On Sunday January 6, 2019 I sat on my couch watching ESPN and suddenly the darkest moment in my life kicked in as I was in auto-pilot at that point and felt like I had no control of my actions, feelings and emotions. My suicide attempt wasn’t under my own control, it was the level of my mental health where the illness took over.
The goal was to end my life, which obviously it didn’t as I woke up on Monday January 7, this is why I am able to write this story. The reason for me to share this story isn’t for people to feel sorry for me and my situation, but to help raise awareness that the happiest people may be the ones who struggle the most. Plenty of people who deal with depression (in my case Bipolar Disorder II) are very good at wearing a mask of joy and happiness when things cause us the most pain.
As I look back at the months leading into my attempt, there were already some red flag warnings. I began to be more and more detached and snappy towards that people around me. I felt alone in this battle, I was getting tired of the fight. These are the warnings I should have not deflected onto other things as just having a bad day. After looking back on it I needed to be more honest with people when the would ask me, “How am I doing?”, or “what’s new?”. Rather than the fake smile and “I’m fine” to mask my true feelings and emotions, I should have said, “I am struggling, I need some help, can you help me?”.
Going back to that Sunday night, I wasn’t supposed to wake up on Monday, but I did in a very hazy daze, not knowing where I was or why I was even able to move. My body was supposed to have found peace from the mental pains by way of leaving the world. In my right mind I never way to to actually die, I just wanted to escape the pain I kept having to fight which left me exhausted.
I was put under a 72 hour hold (more commonly known as a 5150) starting in the emergency room and eventually transferred to a mental health facility. I thought being gone would end it all, but over the course of 72+ hours (5 days totaled), I realized how much it would affect the people I cared for the most.
Though my social circle may be big, my inner circle is very small and those are the people who I would have hurt the most. A short quick fix of death through pills would have caused years and lifetimes of pain for others.
As the story goes, people may ask why would someone like myself try to rid myself from the world. It wasn’t me who was taking myself away, it was the depression that was winning the fight.
Sadness and depression are two different things, and unfortunately I think only those who have depression can really put a definition or feeling to it. That same goes for pain, just because I don’t have a cast or bandages doesn’t mean I am not in pain. In fact the pain doesn’t go away unlike when a bone heals.
Again this isn’t a sob story, this is real life stuff that people deal with. Nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness. Mental illnesses include different conditions that vary in degree of severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe. And for you males, know that males have a rate of 4 times that of females.
A few months have passed since my attempt and my road to recovery still continues. Recovery isn’t a one and done thing, it is a continuous process that has it’s ups and downs, but with the assistance of professionals ( psychiatrist and therapist) who I have been seeing for over a decade I have began to refill my coping skills toolbox with more and more tools.
Along with the professional help I have been using more frequently, I have completely opened up my story to friends, family, and strangers. This has allowed me to no longer keep this battle I have been fighting bottled up inside of me causing me to try to fight this illness alone. One of the best things I have done over the last 12 years dealing with my illness was letting the story come out. Once I did this I realized I am not the only one fighting this battle, but have created an even stronger support system around me. People who genuinely care for my well being. Friends who check in on me to see how I am doing and actually wait for me to answer them before moving on to another topic.
With everything that has happened I have also come to the realization that my platform working in professional sports has allowed me to reach more people through my story, helping not just myself but complete strangers who have also felt like they are alone. As a group of people who suffer from mental illness the best way to avoid feeling like we are alone is to talk about. The more we talk about it and speak up the more we begin to break the stigma. The best advocates for mental illness are ourselves. We should not be embarrassed of who we are and what we suffer from, mental illness is something that we deal with day to day. For those who can’t really grasp what mental illness is and how it affects us, we can’t shy away from the conversations, we need to take the initiative and start by educating and me truthful to those around us.
So what can we do as a collective society? Start by learning why and how mental illness affects people as individuals and as a society. As I have mentioned before talking about mental illness shouldn’t be taboo, it needs to be out in the open, it should be something we continue to study, learn and educate everyone about.