Steve Colori has experienced many setbacks, but his mental illness taught him to be flexible.
It happened in College. Everything changed, and my ability to respond to change made the difference. But I am getting ahead of myself.
From the time I was three years old all the way into college I lived in a small town where there wasn’t much change. We hung out with the same friends, played the same, saw all the same people, and repeated the same activities. I had fun but life was fairly monotonous and we came to believe this was just the way life is.
Once I graduated I sought to challenge this mentality. I journeyed out to UNH being the only student from my class to go there. I didn’t like the way I had been treated while growing up so I made a decision to search for new friends and a new way of life. I wound up making the great friends I had been looking for, I learned I could live on my own and complete college school work, and I also had a lot of fun my first year.
These initial changes were great and were exactly what I had been looking for after living for years feeling stuck in an unsatisfactory life where I had no agency and lacked the power to implement any change.
However, as I moved on in college my mental health began digressing and my life completely changed once again.
Over the course of three years I had lost all the friends I ever had, I was out of touch with my family whom I was once very close with, and I had a fully developed case of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder simultaneously. I was sleeping on a tile floor in the middle of a New England winter with one throw blanket, no pillow, two sets of clothes, and I starved to the point where I weighed a skimpy 127 pounds when I checked into in-patient for the first time. Although I was still completing all my school work and I passed my classes with a full on mental illness I had psychosis, neurosis, social dysfunction, auditory hallucinations, referential thinking, OCD, bipolarity, mania, insomnia, and some other symptoms.
After a second episode I was 24 years old and I was spending twelve hours per day sleeping in the basement at my parents house with many of the same symptoms and no vision of a life worth while. I was set in my ways for the time and I didn’t want to try implementing any change in my life.
Although I was a broken man who had given up on himself, my parents and my sister still had faith in me and they connected me with a great doctor. They never gave up hope for my life and it means the world to me. With a great deal of work my doctor eventually helped me to implement change in my life and this initial change was a revelation. Seeing a positive change challenged everything I had experienced in the past six years because the vast majority of my experiences had been negative.
As soon as I realized that I had the power to implement change thus influencing and improving my life, the fire was lit. I always remembered my Dad saying, “If you want something badly enough you can make it happen. It’s just a matter of how badly you want it.” Over the course of the next four years there were a number of changes I made to my psyche and my mental health every day. I worked hard and I was tenacious and I adopted the aphorism:
“To Improve is to Change; To be Perfect is to Change Often” Winston Churchill
There were a number of twists, turns, hills, valleys, victories, and also defeats. My willingness to embrace change and make it a way of life kept me ahead of the game in many instances and helped me prepare for difficult situations I was facing as a result of my disorder. Along with the victories there were a number of challenges and adversities thrown at me unexpectedly. For several years it seemed as though I was pitted against a new symptom and or situation almost daily after having defeated a previous symptom or resolving a previous issue.
Life constantly evolves and changes and I learned to make mental flexibility a way of being because it was the only way I could overcome schizoaffective disorder. Many days I wanted to quit and there were times I thought of suicide but I carried on.
For years I couldn’t see the end in sight but I always remembered my parents telling me to keep working hard and to never give up. After a while I had developed a strong will to overcome schizoaffective disorder. I reached a point where I had finally had enough and I wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a worthwhile life. I made the decision that no matter what I was pitted against I wasn’t going to be defeated. I refused to lose. I had made the decision that I would fight and battle on and do as much as I could regardless of how difficult my life became and there were many morbidly adverse situations where I was forced to do exactly that.
I drew hope from having already improved and implemented change in my life. When the end wasn’t in sight I reminded myself of how much progress I had already made and how much more I could make just by continuing to work hard, be tough, and put forth the effort to change and stay ahead of the curve. After five years of talk therapy, metaphysical journaling, exposure therapy, trial and error, victories and defeats, and a number of other therapies I learned that I have the ability to change my life for the better. I had regained my mental and physical health, I was once again close with my family, I made a number of great groups of friends, I moved out of my house, I had a sustainable full time job, and I had also developed a career as a writer which has been my life’s passion since switching majors in college.
I started from a point where I was at rock bottom and in a short period of time with the right amount of help and a great deal of hard work, I developed a worthwhile life. I originally thought I was destined to be stuck living in destitute but by putting forth the effort to make changes I realized my destiny is in my own hands. I learned if I want it badly enough anything is possible.
Photo by Thomas Au