Throughout the course of a person’s life, one could experience the simple pleasures of each day; a casual walk in a nearby park, window shopping on a lazy Sunday afternoon, coffee and a paperback book in hand at a local café, live sporting events and outdoor concerts with friends or a long distance phone call from a loving family member. However, one could remove themselves from these enjoyable everyday gifts in a heartbeat. It can creep up like a ferocious predator in the night without any warning. For most people, this debilitating condition can easily cover anyone like a dark blanket and suffocate them in a sea of never-ending despair. Unfortunately, I was a victim of depression and this is a true story of my personal battle and my ultimate recovery.
Tragedy and Satisfaction
Negativity seems to gravitate towards almost any individual looking for signs of imperfection. We are never satisfied with what we already have and long for the things we don ‘t possess. Obstacles which appear to be impossible to overcome and challenges too overwhelming to achieve are some of the everyday struggles we suffer from time to time. Back in 1997, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. It was the same exact day that Princess Diana was tragically killed over in France. After eight grueling rounds of chemotherapy, two blood transfusions, a grocery list of side effects ranging from swamp green mouth sores to permanent hair loss, and a 10-hour tumor dissection surgery, I was finally in remission until 2003.
Two weeks before Christmas of that same year, I was officially cured of cancer and it was the greatest present I would ever receive. Still, I did endure some hardships along the way. Depression was always there and it drew itself out like a switchblade. It was a fierce weapon ready to strike and stab my lonely heart. I did feel alone while tackling this hideous monster locked inside of my sick body. In reality, I wasn’t alone. I had my caring family and friends by my side. They were like my brave soldiers going into combat with me. Together, we were fighting the fury of my war-raging disease. Nonetheless, I was deeply angry; angry with my loved ones, angry with God and life itself. Depression was working its powerful elixir right through me.
Depression and Insecurity
Since the awkward high school years of eating lunch alone in a private courtyard, depression stood tall. I felt I wasn’t good enough for anybody or I just didn’t fit in. Was there something wrong with me? Did I fall short of someone ‘s expectations or life ‘s grand scheme? My depression had many characteristics and disguises. For example, it wasn’t until late last year that I realized my true identity. Over the course of fifteen years, I was living a lie. A secret attached to my head in the hope of finding acceptance among others, especially the opposite sex, and a more youthful look. In other words, I was wearing a hair system or a modern-day toupee. At first, I loved it! I was apprehensive but rather accepting of the hair units, over time. I received many compliments from complete strangers to my closest friends. My confidence soared to new heights. I felt like I could take on the world; however, suspicion, criticism, and ridicule would soon follow.
My depression wasn’t going away. It was buried under a hot wig mixed with dried, flaky adhesive, sporadic spots of blood, and a parade of sweat and acne. Women were starting to notice something unnatural on top of my scalp. Eventually, the hairpiece became a nightmare. It was a pure date killer. I had possibly lost some potential girlfriends in the process. Isolation turned into my most unwanted friend.
Hopelessness and Suffering
In December of 2010, I tried to take my own life. Seven years ago, my oncologist gave me a clean bill of health. Flash forward seven years later; I was entertaining the unthinkable act of jumping off the snowy Zilwaukee Bridge and ending my life, just weeks before the holidays. With my warm tears falling on my frigid cheeks, my cowardice won and I got in my car to drive back home. Needless to say, I was very upset with myself for not going through with my failed plan. The anxiety and pressure of my ex-girlfriend from Poland breaking up with me, due to my false hair, proved to be unbearable.
Miles away from my apartment, I pulled into a metal scrapyard and made another attempt to take my life with a miniature box cutter. The small blade didn’t sever any veins or arteries, but drew droplets of blood on my cold wrists. All was definitely not well. Major red flags were popping up around me. I desperately needed help. Once I drove back to my place, I frantically called my mom. We argued a bit, but both of us cried over the telephone after I told her about my suicide attempts. She immediately flew to Michigan and my family started the daunting process of finding a therapist. My mental health was in jeopardy. Depression had gotten the best of me.
Support and Optimism
During my family’s success in finding a special treatment facility, much of it I owe to my older brother, they discovered a comprehensive rehabilitation program, Rose Hill Center, located in Holly, Michigan. In 2012, I was admitted into the program and diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Over the course of sixteen months on campus, I was beginning to see a bright light of hope down a dark tunnel. I began to realize that I wasn’t the only one with a mental illness. There were others just like me. As time went on, I found out these residents were some of the most amazing and courageous people I had ever met. Many of them became my dear friends and I still keep in contact with them today.
Upon my stay at Rose Hill Center, I was embracing life once again, including my handsome bald look. Under the care of a supportive staff, I was able to learn independent living skills, medication management, therapeutic work skills, social interaction, recreation, and peace. In early 2015, I returned to Genesis House, a clubhouse/adult day program catering to people with mental health issues. This time, I was more involved with the activities at the clubhouse than I was four years prior. The incredible staff and members were a huge blessing and I ‘m proud to call them my friends, too. Also, I’m one of the contributing writers for their ongoing newsletter.
Perseverance and Strength
In the end, I gained self-esteem, faith, perseverance, strength, communication, knowledge, and overall wellness in health. The tools I used were: a weekly exercise plan, keeping a journal,
reading books on inspiration, visits to my case manager, appointments with my primary doctor, staying in touch with friends, and creative writing. On the other hand, a love interest is still a work in progress. I’m optimistic about my future and what lies ahead down the road. The most important thing is to never lose focus of who you are and never hide behind a phony facade. Embrace yourself in this life, including the flaws. It ‘s okay to ask for help when times get tough. I can ‘t stress this enough but believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who encourage you. Keep your vision in front of you, expect good things, create a positive mindset, and take part in the beauty of this world. We are only here on earth for a short time.