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Mental Wellness: My 7 Year Journey

I haven’t ever fully shared this story, but I want to today, and I think it may really help somebody so here it goes...

It’s my 26th birthday. I’m sitting on my deck having coffee. Reflecting on this past year and my life. I realize that I am so lucky for all the things that I have gone through because they make me who I am today.

The first eighteen years of my life were close to perfect. Sure it had it’s awkward times and ups and downs but I was fortunate to grow up with a loving family in a great safe town.

The last seven years of my life have been hard. They have taught me a lot about myself and taking care of my mind, body and emotions.

It started the last week of August 2011, a week before I was to return to SUNY Brockport to start my sophomore year. I, like a lot of college freshman and friends of mine at the time was drinking quite heavily, and I was smoking pot pretty much daily.

This week I made the worst decision of my life. After partying for a few consecutive nights, myself and two of my friends went to go watch my buddy get a tattoo. Next to this tattoo parlor was a new smoke shop. We went in and saw this packaging on the front counter, “Supernova”, what I would later learn to be one of many brands of K2/Synthetic Marijuana. You gotta remember... this is summer 2011. No one new about this stuff, how dangerous it is and all the chemicals that are literally sprayed on it to “mimic” (more like exemplify by 20X ) a THC effect. So because it was on the counter in a colorful package, legally, we bought some. It’s legal we can literally smoke it in the parking lot if we wanted to haha, we thought.

Thinking it was just like pot I smoked some, and then some more over the next two days. This caused me to go into what I now know as a “drug induced psychosis”. I was manic, rapid thoughts, thinking I was having “epiphany’s”, moving fast, talking fast and not sleeping. After a full night with no sleep and waking my parents up in the morning I confessed everything to them. I was worried. I didn’t know what was going on. But I knew I needed real medical help.

I saw my primary doctor and they gave me a manic depression test. Literally a 10 question form than I checked off on the manic side for every question (are you thinking grandiose thoughts, basically do you think everything is awesome, etc.)

She didn’t really do anything or know what to do / know what synthetic marijuana was. I still knew deep down something was going on and I needed real medical help. I told my parents I needed to go to the hospital and we went to the emergency room. When I got there I was talking fast and trying to explain what had been going on and what I had been smoking. Again, Summer 2011, I honestly think I was one of the first cases of this in the region and most likely the first in Saratoga. The doctors had no idea what it was or what to do. So after a long emotional few hours of talking to doctors, they decided to keep me overnight and admit me to the hospitals Mental Health Unit.

This overnight stay turned into almost a full week and was the most dramatic and scary week of my life. I had no idea what was going on. They absolutely snowed me with medication. Heavy duty mood stabilizers, a white wall, stagnate air environment. Thankfully, they had a small courtyard with a basketball hoop. (Which is now removed, there is now no courtyard or place for people in the MHU to get fresh air, which to me is mind boggling)

When I was released I started to see a psychiatrist who had some knowledge about how synthetic marijuana had recently effected a group of Marines. This was the first doctor we were dealing with that had any understanding of K2.

This ongoing process from September 2011 to now has been a roller coaster. I have seen more doctors and have been prescribed more medication than I can count on two hands. I admitted myself to Four Winds Hospital that October, 2011 and the Saratoga Hospital MHU in the Summer of 2015. All while trying to complete my degree, going in and out of school, with medical “leaves of absence”.

I have learned a lot. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, given a slew of medications to go along with various “labels” slapped on me by doctors who did not hear my full story or get to know me for more than 30minutes before labeling me. It is just a label, so what, I am not saying these are bad people or bad at doing there job, I am extremely grateful they were able to help me.

Today, June 30th my 26th birthday I am proud to say that I have gone through this. Proud to say I have been off all of medications for over a year. Proud to say I am using food as medicine and exercise to maintain a clear and healthy mind.

Proud to say I celebrated 4 months of sobriety earlier this week. I know what you may be thinking, and what I think about looking back on it. I went though some intense stuff, my brain took a toll. But yet for some reason, being in my early twenties, I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to go out on Caroline St for my 21st birthday, I was curious and stupid to keep testing the waters with weed. Thinking 'I just want to enjoy a joint with my friends like I used to, I am okay, doing better now, I can do it'. But it lead to addictive behaviors, especially with weed, getting into trouble, making poor decisions, treating those around me, those who were there for me during hard times, without respect. I didn't want to believe I had a problem, my brain has a sensitivity to thc, and thats okay, it effects everyone in different ways. I have since made the decision that I do not like who I was, how I treated people, and am heading down the path of sobriety.

I came up with the idea for Let’s Chat About It in November 2016, It was on a walk with my mom during the fall semester of my final leave of absence from Siena. I was coming out of my most recent bout of depression. Let’s Chat About It has been great for me, therapeutically, to start speaking about what I went though and how I want to connect people going though similar struggles.

25 has been a fantastic year, I have graduated from Siena and have been enjoying more real and true connections. I have even found a beautiful, loving and supporting girlfriend in Gabrielle!

For my birthday today I wanted to share this with you, for everyone to see that if you are going though tough times, there is light. It will get better. I also ask for my friends and family to please be respectful and supportive of my sobriety and mental health. Please share this story with anyone you think may need to hear something like this today.

Here's my number 518-469-2369. Please reach out if you or someone you love needs to talk.

Here’s to 26!

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