There’s no way out of here
When you come in
You’re in for good.
I bumped into these lyrics recently from an old David Gilmore song. They gave me pause. I started thinking about my bedroom growing up. It was small. From end to end it was the length of a bed and a door. Side to side maybe ten feet, max. I basically lived in a closet. I didn’t complain and knew there was no choice. I was fortunate to live in a poor part of a very rich town. The slums of Rumson, NJ are pretty easy to take.
I spent a tremendous amount of time in that room. I had my stereo and a small desk with a TV on it. If I had a lot of anything, it was books. I learned early what Emily Dickinson meant when she wrote, “there’s no frigate like a book.” I had a place to go whenever I wanted, I just picked up a book and started to read.
I was immediately transported.
It was in this room where I self-diagnosed myself with OCD. It was in this room where I learned what depression is. And, it was in this room that I swore to myself that I would never, ever tell anyone about it. When I turned the lights out for the night, it was like staring at the Sun for me. Night was loud and bright. Sleeping was difficult and hurt when I tried to do it.
During my 8th grade year my father was driving through town one day. A car was on fire in a busy intersection so he stopped and helped put the fire out with an extinguisher he had in his truck. An ambulance responding to the call was speeding to the scene. The poor-sighted driver was further blinded by the smoke. He ran into the burning car and it ran over my dad. He went to the hospital, critical. I was in school and had no idea what had happened. They called me down to the office. The principal told me he received a call that there was an accident but that my dad was ok. They sent me back to class. I finished my school day and played in a basketball game afterward. After the game I walked home. A neighbor cutting his grass asked me what I was doing and said my dad was in bad shape and may not make it. I went home and went into my room and shut the door. He did survive and spent the next month in the hospital. For a long time I spent most of my time in one of two places; at school and in my room.
I remember wondering why no one came and got me the day of the accident. Not my mother. Not my sister. No relatives or family friends. I remember thinking that somehow the accident was my fault. No one talked to me about what had happened. Oh great, I was now the kid who critically injured his father. There was no one to talk to so over time I convinced myself it was me. OCD drove that home. The days were dark and the nights were bright.
My books taught me a lot. I learned about OCD and depression. I knew I had OCD and refused to believe I was suffering from something else. After all, I was popular and had lots of friends. I never let any of them get too close to me for fear they would find the imperfections. I laughed and joked my way through day after day. I had coping mechanisms and convinced myself I was ok.
But, when my door shut, all hell broke loose. Depression doesn’t give you a heads up. There are no visible signs or symptoms you are about to go to a heavy place. There is no formula for figuring out how long you will be there either. In fact, there is no knowing how deep or dark an episode will be.
What is known is that it sucks.
What else is known is that therapy works.
It takes real time and effort. After my sister died, I was in a bad place and returned for help. I was digging a deeper hole for myself every day and I needed someone to help me stop. As I have written before, my therapist saved my life. I am certain of that. The key is to take the first step. Recognize and admit you have a problem. Then accept that getting help is heroic and right. Then do it.
And now I bask in the glory of seeking and learning about everything. I want to pierce through the molten gasses and reach the cool side of the sun. This is my second submission in support of the Good Men Project/Stigma Fighters initiative. I believe it is very important. I realized there was more to my story that I hadn’t covered. I see the comments and pain from men and woman struggling with an illness. All I want to do is help.
My best, Chris
This post is part of a joint series by The Good Men Project and Stigma Fighters in sharing stories of real men living with mental illness. To submit your story, see below.
Stigma Fighters is an organization that is dedicated to raising awareness for the millions of people who are seemingly “regular” or “normal” but who are actually hiding the big secret: that they are living with mental illness and fighting hard to survive.
The more people who share their stories, the more light is shone on these invisible illnesses, and the more the stigma of living with mental illness is reduced.
For Stigma Fighters’ Founder Sarah Fader’s recent profile in The Washington Post that discusses how more and more people are “coming out” with their mental illness, see here.
The Good Men Project is the only international conversation about the changing roles of men in the 21st century.
Mental health and the reducing the social stigma of talking about mental health is and has been a crucial area of focus for The Good Men Project.
As Dr. Andrew Solomon stated during his interview with us, people writing about their own experiences mitigates each of our aloneness in a profound way: “One of the primary struggles in all the worlds I have written about is the sense each of us has that his or her experience is isolating. A society in which that isolation is curtailed is really a better society.”
We are partnering together on this Call For Submissions, because our missions overlap and because we want to extend this conversation further.
If you are a man living with mental illness, and want to share your story, we would love to help.
To submit to the Good Men Project, please submit here.
To submit to Stigma Fighters, please submit here.
Submissions will run in both publications. When you submit, please make sure to let us know you submitting as part of this Joint Call for Submissions with Stigma Fighters and Good Men Project.
Feel free to contact us:
[email protected] (Good Men Project)
[email protected] (Stigma Fighters)
[email protected] (Stigma Fighters)
Join the conversation at The Good Men Project. Here’s how:
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