Many years ago I intended to tell my story for the It Gets Better campaign. In those days, I was a successful business executive despite having never finished high school, having been homeless and struggling at 16 years old. Through a series of fortunate and unfortunate events, I managed to survive, not unscathed, but I made it. I had an admirable career, I had a beautiful fiancé, I had a beautiful home, a nice car, and everything looked good on the surface.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with depression, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. At three years old, I couldn’t fall asleep at night because I was afraid that the world was going to run out of oil and that the army was coming to take my family to a concentration camp because of our religion and because there were guns in the house. I didn’t really understand what all of these things meant, but I knew that they were scary, and that I was at risk. Needless to say, I was not raised in a household that fostered safety and stability for my young and anxious mind.
When I was 15, my stepfather began to suspect that I was gay. The way that he chose to deal with it was to ransack my room, stealing my journals, hacking my email, and then giving me complete silent treatment. He forced my mother to give me the silent treatment as well, until he had put his plans in place. The way that my parents chose to deal with me being gay was to isolate me from the entire world. My room was stripped of phone and television. My school was informed that I was to have no access to computers. The majority of my classes were AP classes in technology. I was on a path to graduate a year early with a full year of college completed. I was stripped of that opportunity. I was forced to un-enroll from college, and had to take incompletes in the majority of my high school classes.
Through a series of rebellious acts, I ended up in legal trouble and on probation. Thankfully, my probation officer heard through the grapevine that I was gay and told me to move out on my own. I was working a full time job, about to turn 16, and thought I knew everything I needed to survive. What I didn’t anticipate was the amount of vitriol that would be presented by members of my small, religious town. I couldn’t walk down the street without people shouting “die, you fucking faggot” or having things thrown at me. I wasn’t safe where I was, so I hitched a ride to Tucson, about 5 hours away, where at least I could be a stranger in a bigger place.
There’s no need to go into great detail, but I will say that I was not prepared for what I would have to endure in order to survive. I found myself involved in the drug trade, needing money and not being of legal age to sign a contract for my own place to live, I didn’t have a lot of options. I never expected that I would be in such compromising situations as to in essence sell my body for a place to sleep or food to eat. I was taken advantage of and abused by older men who had power and control over me. I shudder to think today that videos and photos of me as a teenager may still exist. They were traded as I was handed off from one abuser to the next.
Eventually I managed to find some stability. I was always a hard worker, and once I was able to get respectable employment, I started to take a little more control of my life. I would excel fantastically at a job, then have a mental breakdown and lose it or walk away. I have lived my entire life with Bipolar Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, Psychotic Disorder, Avoidant Personality Disorder, PTSD, and severe anxiety. These things ruled my life far more than I was aware, but for the most part, I was able to keep things in check.
Fast forward a few years and you’ll find that I’ve fought the demons, I’ve held a consistent job for a number of years. I’ve worked my way up to a Vice President in a very large, respectable company. The facade was well in place, but I was slowly dying of multiple auto-immune disorders, and anxiety was eating away at my stability. I expressed my anxiety to my doctors, and to my colleagues. Everyone’s initial response was “No, you’re not anxious. You handle everything so well.” I was good at masking my problems. I learned early on to play a role, to keep the make-up on, and appear composed.
On my birthday in 2013, after an extremely long and difficult week of work, I snapped into psychosis. I vaguely remember walking through my living room and opening the slider to the balcony. I don’t remember taking my shoes off. I don’t remember climbing up onto the railing, angling my body out away from the building, holding on by just one hand. Snap back! Reality hit. What the fuck was I doing? I was staring 90 feet down at the concrete below and the first thought that came to mind was “wait, I can’t jump. That’s too much paperwork for the HOA.” I climbed down from the railing and collapsed, shaking.
Over the next year I attempted to get help. I saw doctors and therapist after therapist. No one would help me. I felt isolated and alone. And then… I really snapped. I went into a full-blown manic and psychotic episode, most of which I have very little memory. What I can tell you is that looking back at the aftermath, I found that I cashed in my 401k, quit my job, bought a new car, kidnapped my fiancé, drove across the country, got arrested, got multiple speeding tickets, tried to adopt a baby, tried to save the world, took a 2×4 to the face, sold all of my belongings on street corners in Boston and Hartford, and then found myself penniless and stuck on the east coast. Were it not for the kindness of strangers and ride-shares, I never would have made it home.
The resulting swing from mania was the worst experience of my life. I spent two years curled up in a basement after losing my home and everything of normality in my life. I came out only for doctors appointments and therapy. I could see no future. I wanted nothing more than to die. I slowly started communicating with people again through Twitter, and slowly the depression began to lift. I’m still struggling, but I can see a potential for future. I’m not sure how to recreate my identity or be a person again, but I’m trying. I’m fighting. I want to die, but I also want to live.
One day, I will tell the story of the life that got better. I will record my It Gets Better Video. I will do that, because it will have gotten better.
Ryan can be found on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Regarding the “It gets better video,” I like the recording of the “Things are still shit, but damn it I’m still fighting” story more.
I think that sounds like a pretty good video title to me. Can we license that from you? hahaha 🙂