Suffering in Silence | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Suffering in Silence

By Richard Brea

Depression affects nearly 16 million Americans every year. The stigma attached to mental illness is very real and it causes many people to suffer in silence. This is especially true for men. I should know because I experienced this first hand. I was never one to let the stigma affect me but once I came to the conclusion that it was best for me to go back on medication and seek a therapist, it hit me. I felt sad, weak and ashamed. I was disappointed in myself. I felt like I wasn’t strong enough. Regardless of what my mom told me, it felt like a step back.

Admitting I needed help wasn’t easy. I tried to delay the inevitable for as long as I could. When my anxiety became overwhelming, I started to self-medicate. I didn’t care about being sober once I lost my sobriety at 13 months. I was going to continue smoking weed and drinking when things became too overwhelming.

I didn’t want to go back to old habits but it was the only thing allowing me to get by. I was extremely lonely. My inspiration said, ‘The top isn’t lonely if you bring your friends with you.’ I wanted to go to Vegas so I decided to invite two of my friends. I told them I would pay for gas and the hotel. That trip ended up being a complete waste of my time and money. Although I was grateful to go to Vegas for the first time in two years, I still ended up alone.

Towards the end of the night, my friends went back to the hotel to spend some time with a couple of escorts. I didn’t want any part of that so I told them to go ahead. I said I would be fine. I was slightly annoyed but I got over it pretty quickly. That moment was a microcosm of everything I had experienced the past few months. When I was by myself on the strip all I could do was laugh. Even when I invite two of my friends to hang out with me I still end up alone. Born alone, die alone.

I have nothing to be upset or sad about. I just got my first apartment and a few months ago I woke up to five figures in my bank account. Call me crazy but money doesn’t make me happy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for not having to worry about my bank account and spending money makes me feel good but my 50-inch TV doesn’t keep me warm at night and it won’t be with me when I die. In my moments of despair and loneliness, my mindset shifts to negative thoughts and wanting to give up. I do my best to keep my faith but in those moments, it feels like God isn’t enough. How can He be enough when He isn’t physical? How can He be enough when I constantly feel alone? But even with my faith being tested more than ever, I still continue to give Him my all. I still pray and talk to Him every day.

At times getting out of bed and leaving my apartment can be the biggest challenge. It’s so tempting to stay in bed and do nothing all day long. That’s when I’m reminded that misery loves company. My mind is a constant battleground and my thoughts are always at war. Sometimes I want to give up on everything. On God. My family. Friends. My goals. My dreams. My life. But I keep going because no matter what storm I’m going through, it too shall pass.

I recently completed a ten-week NAMI Peer-to-Peer recovery and education program. It’s been helpful to be around people who experience the same the same thoughts, anxieties and illnesses (bipolar, depression) as me. I’m currently in the process of finding the right medication to treat my anxiety and I’m getting a therapist in a few weeks. As far as my sobriety, it’s still a work in progress. I’m still torn on whether or not I should go to AA meetings but I guess I’ll wait and see what my therapist recommends. Until then, I will take things one day at a time and do my best because at the end of the day, that’s all I can do.

When my sadness and loneliness started to get worse, I did what I usually do. I ran away from my feelings and emotions. I isolated myself. I didn’t want to talk to my family and I didn’t reach out to friends. Things got better when my friend Gabriel visited me a week ago and I went out with him and my friend Jasmin. It was the first time I was vocal about how I was feeling. It was a huge relief to get everything off my chest. I had a hard time coming up with a reply when Jasmin repeatedly asked me, “Why are you lonely? Why do you feel lonely?” All I could come up with was, “I don’t know. I think it’s because I’m sad and depressed. I have nothing to be upset about.” I joked with my friends that I was, “Tired of talking to the walls in my apartment.”

My mom was worried about me and her motherly instincts were right but not to the extent that she feared—suicidal thoughts. I assured her that I would be seeing a therapist soon and I told her I was in a negative funk the past week. She was happy to hear from me. I told her I would never think about hurting myself. Although this battle with depression will be something I have to endure for the rest of my life, I refuse to let the stigma affect me. My mental health condition doesn’t define me and I will no longer suffer in silence.


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