January 5, 2011

What Remains

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

I spent my entire freshman year, at Syracuse University, walking the fine line between manic and psychotic. Finally it was too much for my brain to take and as Spring Break ended and my friends were returning to class rested and rejuvenated, I found myself staring at the blank walls of a hospital room.

I fought my way back to campus and my final three years at Syracuse were a mix of brief respites of joy and the endless pain of recovery and adjusting to a new life. When my friends were out partying or toiling away in the library, I was holed up in my dorm, fast asleep. The exhaustion from the readjustment was enough to knock me out, but more so than that I was watching my sleep habits carefully to make sure to avoid restless, manic nights. As much as I wanted to rejoice at making it back to campus, I couldn’t. My thought processes were considerably slower after my bipolar diagnosis and subsequent pharmaceutical regimen. It took me three hours to complete homework assignments and readings that would have taken me thirty minutes in the past.

I couldn’t bring myself to try and process any of the trauma of that fateful Spring semester. I did not yet have the words or the courage to express how I was feeling – even to my closest friends and mentors. It was a lonely time for me. I was trapped in my own head and couldn’t see beyond my reality of the moment. I had yet to see any college students step forward and say “I have a mental illness. This is my struggle. Look at how I’m thriving.” The only examples I had to look to were the adults with whom I shared an inpatient stay – hardly a comfort.

My last visit to Syracuse in Fall of 2009 brought up many painful memories. Walking around campus meant retracing my footsteps on a journey that I don’t look back on with pride. I still have vivid flashbacks of manic conversations. I remember things I said that I can’t believe. I remember actions I took that shock me. You would think that with all that pain, I wouldn’t want to come back. Thankfully, those memories aren’t all that remain.

I’m just getting home from my most recent trip up to Syracuse. I had the opportunity to visit with the mentors that I’ve kept in touch with over the years, my extended family that supported me even when I didn’t know how to ask for their help, and the wonderful friends I made along the way. The amazing thing about when you are made vulnerable by circumstances beyond your control is that it invites those around you to draw near. Even now, I am so open about my struggles not only to set a positive example for those who are facing similar adversities, but also because it fosters a connection with people that I have yet to replicate any other way.

For those of you of you out there who haven’t been able to disclose your illness to people around you, just know that for all the stigma and misunderstanding there is also hope and love. I still hold on to the painful memories, the anxiety that they bring, and the shame I can’t seem to leave behind. I know one day I’ll have to shed that weight if I’m going to grow into the person I want to be, but in the meantime it helps to have the bright spots too. I’m so incredibly grateful for the people that have remained in my life and seen me through my highest highs and my lowest lows. I’m so thankful for what remains.


September 2, 2010

Those life changing moments

Filed under: Story, Youth — Tags: , , , , , — Jeremy @ 12:23 pm

“Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.” ~Bill Clinton

First, let me introduce myself.  My name is Jeremy, and I recently started volunteering for BringChange2Mind.  In December I graduated from UConn with a B.A. in Political Science, and immediately started working for a start-up company as the Director of Marketing.  More importantly, I’ve been a mental health advocate since 2003. Here’s my story:

2:00AM, December 2003, Sophomore year of high school.  I remember it like it was yesterday…

One of my bedroom windows was open, allowing a breezy chill sneak through the room.  I was sitting at my computer with two of my closest friends and, as most high schoolers do, we were fooling around on the internet and chatting with friends online.  I was seated at my computer doing the typing as Matt and my other friend were intermittently dictating what I should type.

We were suddenly interrupted by a startling message from one of our close friends – who I’ll call Lauren.

We had always known Lauren had things going on in her life that made it hard for her to be happy.  I can’t go into details, but various forms of abuse and her strive for “perfection” – fueled by her parents – were the obvious sources of her troubles.

As we cautiously, and cluelessly, talked Lauren out of this low point in her life, the three of us realized there was something wrong with this picture.  None of us had ever been trained on what to do if someone was suicidal – who can we call on for help?  Calling 911 seemed like it would be a bad idea because it would create so much raucous around Lauren’s house.  Her parents would be woken up, she would be dragged into an ambulance and taken to the hospital.  Should we call her parents?  No, that would make matters worse – right?  That’s what we thought at the time, since we had never been trained on what to do in these frightening circumstances.

After about 2 hours of talking to Lauren online, we were able to calm her down. After a series of text messages, she was safe and in bed ready to sleep off her exhausting night.

From there, we had many concerns.  We wanted to ensure that no one had to go through what we did – ever again.  Not a single high school student should feel helpless when their friend comes to them in need of help.  So, we e-mailed our Superintendent and Principal to let them know what had happened, and that we wanted to do something about it.

This is how my journey as a mental health advocate began.  I’ve been fortunate to have made numerous connections in the field, and sit on a number of extraordinary committees, state and national advisory boards, as well as grant writing committees.

From hereon out, my posts will focus on a few things – the things I love to do within this field of extraordinary organizations.  I’ll focus on:

  • Collaborations and connections: I love helping organizations find the right groups to connect and collaborate with.  How can we form a tight-knit community within the mental health field?  Should we all work together, or should each organization focus on their own initiatives?
  • Marketing mental health: I feel as if there needs to be some changes in the way we encourage people to seek help.  We need to take a new approach in marketing mental health to society through social media and multi-media campaigns.  Can social media really encourage people seek help?  How can we get companies to be more cautious in their own marketing strategies?
  • Raising awareness: Marketing aside, there are so many ways we can raise awareness about mental health and the numerous resources available.  How can we do this in an appropriate way? Are there certain demographics we should target when we do this?

Also, like Linea and Keith, I love hearing feedback!  I encourage you all to comment on my posts and feel free to let me know what you’d like me to write about!

I’ll leave you all with my favorite saying that I’ve coined throughout the years: we’re all working towards the same goal, so why not work together!

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