10 Times People Suffering From Mental Illness Were Captured By This Photographer https://ift.tt/3pyyGvX

diciembre 27, 2021

Ofel Epicolus is an Israeli photographer living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Since her mid-twenties, she had been dealing with loneliness. “I carried my loneliness and it became heavier and heavier the more I kept it to myself. One day, I stumbled upon somebody else’s story. I read her story and through her words, I saw myself. That gave me hope and I realized the power of sharing our stories.”, she said on Bored Panda.

After losing someone she admired to suicide in 2018, Ofel decided to create “A Part of Me” project. Using her photography skills, she captured each person’s raw emotions while interviewing them. “I then use my storytelling skills to write their stories and send them to my editor Adi Ferrara. Once the stories are ready they are published alongside the person’s portrait photo.”, she further explains. For more info, check out her Patreon page.

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#1 Pitena – Depression

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“When Pitena was a teenager she felt “things weren’t right” with her, but at the time she was just put on vitamin b and no further action was taken. Depression and mental health in adolescents weren’t really issues that were considered or discussed. It wasn’t until her early twenties that she was finally put on antidepressants, but at that time her depression was classified as situational depression. She lost her six-days-old daughter not long before diagnosis, and told the doctors she was depressed and upset. They gave her pills to deal with the pain but offered no additional support, such as counseling.

A little later that year Pitena decided she needed a fresh start and moved to Christchurch, where she and her doctor started on a journey to find the right medication for her. It wasn’t easy but eventually, they did find a medication that worked and she felt very lucky. Unfortunately, the medication she was on was defunded by the government 10 years later, and so her pharmacist changed Pitena’s medication to a generic one. Within six months of the change, without her realizing it, her condition worsened.

“I was on the street with my girlfriend,” she recalls, “and she was telling me I was losing it.” As the change was gradual Pitena was unaware of how bad things got, but that conversation opened her eyes. Pitena then went to her doctor, who explained the differences between left and right brain pathways of depression. She realized the problem was the generic medication does not specify which depression pathway it is meant for. “It made life a little easier,” she says, “knowing that it wasn’t me actually getting worse, it was the medication.” With her doctor’s help, they then found the right medication for her once again, and she was fine for a long while.

When Pitena was 35, three years after they found the right medicine for her, she started feeling ill. She went to the doctor and found out she was pregnant again. Instead of enjoying her pregnancy, the emotions from her previous pregnancy and the loss of her baby resurfaced, and for the first time, she grieved the loss of her daughter. Alongside these difficult emotions, while dealing with a number of other personal matters, Pitena also had to decide whether she will stay on her antidepressant medication during the pregnancy. With her doctor’s help, Pitena decided to reduce her medication’s dosage. “Every day I was just trying to get through, trying to survive,” she says. Though difficult at the time, Pitena got through the pregnancy and now has a healthy 16-years-old son.

After years of being stable on her medication, changes brought on by menopause when Pitena was in her 40s meant that her trusted regimen was no longer working. She once again embarked on a journey to find the right medication, with guidance and support from her doctor. Despite a false start she managed to get back on track fairly quickly. “It took me a long time to realize I am never going to be off medications,” she says, “It is a hard thing to admit, but the medication is not changing who I am, it’s just tuning out the imbalance to allow me to actually be who I really am.”

“Trying to explain depression to people and how we end up breaking down from something as small as stubbing our toe, I use the snowflake analogy,” she explains, “Every day every person gets a snowflake, hundreds of snowflakes. You break your nail on the table, you missed the bus, you are busy at work — every little thing is a snowflake. And they may build up a little bit into a snowball at times but on a normal day, those snowflakes melt. When you suffer from depression sometimes those snowflakes just do not melt, they are just accumulating. Suddenly there is this huge mountain, all created by snowflakes and you just stubbed your toe and there is an avalanche coming down on you and you just collapse from the weight of a mountain of snowflakes. And it is important to remember that it is ok to cry, it is ok to take some time to self-care.””

#2 Jessie – Depression and Anxiety

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“Ever since Jessie was born she was an anxious child. Her parents had lovingly called tending to her needs “Jessie duty.” When she was a young teenager, Jessie would react to things differently than her friends, in a more melodramatic way, but for her, it was just normal behavior. Looking back, Jessie recalls crying, getting upset and offended a lot. She now feels she was taking things to heart more than she should have.

As a teenager, Jessie was rather clever, but her anxiety often took over, making her feel she wasn’t smart enough or good enough and would never reach her full potential. These thoughts and feelings created a vicious cycle that kept her from actually reaching her full potential. At the time Jessie was young and did not yet realize that she was living with anxiety and depression. Her parents, unaware of her condition, did not know how to help her either. Looking back Jessie feels she needed more support than most teenagers normally do. She needed the people around her to remind her of her worth. Mostly she wishes there was more awareness and less stigma surrounding the issue of mental illness, so she could have asked for and gotten the help she needed in time.

Jessie’s anxiety worsened during her teens. She started to recognize what she thought were societal standards — things you should or shouldn’t do, things to wear in order to be “cool” and the pressure of deciding her future. Jessie fluctuated between not caring what others think, wearing whatever she liked, and feeling awesome and confident, to fearing that because she was so different people would judge her harshly. When Jessie was 16, her anxiety got to the point where she experienced an attack around her hair not sitting the right way on her head. She felt ugly and stupid and ended up shaving her head. That moment of panic and that anxiety-driven decision lingered with her as people continued asking why she did it. She remembers having to hide tears of embarrassment about her baffling condition.

The big wake-up call came on mufti day at school. Jessie tried on the clothes she chose for herself, but when she looked in the mirror she felt dumb. Her anxiety took over and her thoughts swirled over what other people are going to think of her. She ended up having an anxiety attack. Seeing her daughter’s distress, Jessie’s mother allowed her to stay home from school. Later on that same day, Jessie’s mother realized she did not see Jessie for a while and went looking for her. She found Jessie in her bedroom in the nick of time — the girl had overdosed on her mother’s heart medication.

At first, Jessie was devastated that her suicide attempt failed. She spent a few days in the hospital and was referred to a child psychologist. The time following her suicide attempt wasn’t easy; Jessie was dealing with difficult emotions. She felt like a burden and a failure, and still wanted to finish what she started — killing herself. But despite the difficulties, things were looking up because Jessie was finally able to get the support she needed. Along with her psychologist, her family, and her friends, Jessie was able to learn ways of coping with her illness that still serve her, and will continue to do so for the rest of her life.

For the longest time, Jessie hated thinking about her suicide attempt. “It is hard enough for a parent to lose a child to a car accident or any sort of natural cause,” she says, “but to find out your child tried to do that to themselves is really gut-wrenching.” Now, Jessie loves the bond she shares with her mother. She is happy to be here ten years later and be able to talk openly about her feelings in a way that does not hurt either of them —they both know she is sharing her story to help others. As a redo for her 16-year-old self, Jessie shaved her head again, but this time for a good cause – she was fundraising for the Mental Health Foundation.

“Depression might convince you that the world is better off without you, and I know you are hurting,” she says, “but there are so many people that love you and can help you get through, because no one wants to live without you.” “I hope one day you will truly be happy and live well with your mental illness,” she adds, “It may take time, but you deserve it and with the right love and support I promise it’s worth it.””

#3 Nadia – Borderline Personality Disorder

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“Nadia found out she has borderline personality disorder when she was in her early 20s, but her story starts long before that. When she was 9-years-old Nadia was sexually abused. She kept this incident a secret for many years but started to act out. That same year she made her first suicide attempt. In truth, however, she felt different long before she was 9, as she was always unable to regulate her emotions like the other kids.

“Borderline personality disorder is often caused by childhood trauma,” she says. “We are not horrible people and are not out to hurt people.” Growing up Nadia didn’t have a stable childhood and her needs were not met. She felt insecure as a child, a feeling that stayed with her when she grew older and affected her in many ways. Her grandparents eventually took her in, providing the stability she needed, but by that time she was a very angry child. At age 15 she started cutting herself.

Nadia has three older children. She would have loved to be more present in her children’s lives but lost custody of them due to her mental illness. People sometimes say to her “when you get better,” hoping that one day she will “snap out of it” not understanding that her disorder is a lifelong one.
Nadia makes sure she is completely honest when dating someone new, but she finds that the less they know the more they like her, which puts her in a difficult position. Her potential partners often say “it’s too much for me to deal with”, “When people don’t understand it makes it more difficult, it hurts to not be understood,” she says.

Borderline personality disorder is different from one person to another, but as Nadia describes it, people with the disorder experience emotions much more intensely than what an “average person” would feel. “When I’m happy,” she says, “I feel euphoric.” She has the tendency to fall in love and get attached very fast and her mood is a little like a roller-coaster and can go between different emotions fairly fast. She finds it difficult to maintain a healthy relationship and tends to overthink situations. When people are upset with her, her disorder causes her to jump to the conclusion that they hate her, instead of understanding that they are just upset with something specific she did or said. It leads her to end relationships as a defense mechanism to prevent the other person from leaving. Alternatively, she finds herself trying to commit suicide or engaging in self-harm when all she wants is for them to care — she simply doesn’t know a healthy way to ask.

During a bipolar episode, Nadia feels like she’s not herself and is unreachable and cannot be comforted. With the help of medications and therapy, she has reached a point where she can see the warning signs of an impending episode and regulate her emotions better, but the struggle will always be there.”

#4 Jeremy – Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder

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“When Jeremy was 18 his then partner discovered she was pregnant. Being religious, they decided to “do the right thing” and get married. “I think the shock of having a first child at the age of 18 and also being married was quite a big thing in life,” he says, “especially being so young.” At first, everyone was excited and everything was good, but when Jeremy left his job to become a stay-at-home-dad, things took a turn for the worse. Jeremy was struggling and started self-harming.

A couple of years later Jeremy’s wife was pregnant with their second child and things were still very hard for him. Jeremy was in and out of work, continued self-harming, and attempted to end his life a few times. This affected Jeremy’s relationship with his wife tremendously, and put their children at risk of being taken away. “Some people even saw it as a ticking time bomb,” he says.

Even though Jeremy was very grateful for his wife’s support he had trouble expressing himself and his emotions. After 7 years of being together, they decided to end their marriage. “Things went a lot further downhill from there, trying to understand that I am now about to go through a divorce at the age of 25,” he says, “I had everything I wanted in life and now that’s gone.”

When Jeremy tried to reach out to people in his community he felt that his emotions were not addressed and that he was expected to just “get over it.” Even his close family struggled to understand what he was going through and the way he was dealing with it. “To me, a lot of the time, self-harm was a huge thing,” he says, “at the time it made me feel better but looking back at the scares and the hurt that I have done it got me thinking.” Unsure of whether he’s doing the right thing by asking for help, or even talking to the right people, Jeremy took a hard look at his life. He put on a fake smile and stopped talking to people about his pain, but deep down he was hurting so much he just wanted it all to end.

Four years after the divorce, while Jeremy was still struggling, his father was admitted to the hospital with heart problems. Jeremy made sure to spend every possible moment by his father’s side and did not leave the hospital even when his father went into what was supposed to be a four-hour surgery. After 11.5 torturous hours, one of the surgeons came out and told Jeremy that his father was not going to survive. “I didn’t really know what to do,” he says. As his father’s next of keen, Jeremy was asked to make the difficult decision of discontinuing life support.

After his father’s passing Jeremy was in a very bad place, “I was so far down I actually didn’t care about my life,” he says. Jeremy attempted to commit suicide repeatedly. “Everyone were worried, they had no idea what I was going to do next and at this stage, I fully broke down.” Jeremy looked at himself and didn’t recognize the person in front of him, “something needs to happen and it needs to happen now,” he recalls thinking.

Jeremy then found the strength to reach out for help. He messaged the Facebook page HopeWalk Christchurch, and for the first time, his mother was informed (by the page administrator) of the full extent of what he was going through. “She turned around and said she’ll do whatever it takes to get me the help that I need,” he says, “and I didn’t think she would.” But she did.

With his mother’s support, Jeremy was finally able to face what happened in the hospital. “Things are just too much,” he recalls telling her, “when I said to turn dad’s machines off, to me it felt like I killed my dad, and I couldn’t forgive myself.” Since then Jeremy, unfortunately, had a fall out with his mother, but he has made some great changes in his life. He has a full-time job that he loves, his relationships with his friends are flourishing. He has recently been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in addition to his depression and started on a new medication that seems to work well for him. “Now I know while having depression and all this other stuff, I can reach out,” he says. “I know that there are so many people there for me, that are willing to support me in whatever way I need.””

#5 Selina – PTSD, Anxiety and Depression

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“Selina’s upbringing wasn’t the happy childhood you’d wish upon a child. There was emotional and physical abuse in the family, and her father took his own life when she was only four. Selina herself endured sexual abuse for three tormenting years, starting when she was 10. “I felt that I had to do what he wanted me to do, or else I would get in trouble,” she recalls, “I was scared and thought I was doing something wrong.”

After over three years of living with sexual abuse, at the age of 13, Selina shared her secret with her sister, who informed the authorities. She was taken to the police station to give a statement and her abuser was eventually jailed. She was also removed from her home by social workers and placed in a foster home. While her foster parents were a welcome change from her unhappy home environment, other members of the foster family were a little harder for Selina to cope with. Selina’s cousin, seeing how unhappy Selina was, applied for custody of Selina. After a year living with the foster family, Selina moved to her cousin’s custody, staying there until she was 18.

During her early teen years, Selina would only express happiness. She remembers feeling numb and using happiness to mask what her real emotions were. Looking back, she can see early signs of her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but at the time she was obviously unaware of what she was experiencing.

Selina started going to counseling when she was 18. Her counselor helped her through reliving some of the difficult memories she blocked until then. The therapy allowed her to confront her past and her emotions, rather than blocking them. “I was never into sex as a teenager,” she says, “it scared the hell out of me to even get close to people.” It wasn’t until Selina was 25, after being with her then-partner for five years, that she was able to face her fears and be more intimate. “Some people just don’t understand what it means to have sexual related PTSD, most people just associate having PTSD with soldiers and the war,” she says, “so a lot of people live with it without even realizing that.”

When Selina was 26, the February 2011 earthquake struck Christchurch and retriggered her symptoms. She was finally diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and anxiety and put on antidepressants for 9 months. She is unsure as to why her counselor didn’t diagnose her when she was 18, but thinks they might have been cautious not to overwhelm her at the time. Selina can now appreciate her ex-partner and friends for their understanding, and believes their support was very important for her progress. “Finding people that understand and went through similar things helps a lot,” she says. “With the #MeToo movement a lot more people come forward that wouldn’t come forward before.”

Looking back Selina wishes she’d reached out and gotten help and counseling sooner. She still has triggers that provoke a resurgence of her symptoms, and sometimes she gets overwhelmed, but Selina is in a much better place overall. She is surrounded by supportive friends and family members and is in a loving and caring relationship. She practices self-care by gaming, reading, writing, and talking to people, all of which help her cope with her emotions. “I try to slow down and look after myself,” she says, “just take a break from everything else.””

#6 Therese – Suicide Attempts and Addiction

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“Therese is the youngest of six sisters and grew up around substance abuse. When she was 14 family members introduced her to alcohol and drugs. She then started experimenting and her addiction progressed to include more drugs.

When Therese was 16 she met her children’s father. “He was a musician and he was in a band called The Androids and he was a bit older than me,” she says. The group was very much into alcohol, drugs and partying and for three years Therese was a part of their scene. She got pregnant when she was 19 and decided to stay clear of alcohol but kept on smoking marijuana.

After Therese gave birth to her daughter she went back to her old habits over time. She then followed one of her sisters, who struggled with substance abuse as well and decided to go to Queen Mary Hospital. Therese went to an alcohol and drug program and for the next 16 years, she was clean.

During that time Therese’s relationship with her husband wasn’t stable and he would break up with her and then come back quite often. The two had their second child and became practicing Christians for 9 years. Therese tried her hardest to fit in and be a good Christian wife and mother but felt out of place. “I would go to these prayer groups with these other ladies who were more [sic] older than I was,” she says, “and I would get them to pray for me because I didn’t believe that I was good enough for God to hear my prayer.”

Looking back Therese recalls a teacher calling her dumb in school and that stuck with her. She remembers feeling she wasn’t a good enough throughout her childhood and the feeling followed her into motherhood as well. “I was a very emotionally distant – shut down; I didn’t know how to connect with my kids, didn’t know how to play,” she says, “I missed out on a lot.”

By the time Therese was 33 she was struggling with her emotions but unaware that her mood was deteriorating. A stressful event in her life that she didn’t know how to manage left her feeling her family would be better off without her. “People find it really hard to understand, talking about suicide being selfish and to them it is,” she says, “but to myself [sic] it was like I was being selfish by staying alive and causing them all the pain and the misery that was happening.”

Therese didn’t know who to turn to; she was suffering and felt that the easiest way out was to not be on this earth anymore. After two weeks of planning, Therese attempted to end her life while her son was staying at his grandmother’s house with her husband. In the middle of the night, her son woke up worried about her and urged his father to head over to her home. She was found unconscious by the two and was rushed to the hospital. “You would hope that when someone came out of that they would be so grateful that they were alive,” she says, “I wasn’t. I was so so angry.”

Therese’s family tried to support her but she was still suffering on her own. She attempted suicide again and her mother gave her an ultimatum. Therese would either voluntarily commit herself to Sunnyside Hospital or she would be forcibly committed. At that point, Therese knew her mother was right and chose to enter the mental hospital voluntarily. She stayed in the hospital for two weeks and made a pact with herself that suicide is never going to be an option again.

When Therese was 36, then sober for 16 years, she broke up with her husband permanently. In a simple act of celebration, she relapsed. For three years afterwards, Therese was drinking heavily. It wasn’t until she nearly died from alcohol poisoning that she decided to give up drinking again.

Therese has been sober for the past 17 years. She found that art therapy helps her deal with her emotions. She got her degree in Alcohol and Drugs Studies and has been working in the Alcohol and Drugs and Mental Health fields. Therese feels that as a recovering addict she has a responsibility to share her story, and as a suicide survivor she the responsibility to show that suicide doesn’t have to be an option. Therese is working with her son towards helping others with their struggles. They are both part of the King Cass Movement and encourages others to share their story. “Nothing we do can stop someone from killing themselves if they want to do it,” she says, “but we can give someone hope and might be able to reach a person.””

#7 Bernice – Dissociative Identity Disorder

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“From the time she was 4, Bernice was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused by a family friend. Her parents were unaware of what their daughter was going through. Since the start of the abuse Bernice was experiencing blackouts, but it wasn’t until she was 12 years old and that she realized that’s what was happening.

Throughout her childhood and teenage years, Bernice’s home life was also tumultuous, and difficult for her to handle. At 16 she decided to move to Christchurch with her then-partner. After the move, Bernice started drinking and taking drugs to cope with her real-life nightmares.

A year after the move, Bernice got pregnant. Her partner ended the relationship while she was 5 months pregnant with their daughter. With no money and far from her family, her ex-partner’s family took her in and treated her as a daughter. It was while living with her ex-partner’s family that Bernice met her current husband, Bruce. At the time, neither one of them realized that she had been living with dissociative identity disorder.

By the time her daughter was born Bernice was very ill, “I was dissociating all the time, I couldn’t take care of her or myself,” she says. “For a long time it scared the crap out of me, because for me it was just lost time. I didn’t know what was going on.” Bernice lost hours at a time and had no memory of what happened during that lost time. “One minute it’d been 2 o’clock in the afternoon and the next minute it would be 7 o’clock at night,” she says. “I didn’t know what had happened who was looking after my kid, what I was doing, how he [her husband] was dealing… nothing!” It wasn’t until much later that Bernice and Bruce learned that when their children were in danger, the Bernice personality was in charge.

Bernice and Bruce were struggling and were seeking help, but time and again psychiatrists had no answers. Bernice was finally diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder when she was 22, after almost two decades of living with it. It took another two years for the couple to find the right therapist for her. “In those days it was extremely rare, especially in this country,” she says. “When I was diagnosed, I was one of 3 in the country who have been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder.” Up until the time she started therapy, Bernice’s personalities could only express themselves while she was blacking out. “It took 8.5 years of full-on therapy to get to a place where I could communicate with them, they could communicate with me, I could maintain some kind of control and manage them in a way that we learnt to live as a community,” she says.

Before the therapy, it was Bruce who communicated with the personalities and learned as much as possible about them. Bruce would ask the personalities questions and would sometimes even re-live the episodes that created them. “Each individual personality has its own reason for being here,” Bernice says. “It has its own birth from trauma, but it also has its own purpose.” Bruce joined Bernice’s therapy sessions, and was able to fill in the gaps and help both her and her therapist understand her situation better. “Any normal bloke would’ve bolted and thought ‘stuff this I am not putting up with this,” she says. “He’s not normal, he’s bullheaded and stubborn.”

Having dissociative identity disorder can be challenging but Bernice finds it also has a few perks. Living with 14 personalities allows Bernice to be a better problem solver. She also finds it easier to connect with her grandchildren, as one of her personalities is 4 years old. “My grandchildren are similar ages to Neessy now, so I am the fun one,” she says, “because I can see what they are trying to do, I understand their kind of play and on good days I can even let Neesy out to play with them.”

After learning so much during therapy, Bernice and Bruce are in a better place now. She is very grateful for Bruce’s support throughout the years and is working hard to help others and raise awareness around mental health. “Recovery can build the kind of person who everybody needs in their lives,” she says. “By building the resilience and the support networks and being able to share the knowledge and experiences that each and every person has, that makes society a better place.””

#8 Robert – Post-Natal Depression

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“When Robert’s partner got pregnant he was overjoyed. He had known he wanted to be a dad ever since he was 14. When his son was born the experience was everything he thought it would be. He was there for the birth, he was there to catch his newborn son, and he was there to cut the umbilical cord. It was exactly how he imagined the moment of birth to be.

Things soon changed for Robert, and not for the better. He began to feel numb and empty, and this wasn’t at all the reality of fatherhood that he’d expected. As more people were invited into the young family’s life to meet their newborn son, he felt his relationship with the baby change and break down. He felt constantly numb.

To make matters worse, while Robert’s relationship with his partner was good and healthy at the time they conceived, during the pregnancy Robert’s partner suffered from constant morning sickness. As her condition started to affect her daily functioning, resolving issues that came up in their relationship wasn’t possible. As a result, Robert and his partner broke up only three months after their son was born.

Robert moved out, found a good job and was earning good money and visited his son weekly. However, without knowing what was happening to him, his lifestyle deteriorated along with his mental health. He lived on pizza, smokes, and booze. He was drinking heavily every moment he could and went from visiting his son every week to only seeing him fortnightly. Though the change in visits routine was partly due to his work schedule, Robert says it was more so because he just didn’t feel that he needed to see his boy. He no longer felt connected to his child. His feelings revolved around a sense of obligation to the baby, not actual love.

A lot of us associate depression with isolating one’s self and pushing people away, but in Robert’s case, he was using human interaction and alcohol to mask what was happening in his head. If he was surrounded by people, he didn’t have to think. If he had enough alcohol in his system, he couldn’t think. He self-medicated with alcohol in order to stop his mental anguish from consuming him completely.

The first thing Robert did coming home after work was to go and have a drink. He would constantly invite people over, in order to not be left alone with his thoughts. This went on until the day he decided to have his drink after smoking. He walked outside to smoke, and a tidal wave of emotions hit him. He crashed.

Robert sat on the deck for hours, consumed by his own thoughts, feeling that he failed his family, friends, and son. During those hours of anguish, as he failed to respond to messages and calls, some of his friends became concerned. One of them came to Robert’s place, and even though Robert’s flatmates said he wasn’t home, this friend simply knew Robert was home. He went around the house to the deck and found Robert holding a knife to his throat. After the initial shock and a long conversation, Robert’s friend got him to drop the knife and took him to the hospital.

They waited roughly three hours, during which Robert tried to leave six times. They were finally seen by someone in the psychiatric ward. That was when Robert was diagnosed with post-natal depression.

Like many men before him, Robert argued that he’s a male and therefore cannot suffer from post-natal depression. The psychiatrist repeated his diagnosis and told Robert that about ten percent of men suffer from it. Most of them go undiagnosed. The psychiatrist also assured Robert he’s going to get through it. Despite Robert’s blunt assertion that he was going to finish what he started on the deck if he was released, he was discharged from the hospital. Luckily, his friend didn’t leave his side until Robert was no longer a danger to himself.

Robert is now in a much better place. He and his son Slade share a very close relationship. He understands the disconnected feeling from his son was due to his post-natal depression. He is helping others who are having a hard time by managing the Facebook page Suicide Awareness / Prevention and talks publicly about male post-natal depression to raise awareness of the condition.”

#9 Ethan – PTSD and IBS

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“Ethan remembers being bullied from the time he was 5. He was always laughed at for being overweight and was excluded from events. When he was 9, Ethan went to overnight camp with his school. He was very excited when a few boys and a girl he liked invited him to hang out at their cabin. Everyone was laughing and things seemed to be going well for a change. But then one of the boys started laughing at Ethan, calling him fat and demanding that Ethan takes off his shirt. Ethan refused and in return, the boy pulled a knife and threatened him. Scared and alone in front of a crowd of bullies Ethan complied and then ran out of the cabin, crying. He spent the rest of his time at camp hiding. He was forever changed by these events, but kept them a secret and started slipping into depression. He started distancing himself from everyone and the stress he was experiencing pushed him into unhealthy eating habits trying to cope with his escalating emotions.

The bullying didn’t stop. Ethan was bullied by both students and teachers throughout the years. At times he tried reaching out for help within the school. But even when one of the teachers physically assaulted him, the school authorities didn’t do anything. Feeling hopeless, Ethan then confided in his mother about the bullying at school. “She was very sympathetic, but lost on what to do,” he says. Not wanting to burden his mother further, Ethan kept his fears to himself and his worst memory — the camp incident — was still a secret.

Feeling terrified and defenseless Ethan’s depression got worse and he started self-harming. He also tried to commit suicide several times. After his first suicide attempt, Ethan was sent to counseling and was diagnosed with depression. “I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t want any friends,” he says, “I didn’t want anyone to feel my burden.” Yet trying to deal with his emotions on his own was overwhelming. At times Ethan wanted to reach out but was too scared to do so, and his stress-eating got worse.

When Ethan was 17 he started experiencing a lot of abdominal pain and was worried that he might have appendicitis. “It feels like something sharp is stabbing me in the gut,” he describes. After six months of tests, Ethan was finally diagnosed with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Since being diagnosed Ethan has tried numerous treatments but nothing seems to release the condition’s grip on his life. “Sometimes I’ll be too sore to go out, or I’ll be so bummed out that I wouldn’t want to go to work,” he says, “because I’m too sore to move.”

The trauma caused by the camp incident affected Ethan tremendously. “I can’t go on buses because I’m terrified, I can’t go near schools because I freak out,” he says, “and it’s hard for me to make new friends and open up to people.” But Ethan never gave up. When he was 18 Ethan joined a youth group. He started developing his social skills and was able to form a relationship with one of the boys. Since then Ethan has worked hard and is now in a better place. He is writing music and is learning to do ring announcements and interviews for wrestling events. “It will help me get the tools to be able to overcome that fear, that’s what I’m hoping,” he says. Ethan knows now that his friends love and support him, and is able to share his story in hopes of easing the loneliness and fears of others.”

#10 Hunter – Suicide Attempt and Addiction

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“When Hunter was 10 his parents separated for a while. He was staying with his father at his grandmother’s house when he woke up one day and couldn’t shake the feeling his mother was in trouble. “The way I explain it is I could hear my mom screaming from the depth of hell,” he says. Hunter then woke up his father and urged him to go home to check on his mother. When Hunter and his father arrived at Hunter’s childhood home they found the house locked up and his mother passed out in the garage — she had attempted suicide. Hunter then ran to the neighbors and they called an ambulance. When the ambulance got to the scene the EMT told Hunter that if they were just a few minutes later his mother would have died.

Two weeks later while Hunter was staying with his mother and some friends of hers, Hunter was passing by the bathroom when all of a sudden he had a feeling his mother was there and was in trouble again. He told his mother’s friends that he thinks she’s in there and they broke through the door to find Hunter’s mother. She had attempted to commit suicide again and was found not a moment too soon.

Seeing his mother in such horrific situations really affected Hunter and he carried the trauma with him. Hunter was struggling to cope and became a very troubled boy. At age 14 he was admitted to the acute psychiatric ward at Princess Margaret Hospital for a couple of months, and following his release continued going to counseling.

Despite the counseling, Hunter was still struggling to cope with his pain. A few family members introduced Hunter to marijuana when he was 15. “I felt like I had found something,” he says, “Something that really gave me courage, something that let me eat, something that helped me sleep.” Hunter became addicted to the drug and would do almost anything to get it. He was consumed by his addiction. When he was 26 he was introduced to methamphetamine. Two years later Hunter’s addictions included methamphetamine and alcohol as well.

Throughout the years Hunter attempted to end his life several times and had trouble maintaining relationships. He has four children from four different partners. “I always struggled in relationships because I hadn’t found myself,” he says, “so I couldn’t offer anybody love and I couldn’t give my kids love because I didn’t love myself.”

When Hunter was 30 he started losing touch with reality, as a result of his meth use. “I am God, I have the answers that you need, I am the one who will restart and save the world,” he recalls telling people. He was admitted to Hillmorton Hospital for psychosis. During his time in Hillmorton Hospital Hunter started using his music as a tool of healing. To this day Hunter really appreciates Hillmorton Hospital for letting him have his music equipment in his room and feels it was the key to his recovery.

Hunter always had a special connection to music and after his release from Hillmorton Hospital became an independent artist in New Zealand. He is now producing music and merchandise with the help of his mother. “Music saved my life and now I want to use music to save other people’s lives,” he says.

Hunter is now working hard to stay in recovery. Unfortunately, he never met his youngest daughter, due to his history of substance abuse. “All I can do is be a better me so when she comes I will be the father that she needs,” he says. Hunter lives with his mother who fought her own battle with addiction. “Our thoughts are our reality and our reality are [sic] our thoughts,” he says, “it’s like two wolves that live inside us, and they are fighting every day and the one that we feed the most is going to win so I feed the good wolf.”

“I was considered a guy that can take care of himself, a guy that had it all going on but inside I was desperate, at time helpless, struggling human being,” he says, “mental illness does not discriminate, mental illness doesn’t pick and choose who it goes for – it takes everybody. But how you deal with that and what you do with it is the key.””

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