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Part 7: Walking In A Haze Of Reality; Home With My Head & My Bed

One resounding fact emanates from my blog; I could not hold my mother and grandfather in any higher esteem.  While I’ve been led to my own inner strength by all of you, its these two that push it out of me more than any single person, place or thing could.  My birth certificate, drivers license, passport, work badges, business cards and banner all have the last name I was given at birth.  The one of my father.  I will never change this last name as I share it with my children and I am working to change my own perception of it.  That being said, I have always been and will always be a Robbins.  That lives on in my first name.  A name that I could not be prouder to have.  A name I wear around my neck to carry my gramps with me everywhere I go.  I can call and text and see my mom when I need strength.  You see my journey has brought me to a place of understanding.  A place that gives me a how instead of stoning me with whys.  These two will forever be my heroes and paved the way for me to become one myself.

17 Years, 1 month and 19 days after my honorable discharge I received a call when I was in another state.  Like Alaska I was in the snow on a mountain working.  One week a year I work with children from the UK.  My ex called me to alert me of a situation involving my child. My child felt like I did and thought like I did when I was 14.  Everything in my body, heart and head crashed.  Splintered in ways I would never imagine.  I allowed myself an hour to feel and plan.  It was there that I found a phone booth to turn into my hero of a mom and do what needed to be done.  Within hours I was in my car speeding home.  I knew what I needed when my mind went there and I was damn sure going to be there for my mini.  While I will not go into details of my child, I will tell you this, they are stronger than I will ever be as they too come from my grampa and my mother.  I immediately started making calls and getting mini the care they needed.

During these calls I had to explain over and over again what had and was taking place.  Each time branded my heart with my child’s pain and my guilt.  How could I have missed this?  I’ve been dealing with something so similar for so long, how could I miss this?  My military training coupled with symptoms of my PTSD have made me hyper vigilant and more than always aware, how could I be so blind?  “Forgive yourself for not knowing what you did not know before you learned it”.  A lesson learned in almost the most hardest of ways but a lesson much needed to be learned.  This situation and the start of my own flesh and blood’s lifelong journey is where I was stripped down to my core, that was built on rock and not maybes, to rebuild the man writing this blog.  The man my children need and deserve.  The man my grandfather would be proud of.  The man that was raised by the most incredible of people.  The man this world needs.  The man I deserve to be.

Once things were squared away, the appropriate professionals involved, appointments made and gone to, follow ups scheduled and a plan in place; I asked for help.  I knew that I was not equipped to not only help my child through this but also to cope with it myself.  The immense guilt I felt and somewhat still feel was the sledgehammer that nearly knocked my house off it’s foundation.  It was then that I knew I needed help with my own mental illnesses that I have been stuffing away and hiding for too long.  Any coping skills I learned along the way have gone out the window.  The little confidence I had in myself streamed down my face daily.  To the point I could not get out of bed.  Not that I would not get out of bed, I could not get out of bed.  Something I very much needed to do.  I am and have always been a very hard worker.  I started off peddling homemade bracelets in 6th grade, quickly climbed the ranks at my first job and was leading adults as a child.  I am not self made.  My mom, grampa, family, friends, and you have help make me.  I am, however, self driven.  A natural born hustler.  In March of 2018, I awoke a man I did not know.  A man with no hope.  A man who couldn’t even move his hand three feet to change the channel of the tv or turn it on or turn it off.  A man who takes so much pride in his appearance, no longer cared.  I couldn’t return text messages or phone calls.  My girlfriend replied to most of you on my behalf when you reached out or helped to post on social media to mask exactly how bad thing have gotten for me.  She did this in hopes to help lift me.

I asked for help and could barely even make it to the appointments needed to get me better.  I was out of work on an indefinite leave.  I couldn’t function.  My concentration and focus disappeared like Pete Rose from MLB.  I had gone to see my doctor and my therapist a few times.  My doctor changed my meds, they worked slightly for my anxiety and did nothing for my depression.  After three meetings with my new therapist I was told that she is not in my network and I need to pay out of pocket, not an option.  Given my condition I was heavily referred and convinced to go to a very rigorous outpatient program from 9-2 every day (https://www.snhhealth.org/php).  The first two and a half weeks, I went four times.  The fourth time I was pulled into an office with the head therapist.  He could see in my dark eyes that I needed more.  I needed to become more aware of myself.  I needed to remove all of the stressors in my reality to rebuild myself, or even better build the best version of me.  This would require me doing something extremely scary.  Something that did not help me at all in 2000.  I needed to be hospitalized and treated.  I explained my concerns and why I was pensive about this.  I explained all of the medications that I had once taken and how I don’t want to live a chemical life.  My concerns were valid and, more importantly, heard.  Even better they were alleviated.

They wanted me to admit myself right then and there.  I could not.  I had to tell my mom face to face.  I had to talk to my kids.  I had to pack.  I had a feeling that I had to go home that day and admit myself the next day.  After meeting with the head psychiatrist, I was allowed to go home and make the proper arrangements.  This is when it happened.  When I was left with nothing but my foundation.  I left the hospital and sent mom a text to see if she was home so I could stop by and let her know what was going on.  Since she had not responded I then headed to one of my closest friend’s house.  She has been more than amazing to me and my family.  Has helped me during some tough times and understands me.  I was honored when her husband to be asked me to be in his wedding party.  I needed to tell her I’d be gone for a bit and wanted to talk about a phone call I received from her husband, and my good friend, the night before.  He had eluded to some issues at home but more importantly wanted to say to me “Robbie, I know you better than you think.  You are much stronger than you know and I love you.”  When I arrived at her house she was in her room on her bed with her cousin, yet another amazing person in my life, both had clearly been crying.

I looked at my friend and told her that I was being admitted the next day and was at peace with the decision as I believed it would help me become the best version of me.  She hugged me as well as her cousin and they both told me how proud of me they were.  They both knew how hard it was for me to admit I couldn’t do this alone any more, that I needed help and even harder to ask for it.  After a few minutes of light talking I could sense I was missing something.  Being as close as we all are, I had no problem saying it “I’m missing something, what’s going on”?  What I was informed literally brought me to my knees.  My friend who called to tell me how strong I was for getting help ended his life a few hours after calling me.  Shattered.  Destroyed.  Pain.  Guilt.  Everything.  Nothing.  All at once.  I don’t know how long it took for me to be able to talk or hear.  What I remember next is what helped me bust my ass to get to where I am right now.  Almost in unison, like they were in my mind hearing my thoughts, they looked me in my eyes and tell me that this does not change what I am doing.  That under no uncertain terms was I to not go and be admitted the next day.  They know my heart.  They know my desire to protect and care for those I love, especially moms, and knew that I was contemplating not going the next day so I could be there for them.  To do make things better to the best of my ability.

In order for me to do that, I need to be the best version of me.  After a little while I excused myself to go to my moms.  She opened her door to her 38 year old son curled up in a ball on her doorstop bawling more than she had probably seen since my final wrestling match as a Spartan.  She grabbed her son and held him and would not let go.  She knew that is what he needed.  I told her everything.  What had happened to my amazing friend.  My decision to get more aggressive help.  How broken I was.  How I could barely think let alone be a productive member of society.  How I hurt.  How much I wanted better for me.  The rest of that day is pretty much a blur.  I needed to pack for my hospitalization.  I needed to see my kids.  I barely slept that night.  Maybe 90 minutes.  I was up before the sun and spent it crying nonstop.  I went to my friends house to let her know that I would be calling her every day when I could.  To hug her and let her know I will be back.  I will be better and stronger than ever.

I then stopped by my girlfriend’s work to say “see you soon” and get a final embrace before I head to my mental boot camp.  Then I went.  What happened next changed my life.  Brought me to where I am today.  I will win this war.  I will with peace.  A peaceful mind.  At peace with my past.  At peace with who I am.  At peace with everyone and anyone knowing who I truly am, armor stripped and vulnerable.  At peace with my mental illnesses.  At peace knowing that I am working hard every day to better myself and my mind.  At peace with me…

Part 7

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within” -Maya Angelou

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The day I almost didn’t get out of bed

Self care is imperative for everyone, not just those of us living with mental illness. Sometimes that means staying home on a work day. Sometimes you need to recognize when to push through it. Having depression and anxiety gives me symptoms that I need figure out the validity in. For example, anxiety can bring on chronic fatigue. So can not sleeping, not staying med compliant or a night spent drinking. It is my responsibility to understand myself and the situation to decide if staying home is what is needed.

As an employee for a large corporation as well as a small business owner, photography, missing time can impact my wallet.  These decisions are not easy and yet, still need to be made.  This morning was one of those decision making mornings.  I have a morning routine.  My alarm goes off and I ignore, that’s why I have three alarms, I get out of bed and make it, stumble to the kitchen and turn the coffee pot on.  I will then brush my teeth and hop in the shower.  When I’m done showering my coffee is ready and I pour a cup to drink and large cup to go.  I make my way back upstairs to enjoy my coffee while I ponder my day and start to get dressed.

It is this routine that helps me discern if today is a stay at home or go to work day.  Today I went to work.  I’m there right now (on my lunch break), thriving.  My morning tasks are simple yet integral to my day and my well being.  If I can’t, not don’t want to, truly cannot complete my morning routine it is my responsibility to listen to my body.  I have gotten good at this, do not miss a lot of work and remain a positive influence and productive member of not only my company but society as well.

How do you practice self care?

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I’m not crying, you are.

“Dude, are you crying? What kind of sally are you?” Response like this are typical when one man sees another crying. If something tragic happens it’s ok for men to cry. Other than that, we’ve been conditioned to hold back tears as if we lose masculinity with each salty drop down our faces. What a crock of shit.

Crying is more than ok. It’s therapeutic for me. Admittedly I used to not cry. There were a few years where I don’t think I cried at all. Those were some numb and dark times. I still have rough patches but now I allow myself to cry when compelled. It’s part of life. I must allow myself to process emotions and crying is part of the process.

I’ve found that I almost schedule my cries now. I’m even productive when crying. Doing the dishes and crying isn’t bad at all. I get to release some emotions and get chores done!

Once I’ve accepted that crying doesn’t make me less of anything and embraced it as a way to cope and process mental illness symptoms, I’ve started living better. Almost happier. Tears were created for reasons. Who am I to question it?

It’s ok to cry. You are not alone. Share sometime with your salty friends and remember that the tattooed, bearded veteran and wrestler is probably crying too.

#mentalhealth #mencrytoo #depression #anxiety #mhblogger

Barriers, the help and they hurt

This past year I’ve been working on bettering myself to be the best version of Robbie possible. During this journey I’ve learned that I’m a “yes man” where I will typically answer in the affirmative to help others. For some reason I can’t say no. Maybe it’s my caring heart. Perhaps I want everyone to like me. Regardless I tend to not say no even at the detriment of myself.

In this life lesson I have learned to use boundaries to prevent from being triggered or in situations that I can become easily overwhelmed. My support system has been predominantly supportive of me using boundaries . They have found it helps them better understand the situations that can trigger me, why these things can trigger my anxiety or PTSD and how to best help me. At first it was really liberating saying no. Not in a jerkish manner. Just being able to decline knowing it was in my best interest.

What I’m struggling with now are the negative consequences that I feel I’ve allowed to occur with my boundaries. I’m finding that some of these boundaries, which are meant to help me live my best life, are becoming barriers. Not Jersey barriers where you can leap over, see over, hear and feel things on the other side more like the Berlin Wall.

As I continue on this journey I will tear down that wall because everyday I’m living my authentic self and bringing more of me to the surface. I know I sometimes lock myself in my tower. Admittedly it isn’t always the best thing to do. I’m not perfect. None of us are. But every day I progress is a day closer to being the best me for me. And for you.

Talking

I like to talk. A salesperson that likes to talk? Shocking, I know. What I like talking about is very personal. I like talking about my mental health and how it impacts my life. Why? Selfishly, it’s therapeutic. Talking about my thoughts and feelings helps me cope with the symptoms that come along with depression, anxiety and PTSD. More importantly, me talking about my mental health has helped and will continue to help others.

Through tragedy I discovered inner strength that allows me to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is not synonymous with weak. I am now empowered to share my triumphs and challenges. What is amazing is the responses I get when I share. Typically I’m talking to a specific group for a specific reason. For example I have spoken at Colleges & Universities as part of a course’s curriculum. The intent is to provide real life examples of things students are learning. The result has been people hearing similar battles that they internally fight and once felt alone. Rather than getting an education to potentially start or further a career, people are learning about themselves and how they are not alone.

Seeing this happen in front of my eyes is beyond intoxicating. I set out to share my story with the hopes of helping one person. That’s it, just one person. I can tell you that I have already helped countless people. Whether it was helping them get professional help, showing them support, being there when they need, listening, even helping them start sharing their stories. That’s how we can change the world, by sharing our stories. Not just the good or just the bad, but all of it. Trials and tribulations. Get out and share your story. Your struggles and ability to talk about overcoming them can give someone else hope. And hope, that’s a product I will sell all day long for no charge!

Part 8: Breaking Through The Haze To Live My Days; Becoming Robbie

So much.  Too much?  Just enough.  Life had given me so much at this point in my life.  Beautiful children.  Amazing friends.  Family that is second to none.  A successful career.  Goals not only achieved, but smashed.  Wrestling.  Still to this day I get to wrestle.  Love.  Heart ache.  Darkness and light.  Life is beautiful, sometimes we just need to search for the beauty to be reminded.  It is here that this happened for me, to me, with me, because of me.  An admitted patient.

The hospital was a blur that Friday.  Either because of my memory or because I had so many tears that my sight was literally blurry.  When I arrived with my things I had to have them searched.  No alcohol, no drugs (not even my medications), no shoelaces, no clothing that could be potentially offensive, no drawstrings in my clothes (I had to buy shorts and pants that fit as I had ended up weighing 20 pounds less than what I weighed when I graduated high school 20 years ago), no razors and no sharps.  All things that I can understand the reason behind.  Imagine putting yourself in a place that required removing these things from your life.  How would that impact you?  Your thoughts?

That day I met with probably everyone on staff.  First a physician to give me a physical and X-rays to get an idea of where I was physically.  This did not happen in Alaska.  After that I met with head psychiatrist again and informed me that we would up the dosages on the two medications we agreed on prior to my admittance.  They then let me sleep.  The exhaustion of just the situation itself was enough to inspire a nap.  The lack of sleep the last couple of days only compounded my body’s request for rest.  I couldn’t relax.  I couldn’t stop crying.  Wailing.  Bawling.  They ended up giving me ativan to calm me down enough to allow me to sleep.  It worked.  I slept.  In darkness and without dreams.  Hours later I was awakened for a check in.  Even though my room had no locks and had a camera to monitor me, the staff still needed to have a conversation with me to see where my head was.  It was then, that night that I felt it.  I could feel everyone’s love helping show me my strength.  I wasn’t there yet but I could feel it coming.  I let it all out.  I hid nothing.  All my feelings.  All my thoughts.  Everything that had happened the last 38 years that brought me to this room with a camera and no locks, to these amazing people that guided me to where I needed to be, to the place that has allowed Robbie to break through all of the fake layers and identities I had built.  After this check in meeting I went back to bed.  Tomorrow I change my life.  Tomorrow I put in the work.

I woke up with the sun.  There was no clock in my room and my cell phone was locked up to keep the outside stress out of my life for a bit.  I rolled over, like I normally do when I wake up, and was about to close my eyes.  That’s when something in my head whispered “that’s not why you are here”.  It wasn’t my mom’s voice, it wasn’t grampa’s.  Nor was it any of my friends or family that I have lost along the path of life.  It was my voice.  Like I was on the corner of the wrestling mat coaching myself wrestling my demons.  Going back to sleep would be letting the demons take me down.  Maybe even to my back, which has become hard for most to do to me.  I listened to my coach.  That’s not why I was there.  I was there to grow.  To improve.  To be better.

I got out of bed and made it.  Just like I was taught at Lackland Air Force Base with hospital corners that could not be beat.  You can bounce a quarter off of my bed.  Brushed my teeth and threw some cold water on my face, left my room and walked down to get some ice cold water.  As soon as I exited my room there was a sign on the wall that said “12 laps = 1 mile”, that’s all I needed.  That morning I did 24 laps before attending the first group session of the morning, goals meeting.  This is where we introduce ourselves, discuss the rules of hospital, write and verbalize our goal for the day.  My goal for day one was to attend at least one group session and stay out of bed.  During this first meeting is when the countless hours and days spent practicing on the mat with my team, the wrestling camps mom somehow found a way to afford every single summer, the early morning and late night workouts I would do on my own every day, the hard work that I have put in all my life, every mile ran, every match wrestled, every party or weekends that I sacrificed reminded me how strong I am.  It’s time to put in the work.

I went to every single session, meeting, therapy, meal, option available to me that day and every day since.  As hard as it was to concentrate to read, I would still read.  And reread.  And reread.  Over and over till I knew I got it.  I would write in my journal things that would resonate with me, thoughts that I had, goals I wanted to achieve, triggers I noticed, questions I had almost non stop.  Then the miraculous happened; I stopped chasing the why and put my shoulder into the how.  Once I realized that I could get to where I needed to be by understanding HOW to do it rather than questioning why (Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT) I knew how to score points on my opponent.  It started with my days in the hospital.  Take down after take down after take down of my demons.  Then I started to turn them over and score back points.

To say I busted my ass while in the hospital would be a drastic understatement.  Every day I was there I woke up earlier.  Watched the sun come up.  Upped my laps till I was at five miles every morning before breakfast at eight.  Actively participated in everything I attended.  Listened to everyone else’s story.  Told mine when appropriate.  Encouraged others.  Started changing how I think.  In one of my meetings with my psychiatrist we discussed how depression brings us bad days and sometimes staying in bed for a day is what is needed.  He challenged that thought.  He said “yes, sometimes we need a break and a day of doing nothing can be ok, but staying in bed is not.  Yes we require rest but with depression, staying in bed could make it worse.  So maybe stay in bed for another hour but get up.  Make your bed.  Go relax on the couch.  But do not stay in bed all day.”  That’s when I had the most profound thought that I shared with him the next day.  At first my mind thought I was not here, as in the hospital, to stay in bed all day.  What it was saying is that I am not here, on this earth, to stay in bed all day.  AND I decided that I will no longer have bad days.  I will have good days filled with challenges.  Challenges are less scary than bad.  Challenges make me rise to the occasion.  Challenges get pinned more often than not by me.

My youngest had one of their first sporting events on May 1st.  Something I so desperately wanted to be at.  I do my best to not miss any of my children’s events and make damn sure that I am the loudest and proudest in the stands.  They always know when I’m there and always see me as soon as they step off the field, court, mat, stage, what have you to hear how proud I am of them and how great they did.  Given where I was and why I was there, I did resign myself to the fact that I may not be able to attend this.  This did not take away from the effort that I exerted to make myself better.  This was a goal that I shared with the staff as well as me being at peace if I could not make it.  The game started at 6 pm 45 minutes from my house.  I was discharged that day at 3 pm.  I achieved my goal.  My goal to start a path more mentally healthy than before.  To make my mental health hygiene as important as my physical health and dental hygiene.  I went to the game.  I cheered louder than I ever have before.  I was there to hold and hug my mini and tell them how proud I was and how great they did.  When they asked “daddy why are you crying?” my response was “because you make me so happy” and I received the hug that only my DNA could give.

The next day I started a grueling outpatient program that carried over a lot of what the inpatient program had.  Rather than being monitored 24/7, staying at the hospital and having staff administer any medications; I slept in my own bed and took my meds on my own.  It was up to me to get out of bed every day and get back to the hospital in the morning and work the program till 2-2:30.  This is a seven day a week program.  Over the next eight days I went every day with the exception of once to spend time with my family.  The day before I graduated I was pulled aside by the head psychiatrist, head therapist and a few staff members to tell me this “Robbie the day we all met you we were all very concerned.  Your eyes told us you were broken and had given up.  Your attitude and dedication to get better is what we want from every patient we meet.  We want that same attitude and effort from everyone as that is required to separate feeling better and getting better.  Please keep in touch and never forget that we are here for you.  You have not been and will not ever be alone.” Wow.  To have others see the effort and hard work is something that will always make me proud.  When I told my girlfriend that I was proud of the hard work that I’ve been putting in, she said to me “Spence, I’ve never heard you say that you are proud of yourself.  Not once in the 22 years I’ve known you.”  I guess I am starting to change the way I think.  I’m starting to become Robbie!!!

The work didn’t stop there.  Two weeks today is when I graduated from the outpatient program.  Now what?  How do I fly without my cape?  Without my support group?  Without my team?  My peeps?  During my inpatient time, in order to be discharged you have to write up a specific aftercare plan, complete with different scenarios and what we would do.  Then a back to that.  Then a back up to the back.  You needed to list three contacts and provide the names and dates of your psychiatrist, therapist and doctor.  You need to commit to calling the national suicide hotline for anything.  Even if you aren’t suicidal.  If you need to talk you call.  I always have this number with me in my wallet if you ever need.  I’ve even thought about adding it to my tattoo collection.  I think memorizing it would be a better option for me.  Obviously there are other factors that go into your discharge, including multiple interviews to make sure you aren’t playing them.  I know this because I asked.  I asked them how they know I’m not selling them on the fact I’m “better” just to leave to go to the game and back to work and get on with my life.  They all told me that they are trained to know the difference.  They have experienced a lot.  They may not always be right, be they usually are.  I can attest, they are right.

This was all for me to fill out on a form.  Because of my goal and how well I have been progressing I was able to sell them on at least giving it to me the night before so that I could fulfill anything on my end ASAP to not delay the potential prospect of being discharged.   I completed it in sextuplicate.  My backup’s backup’s backup’s had two backups.  I listed six people.  I also text all six of these people every morning when I wake up, get out of and make my bed.  Then I go for a walk to the center of my town where there is a brick for my grandfather in honor of his service to our country as a Marine.  I then do pushups.  At first just 25.  Now I do 50.  And I do dips on the granite benches and then walk home.  I have a nice hot cup of coffee while I write in my journal and catch up on sports.  I don’t look at my phone for a bit, intentionally.  I have breakfast and then head to my favorite coffee shop for a half caff/half decaff (this is tremendously helpful for my anxiety) and get on with my day.  At no point was this asked in my plan.  I put it anyway.  I not only listed the already scheduled appointments but also any groups I plan on attending, podcasts I’m going to use and books I intend on reading when my concentration was better.

I didn’t do this to impress them or sell them on me being “better”, they saw that in my eyes and the work I was putting in with them, I did it for me.  That’s how I succeed at work.  I plan for everything.  I try to think of every question that will be asked of me so I can plan on how I will answer.  I plan on being there early.  I plan on working late.  All things that depression can do to some people.  Overthink.  Overworry.  Overcompensate.  I learned of this in the hospital.  I will continue to be prepared but not to the extent that I forget to take care of my mind.  I have not missed a day since I was discharged from the hospital.  I do all those things.  Every day.  Even during outpatient.  Sometimes I would grab my coffee to go, mostly during outpatient, but sometimes would stay and eat.  It was there that this blog started.

Tomorrow I go back to work.  After a couple of meetings with my “team” I was cleared to return to duty.  I don’t think I will ever feel 100% ready.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt 100% ready for anything in my life.  But I want to.  I need to.  I’ve been eased back into my life left with my tools to help me keep building myself.  Tools to help me through my challenging but still good days.  Tools to help me be the best version of me.  Tools that have helped me FINALLY have confidence in myself.  Tools to live life, not just survive it.  Love life; love hard.  It’s tattooed on my collarbone.  I will never forget that.  Never.  Just under that, over my heart is a lion.  To remind me that I am lionhearted.  That I am strong and have weathered many a storm.  To remind me that I am the king of my jungle of demons.  To remind me I will win this war.  I will with peace.  A peaceful mind.  At peace with my past.  At peace with who I am.  At peace with everyone and anyone knowing who I truly am, armor stripped and vulnerable.  At peace with my mental illnesses.  At peace knowing that I am working hard every day to better myself and my mind.  At peace with me…

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Please come back and read the final part in this blog series about my journey with depression.  My return to the work place.

“I no longer have bad days.  I have good days with challenges.”-Robbie S. Millward

Part 6: A Small Break Of the Daze; My Journey Home

As many of you are reading this you are probably thinking to yourself “how in the world did I miss this?”, please don’t.  How could you see something that I could not?  How could you feel something from me that I myself didn’t understand?  How could you have helped me when I didn’t know how to help myself?  Here’s what you can do.  Spread this blog.  Spread my story.  Smile a little more.  Wave to kids on a school bus.  Have a firm handshake.  Look people in the eyes.  Its those eyes that are the windows to who we are.  I’ve been mentioning throughout my blog that I was recently in the hospital.  My depression got to the point where I could not function like a normal human being.  Having the mental illnesses I have, I have to work very hard every day just to function like a normal human being.  I got to the point where I could not even get out of bed.  This required hospitalization to get me better.  The day I was discharged from the hospital was May 1st 2018.  The head psychiatrist , happened to be my psychiatrist during my stay as well as during my outpatient program the next ten days, said to me “Robbie when you came to us your eyes were dark, nearly completely black.  We could see the despair and pain.  Today I see vibrant color, very blue and true eyes.  Don’t forget that those are your eyes and who are you, not the man I first met.”  Wow, so much for first impressions!  Next time you hear “Behind Blue Eyes”, think of me.  I did not have these blue eyes very often in Alaska.

I was discharged from the psych ward in Anchorage after a brief stay of heavy sedation and alcoholism therapy.  It isn’t until now as I type this that I questioned my care, why wasn’t I medicated after my stay?  I did not get help.  I did not receive the care that I needed in order to get better.  Not feel better, but get better.  There is a very distinct difference.

A bandaid was applied to my shattered mind.  What happened next was beyond scarring.  Mighty Mouse was deployed to the sand.  My other roommate, Studly Do Right, had company and was in his room.  the pain in my heart was immense.  I knew I was loved but still felt alone.  It was time to change that.  I walked into the kitchen and grabbed the first knife in the drawer and just started cutting.  First it was just one swipe.  Superficial.  Come on don’t be so weak, do better be tougher go harder, and harder.  Blood.  I saw it.  I felt it.  I wasn’t ready.  It was not my time.  I yelled for my roommate.  I ran into his room.  911 was called.  Ambulance came.  ER I went.  Bandaged up and placed in overnight psych ward.  The next morning I was brought to the Base Psychiatrist.  My options were little, take an honorable discharge under a blanket reason of “personality disorder” or face a Court Martial under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) Article 134; Self Injury Without The Intent To Avoid Service (https://www.jordanucmjlaw.com/articles/article-134-self-injury-without-intent-to-avoid-/) which could’ve ended up getting me a dishonorable discharge.  That would’ve been enough to end it.  I couldn’t face my Heroes with a dishonorable discharge.  I took the honorable discharge, forfeiture of my GI Bill, a 3 month supply of Zoloft, packed what I wanted, sold the rest and came back home.

So here I am about to land at Logan.  My mind shattered and my instructions to move forward were, take these pills and call a doctor.  I was 21.  I took the pills till they were gone.  I didn’t call anyone.  That was the extent of my mental health care for the next 7 years when I had my first panic attack (my journey with my clinical generalized anxiety disorder will come in another blog series) that required yet another ambulance ride and started my road of medication and therapy.  During those 7 years I tried to self medicate with just about everything.  Alcohol and drugs.  Never to the point that I wasn’t a valued and productive member of society, but definitely not what I needed.  The booze numbed the pain in the moment but exacerbated my depression and anxiety.  The drugs calmed my anxiety and took away the pain, but again, just for fleeting moments.  I still hadn’t spoken much about everything.  I shared some of what happened in Alaska, but never the extent of what you have been reading.  Perhaps if I had I wouldn’t be writing this.  Maybe I’d never face some of the most amazing challenges that I have.  Maybe.  We can’t build a home on a foundation of maybes.

The next 17 years would be spent chasing the why.  Why am I like this?  Why do I react or respond the ways I do?  Why does my heart feel so much so often?  Until very recently I thought I had to know and fully understand the why before I could start getting better.  In my sales world this would the root cause or the need behind the need.  Something I am very good at.  If I understand your situation, I will sell.  Simple as that.  During this time I have seen many therapists, psychiatrists, doctors, spiritual leaders, alternative medical practices, all natural everything, coached wrestling, took up MMA (yet another identity) had children of my own, married and divorced, and moved back to my home town.  All things that could help me get better.  There was a time in my life where I was taking 9 pills a day.  All prescribed for my mental health.  I needed help so I took all the help that I could find.  Again, this was a bandaid that held on till 3 months ago.  It was then that I turned into a hero before I broke harder than I have ever broke before.

You have now read about my 4 attempts.  I may not know why life brought me to those choices, but I’m getting an understanding of what is needed to get better.  I will win this war.  I will with peace.  A peaceful mind.  At peace with my past.  At peace with who I am.  At peace with everyone and anyone knowing who I truly am, armor stripped and vulnerable.  At peace with my mental illnesses.  At peace knowing that I am working hard every day to better myself and my mind.  At peace with me…

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“You step off the straight and narrow
And you don’t know where you are
Use the needle of your compass
To sew up your broken heart
Ask directions from a genie
In a bottle of Jim Beam
And she lies to you
That’s when you learn the truth” -If You’re Going Through Hell; Rodney Atkins