National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Everyday Heroes: A Senator's Story
(from the Spring 2011 issue of esperanza)
By Janice Arenofsky
When longtime Massachusetts legislator Bob Antonioni got elected at age 30, he earned a reputation among his colleagues in Boston for courtesy, quick thinking and hard work.
Antonioni spent four years in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, then began his first term in the state senate in 1992. His busy schedule included hobnobbing with colleagues and constituents, overseeing senate committees on criminal justice and education, and handling law cases for his private practice in his hometown of Leominster.
Yet Antonioni found it harder and harder to carry on, skipping hearings and canceling lunch appointments as his undiagnosed depression grew worse. Finally, after nearly a decade in the senate, an aide found him slumped on his office floor, sobbing and hopeless.
"I said to myself, 'I can't do it anymore,' " recalls Antonioni. "I can't go out there and put on a happy face."
Antonioni had long thought of himself as moody, but never connected his low emotions to depression. The moodiness began to morph into growing frustration over trivialities and increasing anxiety over work demands. His concentration, motivation and energy dwindled. He felt overwhelmed by his responsibilities in the legislature and at his law office.
"It was like having two full-time jobs," says Antonioni, now 52 and retired from politics. "I think it would have been a challenge in the best of circumstances, but coupled with the depression, it became very difficult."
Ultimately, it took a tragic family event to push Antonioni into seeking help-and into a new role as a role model. Click here to read more.