Dear Santa

Every year during the holiday season we are likely to be asked by friends or loved ones what we’d like the most for Christmas. We oblige and I know for me I typically say I don’t need anything until I’m pressed and then say what I’ve really been holding out for. I’m not going to go into detail about what I asked for this Christmas but instead I’m going to write my wish list for Santa. Things that I think are important and perhaps things only a true Santa could change. So here we go with my list.


1. Remove mental illness as a pre-existing condition in any new health care bill that may be passed in the US. This is a huge deal not only for me but everyone that currently has been diagnosed as having a mental illness. The loss of a job, or life change could prevent you from having your mental illness covered by health insurance, or worse yet you could be denied insurance all together. We cannot allow this to happen!

2. Institute comprehensive education beginning in grade schools all the way through college. Education isn’t just the key to ending the stigma it’s also the key to saving lives. If we mandate that mental health be taught not just one year but every year we don’t know how many lives may be saved by chance. Think of your child in school that may recognize their friend exhibiting behaviors that are described in a class, could they become a hero? We can’t rely on teachers and resource officials to be the net that catches every student with a mental health crisis. There should be educational classes offered at each school for the parents of the students. This not only educates the parents but allows them to be involved with what is being taught to the students. Again this can’t be a one year course. This needs to be taught every year.
3. Re-evaluate the treatment of mental health patients in hospitals designed more for physical health issues. I believe there need to be more treatment sessions that are designed specifically for mental health issues only. This will allow for patients to be grouped with patients of a like diagnosis. Having spent many weeks in an inpatient unit at a generalized hospital I can speak to the feeling you have when you are locked into the mental health floor. You are grouped with individuals that have completely different diagnosis as you. There is not enough staff nor doctors on the floor to properly educate and converse with each patient. In most cases you see the psychiatrist 5 or 10 minutes a day. It’s more of a prison feeling than that of a treatment center. We must do better in creating centers that make patients feel more comfortable rather than feeling more afraid.

4. Offer incentives to private psychiatrist practices to take on more difficult patients. We already know there is a shortage of psychiatrists but the issue is compounded by those who only want to treat the easy fixes. We need to find a way to eradicate this mentality. Currently we offer credits to companies that hire people with a disability why can’t we come up with some sort of program to offer incentives to practices that are willing to take on any patient.

5. Develop a law that requires patients that were admitted involuntarily to a hospital for mental health reasons to attend out patient treatment for a minimum of 90 days. I attempted suicide 6 times in 18 months and not once was I required to attend a follow up session. I was scheduled with an outpatient location but I wasn’t required to attend. The way I view this is simple, if we can take the rights to own a gun from those who attempt suicide then we should be able to require that they attend follow up treatment for a minimum of 90 days.
6. Better education for patients while they are in the hospital. Not once during any of my stays did I receive any education on medications, treatment plans, what my diagnosis meant or even how to talk to my family and friends. Most patients leave not realizing that it may take another week or two or longer for their medication to reach its full affect. All doctors are concerned about in the hospital is that you do not have an adverse reaction to the medication, not whether it’s meeting your need. And honestly how can patients not be taught how to have a conversation with their family and loved ones? You just tried to leave them and now you have to face them, most likely ashamed and have no idea what to say or even how to start the conversation. This only compounds the problem!!

7. Any crime committed against a person with a mental illness should be considered for a hate crime. Based on rhetoric you see on TV after unfortunate mass shootings the media and their consultants immediately begin to use terms like psycho, nut job, wacko etc to describe the assailant. This does nothing but drive those with a mental illness further into hiding and perhaps even prevents them from getting treatment they need. With this rhetoric comes consequences and if there are crimes against someone with a mental illness simply because they have a mental illness then it should be considered a hate crime.

8. Finally since this is my wish list for Santa I’d like to see the elimination of the Stigma!! Everyone in the mental health world knows what the stigma is and how damaging it is not only to those who have one but to those who may have one but are afraid to seek treatment because of it. We must find a way to knock down walls, stand up and speak out, and move the needle in 2019 so that the next generation isn’t fighting the same battle we are. We have a responsibility to fight!

It’s been an interesting 2018. I’m so lucky to say I’ve regained my relationship with my now 9 year old son after not seeing him for 2 years. I’m lucky to finally have a stable place to live that I can call home. I’m fortunate to have made so many friends through my twitter account @tonyk10933. And I’ve been blessed to have built stronger relationships with those I call my family.

To all of you have followed my blog I say thank you. I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and hope 2019 turns into the year that changes your life for the better. I’ll see you all next year!

Merry Christmas!


Know when to walk away, know when to run

There have been past blogs in which I discussed unfortunate events that happened in my childhood that ultimately effected how I reacted to certain situations as an adult. In this blog I want to take it a step further. I began to think back to my childhood relationships through my high school relationships. Never did I imagine that relationships even at that age could shape your self-image, your self-confidence, and how you allow others to treat you today. There is an old song by Kenny Rogers called the gambler. The chorus basically says you have to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, no when to walk away and know when to run. One of my favorite songs by the way. You maybe sitting there today wondering these things about relationships that you have and hopefully this will help you make some decisions.

I wasn’t the cool kid in school. I wasn’t the good looking one that got their first girlfriend before everyone else. I didn’t even attend my prom. I was the uncoordinated kid that was 4 or 5 inches taller than everyone. Even to this day I think I was put here on earth to help people in Walmart reach items on the top shelf. I say that in jest, kinda. The first 6 years of my life I was surrounded by friends. Our entire neighborhood was flooded by kids my age. I can remember the days of kickball, whiffle ball, and football all played on our brick road in McKeesport. We’d ride our bikes, laugh when another was getting yelled at by his parents and we had our share of fights but we were young and we were friends. Then the steel mills began shutting down. My neighborhood was within walking distance of the mill and many of the families had someone working in the mill to support their family. Mine was one of those families. Ultimately families began to vacate the neighborhood in search of job opportunities elsewhere. But even as the group of kids dwindled I still found myself as a follower more than a leader. I wasn’t the one that said let’s do this and everyone else agreed.

As I began to enter my middle school years my mom and I relocated as her and my father divorced. I now lived in a completely different area where most if not all the kids went to a different school than the catholic school I went to. Sure I developed some relationships but it’s like being the guy at the water cooler listening to everyone else talk about the episode of the bachelor that you had missed last night. You could stand in the circle but you didn’t add to it. I didn’t like that neighborhood so much that there were often times I’d walk more than 2 miles just to go play with the friends I went to school with. Still to be a follower but to at least be a part of the conversation.

We’ve likely all grown up with groups of friends where it seemed as though someone was always the butt of jokes. That person seemed to cycle around, once we were bored with one we’d move to the next. We were quite mean at times. We had dirt tan Dave, a name given because we didn’t think he ever took a shower, and buck teeth Keith. And let me tell you I took the brunt of many jokes and had my own nickname in grade school and middle school. You see as a kid at some point I began to have accidents in my pants. I’d say 5% of the time it was urinating while 95% of the time it was a small amount of defecating. This carried on from kindergarten through 8th grade. Earned me the name crusty because that’s how everyone envisions my underwear to be. It took me a long time to understand why I behaved that way. Was it a defense mechanism to keep people away from me? Was it a defense mechanism caused by sexual abuse? All I know is that going into high school I kept to myself and was a loaner.

I may have quoted this before but Hitler always said that if you gave him a child until they were 6 years old he’d have them for life. And I firmly believe this. Eating habits are formed, communication and social skills are developed and even some religious beliefs can begin to form. While all of these things are true that doesn’t mean they have to be permanent. While Hitler had his saying there is another saying that says if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything. I never stood up for myself.

I didn’t stand up for myself in grade school, middle school or even high school. When I went to college I developed a great group of friends but I was always the yes man just to make sure I maintained a good standing with the group. To me, maintaining these friends was more important than my own feelings or desires. That was no different than how I was in grade school, middle school or high school. I was following the same pattern. Even in the church I attended as a teenager I would do whatever I had to do to be accepted. Even though I was accepted I would do everything I could to maintain that. I went to that church on my own. I was picked up and dropped off by the youth pastor every Thursday night and then on Sundays. This may have been the only place in my growing years that I felt as a part of something.


Most likely we’ve all been yes men or women in places we work. Whatever the boss says it gets done no matter how much of an inconvenience it may be to you or how much additional work it adds to your plate. This was one area that my childhood experiences actually helped me. Once I became responsible for over 300mil in annual sales I had a large sales force that I was responsible for. While the company always said the number 1 goal was reaching our sales goal, I made my number 1 goal as making sure each and every member of my team was included, appreciated, and we were structured to ensure everyone had their voices heard. It’s the only way I would manage if I ever was capable of doing it again. Our motto was actually one team, one family.

In every paragraph I’ve discussed how we sacrifice our desires and feelings for others. How my childhood affected my social skills as I grew. And how I refused to stand up for myself just to be accepted. But at what point do we begin to take a stand for ourselves? Having a mental illness is difficult. It’s made more difficult when those around you begin to think that you can’t think or function on your own because you have an illness. When there are conversations in the kitchen where family members are discussing your health and long term plans for you. That isn’t right!!! You deserve to be PART of the conversation not the TOPIC of the conversation had by others. Family is family, you don’t get to pick and choose them but you can take a stand if you don’t believe it’s right or if it’s affecting your mental health.

Even in your workplace, church, and circle of friends you have a right to stand up for yourself. When you hear insensitive jokes about those with a mental illness do you stand up for yourself? When your friends just make plans and invite you at the last second do you just go with the flow? Do they only want you around part of the time but not all the time? You can’t allow people to walk all over you because it will happen time and time and time again. Chances are if you have a mental illness you will be more likely to stand up for someone else than to stand up for yourself. You are not a doormat because you have a mental illness. You do not have to be an afterthought. Rather than going with the flow you deserve to be a part of the flow.

All of this is fine and good. All of this is just writing on a blog. They are meaningless unless these words are digested, dissected, and possibly applied to your way of living. I can’t make this change for you. If we are ever going to turn the tide in the fight against the stigma we must begin to standup for ourselves! I’ve made changes to my life so that I don’t allow myself to be walked on If you don’t want me now why would I want to be around later? Stand up, speak out, and don’t be afraid of the consequences if you believe you’ve been wronged. I won’t and I’m asking you to do the same. Do you know when to walk away and when to run?


Not a goodbye… just a see you around

They say all good things must come to an end. Whether it be a first love, or the pure joy of being a kid, the end of a good book, the cliffhanger ending to one of your favorite TV shows, the last drop from the bottle of your favorite wine. It’s never fun when they end but they often lead to good memories unless the breakup was bad or you drank the last drop out of too many bottles of wine… I won’t mention any family or family friends who may have helped me polish off a bottle or two before we really started drinking.

This isn’t an end or a goodbye letter but rather an I’ll see you around message. I’ve been on twitter for quite some time. I’ve had good experiences and I’ve had my bad. I’ve met some incredibly intelligent people and had wonderful conversations covering numerous topics. If you’ve received a DM from me at any time or a shout out of encouragement know that your relationship with me meant something. That I took your well being as serious as my own. I’m not going to completely disappear. Those of you who know me will still hear from me and I’m hoping your communication with me won’t end.

We are all fighting something. We are all struggling at some point or another. The thing I loved the most is that we were fighting TOGETHER. We are and will always be a family. The strength in numbers is a comforting thing. Its comforting to know someone is beside you when you are in the dark. But it’s time for me to break off from the family and start to explore my own ventures.

As many of you know I’ve been struggling to find my place on twitter. I enjoy being able to help others and send out encouraging tweets. I love being able to have meaningful conversations about mental health. It’s so amazing to see how many lives are being touched by the work of all of you. Those tweets you send out that might seem so meaningless can move mountains for someone else so don’t stop. Never think that your voice is less meaningful or less powerful than anyone else’s. You never know how many people are hanging on for that word of encouragement that you might be afraid to share. Each of you are your own individual. Don’t allow your thoughts and opinions go unheard.

The biggest struggle I’ve had with twitter is whether I’ve used it as a crutch for far to long. Twitter is easy, twitter is comfortable. Twitter in most cases requires little effort. I’m done with baby steps. I need more than to just reach out to those who are already in the battle. After careful reflection I truly believe my purpose is to begin finding ways to speak to those who have no idea about mental health. I need to find ways into businesses, into churches, into places that are outside my comfort zone. I need educate. I need to find my way in helping to end the stigma.

I don’t know how, or even where I’ll begin but I believe that if we are going to end the stigma we must stop passing the can around the same campfire and get out and reach people that have yet to understand mental health. Selfcare and being there for others is an amazing thing, but for me I don’t want another generation to have to deal with what we deal with on a daily basis.

I wish you all the best of luck, thank you for all your support and kind words. And remember I’ll still be around.


When Tragedy Strikes

Saturday October 27, 2018 is a day that neither I or the city of Pittsburgh will ever forget. I don’t live in Pittsburgh. I say I live in Pittsburgh because I’m only a short 30 minute ride from downtown. What happened last week is perhaps the most tragic event the city has seen since April 2009 when 4 City of Pittsburgh police officers were killed after being ambushed. I can remember that day and I’m sure 10 years from now I’ll remember where I was when I heard of the shooting in Squirrel Hill. It’s senseless. It’s tragic. It’s heartbreaking. It leaves us with more questions than answers.

That day I was glued to the TV. From roughly 11am when I first heard of the shooting till late in the evening. Flipping from channel to channel to see who had the latest breaking information. You sat and watched the story unfold on live TV just like we watch every mass shooting. But I’ve become numb to the breaking news of another mass shooting. We as a society seem to have accepted it as the new norm. Why is that? Why are we willing to accept our neighbors, our classmates, our coworkers, our friends or God forbid our family be gunned down going about their daily lives? Have we given up on our politicians? Do we think that there is nothing we as a single person can do to make a difference? When will we reach the point that enough will be enough?


As I was watching through the course of the day I began to listen for keywords being thrown around by panelists or hosts on various TV networks. I began to hear the words I dread to hear. Deranged, lunatic, wacko, psycho, nut job, disturbed. I could keep going but society has become as desensitized to these words as they have become to the shootings themselves. Those descriptions have become synonymous with any kind of shooting of more than 2 people. Within minutes the act of one individual has instantly villainized the entire mental health community. Without even knowing people with a mental illness people have formed opinions. This is a catalyst for the stigma surrounding mental health. We must stop this. We must stop accepting TV networks immediately becoming licensed psychiatrists and immediately diagnosing and using derogatory words to describe an entire class of people. 1 in 4 Americans were called wackos, nut jobs, and lunatics by Wolf Blitzer on CNN last Saturday night. And no one said a word. It’s easy for people like Wolf Blitzer and other panelists to label us like that when they lack the knowledge to understand what a mental illness really is.

Those with a mental illness are 84 times more likely to have a crime committed against them than they are to commit a crime. Yet the finger immediately gets pointed. Let me ask how a shooting like this affects your mental health? Do you binge watch the TV coverage like I do? Do you turn it off because you don’t want to hear the derogatory comments? Is it a trigger for you? For me it’s both a binge watch and a trigger. It’s a trigger for me because I begin to see my mood change as the day goes on. I see myself becoming more angry and bitter. I hurt for those who were lost. I hurt for the families affected. I hurt for the entire city. But I also hurt for every person that suffers from a mental illness. Events like this put a target on the community, it erases ground we’ve managed to gain in our fight against the stigma. And I hurt for those that now will no longer consider seeking help for their symptoms.

We’ve heard the words, we’ve seen the results. We know that almost none of the mass shootings that occur are done by females. So who does that leave? Males. 7 out of 10 suicides are men. 75% of those men never sought treatment for their symptoms prior to their suicide. 11 people dying by a mass shooting deserves TV coverage. 120 people dying each day via suicide in the US is also worth a discussion. We see a cause and affect between these events. The saddest thing they have in common is that they both end in unnecessary tragedy.

I implore you to not accept the norm. Do not allow yourself to be labeled. Do not allow yourself to be a definition. Do not allow yourself to be a statistic. You are no different than any other person. If you are reading this perhaps you are the one that will stand up and speak out about mental health and finally put an end to the stigma. 120 people a day die in this country. One every 12 minutes. During your next 15 minute break at work think of that. Someone likely died from suicide while you were on break. We can’t accept that. We are better than this and the strength of the mental health community is far greater than any stigma that can be placed on us. But we must act. I will not be stood on, I will stand up. I will not be silenced, I will speak out. I will not sit down, I will be seen. I will not be defeated, I will fight on. Take my hand and lets fight this together.


What’s your sign?

Have you ever been stopped at a stoplight or a stop sign and seen someone with a sign asking for money because they are down on their luck? How about someone walking along the side of the road, perhaps walking to work. Ever stop and think I’m not going to give that person money because they are probably a drunk? Or I’m not going to give that person a ride because they are probably a criminal or are dangerous? Ever stop and wonder how that person got to this point in their life where they are begging for money and having to walk to work?

Whether we want to admit it or not we all carry signs around with us every day. Doesn’t matter if you have a mental illness or not. We all carry signs. Some of us carry them where they can be seen while others will do everything they can to hide them. The reason of the sign will obviously vary from one person to another. Perhaps your sign says help I’m having relationship problems. Maybe it says help I lost my job and I’m in financial distress. Or maybe you are carrying a sign that say I’m struggling with a mental illness and I don’t know where to turn. Regardless of whether our sign can be seen or not our body language can send of distress signals just as easily as a written sign. My question is now that we know we all have signs to carry why are we so afraid to share them?  What does your sign say?


20+ years ago I was fresh out of bible college and was asked to serve as the Youth Pastor at the church in which I grew up in. Every summer the region would have a week long camp for the teens. I can remember going as a teen and having so much fun but now I was walking into the big leagues as a Youth Pastor. I could remember every year they would set aside one afternoon to do a camper-counselor hunt. All the campers would hide throughout the camp, and there was typically 200+ campers and then it was up to the counselors to find them. I was kind of psyched to be the hunter rather than the hunted that year. The event took place without a problem and then all the counselors met to kind of debrief. We discussed some things and then discussed the event. Question came up as to how many were not found and it wasn’t many but one counselor mentioned that one of his kids was not found. It was stated he was hiding in a dumpster behind the cafeteria. Two counselors chimed in that they walked past that dumpster twice and they never bothered to look in. Then a statement was made that sticks with me to this day. “How many people do we walk by daily that are living in garbage and we don’t even know it”.


How well do you really know the person or people in your inner circle? Are they willing to share their garbage with you? Are you willing to share with them? It’s great to have a circle of friends but what does it really mean if you can’t share with them things that are really impacting you in your life right now. We get to worried that we will be a bother or that person won’t want to be friends with us anymore. Let me tell you, if they would be willing to walk away from you because of that then they really weren’t that close to you.

When was the last time you approached someone at lunch or on a break and seriously asked them how they were doing, what’s new, how’s life? Taken a vested interest in someone beyond the small chit chat talk. While I was working I had no problem sharing with people how many times I had attempted suicide or how long it had been since I had last seen my son. If that is going to turn someone off to me then it’s better to find out now than down the road.

We all talk about ending the stigma. And what ending the stigma would mean for all of us and all of those living in silence. We can’t wait till the stigma is trampled before we are willing to come out and share who we are and what we are dealing with. My journey is different than yours and your journey is different than someone else. We can’t judge someone just because that persons journey doesn’t seem to be as difficult as our own.

Everyone has something. Why wait to offer support. Why wait until that person slips into a depression to try to help? We should be proactive and recommend help before its too late. I’ve told my sister in the past that she should have a psychiatrist and therapist. Not because she needed one but incase she does she has someone to turn to. We carry the numbers to our mechanic or handyman, or our family attorney but the last thing someone wants in their contacts is a psychiatrist or therapist. The next time you see that guy asking for money or walking to work just remember maybe things would have been different if someone asked how they were doing. You don’t have to be a friend to be a friend.

Remember….YOU MATTER!!!


It’s been nearly 4 years since my mental health crisis began. The breaking of my mental health back was my marriage coming to an end. There were other factors that played into it, many in fact but that was the last straw for me. I think it touched on such a wide variety of insecurities I’ve felt throughout my life that it magnified the situation twice over. Since the ending of my marriage 4 years ago I have not been a part of any kind of romantic relationship. There are varying opinions about mental health and relationships and in this blog I’m going to give you my version and why I’ve avoided them.

4 years is a long time to go without feeling a warm embrace of a person who wants to be part of your life that isn’t a family member! Someone who is fully invested in your life and you in theirs. That last sentence is where my struggle begins. Fully invested in their life. Can I be fully invested in someone else’s life when I struggle to get out of bed on certain days? Can I be fully invested in someone else’s life when I’ve just started to reestablish a relationship with my 9 year old son? Can I be fully invested in someone else’s life when I’m not sure I’ll ever get over my trust issues? Do you get the picture of where this is going? And this is assuming I meet someone that is willing to accept a 43 year old man without a job, on disability, living in his sisters spare bedroom, and has mental health problems. At what point do you think a female would tell me to stop when I started listing out that 4 star list of qualities? I mean one of them is good enough to get you shot down let alone 4 of them.


The trust issue I spoke about goes back years and doesn’t just involve a romantic partner it involves everyone and everything. Being molested and being told it’s ok makes you question everyone and everything all the time. I’m looking for motive behind every sentence, I’m trying to be 3 steps ahead of the person talking to me to make sure that I don’t put myself into a position of being hurt again. Not only is it not fair to me to be like that it’s absolutely not fair to put someone else through that type of suspicion. But that’s how I am and that’s just another wonderful quality that I bring to any potential relationship.

For some reason in relationships I’ve always found myself chasing people that don’t want me. When my ex was ending the marriage after her affair I threw myself at her time and time and time again. She had me arrested and I’m sitting in jail thinking about how she made a mistake and this will all work out. I’ve been this way my entire life. Always chasing girls out of my league for some reason. I even do it in in other relationships as well. I often throw myself at people who really don’t want much to do with me. I have to have their approval and acceptance. I will go out of my way to do nice things for people that don’t accept me like others do just in hopes they will accept me more. I will go further out of my way for those who don’t accept me than for those that already do. One thing that is hard to learn and accept is that chances are if they don’t feel how you want them to feel about you by now then they likely never will. The question is are you willing and capable of cutting the cord on that relationship?

To finish up my stance on having a mental illness and being in a relationship I say this. If you can find happiness then why shouldn’t you. I’m not at the point in my life and I may never be at the point that I want to find a girlfriend. It doesn’t make me right and you wrong or vice versa. We are all at different points in our path to recovery. If you feel like you want to find someone then I wish you all the luck and no matter what you choose I wish everyone all the happiness in the world.


Depression and Change

The only constant in life is change. Has to be one of the truest statements ever made. Today I want to look at my battle with depression and how change affects me. Prior to my diagnosis of a mental illness I always thought of someone with OCD as a person who is cleaning their house 24/7 or washing their hands constantly. I never looked at how routines can be linked to mental illness. What I didn’t realize at that time was that I had my own different addictions were an issue of their own.

I never really got into drinking, never smoked cigarettes and never touched a drug growing up. And I thank god for that. I had always said that if I touched any of those things to much that I’d end up addicted. I feel like I have an addictive personality. I’m not talking about a routine where I get up at a time, get my coffee etc. I go through phases where I need certain things each day around the same time. A year ago it was a NoS energy drink. Had to have one of those every day at a certain time. Then I moved from Nos to redbull. I had to have particular flavors on particular days and had to have it as my first drink of the day. And now it’s a peppermint patty. I need to have one before I go to bed regardless of what time.

I never found any issue with having things like this until something changes the routine. My routine has been changing a lot lately and it has taken its toll on me. Gone is my daily regimen. I haven’t found one that has made me comfortable to replace my previous. My son is back in my life. This isn’t a bad thing by any means but it’s a change in my life and my regimen that I’ve yet been able to grasp. My meds have changed. Its easy to say so what but when your body needs time to adjust it throws your entire planned days off. This is a lot of change for someone who chooses to live in one room all day every day because it’s the only place he can control what happens. I’m sure I’ll get through this but I can’t remember the last time I felt myself. I don’t have bad days they are just weird days. Like things are missing.

My advice to any of you that struggle with change, and have routines is to take change slowly. Sometimes you don’t have a choice but if there is a choice then take it slowly. We don’t realize how much we rely upon our daily routines to get us through days that might otherwise have been miserable. Our routines become an escape, a vacation from what we are struggling with.

No one ever said change was going to be easy. Take it at your pace. And if you are caught up in a routine that helps you through a day make sure you begin to look for alternate sources of comfort. I’m still struggling with my fog. I don’t like change. I don’t like change I cant control. But I am thankful for some of the changes that have come along in the past few months. Time to get back to the fight.

Doomsday Prepper

We never know when a major storm may hit or some kind of cyber warfare breaks out and we are without utilities for days. What will we do then? There are a lot of people that are prepared for this. Doomsday preppers. I’m a doomsday prepper. But I’ve never been waiting for a storm to come along and leave us stranded without food and water. I’m a doomsday prepper with my life.

Back in 2014 when my meteoric descent began to take place I became a doomsday prepper. Not immediately but it began to slowly start to take shape when I discovered my life insurance had a 2 year waiting period on suicides. If I committed suicide within the first 2 years the entire $700,000 would be forfeited. I had never known this. I believed that just me committing suicide at any time would forfeit the money marked for my son. So in early January 2015 when I opened up my life insurance policy I noticed the suicide clause, and I noticed it said within the first 2 years. The only thing was that I was now more than 6 years into the policy so if I ended up killing myself my son would get the money.


At that point it was no longer a matter of if but rather a matter of when. First I wanted to make sure I had things in order. I had typed letters to my sister, my brother in law, and my son who was only 5 at the time. I even went out and bought a birthday card for my best friend who was turning 40 but I had no plans on being alive but still wanted him to have the card. The letters were not about what went wrong or who could have done what. It was about what I wanted them to focus on. I wanted my brother in law to focus on my sister, my sister to be there for my son. I had specific requests in my letters. Like I love some of the qualities my brother in law has. He knows how to treat a woman and I wanted him to teach my son proper manners with a woman. I also wanted him to teach him how to be good with his money. The letter to my son was actually 2 parts. But in the first part I listed 10 things I wanted him to remember:

1. Love the person you are with for who they are not for what they can do for you
2. Respect everyone even if they don’t deserve it; never seek reveng
3. Appreciate the things and people you have in your life
4. Always be there for your family, stay close to Aunt Laurie
5. Never be afraid to ask for help, but pay your debts if you ever owe anyone
6. What I did does not need to define your future – be your own man
7. Learn from my mistakes and avoid making the same
8. Be a true and loyal friend
9. Always seek the truth, if it does not seem true then ask questions
10. Be a better man, father and husband than me

That letter was hard to write. It was surreal to think I wasn’t going to be around to see him try to fulfill the things I wrote. But after the letters I moved on to planning. I went so far as to get a quote on 2-4-15 from the Funeral home that I wanted to be used. $5,555 was the quote I had received. After I received that I took the next step and wrote my own obituary.

Tj father, brother and friend, died via suicide at the age of 39 on Thursday March 1,2015. He succumbed to a quiet, insidious disease: A Mental Illness known as Major Depressive Disorder. Mental illnesses plays a major role in roughly 44,000 Americans committing Suicide each year. A loss of lives that is unnecessary and ignored. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and can no longer be overlooked. 1 in 4 Americans suffer from a mental illness. Much like AIDS/HIV in the 80s those with a mental illness are often feared because of a lack of understanding and education. TJ suffered valiantly from the ravages of this physically transparent illness since his teen years of life. Major Depressive Disorder is incurable and as deadly as cancer or heart disease. It is a disease of the mind and one’s mental outlook. Born the son of Joan and Richard on July 19, 1975 in McKeesport. TJ leaves behind the prize of his life his son Conner, his Father Richard a Sister Laura, a brother in law Doug, a brother Richard, an uncle Donald, a nephew Blake, several cousins and many friends.

The final items I added were pictures of me and my ex wife and kids at Disney. I put some more financial information in there as well. Then in when the suit I wanted to be laid out in I added a few items that my step daughter and son had either made or gave to me. I wanted them with my casket.

I was doing all this planning. I was ready. For the longest time I couldn’t understand why I had this. And now it’s still more of why do I STILL have it. But it was put to me like this… I’m doing all this planning because it’s the only thing in my life at that point that I had control of. I had no control of my body, my mind, my marriage, my job, nothing. Everything was completely out of control. So I used this as a way to feel in control of something.

As for why I still have it. I think it’s basically a security blanket. My mind isn’t wandering any more. It’s not a concern that I have to have to get everything prepared just in case. I think about suicide every single day of my life and I believe it’s going to be that way. I’ve often said that if I’m dead before I’m 55 it will be suicide. But more and more and more I don’t want to talk about my own suicides. I want to talk to others about why they want to commit it. I want to help others walk away from that fatal decision. EVERYONE of us with a mental illness have been blessed with an amazing opportunity to share with others. I implore you to not sit back and think that this issue will be solved by other people. YOU can be part of the resolution. Don’t wait, participate!



Dating is an interesting part of life. We can all remember our first one. We can all remember our worse one. If you are fortunate enough you find someone to spend time with, someone who you share interests with. If you are really fortunate you end up married and start a family. And if you are really really fortunate your marriage manages to last a life time. I made it to step 2 but that’s where it ended for me. So now here I am a single father of one amazing boy with a mental illness or 2.

I see a woman across the bar, I slowly walk over and sit down next to her. I go on to tell her that my name is TJ. I’m TJ and I live in my sisters spare bedroom, I don’t have a job, and I suffer from depression, anxiety, OCD and PTSD. Imagine the look. Now I’ve never actually done that but that’s what it amounts to for me and I’m trying to figure out at what point does she stop listening. Does she give me a pass on the house and job? Was it the depression, anxiety, OCD and PTSD that did it? Being single and dealing with a mental illness can be like a deathtrap. Everyone wants you to go out and have fun but all your thinking about is seeing all the couples together and how you will be going home alone. Or you have to down have a bottle of pepto to keep your stomach from doing flip flops because of the social anxiety. Nothing says single and ready to mingle like stinking up the bathroom cause your stomach is all over the place.

I’ve pondered the idea of dating. And I’m going to be completely honest, I had a fake profile on a dating site for a while just to be able to talk to females. Of course I wasn’t who or how I said I was. I wasn’t proud of it. Never planned to meet anyone but now I understand the whole term “catfish”. I can see how people get so lonely that they would rather pretend to be someone other than the person they really are. I’m well beyond those days but living with these things makes life lonely. I’m not afraid to admit I’m lonely. I think all the time about being married, having the house, my kids etc. And there are times I’d rather go back to that unhappy situation than be alone like I am and have been for 4 years.


Do you consider people hypocritical for judging someone for some things in their life when you have your own issues? If they had their own health issues that you’d have to deal with or perhaps family issues.  I find it hard to imagine finding someone that will accept me and at the same time not have the baggage that will begin to weigh on my own mental health. That sounds so completely selfish but I know that’s what I would need and I know I’m not going to find it so I don’t bother to try.

I don’t think any of us should settle. But as I say that I’m thinking I just said I would go back to that unhappy marriage. So let me put it this way. YOU shouldn’t have to settle. Just because you suffer from a mental illness doesn’t make you less worthy of a loving relationship with someone that is everything you ever wanted. Let me tell you something… there isn’t anyone out there that doesn’t have something in their life. YOU are worth the effort. Don’t let others determine your value. If someone doesn’t accept you, its their loss.

Loneliness sucks. Holidays suck. Get togethers suck. Birthdays suck. Just know that your mental illness does not need to define you. You are not a statistic, you are not a definition and you are not a diagnosis. There is someone out there for you. Someone that will accept you and all that goes with you. Stay strong, be proud, and NEVER be ashamed of who you are.

Remember… YOU MATTER!!


As many of you know based on last weeks blog I’ve joined a joint venture with a good friend @mjnanna to start a group designed to help divorced dads with a mental illness. I’m pleased to announce our hashtag will be #Dads4Dads. We wanted it to be clear that this is a group focused on dads helping each other with the struggles they are facing on a daily basis.

This week I want to discuss something that I have plenty of knowledge on and its suicide. Most people think that suicide is a rash decision made to spite someone or strike back at someone and in some cases it is. But for the most part there is planning and often researching that goes into a suicide attempt. I can’t tell you how many hours I was on the internet researching suicide methods. There was the obvious like jumping off of something to using a firearm. I didn’t have access to a firearm and I really never wanted my suicide to cause long term effects on the person who found me. I always wondered what it might be like for the person that saw me jump from a bridge or how it would effect the person that found me once I landed. Anytime I attempted suicide I always left a note immediately visible warning people to not go any further unless they were professionally trained.

I attempted 6 different times and each time I changed my method. Sometimes it was a minor change to the last attempt or a complete method change. There were a couple instances that I thought I learned where I screwed up on my previous attempt. For instance I won’t go into far detail but I learned after a failed attempt that your body will thrash about in certain circumstances as it fights to live. So on the next attempt I took zip ties and zip tied my wrists to my waist to keep my hands from being able to reach anything in its desperate attempt to survive.

None of these attempts were taken lightly. I had my last wishes typed. Goodbye letters typed. I had instructions on how disperse the near million dollars in life insurance for my son. I had an apology letter to first responders. I felt guilt that they had to take time to come take care of me when they could have been out saving someone who wanted to live. I left snacks for the first responders because I wasn’t going to be around to eat them.

My clothes were packed, even most of my household items. I wanted to make it as painless as possible for those who would have to collect those items once I was gone. I wanted to make sure everything was explained as best it could. And I wanted to reassure everyone that there was nothing that could have been done to keep me from trying.

The irony in all this is that as much as I studied and researched I failed time and time again. The last time I attempted I honestly thought I was in hell but hell was actually a place on earth. I woke up in the same hospital as the time before. This time was different. Everything was done right. But I was revived. So when I woke up in the hospital I thought ok I’ve died and gone to hell and every time I try after this I’m just going to end up right back here. I was so pissed off. How the hell did I survive. The first time I saw the doctor once I reached the psych floor said that if he let me go that day I’d probably go kill myself. I said doc I want to jump out that fucking window right now. Needless to say that’s not a good thing to say. I ended up with a 24 hour a day babysitter. I called them my bodyguard but they were my babysitter. Any where I went they went. If I went to take a leak I left the door cracked and they stood outside the door. I ignored everything for days because I couldn’t for the life of me understand how I survived. Finally I realized I wasn’t going any where unless I started participating. That was my final attempt. I’ve had plenty of thoughts of suicide and still know how I’d do it if I was going to do it again but I’ve not come close to acting on the thoughts and ideas.

I know what its like to be a father and husband and to lose everything in a blink of an eye. I know what its like to lose faith and trust in everything including the justice system. I know what its like to feel your child is better off without you. I know what its like to feel like you’re a loser because you can’t provide the same things you once provided your child. I know what its like to see the tears in their eyes when they have to go back home to their other parent. I know what its like to swallow tears because you hate not being able to see them every day. I know what its like to be a father and think your child will be much better off in a stable place with your ex and the new man in their life. I know how hard it is to hear stories about their week that you weren’t there to be part of.

I can say all these things because I’ve lived them. I can say I went through some of these things because I didn’t know any better. But now I can say YOU don’t have to go through the same things because WE are here to help you. Your child deserves the best you that you can be. All those things you want to provide them, all they really want you to provide is time to spend with them. Don’t let your mental illness become the crutch of your child’s future. #Dads4Dads is here to help you. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help. Your not doing it just for you, your doing it for someone that needs you to be there for them.