Before 2014 I spent 15 years in a deep, dark, unmanageable depression, during which I wanted to die, every day. I attempted suicide multiple times, but thankfully never could actually pull the trigger all the way, take quite enough pills, or cut just deeply enough.
The Mental Hospital
I was talking with my youngest son last night. I was telling him that everything I’ve ever gone through and all that he had been through with me his entire life that was difficult or seemed to be a negative experience had shaped us and formed us into the people we are today. I told him I was thankful for all of it. We were speaking specifically about a relationship I had that was painful and difficult for all of us at times, but I explained that if we had not had the experience, I would most likely be dead or still be extremely unhappy on psychotropic medications.
After 15 years on some heavy duty medications, and three marriages later, I woke up one day with a plan to kill myself. Again. My three sons had helped me survive this long, simply by needing me to be there for them, but I knew I couldn’t keep living like this. For 15 years I had battled extreme depression and suicidal ideation. Every day, the thoughts that were going through my head were: “I am a horrible father. My children would be better off without me in their lives. All of my loved ones would be better off without me in their lives. The world would be a better place without me in it. I’m useless the way I am. I am so broken that I can’t even be a positive influence in my children’s lives. Because I’ve been diagnosed with Bi-Polar, I am no good for anyone. I have no self control. The shitty job I have won’t even pay the bills. I will never get out of debt or even be able to pay the bills we have. It’s hopeless! The only reason we are surviving is because the church we attend helps us financially. I’m worthless as a provider. I’m worthless as a husband. I’m worthless as a father. Who would ever love me? I can’t even love myself.”
These were the nicer thoughts that would run through my head continuously. After 15 years of being extremely hard on myself, it had become a habit. I realized that I needed help. It was obvious the medications weren’t working. I decided I needed a med change, to talk to a psychologist, or to get some kind of help I hadn’t yet gotten. I didn’t know what to do. I just knew I couldn’t keep living this way and thinking this way about myself. I was completely hopeless, and had been for years. The only thing that would get me through to the next day was the next distraction. I watched a lot of TV. I had been in numerous relationships and that was distracting. I consistently made bad decisions I knew would cause drama, which was an easy distraction. I would literally sleep through an entire weekend at times, knowing if I were awake that these unbearable thoughts would bombard my mind, and while I was alone without my children with me because they were at their mothers during her week with the kids, I might do something stupid, and try to end things yet again.
A New Beginning
So I woke up with a plan to end my life. Again. I told my wife at the time about it, which was really difficult to do. I already felt like I didn’t deserve her and wondered why she would still be with a useless waste of oxygen like me. I told her I wanted to go to a mental facility and really get some help. I explained I was completely hopeless and a danger to myself. A few hours later we had found a mental hospital that our health insurance plan would cover and I walked through the doors with her and a change of clothes and signed some papers. It was rumored to be the best hospital in the state. That was the worst, and yet the most helpful, four days of my entire life, so far.
Welcome to Hell. We are here to help.
The first 24 hours in this particular mental health facility you are supposed to sit in a reclining chair for observation. They give you a blanket in case you are cold and have a movie playing on multiple tvs. You are allowed to use the bathroom as long as you return immediately to your seat. You are also allowed to use a telephone. Again, as soon as you are finished using the phone, you are to return immediately to your seat. I have degenerative disc disease and arthritis in my back, and explained this to them when I signed myself in. The chair was extremely uncomfortable and my pain and anxiety levels were through the roof. I was holding back tears, scared to death, and second-guessing my decision to admit myself into the hospital. Every 15 minutes I would get up out of the chair because of the extreme pain I was feeling in my lower back and walk over to the phone and call my wife at the time. I would speak with her for a few minutes, just checking in, asking how my boys were, and go back to my chair. At one point they brought around fruit and a sandwich and a little carton of milk or juice like the ones we had at the school cafeteria when we were kids. The room was divided in half. One half of the room was for girls, and the other half of the room was for boys. The boys were not allowed to walk between the chairs in the girls section. We had to walk around the entire room of chairs to get to the phone. A few guys were yelled at for not complying. Everyone learned quickly to follow the rules.
Some guy was yelling at someone on the phone. I was getting more and more nervous and anxious by the minute. I had nothing to do but watch the second hand on the clock and wait for him to get off the phone so I could make another call. The staff member yelled out asking if anyone else would like to use the phone. I shot up my hand. He watched me for hours using the phone every 15 minutes on the dot and knew I wanted to. I guess he needed a reason to get the guy off the phone and stop yelling and I was the reason. He told the guy to wrap it up. He responded with a, “Fuck you Ni**er!”
Now from where I’m from, in my world, those are fighting words. It’s disrespectful, uncalled for, and completely inappropriate. It wasn’t a word used in my home growing up and anytime I was around someone using foul language I would immediately remove myself from the situation. I was shocked. The staff member seemed to be a nice guy, certainly undeserving of such language.
For what seemed like hours, but in reality was only about 10 minutes, they got into a screaming match. Finally the staff member had enough and got up from his desk and walked over to the guy, telling him he had just lost all phone privileges and let him know if he didn’t return to his seat immediately he would personally return him to his seat. The guy took a swing at the staff member, who then reacted by picking the guy up and slamming him on the cold concrete floor. My anxiety levels began to climb even higher. The guy was out cold. I couldn’t leave. They wouldn’t let me out of the facility until I had spoken with a psychologist, and they explained it would be at least a few days until I got to do that. I was under the assumption that I would get to speak with someone immediately, that I would get the help I needed quickly. How wrong I was. As the room filled with EMTs and Police officers and Security Guards from the facility, the staff member told me to use the phone. I told him I didn’t want to anymore and that I would wait until the room cleared a little. He started yelling at me to go ahead and use the damn phone. So I walked around everyone, used it for a minute to check in and returned to my seat, wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into.
A few hours later they actually moved me into a room with two beds and a small bathroom with a sink, a toilet, and a shower. There were two desks in the room at the foot of each bed, against the wall, so one would have to walk between the foot of the bed and the desk to get to the bathroom or go out the door to the hallway which led to the nurses station and a huge common room with a tv, books, and games. By this time I was given medications, including Trazodone, which knocked me on my ass. Everywhere I walked I shuffled like a 96 year old man that could barely walk and most of the time I was drooling and leaning against the wall for support. The medications I was on for the previous 15 years had left me feeling cloudy and tired, but this stuff really took the life out of me. I had no desire to do anything but sleep.
The first night, I had the room to myself. I slept a straight 13 hours. Sleep had always been a wonderful way to escape the thoughts I was thinking. Sleep was always an easy distraction, especially when on prescribes medications, which I often referred to as, “Elephant tranquilizers.” The staff was required to check all the rooms, every 15 minutes, to see if we were still alive. We were all on suicide watch.
The new room mate:
The next day I got a room mate. He was in his twenties. He seemed cool enough. He told me he had downed a bottle of pills and a fifth of Vodka. They paramedics had to revive him. He died. They brought him back to life.
He had a little girl. That night, around two in the morning, I awoke to him screaming at someone. He kept asking me if his dog was under my mattress and kept trying to pull my mattress out from under me as I was laying on it. I was in and out of consciousness and really didn’t know if it was a nightmare or real. He had thrown his own mattress across the room, overturned his bed, and was pacing around like a mad man. Later, I found out that he had re-overdosed, which is apparently a common thing that happens. At one point I dragged my over-medicated ass around the corner to our room’s bathroom and noticed that he had put a washcloth in the sink and a towel in the shower with the water on full blast. The bathroom was flooding. The staff was required to look into the rooms every 15 minutes, but it was hours before they noticed what was going on in our room. They finally took him down the hallway and made him stay at the nurses station in a chair the rest of the night.
I hadn’t realized that he had also gone into other rooms during the night and had taken shoes and clothing from some of the women. I woke up to some of them standing in my room, which had a closed door, screaming at me and asking why I had taken their things. My room mate had conveniently placed all of the things he had taken underneath my desk at the foot of my bed. They yelled down the hallway for the staff’s help while I tried to explain that it wasn’t me and that my room mate had done it. After about 15 minutes the staff had it all worked out.
The best part about my stay at the hospital was meal time. Not that the food was spectacular or even anything good, but compared to every second of the day inside the facility, it was a privilege you didn’t want to have taken away from you. To walk outside for 20 seconds to another building and wait in line and actually get to choose for yourself what you want to eat and drink for 15 minutes before being herded back into hell was literally like heaven.
Before going to lunch I had spoken with my wife at the time and told her what had happened the night before. Do you think I felt safe and like I was getting the help I had come to the hospital for? HELL NO. I was terrified. I wanted out! That wasn’t an option. It seemed as though I had been put in prison. She actually got through to one of the nurses in the wing I was in and made some threats. She told them she would call the police and report everything to news channel 3, 10, 12 and everybody else who would listen. She must have been a real pain in the ass, because I remember him saying, “That’s one hell of a woman you have there”, along with a few other comments referring to how controlling she must be. He had no idea. She was definitely a controling, but she had my back while I was in there, and her “control issues” resulted in some of the biggest blessings of my life. It was as if she had been placed in my life at the perfect moment and had all of the personality traits and characteristics I literally needed at that particular time in my life. Without her help I would be worse off or dead. There is no doubt in my mind about that. I was on a road that led nowhere. I now believe that miracles happen every day, and that they happen by and through the people we choose to have in our lives.
They called me up to the nurses station. One of the nurses asked if I was the snitch and told me I was going into the High Security area of the wing with all the violent patients. The nurse my ex wife had spoken to immediately shut him down and told him that I would stay exactly where I was and that my room mate was going into the High Security area, not me. I felt like puking. Medicated as I had been over the years, and having adopted a very ineffective mindset, I had become extremely passive, anti-confrontational, and weak minded. I was terrified. I was anxious and tried not to throw up. My nerves were shot. I couldn’t think straight. The medications they were giving me made me slur my speech and I was drooling. The thoughts in my head were screaming at me now, louder than ever! If I thought I felt hopeless before, now it was for sure. The room mate got in my face and started yelling at me, asking if I had a problem with him. I told him I didn’t have a problem with him as a person but all the things he had done the night before were definitely a problem. I couldn’t believe I had admitted myself into this circus.
Group. “We encourage you to share.”
It was time for group. I had never been part of a group. I had seen a few psychologists and psychiatrists over the years, but I had never wanted to be a part of a group. Now, I no longer had a choice. I had to participate. I had kept my secrets so well and for so many years that I believed I had created a perception of strength. To look at me, nobody would ever think anything was wrong with me. It had always been a belief I was raised with that I should not only be better than everyone else, I should also behave as if I were better than everyone else. It was an ineffective, unhelpful belief which alienated me from others and caused me to lose out on many opportunities for deep, meaningful connections. I was the biggest piece of shit walking the face of the earth, and on the inside, I knew it. I really believed this. On the outside I was well put together. I seemed normal and nice enough. Married with 6 kids, church-going, full time job as a driver at a Nursing Home. Average, “normal” guy. But in reality I was a wreck. I had been dying inside for years. I was lost, hopeless, and quickly running out of options. I had tried to kill myself a few times and I knew, by now, that this damn hospital and this experience with these people wasn’t going to help me in ANY WAY. And then it did:
How the help came:
In “group” they have everyone sit in a circle. They start with someone, who then explains why they are there, how they got there, and they get to “share”, which means they get a turn to say whatever they want to. I had never shared my personal information with anyone and I didn’t want to. I felt like there was something so wrong with me that I couldn’t be fixed and it would be better if I just wasn’t around anymore. I was guilty, ashamed, and embarrassed. My room mate was ushered in right after group had started.
The first person to share was a beautiful 19 year old girl. She had been in the facility for two weeks. She said that it wasn’t her first time being admitted to such a facility, and that she had been in almost every facility the valley had to offer. Then she explained why, and as I listened I had to choke back the tears and keep wiping away at the snot running down my face. She started heroin when she was 15. Her dad had killed himself, and she always thought it was her fault. She said, “I mean, I thought I was a good daughter, but when he shot himself I realized it must have been my fault. I felt so guilty. I thought about everything I said and did to him over the years that hurt him and made him angry. I started doing drugs because I didn’t think about anything when I was high and I’ve been on heroin ever since. I’m here because I overdosed again.” She said a whole lot more, but I just remember thinking about my boys and how much I love them. I couldn’t bare the thought of them blaming themselves like she did if I were to kill myself. What would that do to them? How would they deal with me not being in their lives anymore? Would they turn to drugs to distract them from their pain? Would they find some other distraction just as damaging and harmful? What kinds of fathers would they grow up to be if I killed myself? Would they then think suicide is an option for themselves as well? Would they turn to a life of crime? What would it do to them to lose me to suicide?
For the first time in years, I no longer wanted to kill myself. I wanted to get better. But how? I had no idea what to do. I was completely hopeless. I hadn’t learned any coping skills, communication skills, and I had no tools or any way of helping myself. I felt weak and useless.
Sharing for the first time:
I participated in group. I listened to the stories others had and began to realize that I wasn’t alone in my dark feelings. I had literally spent my entire life thinking nobody else felt the way I felt! I guess I just thought I was a, “Special case.” I hadn’t made connections with anyone or communicated on a deep level. I hadn’t learned to create an environment for myself where I could feel comfortable doing so. The thoughts in my head were nothing compared to the reality some of these other people were living. I began to realize I actually had a whole hell of a lot to be grateful for and some of these people literally had nothing and no one. I was spending all of my time feeling sorry for myself, throwing what my mom calls, “Pitty Parties”, and focused on the darkness and lack in my life. I was stuck in a continuous, consistent, daily loop of ineffective, unhelpful thinking habits and negativity.
All the while I was surrounded by incredible, supportive, loving family members. I was a member of a church where caring, smart, knowledgeable, wise people resided every week. I found out later that many of them had been through everything I had been through and worse.
I shared that day, for the first time, how 15 years ago I had been diagnosed as Bi Polar and had been on medications for that and depression, and was still suicidal the entire 15 years. I opened up, just a little, and shared some of the darkness with those people there that day that was occupying my mind and came to the realization that I was not alone. I realized that we all suffer. It is a part of life. (I now believe it is an important, useful, and valuable part of life.) However, when we believe the suffering is never going to stop and that the pressure is never going to let up, we become hopeless.
Some people suffer more than most others and they hardly have any problems at all. Why?! How is that possible s? They have coping skills. They have communication skills. They have learned to, “Self-Soothe”. These things didn’t just come to them! They were, in many cases, learned and practiced for years. Some people seem to never have a thing go right for them a day in their life, yet they are happy as can be. I always marveled at that and wondered how it could be possible. Was there a way for me to eventually become like that as well?
A few days later (and a few heavenly meals of cafeteria food later), and after a couple of group sessions, I was allowed to speak with a psychologist. I finally got the hell out of there. Four days I was in there, but it literally seemed like years. It was the worst, yet most helpful, experience I could have possibly had. I am so grateful to have had this exposure and this experience. I am not anti-medications. Some of them may be helpful for some people. I am, however, very PRO-NATURAL remedies. I believe that there are avenues that should be absolutely exhausted before medications ever become an option, especially for children. And yes, I have had two of my three sons on medications in the past. No, it didn’t help them. Yes, it made things much worse for them. Thankfully their mother was a great advocate for them, and fought me tooth and nail to get them off of them.
Back on the Home Front:
Meanwhile, my wife at the time, while I was in the mental hospital, had been speaking with people at church about what was going on. I was so embarrassed and humiliated and angry with her. She didn’t care. She explained that since I had been on these medications for 15 years and had tried so many different combinations of them with no positive results that she decided to talk to people and do some research to see if there was anything out there that could help. I was so angry with her! How dare she share my personal, deep, dark secrets with anyone?! She just rolled her eyes and told me to get over it like it was no big deal. It was, to me, though. It was a HUGE deal!
That weekend, when I went back to church, I felt so vulnerable and embarrassed. I felt like such a failure. So many people knew where I had been and what I had been through. Amazingly, they treated me the exact same way-with no judgement, just love. I didn’t understand. I thought they would judge me. I thought they would gossip about my experience endlessly. I got over it. I was so grateful for their support.
One family had two kids that had similar issues to mine. The parents had researched and found that most people are missing necessary minerals in their brains that make them exhibit similar symptoms that are related to schizophrenia, bi polar, and depression. A company in Canada makes a pill called EMPower Plus Q96. It had helped their kids tremendously and they mentioned it to my wife I was married to at the time. She insisted I get off my medications and on to these pills immediately. I was terrified. I had tried to do this before, only to feel extremely suicidal and homicidal. The next day I went to see my psychiatrist. I explained that I was going off my medications and on to these other vitamins and minerals since they were all natural. Nothing I had tried in the last 15 years had worked for me. My doctor became agitated and a little angry with me, explaining that he wouldn’t recommend it and that most likely I would become homicidal or suicidal and nothing good could possibly come from me discontinuing my medications.
Fearing the wrath of my wife at the time if I came home to tell her I had to stay on my medications instead of being a “big boy” and sticking up for myself, I told him that I wasn’t asking his permission, just letting him know that I was going off of the meds. He then told me there was nothing more he could do for me if I wasn’t going to follow his recommendations, and he asked me to leave. He wasn’t nice about it.
The rest of the story:
As part of my exit plan from the mental hospital I had agreed to see a psychologist. For the next few months, as I was detoxing from 15 years of Lithium and the over 20 different antidepressants I had tried, I started the Q96 pills, and spoke with the psychologist provided to me through my health insurance plan. It took a few weeks, but I began to feel better. I began to feel hopeful, whereas hope hadn’t been a part of my life for years. I began to get my mind back. I began to be me again. Numerous times, my wife at the time would tell people, “All of a sudden he has an opinion. I don’t know what to do with that.” She was no longer able to tell me what to do and just expect me to do it without a discussion or an argument. I began to practice communication skills I was learning in counseling. I was gaining confidence. I was me again! It was all because of her help. A few months later we split up, and about six months after that we were divorced.
All the while, throughout this process, the people at church were so supportive. We were given food and meals. A few of the couples helped us with bills like our rent and electric. I was blown away by the kindness and goodness of these people and I will always be grateful for it. If I wasn’t married to that woman, I would still be hopeless and on those pills, or dead. I look back at my life and see that God or a higher power or whatever you prefer to think of it as, put people and situations into my life all along that helped me so much. I honestly believe it was all meant to be the way it was and it all worked out the way it was supposed to. I used to say, “Everything happens for a reason.” I improved on that belief because of the woman I am now married to, and say, “Everything has a purpose.”
So many of us believe that all of these things happen to us in life, when really, everything-and I mean everything, both good and bad-is really just happening for us. I now believe that.
I remember starting over , with practically nothing at all, living in my mom and step-father’s condo for months, over-weight and barely able to walk because of a degenerative disc disease. I worked hard on recreating myself while trying to work whenever I was able to as a cab driver. Things started to really fall into place and work out. A year after the mental hospital my kids and I had our own place.
Somehow things have continued to fall into place. Most of it is because of the people I now choose to have in my life, and the daily routine I have put into place.
I believe that God works his modern day miracles through other people. I’ve never seen a heavenly angel with wings, unless you count that 19-year-old girl strung out on heroin telling everyone her story in group at a mental facility. I’ve never seen the heavens open and a voice from the clouds speak to me, unless you count the many motivational speakers I have searched for and found on YouTube, family members, loved ones, my own children, and total strangers I meet every day and talk to that remind me of the important things in life and help me keep my priorities straight. It is because of all of them I am able to consistently remind myself to keep my priorities straight and make better, wiser choices. I think we all need reminders. WE all need a good perspective check every once in a while.
Tools and skills:
There are so many tools skills we can practice and use to help us out of our personal hell we are stuck in-the one in our mind. I told my 14 year old son how grateful I am for all of the bad choices I made while I was caught in a cloudy stupor of thought on medications for 15 years and all that we went through because of my bad choices and the consequences that followed. I told him I was grateful for the many (far more than I am proud to admit) relationships I went through that were so difficult at times. I apologized to him for not being the man and father I could have been if I had been off of those medications and been thinking more clearly. I explained to him that I always did the best I could with what I had, with the cards I was dealt. I told him I am no longer playing that card game and that I am 100% responsible for myself, my thoughts, my words, and my actions. I told him that the reason why I read an excerpt from the book, “The Language of Letting Go” by Melody Beattie every, single day (and still do) and read over some of the 1,000 plus motivational quotes I’ve saved off of Pinterest and Facebook every, single day is because I had to reprogram my mind to think differently. I’ve had to “brainwash” myself. I learned to actually re-wire my brain. I don’t ever want to let the darkness back in.
In the past few years I have come so far and made so many improvements that I can’t see myself ever reverting back to the person I was. I hope I never do. Sometimes I still have bad days, but I have learned, acquired, and practiced coping skills and new belief systems and self-soothing techniques which help me to recover quickly from those bad days and I keep moving forward. I have never before been able to say that in my entire life, and it feels so good. I have so many amazing, loving, supportive, incredible people in my life now. I worked hard and made different, sometimes difficult, choices that have altered my life forever. I have learned to, “course-correct.” It is something I work on every day, as I am inspired and motivated by others, and learn how to do so more effectively. Exposure to new experiences, ways of thinking, speaking, and doing things has been key. Most of this has come from these sources of information. (Click here.)
My manager at work said something once that I love when I was giving her excuses for not doing a perfect job or being a perfect employee: “There is always going to be room for improvement.” She reminded me of the new belief I am now trying to practice: “It is okay not to be perfect as long as you are doing your best, this day.”
At one of the worst times in my life my sister, Trudy, passed on some wisdom: “If you are okay, your kids will be okay.” My kids are my whole world. I care about them more than anything and want them to be happy. I’ve realized the more I do for myself, the more I take care of myself and heal myself, the better off my three sons are. What I do every day isn’t just for me but for them, for my wife Carla and her kids, for our families and loved ones, and hopefully for strangers out there going through similar things.
PLEASE share this story with everyone you can. Post it, re-post it, and ask them to do the same. It is my goal to reach someone who may really need it, and none of us knows what the person with us or around us may be going through or experiencing. By sharing this message and by sharing your own story, you really might be able to help someone.
We are all here as spirits/energies having a human experience. It is up to us to spread hope. It is up to us to spread love and kindness and positivity. We all can use more of that in our lives. I love the quote by mother Teresa:
“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
It begins in the home. How we interact with our children, our loved ones, and especially ourselves. Our “self talk”, and what we choose to think about and tell ourselves every day is so important. I believe that good will always prevail. Light will always outshine the darkness. It starts with us, with our daily routines that become habitual ways of being and thinking, which becomes our life, our reality.
I also believe we can all be a miracle for someone else. One kind word or gesture has the potential to change someone’s world forever. Look for ways to help others during your day. Do what you can, always. We all need to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.
If you know anyone who could benefit from anything I’ve written here, please share it with them. “Mental Illness”, depression, bi polar, schizophrenia, anxiety or whatever anyone may be suffering through can be devastating and even life-ending. I’ve lost loved ones to suicide. There is always hope. There is a book titled, “Believable Hope” by Michael Cartwright that is an absolutely amazing story. It’s definitely worth reading if you want some hope, are struggling with any addiction, or maybe need some tools to improve some things in your life.
It’s been since the spring of 2014 I stopped taking all of my medications. I’ve never been better! I’ve lost weight and eat healthier and work out on a regular basis again-something I felt I was literally unable to do for years. My kids are doing well, and they are happy. I’ve fallen in love with and am now married to an incredible woman. We are on the same page, communicate effectively, and are working hard at creating a safe and healthy environment for ourselves and our children. We are consistently working hard at living a life that is beautiful for us and those around us. We realize things won’t always go our way and we are imperfect humans, but we have love, kindness, respect and tolerance for ourselves, each other, our children, our families and friends.
We are blessed and try each day to simply live in the moment and be grateful for everything we have. Together, we work hard to always focus on the good and the positive and let the rest go. Life isn’t perfect. There are challenges. The doctors told me the degenerative disc disease will never get better. Working has been a problem in the past-I’ve lost every job for years that I’ve had because of my back issues. I have, over the past few years, learned what I need to do to live pain-free and be able to work and live a healthy life.
I’ve learned not to believe everything the Doctors say.
There are always ups and downs in life, but I no longer define myself by my success or my failure. I’ve learned to love who I am and accept myself just the way I am. I’ve learned to do this with others as well. I’ve learned to be grateful for all things in my life, both good and bad, and I’ve gotten my mind back.
Once you have your mind, they say you can do anything.