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.

TJ

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?

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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.

REMEMBER…. YOU MATTER!!

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?

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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”.

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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!!!

Relationships

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.

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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.

REMEMBER… YOU MATTER!!

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.
REMEMBER…YOU MATTER!!

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.

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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!

REMEMBER… YOU MATTER!!

Loneliness

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.

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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!!

#Dads4Dads

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.

REMEMBER… YOU MATTER!!

Dads Helping Dads

It starts with an experience, or experiences. It starts with life events. It starts with finding a common thread between you and another individual. Then it progresses into a thought. Then an idea begins to form. This is essentially how things have worked for me with what will be a new endeavor for me. I wouldn’t be at this point had it not been the experiences I had with my divorce, the custody battles as someone with a mental illness. I wouldn’t be at this point if it wasn’t for the hardships of feeling inadequate as a father. Feeling like you don’t belong at the table with the other dads at someone’s birthday party or at a sporting event. The feeling like you are not qualified to be a dad because you are not even good enough to take care of yourself on some days because of your mental illness. It’s these thoughts that had me team with a twitter friend, fellow divorced dad with a mental illness @mjnanna. Together we agreed to start a peer based group like #sicknotweak for divorced dads suffering from a mental illness.

Michael and I exchanged a few messages before it was realized that we were so much more alike than we ever imagined. From there our wheels began to turn and I approached Michael about the idea of starting this group. He had been thinking the same thing, and boom we were off and running. We know that if it took us that long to realize we had this in common how many other men are out there just like us living in silence just like we did and falling into the same traps that we did. And we know it’s hard enough to get a man to admit he has a mental illness let alone join a group of men to discuss the issues he is struggling with both personally and mentally. But we believe there is a real need for this type of discussion. And we believe it’s not just for the benefit of the father but also their child.

Here are some of the goals that have been formulated:

1. This is going to be a peer to peer group. Come and be fed and feed. We will rely on participants experience as much as they may rely on others.

2. This is a judgment free community. No one will be criticized for feeling a certain way or for taking an action that we may not have recommended.

3. This is about our mental illness and our children, not our ex’s. We want to focus on how we can help each other be better fathers despite our diagnosis. Learn from those who are further down the path about things they wish they had done differently.

4. ZERO tolerance when it comes to bashing women. This is self explanatory. We will not tolerate anyone using profanity, degrading women, or using the platform to call their ex every name in the book. ZERO tolerance.

5. We won’t cure you, or solve your problems but we can share with each other how we navigated certain situations when it comes to trying to be a parent with a mental illness.

6. The last goal and this is a long way off type of dream is to eventually partner with a legal firm or firms that can be used to help fathers with a mental illness. As of right now no one seems to know of any firms that have a soft spot for those with a mental illness. We must give it our best shot to change that.

This isn’t going to happen overnight. This isn’t going to happen in the next month. There are a lot of moving parts that will need to be worked on before we can officially launch our website and hashtag. Also kind of important to come up with a name, so if you have any ideas doing be afraid to tweet them to me @tonyk10933. Also if you are reading this and are a father with a mental illness please let me know so I can be sure to add you to our group list. And if you aren’t in this boat but know of anyone please pass the word along.

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As a father with a mental illness I can speak to the difficulty of not being able to afford legal representation. I can speak to the feeling of having your mental illness used against you when it comes to custody and legal rights agreements. I know what its like to feel like to not want your child to see you the way you are because you don’t feel you are good enough. I know the crazy games your mind will play in telling you its best to stay away from your child. I know the pain of seeing your child cry when you have to return them. The cry because they want to stay longer. The look of disappointment when they know they won’t see you for an entire week. The emotional roller coaster you end up on once you’ve dropped them off. You were so happy to see them yet deep down inside you were fighting your depression. They leave and you are emotionally drained for the next few days. You don’t feel like getting out of bed.

Remember the voice of your depression is going to tell you that you are not good enough to be a father, but the only voice that matters is the one that calls you dad. We are always harder on ourselves than anyone else ever is. As a father that used to be able to provide anything my son wanted I know how it feels to think my son won’t love me as much because I can’t give him the same things I used to. What I’ve learned is all those things I gave him in the past isn’t what he really wanted anyway. All he wanted then is all I can afford to give now and that’s my love and attention. That’s all our children want. I’m extremely happy to be able to call myself a dad again. I don’t care where we go or what we are doing. All I care about is my son is happy, he is loved, and he is being taken care of.

If you are a father struggling with the things I’ve mentioned please do not hesitate to reach out to me @tonyk10933. If you know a father struggling please have them reach out to me. It’s not just one person we are trying to help it’s both you and your child that we ultimately want to help. We will be here for you!

REMEMBER… YOU MATTER!!

This is ME!

One thing I’ve never wanted to do was write a blog while I was in a depressive state of mind. But then again one thing I’ve always said is I want anything I write to be authentic. I want it to be raw. I never want to sugarcoat my emotions or downplay the pain or suffering. So why have I been afraid of sharing how I currently feel and instead always focusing on how I felt in the past. It is easy to say I’ve leaned on past experiences in hopes that you will use them as a beacon to light your path through your own mental health struggles.

Today was an odd day. I had a great time with my son. It was only 2 hours but I don’t complain, it was 2 hours I dreamed about and hungered for just months ago. We had fun. We didn’t get to do much but the important thing was us communicating with each other. We are getting to know each other again and I can’t be more happy about it. He actually made me feel good when we started discussing the weekends. I will have him Saturday and Sunday from 12-4 this weekend and in a few weeks he will start spending Friday night till Sunday evening with me. When I explained this to me he said he had hoped he could start spending the entire weekend already. I can’t explain how happy that made me feel.

Later today I had my first appointment with my new psychiatrist. Finally after 4 months of seeing the therapist an appointment opened up and I was able to finally be seen. It was a good session. Obviously more of an introduction than anything else. She has put me back on lithium to help me with the suicidal thoughts. To this day I believe I’ll be dead by the time I’m 55 and it will be from suicide. I’m not suicidal. I haven’t thought about doing anything in quite some time. But the fact that its in my mind on a daily basis is the reason for the lithium. I’ve taken it in the past but never took enough to reach a therapeutic level so this time I’m going to be going to a full 900mg a day to see how that works. All other meds have been kept the same which is a relief. I was afraid it was going to be a wipe the slate clean and start a whole new regimen situation.

On the drive home this evening I felt my emotions start to drop a bit. The other night I googled for any kind of dental fee assistance that might be out there. There is but it’s a long process and quite a few hoops to jump through. I can honestly tell you that due to never being taken to a dentist as a child I don’t know what its like to smile with my mouth open. And if there is a picture with me smiling with my mouth open I’m horrified to look at it.  Can you imagine living your entire life being afraid to open your mouth? There always seemed to be a life event that would come up that would cause me not to be able to afford to do what I wanted to do with my teeth. I always put other peoples needs and wants before my own.  I’m at the point now where I use DenTek which is a product designed to be a temporary filling for cavities. I’ve been using it for the back of one of my front teeth for 4 months now. It dissolves after a few days and a new filling goes in. I don’t have dental insurance and lack the funds to get things fixed to be able to once in my life….smile.

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I started thinking about how my rainy day fund was completely gone. I at one point had the money to get my 6 top front teeth replaced but didn’t because I knew something would come along. First it was my car needing replaced, then it was dropping $2000 for a new custody agreement and another $1350 to file for bankruptcy. I’ve always lived having a plan for emergencies. That is now gone and my skin is crawling. I absolutely hate it. I’m now paying for choosing the instant gratification over long term security. I’m now paying for spending money because I didn’t plan on being here.

These are all things people take for granted. But when your stuck in a well up to your neck in your own shit it weighs on you more than people can understand. Today should have been a good day and it was, but then like flipping a switch it has gone to shit. I want to be here to inspire people to open up and share their feelings. Not to sit here and dwell on the damn mistakes I’ve made. But people don’t realize how magnified your mistakes are to you when your fighting depression. You start down this road and you begin to question everything. Your relationships, your future, how you are going to survive. Everything.

I wish one of the pills the doctor described me today would cure everything. It can’t give me self-confidence, it can’t give me family, it can’t fix my teeth, it can’t replenish my safety net, it can’t wipe out my debt, and it certainly can’t give me love and acceptance. Those meds are for one thing. Stabilizing.

Being stabilized is great, but it doesn’t take away any of the thoughts I just shared. I hate feeling like this. I hate feeling like this is the best its going to get. I hate knowing how vulnerable I am should something else happen. I hate knowing there is nothing I can do about it. I hate knowing there is nothing I can do about anything I’ve mentioned.
If your reading this and you’ve recently been diagnosed with a mental illness I would want you to take away one thing. Regardless of your diagnosis and regardless of your medication life is going to continue to move around you. You must be diligent in building a support system that you can turn to for help. When you get to the point I was at, it seemed like moving a mountain to make a call to the gas company just to work out a payment plan so your gas wasn’t turned off. Or as in my case going out in public and potentially have people see my teeth. You are already torn down and now every little insecurity is magnified 100x over.

I’m not perfect, I’m not even good. I am who I am. This is who I am. I’m now a 43 year old guy that lives in his sisters spare bedroom. I suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. I am not working. I’m bankrupt and unable to live on my own. My family is my sister and my son. I’ve got less than one handful of friends. I have trust issues. I have zero self-confidence. My future life isn’t a pretty picture. I didn’t ask for this but these were the cards I’ve been dealt. If your reading this you’ve been dealt your own cards. Learn from my mistakes. Ask me questions about where I went wrong. The short answer to where I went wrong is this… I went wrong at every turn when I started in this mental health fog. I didn’t have anyone reaching out a hand who was experienced in suicide and severe depression.

I’m not a licensed professional but I have what the book smart doctors don’t have. I have true experience of living it, fighting it, struggling with it, admitting I have it, and accepting it as part of who I am. The hardest thing you’ll have to do is accept that your diagnosis is now part of you. Its not a death sentence. You do not have to be a statistic or a definition. None of us are exactly alike. Most days I can’t light my own path in front of me but I’d be there in a second to shine some light to help you get even a few steps closer. It’s easier for me to build someone else up than it is to build myself up. Never, ever be afraid to reach out to me on twitter @tonyk10933. You have nothing to lose by reaching out. I’m a judgment free person and there isn’t much you could tell me that I haven’t either already heard or experienced myself.

I’m sorry this entry wasn’t at its usual tone. But ya know what, shit happens.

REMEMBER…. YOU MATTER!!