Making a Lifelong Illness “Life Long”

Making a Lifelong Illness “Life Long”

by John Rossi

When I was a kid, we had a cautionary tale about a distant cousin who once took drugs at a college party and “fried her brain”. She was of course the bright, intelligent, “first one in our family to go to college” girl next door who tried Marijuana once and 2 months later, they found her in the middle of winter walking around with no shoes on. The marijuana was laced with PCP and she had to live the rest of her life in a mental hospital. Although my personal story doesn’t have to do with drugs, it does involve the seemingly less important part of this tale. Albeit, to this day it did scare me off drugs, but the thought of someone living in a facility was oddly comforting. 

Far too young, I used to dream about a place I could go where I wouldn’t have to worry. To know that there was a place you could go if you struggled with “mental problems”. A place where everything was taken care of for you, your food, your clothes, your activities, everything that you could think of. Everything that made you function as a human being was going to be scheduled, and handled for you. In many points of my life, this was more comforting to me than the promise of the future I was predicting. 

I am now 30, and I spent the last 10 years of my life trying to figure out the first 10 years of my life, and the abuse I put myself through for some years in the middle of that. In the time I have spent looking back into my past I have made one realization, there remained a particular mental state throughout my life that would try to pursue me to contemplate my existence. Which may be terribly dramatic, but my intention with it is, at this point it has been a life long situation. 

When I heard that ol’ cousin's tale, I can’t tell you why I was so relieved. There seemed to be something that I was constantly troubled about, and as I grew up there were more times where I began to feel that my future was more and more uncertain. As I delved into the past, I don’t think its fair to correlate my upbringing with my persisting problem. I have an amazing family. 

My father worked harder for our family than any person I have and will ever come across. My mother to this day is the most selfless and caring person I’ve ever met, let alone her ability to be the most natural parent I have ever seen. From early on the greatest gift of being in my family was having those pillars as a support team. But just like I fortunately have certain traits from them, unfortunately neither of them seem to have this mental misfire I experience. 

In my case, the people that I used as pillars of support became the resources I heard about when longing for the assistance of the “mental hospital”. I know I’m blessed to have the family I do, but there are countless cases where a person has chosen the ones they’re closest to. Whether its blood or water, the only “thickness” that matters is how deep and meaningful you're connection to them is. They are the ones who will be there for you, and take care of you. 

The importance of understanding that no matter what, there are people who will be there for you, accept you, listen to you, help you, and handle what ever you may need, is truly the way to beat this. I now know, what I was looking for as a child was this community. I now understand that the care and help I heard about receiving at the mental hospital, I could find in cherished relationships and friendships with loved ones. 

If you're reading this, I think its safe to say that you know anxiety and depression just might be the most isolating and alienating illnesses. I can't look back at my past and be upset. Not just with how I acted, but what I was reacting to. I can't regret it, because when I did live in regret, it led to a worse present. I damn sure as hell can't be proud of some of it, anything past accepting it leads to reenacting past mistakes. I can't suppress it, because it will just become another face masked on an issue that becomes an abuse or addiction. So, I have to talk about it, and give it the respect it deserves. It happened. It continues to happen, but of everything I can do, if there is anything I can do, I hope that I can help someone else.

If there is anything I know, or anything I’d want you to take out of this, it’s that the truest way of not only defeating the urges of self harm, but the stigma that has plagued the appearance of depression, its establishing, maintaining and actively engaging in a community. So, find your support group, community, family, and show up, be a part of it. This is what I have chosen to dedicate my life to. 

Personally, I have made a community within my passion of music and have dedicated my life to pursuing this endeavor with my band Ivy League. Not only does the music weight into these topics in every song, the band has established an active social media presence based on open sharing and spreading acceptance to all who need it. It is our prerogative to bridge gaps with the understanding of how mental illnesses plague people in particular dealing anxiety and depression. You are not alone and if you are ever in need, please reach out. Our community is are here for you.

When ADAA was interested in my involvement for their blog, I did not take it lightly. To be a continuation of their outreach, information and support for anyone and all who need it, is something I take great pride in. There are beautiful stories laid out with personal advice written by people struggling like I am, and it has been so beneficial to me. Every story and experience is unique, but compassion and care is universal and ADAA has done a magnificent job in being able to lend aid who need it by using individual experiences to help bridge the gap of loneliness and acceptance.

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