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Depression, the silent killer.

Mental illness .jpg

As mental health disorders continue to be diagnosed at an alarming rate, it has become evident that those who suffer are often compelled to initiate self harm to relive them of the symptoms.  As it stands, mental illness is the only known disorder that carries a stigma of shame, guilt, and societal judgment so great that often the only recourse for relief is suicide.  Until we as a society can show the same compassion and empathy towards mental illness and addiction that we do towards other diseases, we will continue to lose our children, parents, friends, and idols to something that is more times than not, preventable. 

The following  remarks were penned by a powerful advocate and someone who truly cares,        Ms. Katy Peiters-Haslar. 

"There are a lot of great posts, articles, and other sentiments out there right now in the wake of the suicide-deaths of two very prominent public figures. The outpouring of support is great, but I wonder if those who have never experienced a clinical depression, the jail of addiction, or extreme anxiety understand WHY this tragedy happens, especially to people who seemingly "had it all." 

As I was watching CNN's special last night on the life and career of Anthony Bourdain, it occurred to me, as I listened to the myriad of friends and co-workers who spoke about Anthony, that the common threads in their sentiments regarding his suicide - we are baffled, we are shocked, we didn't see it, we didn't know he was hurting, it came out of nowhere - speak to the pervasive and hopeless truth of people's mental states: we never truly know what someone else is going through. And that's our fault as a society for perpetuating the stigma that mental illness is taboo, uncomfortable, or self-inflicted.

To those of us who have faced some of the same demons Bourdain had - clinical depression, extreme anxiety, feeling like your thoughts are tormenting you, and addiction - we know all too well that one minute we can be feeling just fine, and the next minute, our brain is hijacked by one of the many mind ruminations that get caught in horrible loops in our thoughts and derail our sanity and ability to think rationally. We lash out, or we crawl in our hole, or we do something to kill the pain. Sometimes, that thing ends our life. I would never say I wasn't devastated by the news of Bourdain's suicide, but I also will never say that I'm shocked or surprised - by ANYONE's suicide, quite frankly, sad as that is.

Our feelings that it will never get better, everyone would be better off, and we can't stand another minute in this human body, in this pain, are very real to us and virtually undetectable if we're among those who try to keep a "stiff upper lip." Maybe we aren't good at asking for help. Maybe we've been shamed before for our thoughts and feelings. Maybe we've done a lot of stupid shit while we were in pain and have isolated ourselves by our actions. Maybe that stupid shit has driven people away, making our case even stronger for our worthlessness. Or maybe we just don't possess the knowledge of how to reach beyond the mental anguish to someone who can help. And we're convinced we don't even want to. 

And maybe those who've tried to help us before got tired of getting nowhere, so they stop. And who can blame them? But we blame ourselves for yet another failed relationship, yet another person we've let down and sent away. One of Anthony's friends quoted him as saying something like - he has many friends, but really no friends. While those speaking on the subject couldn't seem to comprehend this thought, I know I can, and I know many of you can. We push people away, or our brain tells us we're unlovable as we are, so we put walls between who we really are and our friends so they don't see the real us. God forbid they see the crazy. 

Crazy. It's a word we throw around a lot in our culture to describe people. There are "people who do violent unspeakable things' crazy, (and I'm not talking about them), and then there are people who are clearly flailing in their brains and are desperately clinging to people while also vehemently pushing them away, saying and doing strange things crazy. And frankly it's sad to call those people crazy without realizing that label could be the thing that pushes them to an act of desperation. 

I've heard acquaintances who are trained therapists, who should know better, call a person in their social circle "crazy" because of addictive, depressive, or anxious behavior. A "crazy ex girlfriend" or "crazy ex husband" - - how many times have we heard that? Granted a lot of mental health professionals would never say something like this...but some of them would. If the very people we rely on to understand this plight and help us into the light could use such language to describe someone's obvious struggle with 'being ok' - what hope do ANY of us have for the greater population of untrained folks to understand?

This stuff is complicated, not easy to understand if you've never been there, but not at ALL surprising, if you understand that head space at all, when someone finally succumbs to those unrelenting, punishing thoughts. 

My heart goes out to Kate Spade's people, Anthony Bourdain's people, and to all of you who are in that head space right now but don't know what to do, and to your friends and family who truly care about you and worry about you. Shit, I don't know what to do to make it right for you either - but keep trying. Please keep trying. As trite as it sounds, we are all in this together. Much, much love to you all.- Katy" 

For more information on mental health or addiction please visit www.parkdalecenter.com  or call 1-888-883-8433

If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal ideations, please call the National Suicide Hotline today at 1-800-273-8255

My Beautiful Son, A Father's story

This past Thursday I buried my 24 year old son. He died March 25, 2017 after an overdose on what we suspect was tainted heroin. He had around a 9 year history of substance abuse. He started like so many kids with a little drinking and some pot. All of which were hidden. He was an extraordinarily talented musician, a world class Halo player, the most popular guy in school and made straight A's through middle school. As he grew there was increasing aggression, and a decreasing desire to do well in school or be anything BUT in control of every interaction. Like so many people with whom we may relate, he had the type of "A" personality that was sometimes a problem.

 

About 2 years ago his problems blossomed. He couldn't hold a job, my dad died and he used that as an excuse to hit the turbo on his drug use. He burned through relationships as fast as he could go. Eventually only close family had any significant interaction with him and unfortunately some of them were actively living the same life...one cousin in particular.

About 7 months ago he went kicking and screaming into a residential rehab. Within 2 weeks a new man was writing letters and expressing feelings of long thought were beyond him. The next 4 months were almost heaven with him as new relationships were formed, old wounds were bound and new hope was on the horizon. But as a wise man once said, "Addiction is a 3 fold disease.... Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years". A few days into this year he left U-Turn and now within a few months he's gone.

 

(I) Cleaned out his car yesterday. The contrast was stark. Trash and open containers against suitcases of neatly folded clothes organized by season. Old candy wrappers and receipts contrasting little presents he had been collecting from the thrift store where he'd worked. He's gone and I'm still here. See, his story and mine aren't all that different.... for some reason he just couldn't stay in the solution and kept going back again and again to the problem.

 

A whole lot of you have already been expressing support for our family and for that we are grateful. Family......it is real, it is a disease, and it is survivable.

 

One last thought. As Andrew got closer and closer to leaving rehab he kept using the excuse of this (rehab) being a "waste of time now. I'm sober. If I get into school it'll help me stay focused and I can use the tools I've already learned." My response was "what is even a year's investment in this vs 50 years of life when if you leave you may only have a year?" He got out...got into school...hated it and for whatever reason just kept on going.

 

Brad H.

 

 

 

 “We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

― C. S. Lewis

Opening the Gates

“Just Stop!”   That phrase had replaced more common conversational dialogue between people like “Good morning”,  “ What’s for lunch?” or the one I missed most, “I love you”.   I had become a numb to the repeated cries to “Just Stop!”  I knew I was getting worse; I didn’t need to hear about my progress regarding my self-destructive behaviors.  I knew I was a piece of shit, I didn’t need to be reminded every time I talked to my loved ones of how much potential I once had.  I knew that people had grown tired of me and had accepted the fact that I would soon be dead.  In fact, I believed that more times than not and even wished that on some occasions.  What I expected was to be treated like this from people who didn’t know me, but what I was surprised at was that those closest to me often judged me the harshest.  I get it, I really do.  I knew my friends and family were driven by fear of the worst possible outcome and stood to loose the most.  Call it the “tough love” approach if you must.  Regardless, my addiction had consumed not only me but also all the people around me.  Those that were lucky to be on the outer most concentric circle of my life were able to disappear into the unknown never to be seen or heard of again.  Those that remained close to me suffered the consequences by proxy and were anchored into a deep, dark, and helpless abyss filled with sadness and despair.  They, however, knew the way back to sanity for the never left it.  I was completely trapped and did not know if I would survive my addiction, or if I even wanted to. 

 

Although I had a great childhood and upbringing, my parents blamed themselves for something they did or did not do.  There was never a specific point of accountability but rather a pessimistic and looming thought they must have done something wrong.  I was able to pick up on their empathetic parental instincts and early on used that to my advantage.  It would always get me bailed out of a tough spot; provide me with an alibi, or the financial means to quench my ever-needy opiate receptors.   I soon realized the trend that the people closest to me would often enable me to keep getting away with things that I wanted to do, despite the caustic effects it was creating in my life.  Despite that, I used everyone around me to meet my addiction latent agenda because of no other reason than I could….. and it was easy. 

 

The thing about addicts is that we know we are addicted.   It usually starts off simple enough like social drinking or recreational drug use.  Sometimes it’s just a little pot on the weekends, sometimes its one of these to sleep better, one of those for this unrelenting back pain, and another prescription from my doctor because I really need it.  I was a little mix of all the above.  Through the cacophony of my all-consuming “extracurricular activities”, I graduated top ten in high school, 4 years of the college dean’s list, and successfully defended my dissertation to cap off graduate school.  While I would like to accept full credit for my academic accomplishments, it was really due to a well orchestrated and self-administered pharmacologic balancing act that would even make the best alchemist envious.   Sleep, wake, energy, relaxation, recreation, anxiety, confidence, depression, and self-esteem all controlled by exogenous chemicals.  What I failed to realize was that I had physically and mentally deteriorated to a state were acquaintances were leaving, friends were worried, and my family was crying.  By social standards, I was a success therefore believed I had things under control. 

 

To prove my family wrong, I would stop immediately and without trouble.  After years of using pills, I stopped completely.  That lasted no more than 8 hours.   I was immediately flooded with nausea, anxiety, fear, restlessness, and general discomfort.   I would sneak off to “pop a few pills” to stop the symptoms while simultaneously proclaiming to my family “See, I told you so”.  Their response was “Just Stop!”   I was out of control and now preferred to be alone.  When my family saw me, all they could say was “Please, Just Stop”.  I was working just to support my habit and gladly bartered suitable living conditions for my next fix.  When my dad found me sleeping in my car he looked at me with tear filled eyes and said, “ Just stop”. This went on for months and months.  After I was let go from my job, I quickly turned to the streets for a quicker and more affordable alternative.  I lost it all, my health, my friends, my financial security, all meaningful relationships, time, and most importantly, my will to survive.  I was incredibly shame filled.  You know the difference between shame and guilt?  Guilt means you feel bad because you did something bad and shame means you are a bad person because you did something bad.   In my mind, I was a bad person, a very, very bad person and didn’t deserve to be treated otherwise.  I was being told how bad I was for years and I found out that there was a pill for that too. 

 

I found my way into a treatment center because I literally had no other option.  I was living in my personal hell every day and everything I touched burned to the ground.  I needed to get help.  Ill never forget when the treatment center asked why I was there.  I said, “I have hit rock bottom”.  Without missing a beat, my counselor said, “While you are face first at your rock bottom, look around for the trap door, you can still go lower”.  That made all the difference to me at the time. 

 

I was asked to write this and share my experience and any advice I have.  I want to tell everyone that being an addict or an alcoholic is not fun.  It is a living hell.  We know we need help but if “Just Stop” was the answer, we would all do it.  It just doesn’t work like that.  I would encourage you to get help for yourselves before you try to help your loved one.  Make sure that YOU understand addiction and what to do to take care of yourself first and the addict only after that.  If you are struggling now, just know that you are not a bad person, you just got off track somewhere and need a hand up.  On March 23, 2017 I will celebrate 8 years of sobriety.  I am grateful, healthy, back on track, and did I say grateful?  Ill leave you with this final thought, being in recovery and living a healthy life does NOT open the gates of heaven to let you in, it opens the gates of HELL and let’s you out.  

 

Curtis L.

D.O.S. March 23, 2009

 

Opening the Gates is a story in the Perspective Series, presented by Parkdale Center.  Every story is a self-told personal account of someone struggling with, recovering from, or affected by addiction/alcoholism.  For more information on how to receive help or assist someone currently struggling, please visit www.parkdalecenter.com  or call 1-888-883-8433

 

The Flight of Icarus

I knew all about my craft.  I am was in total control.  How was this any different from a dietitian modifying their intake or a trainer using his background to sculpt his body?  “I’m doing this under the safest of conditions”, was my maxim.  “If I just stick with clean supplies and remember to use sterile technique then I’ll be just fine.”  These were the thoughts echoing through my opiate addled mind as I propped myself up between the toilet and the sink in the single occupancy bathroom that I had turned into my own personal opium den.

 

I loved everything about it.  The ritual always culminated in a wave of feel-good euphoria as I drifted further into the warm embrace of my drugs.  And it was any drug.  Anything I could get my hands on was sufficient after my initial sample platter of experimentation.  I wasn’t picky.  I was an unlikely mix of anxious and groggy but I wasn’t picky.  I’d show up to any case any time and I’d definitely stay late!  As a matter of fact I’d dread vacations.  A time to enjoy my family and friends and to relax was spent withdrawing in misery.

 

I was always managing.  For a type A personality like me, whether I created the chaos or not, I got a kick out of solving things.  The craving and using cycle could be quite painful but at some level it was an end in and of itself.  To slyly divert a drug, steal off into the bowls of the hospital and untangle all the knots in my stomach was a thrilling ride.  It created a solvable problem that I could manage quite adeptly.  There was something sexy about anesthetizing a patient only minutes after tying off my foot with a tourniquet and injecting myself with drugs.  After the injection I would quickly remove the tourniquet and from my thrown on the bathroom floor raise my foot in the air as if to salute the drug as gravity hastened it’s journey to my heart. 

 

My heart often skipped a beat.  Whether it was when the warmth of the drug hit my chest or when I almost got caught injecting while crouching beneath the surgical table pretending I was checking my various monitoring equipment.  However, like Icarus, you can only fly that close to the sun for so long before you come crashing down. 

 

My run at juggling addiction and medicine didn’t last very long.  In fact, the last day that I worked I knew it was the day that I would get caught.  I had a very good idea of what was to come in the form of lost licenses, court dates, and unemployment but I couldn’t stop myself.  This is what addiction looks like but there is always hope.  The journey to put the pieces back together is far from over but it helps me to revisit these memories.  Not as a euphoric recall but as a warning of where I’ve been and where I can easily go again.........

BY:  Jason R.  

 

The Flight Of Icarus is a story in the Perspective Series, presented by Parkdale Center.  Every story is a self-told personal account of someone struggling with, recovering from, or affected by addiction/alcoholism.  For more information on how to receive help or assist someone currently struggling, please visit www.parkdalecenter.com