it–perfume, cologne, shampoo, conditioner, soap, cleaning products, laundry detergent, you name it–they all triggered migraine headaches. Oh what I went through with most people not believing I had migraines.

But I had them. And, miraculously, they are gone. I mean gone. Imagine this: I used to enjoy wearing cologne. I had been wearing it from my teens until my problem stared in 2004. Then I started having migraines so bad that I was blinded–at times for hours, even more than a day–by the pain of the headache. And then, sitting in a waiting room a couple of months ago, shortly after I felt the depression lift, smelling nothing short of a cloud of perfumes, I did not get a migraine. This was shocking to me. I went looking for things with parfum in them exposed myself to them… and nothing happened. I have since even wore cologne again–no migraine!

This was something–the migraines–that was a big part of my suffering in recent years as I worked in a job that I not only disliked, but that exposed me to a great deal of fragrance. In 2014 a series of massive migraines–day after day for months–contributed to my rapid decline into such a depressed state that I was a) given meds for depression and b) started a disability leave from work that lasted 50 weeks!

Over that 50 weeks my mood ebbed and flowed. It was better at first because I was removed from the things that made me feel the worst. Then it got bad again when the meds backfired. Then it got better. Then it got worse when the Short Term disability became Long Term and the insurance company tried holding back money as a means to get me to admit I wasn’t depressed, I just wanted a vacation.

In this time, every time my mood sunk, I hurt the people I love. I hurt them so badly they surely felt “Robert does not love me, how could anyone hurt the person they love this badly?” (Substitute “Dad” for Robert for three beautiful, wonderful children and you see how I hurt everyone I love). Extend this to my parents and my sister and my friends who not only recently but for years had to put up with only hearing about how badly I felt.
There was a time in my life when I had a pretty good group of friends, and over the years I either withdrew to hide them from seeing how badly I felt, or they withdrew when they got more than a glimpse of how I felt.

So I came to a point this year when I thought in my head that I had no one and nothing to live for. And I did the nastiest thing I could ever do, I tried to hurt myself–and not only that, I did it in front of the love of my life. I couldn’t stop myself. The only thing that stopped me was when she cried.
Something that night “shocked me” (and I’ve had medical and mental health professionals agree on that) and from there I emerged from a depression that was so long and so deep that I had no idea how bad it was. And, the physiological problem changed to boot.

Now I sit here with an emotional and physical wellness that, and this is something, I realized recently, I have NOT felt since late 1992, early 1993. That’s right, before I started dating the lovely, beautiful, brilliant, funny, sexy, charming, enchanting, caring, compassionate, woman I married in 1996.
But I sit here alone. I am alone because my illness drove her away. And now, every other week my three amazing kids are with her and I do not have the privilege of seeing them every day, of sharing meals with them, sharing time with them, hugging them before bed, tucking them in, listening while they tell me about their interesting days, playing cards, watching TV, just “being” with them.

And so I crave knowledge of how to apologize in that way that really begins the healing so that we can be a whole family again.
I love them all so deeply, every atom in my body feels it.

I know, a hurt like I put onto them–especially onto my wife–is not one that goes way in 30 days. But I hope for the day when my dream–the vision, in fact that I have already had–comes true and she comes home to start rebuilding our relationship, to allow me to be the doting husband I should have done a better job being all along.
I guess that’s a hell of a lot to take in. Thank you to anyone who dare to read this far.


My friend just died and I don’t know what to do!?!

Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.




I don’t know about anyone else, but I really needed to see this today.

I hope you are all well.

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