Mental Illness Recovery Series: Story # 78

This is the 78th story of the Mental Illness Recovery Series. Vincent has dealt with depression since he can remember. Recently he has made some changes in his life, to start his journey through recovery. This is his story:

Vincent was born in Manhtattan, and has moved around a lot since he was a child. He loves to write in his free time and his musical interests are pretty broad. He has always favored Classical over anything else though. He said, “The violin, piano, cello; it’s all great in my opinion!” Vincent is also an avid reader and was on a high school level by the time he got to 5 the grade. He doesn’t know where he will be in the next 5 years, but he would like to go to college or have some sort of career that will allow him to travel. He said, “I’ve had to learn to be very flexible when it comes to planning for anything in the future. My life has been prone to sudden and unexpected changes.”

Vincent was diagnosed at an early age with depression and social anxiety. He said, “Over time the depression just grew worse. I’d battled self-harm and anorexia throughout high school. When I was 17 I was sexually assaulted by a man while I was heavily under the influence of something, though I’m not sure of exactly what. That incident set something off and reminded me that it might not have been the first time. So PTSD and childhood trauma were added to the list.” At 18 he was diagnosed with ADHD, but medication has helped him a lot. His mother sent him to see a therapist around the age of 11 and ever since then Vincent has continued to see different professionals that combined the treatment of medication and therapy.

Since the age of 10 Vincent realized he felt different than the rest of the people, by the age of 11 he started self-harming. He said, “I had started to self-harm in an attempt to use some sort of physical distraction to gain emotional relief. I’ve had panic attacks as far back as I can remember. A lot of times it would start with a feeling of nervousness in my stomach, like you know something bad is going to happen. I would sweat and shake and my heart would start to pound.”’ Vincent perception would become warped and a lot of times things would feel like they’re moving in slow motion, yet too fast for him to catch up. His low self-esteem would cause him to constantly analyze everything that was wrong with him. He said, “I would convince myself that everyone was looking at the things I considered flaws.”  After the assault when he was 17, Vincent became paranoid that he would run into him or someone who was at the party that night.” He also said, “I remember being at a store with my mother and sister one afternoon. I thought I saw him outside walking towards me. I immediately had a panic attack and ran to the car, where I waited for my mother for about an hour, as low in the seat as I could go while still looking out the window. Eventually I realized he was wearing the same outfit from that night, so it couldn’t have been real.”

Vincent daily life became affected, because he couldn’t leave the house and most days had a hard time getting out of bed. He ended up making excuses to not hangout with his friends. He said, “I did things like that for so many years that it became normal.” At the age of 16 he forced himself to socialize, but after the assault he decided to leave things as they were. He said, “I couldn’t stand to be around people, including and in a lot of cases especially my own family. Anyone that wanted to help me in any way was also someone I didn’t want to deal with.” He simply did not have the energy to eat or talk or even shower some days. He didn’t even get a haircuts, any place where there were bound to be a lot of people was off the table.

Unfortunately at the age of 12 he attempted suicide for the first time. He said, “I suppose I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I was decided. I took some pills one night after school. A lot of pills actually. It wasn’t enough to kill me I later found out, but it was enough to put me in an incredible amount of pain and vomiting constantly throughout the day. I said it was the flu so I wouldn’t have to go to school and spent the day crying. Scratching and digging my nails into my hands and arms eventually turned into cutting and drug abuse in high school.”

His relationships with others became affected. He did not get along with his father and it only got worse throughout the years and his mother who he did get along whit, did not know how to handle the situation. Vincent said, “In my efforts to try and fake my way out of depression and anxiety I had developed a very large circle of friends in high school. By the time we graduated that circle had really sunk down to just a few people. They became my best friends, but the springboard for the relationship was that they suffered from depression as badly as I did.”

Vincent felt all kinds of emotions, except for happiness. He said, “Eventually I just felt numb. I started to just go about my business feeling nothing. Someone would get into an argument with me and they would give up when they saw that I just didn’t have it in me to care.” For a while he was okay with it, but then one after another his best friends started moving away and ended up feeling alone, and claustrophobic. He said, “I felt suffocated and trapped in my own life.”

The turning point for Vincent was at the age 22 when he was living on his own. He somehow managed to land a great job making good money at a hotel downtown.  In September of 2014 his doctor prescribed him Prozac. He said, “I was hesitant due to past experiences, but I found myself at the point of willing to try something new.” The medication helped, but it wasn’t enough. He said, “I still felt like I was just barely hanging on.”

Around November there was an incredible snow storm that had buried whole cars. Roads were shut down and people kept calling off of work. No one was coming into the restaurant anymore except the buildings residents. Money stopped coming in and the bills were piling up. In December Vincent started having moments when I would just suddenly lose consciousness, which was provoked by a rare side effect of Prozac. He said, “I broke my glasses and had two black eyes. My social anxiety was in full swing because I felt like everyone was staring and wondering what was wrong with me.” Vincent couldn’t afford food anymore and didn’t know if I would still have electricity the next day. Unfortunately, he got hit by a car while crossing the street one night and the driver drove away. He didn’t go to the hospital because I couldn’t afford another bill and couldn’t miss the chance to make even a few dollars at work. His boss made him leave until he returned with a note from a doctor. He went to the hospital, where was held for 2 days. Then he got the flu and took the bus home from the hospital, showered and went to bed on his twin size air mattress, because he couldn’t afford an actual one. His family was having financial problems so he couldn’t ask for help.

Vincent lost his job due to a streak of tardiness and went back to his old job at 7-Eleven. He said, “I knew I needed help. I’d planned to kill myself, and I think my roommates might have known it. They all kind of approached me in different ways, individually.” Vincent also said, “I spoke to my mother regularly. She knew something was wrong too, and she said she wouldn’t be able to handle it if anything happened to me and made me promise to take care of myself. I called her back the next night and I told her that I don’t know that I can keep that promise. In that moment I decided that I would try one more time.” In 4 days he scraped together the rent to hold his roommates over, quit his job, announced his sudden departure, and packed his things. On the 5 the day his mother picked him up.

The strategies he used to help control his mental illness was writing, even though it was very difficult for Vincent at first. He would spent months in his bed and barely moved. The room he stayed in had a glass sliding door, so he would spend his time watching deer, birds, foxes and a groundhog. He said, “They were all so full of life and I wanted that. It was an unexpected motivator and reminder of why I came here. To be able to feel alive again; and to feel life. I spent a lot of time watching them. I read plenty of books when I would start to feel like I was trapped in my own head.” The hardest part of his emotional journey after moving back into his mother’s house was that he mainly needed to be alone to work of things out on his own. He said, “I was afraid of what digging into the past would uncover. There was a lot that I would remember that I didn’t even realize I’d forgotten. Working through one trauma would bring on a flashback of another. It was painful, the worst thing I’ve ever gone through, but I knew that I needed to do it in order to get better and that it had to be done alone.”

This is the lesson he learned from this ordeal:

“Do not be afraid of his past. “Don’t be afraid of who you are. You need to face yourself before you can face the world. Stop running from your problems or yourself or your past; it won’t help. You aren’t alone. If you have someone who cares, don’t push them away. They can make their own choices and they want to help. LET THEM. Don’t ever be afraid to share your story, it could help someone else who’s silently suffering.”

Vincent feels better now, and doesn’t feel like he needs medication, and he is less afraid of the world. He can go into a grocery store without having a panic attack. He said, “I can honestly say that for the first time in my life I’m happy. I’ve accept myself.”

This is his advice for others struggling through similar situations:

“Accept yourself and your condition. Pretending it isn’t there won’t make it go away, especially if you’re doing it for the sake of other people. Don’t ever be ashamed of whom you are or the things you’ve been through. Everyone has a story to tell. Don’t compare your suffering to other people. There is no “scale from 1-10” where you aren’t allowed to feel sad if you fall on a certain end of the spectrum. You are allowed to be sad or anxious or angry. Not everyone realizes this and will sometimes say things like, “Well there’s people in such and such country that have it so much worse. Be grateful for what you have!.” You are allowed to feel your pain without guilt. AND PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t ever be afraid to seek help! Even if you feel like you aren’t sure you need it, or like your situation isn’t bad enough to need it, therapy or counselling or what have you is for EVERYONE.”

Help me make a difference by sharing your story. If you or anyone you know needs a safe place to vent out and recieve advice feel free to become a member of the Mental Illness Recovery Series Group on Facebook.

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