I am the father to one amazing boy and was the step dad to an extremely talented daughter. I was a husband to a loving wife. I was the owner of 2 dogs. I had 2 cars, a nice house, and annual vacations in Disney. I was a soccer coach. I was a cheerleader at any event my step daughter participated in. I was there for every parent teacher conference. I did what I thought every father and husband was supposed to do. I paid the bills, I took care of every material thing that anyone in the house wanted. Iphones, yep. Ipads, yep. Laptops, yep. Elliptical machine, yep. Summer membership to a local pool, yep. Any type of birthday party they wanted, yep. I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I did the grocery shopping, cut the grass, shoveled the snow, took care of vehicle maintenance. I even pitched in with laundry and cooking when needed. I was showing my love through providing. I wasn’t a touchy feely type of husband or father. I never witnessed that type of affection growing up and I ended up mimicking what I saw.
I was a boss. I traveled 3 out of 4 weeks each month. I was what they called a coordinating region manager. If you can imagine a regional manager handling all the sales reps in his region then I managed all the regional managers and their sales reps. In January of 2014 my territory doubled in size. Went from a sales goal of roughly 160 million a year to over 300 million. It was stressful. I had only managed the 160 million for just over a year. I was eager and ready to tackle the job. I thought I was doing a great job. I believe I treated my team right. I was tougher on those who I expected more from but overall I think I was a fair manager. I loved this job. I thought I was built for this position. I finally felt in my comfort zone. I had worked for the company since 2004 and had more than tripled my salary in that time. I thought things were going in the right direction.
Shortly after returning from our last Disney vacation my ex wife cheated on me. It absolutely crushed me and was the tipping point for my mental health collapse. Everyone thinks that someone just loses control because of one issue and in some cases it may be but people don’t understand the other stress that was building up from work and a serious lunge operation I had just a few months earlier. All of these things coming together at the same time was a knock out punch. I couldn’t handle it. I lost it.
My ex and I split, I was no longer living in my home. I took a leave from work after my initial suicide attempt. I was wandering around from day to day not knowing what my identity was. Gone was me being the provider, the guy who cut the grass, the guy who helped wrap the Christmas gifts. The guy who read the night before Christmas to the kids on Christmas eve. The guy who helped hide the Elf on the Shelf. I returned to work after a few months and received a “memo” from my boss in which my credibility, my truthfulness, my integrity and other things were called into question and I was told I’d be monitored. I knew what this meant. This was the beginning of the paper trail for dismissal. I know this paper trail because I had started more than my fair share. I went from a valuable employee in early October to this memo in January when I had been on leave the whole time. The only thing that happened was my suicide attempts.
Upon returning to work I even offered to be a poster child for mental health and was brushed aside and never even received a response. I was losing more of my identity. I wasn’t going to be that boss any more, wasn’t going to be in that position I felt most comfortable. This was just as devastating to me as my ex cheating on me. The company I worked for I loved. I put everything I had into it and I was losing it.
This leads me to my lesson for today. DO NOT LET A DIAGNOSIS DEFINE YOU. You are YOU. You are not depression, you are not crazy, you are not insane or a whack job. You didn’t ask for this. It’s not your fault you ended up with this diagnosis. As a society we like to label people by what we consider their worse trait. Alcoholics are drunks, drug users are addicts, people in jail are criminals. Those with a mental illness are crazy. We must remember that if we want to end the stigma against mental illness we must clean up our own thoughts about those who suffer from different types of issues. You can still be who you are. There will be a learning curve. It will take time to figure out how to manage around your diagnosis and still be you. There may be changes that are needed. I never in a million years thought I’d write a blog but I’ve found a new identity that works with my diagnosis. I thrive trying to help people. People who are new to the mental health world. People that lost their identity and have no idea who they are or how to find out who they are. It won’t be overnight. Nothing ever does.
I’m TJ. I’m a 42 year old divorced male. I have a son who has just turned 9. Its been 761 days since I’ve last seen him. I and considered mentally disabled by the US government. I work part time at Walmart. I have a sister, a brother in law, 2 amazing friends I consider family and a nephew and great niece. I live with my sister and brother in law. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to live on my own again. I suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, and PTSD. They don’t define who I am. I am me. I’ve lost everyone but those I’ve listed above. All I care about is doing the best I can to help others. I’m always available to help anyone that is struggling. YOUR DIAGNOSIS IS NOT A LIFE SENTENCE! DO NOT LET IT OR ALLOW OTHERS TO USE IT TO DEFINE YOU.
Remember… YOU MATTER!