Mental Illness Recovery Series: Story # 26

This is the 26th story of the Mental Illness Recovery Series. Aldo has been through hell and back. He has turned his mistakes around, and has grown from it. This is his story:

Aldo is from El Salvador, but lives in Los Angeles, CA since the age of 6. His hobbies is to listen to music, writing, reading and playing xbox games. Aldo’s favorite movies are The Fountain, The Matrix, Bicentennial Man, and Whatever Dreams May Come. He also enjoys dark comedy such as, Wristcutters: A Love Story, Happiness and Rules of Attraction because it lifts his mood. Aldo’s favorite poet is Edgar Allan Poe and his favorite bands are Nirvana, System of a Down, Nine Inch Nails and Tool. He is trying to get back into drawing and painting.

His goals are recently set because he was a directionless youth and didn’t expect to live beyond the age of 18. Aldo only had one role model, whom passed away when he was 13 years old. Due to that he started to slip into solitude and timidity. Now, aged 33, he realized he isn’t going to die any time soon. He now wants to become a Paralegal at the law firm in which he is working as a File Clerk. Not only that, but he wants earn a Master’s degree in English at a University or College. Aldo is currently writing a Novel and have a few short stories that hasn’t been published yet. He said, “After becoming a Paralegal, I will move to Washington State. I’ve never liked Los Angeles much and many painful memory exist here. It would be best for my mental health to move away. I also hope that I can one day be a published author and hopefully be on the New York Times Bestseller list.”

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In the year 2,000 he was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety. Aldo thinks he won’t outgrow his depression and is unsure his anxiety attributes it. Aldo received therapy and was put on the medication Paxil, but unfortunately it caused him to be more depressed and suicidal. It’s what lead him to his first suicide attempts, so he now only receives psychotherapy. His mental illnesses were caused by childhood traumas, but thanks to therapy he has learned about stressors and how to avoid them. He now also relies on a support system to control his disorders.

Aldo had to deal with terrible symptoms. He said, “Many of the symptoms still plague me, such as insomnia, restlessness, irritability, over eating, and fatigue.” Aldo also said, “My depression in my youth would often result in bouts of uncontrollable sobbing, loss of appetite, feelings of worthlessness, depersonalization, suicidal thoughts (though I never tried until I was on medications), anger, and shame.” This affected his daily life especially during high school, Aldo went from having a 3.4 GPA to barely graduating. He said, “It was in my senior year of high school that my depression truly took a hold of my life. I was hospitalized then when one of my more observant teachers saw the cuts on my arms, she took me to the counseling office.  Aside from cutting, I would also burn myself, the scars still visible on my left arm.” Once Aldo graduated, he tried to work, but could never maintain a job for too long because his depression and suicide attempts always had him calling off work.

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Sadly, in the year 2003 Aldo slit his wrist with a box cutter blade nearly severing a tendon and almost losing use of his left hand.  He was put on a 72 hour hold which was extended to two weeks. He took a total of 12 sutures to close the wound. Aldo said, “I did it out in front of my school, and walked around for 3 hours waiting for death to take me. Unbeknownst to me, smoking thickens your blood, in the 3 hours that I had walked around I had chain smoked a pack of cigarettes. Dizzy and disoriented I called my best friend for help. I called her house and she picked up sounding surprised, not to be hearing from me, but because her house’s phone line had not been working for a few weeks. I was the first call to come through in that time.”

It is hard for Aldo to maintain friendships or romantic relationships because of his negativity. Although he has had several long term relationships, it ends up affected by his wild mood swings. He said, “I sometimes require a lot of reassuring and nurturing, but there are also times when I need alone time and to be away from everyone. My girlfriends in the past have not been too keen on letting me be alone because they feel that we need to spend every moment together.” This has made him feel like a burden, angry and unwanted. He feels as if he is a broken thing that no one wants because it’s too much to handle.

Aldo’s last suicide attempts has left him stronger, he said:

“I took 50 sleeping pills and I sat in the back seat of my car awaiting death. I became drowsy and I slumped over, I remember the cold beginning to creep over me despite it being a warm April night. I remember slipping away, I knew it was death looming and I can recall that as everything started to fade there was just cold and what seemed to be the vast expanse of nothing. I survived but the experience rocked my core.  I’ve considered myself to be an agnostic for a very long time but as I lay dying, I had hoped that there would be something alas it is just us and our mortality. The experience left me scarred but I have decided to make the best of it. I’ve come so far from that night and I never thought it would be possible but everything since then has been the best time in my life.

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The turning point for Aldo was when he realized his actions had led him to lose sight and control of what he was trying to build. Although he will never really be over it, he decided that enough was enough. He learned that knowing his limits is the key. Whenever he feels like spiraling downward, he turns to his support system and asks for help. This was a huge a struggle for him because after staying at a psychiatric ward he had no idea what to do! After he was discharged they did not offer any help. His friends have helped him along the way, Aldo said, “My friends have been for years the only support group that I have. In many ways they are the family I had always deserved but did not have. They always listen attentively and offer their support. Not just emotionally but a place to stay when I don’t feel safe or I am tired. They offer the push and reassurance that I can achieve what I have set out to do.”

The lesson he learned is that it is better to be alone than in bad company and it is not worth giving up your happiness for anyone. This experience has change Aldo, he now pursues the things that make him happy. He now want to improve his life. This is his advice for others struggling with similar situations:

“It’s never as hard as you think it will be. Asking for help from the right people who care about you. If you cannot find it or don’t think you have, then take it upon yourself to get professional help. Call a suicide hotline, chat with someone. I’ve often chatted with strangers just to get it off my chest.They don’t know me and so I feel no judgment only release and it is very helpful. Also, listen to the cliches. They are cliches because they are right. Patience is a virtue, it’s true. I learned it over and over again. That’s not to say that you should be complacent or wait for things to happen. Some things you have to actively seek out and work for them.”

Aldo would also like to share this:

“I’ve learned a lot of over the years but most importantly I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what other’s think. Do right by you. If you feel like crying, then cry, you will feel so relieved afterwards and it’s healthy and therapeutic. Cry until you can’t cry anymore. In the same vein, don’t worry about others’ feelings. You might be worried about hurting someone’s feelings, good or bad, and so you let yourself be in an uncomfortable situation because you would rather be nice. Don’t. I learned that you can only control how YOU feel. I would rather be nice and avoid hurting someone’s feelings even though they would make me feel uncomfortable but in the end how they feel is not of your concern. They either deal with it or don’t. You might lose people because of it but really it’s their loss. Be honest. If you try therapy and you feel like it might not be working, ask yourself: Am I being honest and open with this person?  Chances are that you are not. You have built a barrier to protect you from EVERYONE but a therapist is only trying to help. So be open and truthful and results will follow. Ultimately, if you still don’t feel like the person isn’t helping then it’s okay find someone else. What matters is that you get help.”

I am glad Aldo has been able to turn his life around. It hasn’t been easy for him. I hope that he is able to maintain stability in his life and find a great romantic partner to share the rest of his life with. Help me make a difference by sharing your story.

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