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1.24.13

“I completely understand it. It’s all from Satan.” This was the last message I received and the last contact I would have before it happened and the darkest four days of my life began.

I completely understand it… How many times had I heard that before? How many times had I heard from well-meaning people that my very serious mental illnesses were an attack from the devil and not a medical condition that needed major intervention? When that message came across on that Thursday morning in January 2013, I was grasping for anything that might allow me to hold on just a little while longer. The night before, I got into a major argument with my parents, one of the worst we had ever had. The weeks leading up to this morning were full of major mood swings. I would be euphoric one moment and then super melancholy and reflective the next. In hindsight, that should’ve been a major warning sign something was seriously wrong.

I woke up the morning after the argument in an extremely low place. For weeks leading up to this morning, my vulnerable mental state was causing some physical complications, as well. My legs couldn’t stop shaking. They were almost like jackhammers and would keep me up during all hours of the night and as you can probably assume, getting so little sleep obviously wasn’t helping my mental health any.

A few weeks before my dark day, something began to break in me. Like I said previously, I was becoming increasingly erratic with my mood swings and my depression and anxiety were at an all-time high. My mind was beginning to fail me. One morning, a week or so before it happened, I went incognito on my internet browser and typed this into the search field: “How many [redacted] is considered lethal?” I came across a bunch of people on message boards trying to offer others help, “Don’t do it. There’s hope.” Thank God, I didn’t end up getting an actual answer to the question I had sought out because of what happened that fateful Thursday morning a week later.

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 – 8:10 AM

“It’s all from Satan.” After receiving that message from a well-meaning friend, I was at a loss. How many times did I have to hear that line before people figured it out: I was sick and not possessed. How many times did I have to feel like a burden to my friends and a liability to my family before they understood that I needed help. No, this time, I was done. I was done with the pain, done with the advocacy, done with the fight. A year of this had taken its final toll on me and this had to be it.

That morning, I decided to put my plan into action. I waited until both my parents left to take my younger brother to school so no one could foil what I felt had become my only option. After they left, I wrote out a note on my iPhone, removed the passcode so everything could be explained and through a ton of tears I finally did it: I tried overdosing to end it all. What happened next continues to, at the same time, elude and haunt me: I sent off one last text to my best friend “Help.” 

Then, darkness.

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 – 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM

That could’ve been the end. I had every intention for it to be the end, but that afternoon, I woke up. I woke up in the lowest place I believe a human can find oneself. The one thing I thought I had control over, I couldn’t even succeed at. It’s a kind of twisted logic only those of us who have been in this place can truly understand. The chain of events that transpired over the rest of that day were mostly a blur, the emotions I was feeling, however, are still etched in my mind.

After I woke up, I feebly walked downstairs where my parents were sitting. I just tried to kill myself,” I said as I collapsed to a ball on the floor, sobbing. My dad leaped up and went straight to my room where he discovered the empty pill bottle under my bed. I managed to make it over to the couch, where I promptly fell back asleep.

Later on, my best friend I’d texted got ahold of me after he got out of class and I managed to tell him what had just happened. He would later tell me that call was one of the worst calls of his life and he often will describe to me how grim

and lifeless my voice sounded. He said he had never heard anyone sound as low as I did in that moment. I spent the rest of the day sleeping until that evening, when my parents told me to get up to go to a doctor’s appointment.

I don’t remember much of the appointment at all, aside from a few major details. When we got to the doctor’s office, I walked in and saw my counselor’s therapy dog, who immediately recognized I was in distress. She came up to me and licked my face, which I remember made me feel a bit more at ease. The doctor came out to call us back. He told me to sit in a chair near the door, away from my parents who went to sit next to him. I knew it then: This was an intervention.

All I remember about what happened next was my dad pulling the empty pill bottle out to show the doctor, which he replied something to the effect of “Well, I guess Tim can’t be trusted.” He added that if something like this happened again, my parents should immediately call 911. I got very angry and tried to storm out the door. The doctor picked up the phone as my dad tackled me. For the longest time, I didn’t know exactly what I was thinking when I tried to storm out, where I planned to go or what I planned to do, but one eerie memory has always haunted me when I think back to my thought process at that moment. I believe now that in that moment, my life was in imminent danger. If I had managed to get out that door and outside, I truly think I wouldn’t be here writing this right now. My dad and my doctor most likely saved my life that night.

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 – 7:00PM-Midnight

While my dad had me on the floor, I was screaming and trying to get away. Within minutes, the ambulance came along with the police. I was mortified and in tears. I remember the EMT’s asking me about school and where I graduated from, but nothing else. We got to the emergency room, where my belongings and clothes were taken. I felt exposed, in more ways than one. This was going to prove to be the longest night of my life.

I was cleared to begin receiving medication again, so the nurse was able to give me some Ativan to ease my mind, seeing as I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Even while writing this, I feel extreme sadness but at the same time, love for my former self, and it’s almost as if I’m looking over his frail, limp body wearing a hospital gown, almost as if the exposing nature of it were a metaphor for this whole ordeal. With this imagery in mind, I have the desire to reach down and give myself a long hug and tell him everything will turn out okay. At the time, I needed hope like that. I needed a friend.

The night wore on, and there turned out to be no beds available in the psych ward at my local hospital in north-central Illinois, so the nurses began looking into the Chicago suburbs. They found a hospital about two hours away that was willing to take me. So, the hospital staff began preparing me for transfer.

Friday, January 25th, 2013 – 2:00 AM

Another ambulance arrived after two in the morning on that Friday. I remember it being bitterly cold outside with a snowstorm on the way. The EMT’s wrapped me in a ton of blankets and loaded me into the back of yet another ambulance and off we went. Because of the snowstorm, it took over three hours to get to the new hospital. I was more afraid than I had ever been in my life. I wanted the ambulance ride to last forever. “Maybe they’ll get lost and we’ll be stuck driving around Chicago for days on end,” I thought. Unfortunately, that wasn’t meant to be. Like a sixth sense, I knew we were getting close as we exited the interstate and got onto the main roads of Glendale Heights, a Western suburb of Chicago.

During the extended trip, I had actually managed to calm myself down quite a bit but as we approached what would become my new reality, my heart began to race yet again. As they loaded me out of the ambulance and down the long stretches of the hospital’s hallways, I remember looking at the ceiling, the glow of the florescent lights stinging my eyes. I had barely gotten any sleep, or at the very least, any quality sleep. We finally came to a locked door with the sign “Behavioral Health – AAU” above it. I wondered what AAU meant, but even then, took exception to the term behavioral health (I still do take exception to it, by the way).

I remember the EMT’s loading me off the stretcher and a male nurse took me into a room to evaluate me, which was absolutely humiliating. I immediately broke down into tears. The hospital staff thought it would be a good idea for me to be alone for a while so I could get my bearings and maybe feel a bit more at ease with my new circumstances.

“I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.”

“Closer to Love” – Mat Kearny

They showed me to my room where I collapsed on the bed, pulled the covers over my head and just sobbed for hours. I had never cried so much or so hard in my life and haven’t cried like that since. I was absolutely broken. I thought to myself “How could this be my fate? A year ago, I was at the pinnacle of my life, on a missions trip in a foreign country, no less, on top of the world. Now, I’m here. How could it all fall apart so quickly?” And then, I cried some more.

There’s a song that goes “I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.” The lines of that song echoed in my mind as I laid there and cried. I was at the pinnacle of my life a year earlier, and now, here I was: In a dark hospital room with bars on the windows, the lowest I had ever been. It was just me, a pillow, a too thin blanket, and my fervent prayers to God to come quickly and rescue me because I needed Him now more than ever. I didn’t even have the clothes on my back to keep me warm. I had never felt so alone. I had never felt so forgotten. I had never felt so hopeless. But I was alive. Maybe I didn’t want to be yet, but in time, I would.

Oh, and I was not alone, I was not forgotten, and I was not without hope. Not by a long shot.

The End is Only the Beginning 

The hospital can be a lonely place where time seemingly doesn’t progress. I was there for four days, each day getting a little bit better than the one before it. The doctor ended up transferring me out of the ward I was in to a more calming area with higher-functioning patients, many of whom were going through similar struggles to my own. After they transferred me, things began to get better quickly. I was able to, for the first time, voice what I had been feeling and just how broken I thought I was. I found camaraderie with those around me and felt hope for the first time.

My parents came to visit me every night from back home, two hours away. They started to notice a difference in me within a couple days of me being there. My medication had been stabilized and I was now turning around quickly. My parents and I put a game plan together one night about what to do when I returned home. Because of the trauma of the events I had experienced in the last year, we mutually decided I should take a semester off from school. College had not helped the anxiety and depression I had been suffering from the last year and I needed time to heal. It gave me yet more hope and relief that my parents understood this. After that conversation, it was all uphill from there.

I was discharged from the hospital that Monday evening and went home feeling better, but incredibly winded and frazzled. It would be a long road to recovery, but my life had been saved and I was at least stable.

Hospital stays are never fun, especially under these circumstances. It was downright awful there for a while, but I know now that I needed to go through that, I needed to be there. They saved my life. I was here, I was still breathing.

I was alive and this time, I wanted to be.

I remember that first week being home. My friends said how happy they were to have their friend back, a friend that had been MIA for over a year. A year that seemingly came from the depths of hell itself. But there I was, on the other side and on the mend.

I was going to be okay.

I tell this story not to bring you down or to seek attention for myself. One thing that’s aided in my recovery in the years since my suicide attempt has been my growing passion for mental health and suicide prevention awareness. By telling my story, I’m shining a light on a very difficult topic people generally don’t feel comfortable talking about. But I believe the only way to erase the stigma of mental illnesses and suicide is to talk about it. Shattering the stigma and the silence of suicide and depression can only save lives.

I also tell this story specifically for those of you reading this who may feel like you’re at your end. You may believe all hope has been exhausted for you, that ending it all is your only recourse left. Maybe, like me, you feel like you’re a burden to your friends and a liability to your family. Can I tell you something, as someone who has been there? It may sound trite, but it’s very true: You are not alone and there is so much hope for you. You are loved and treasured and beautiful and your life is just getting started. Don’t let your story end. You’re going to make it. Take things one minute at a time. Sometimes, that’s all you can do and that’s okay.


It’s been exactly six years since Thursday, January 24th, 2013. But today is a new day in my life. Six years later, I’m still alive, and although I still have my days, weeks, and even months, I’m doing better and back to my old self. I still struggle with anxiety and depression and it will most likely be something I deal with until the day I die, but I’m learning to manage. I’m lightyears away from where I was on my darkest day six years ago, and in time, you’ll get there, too. You may think life will never get better, but just trust me on this one, it most certainly will.

Today may be Thursday, January 24th, but for me, it’s no longer 2013. Today is Thursday, January 24th, 2019, and this is only the beginning. My story, my mission, is far from over.


The Year That Wasn’t

2020. It started with World War III. Remember? When we almost went to war with Iran? I bet you don’t. So much has transpired in the world between then and now, it’s hard to keep track of everything. One minute, it feels like this year went by in a flash, the next, we forget that the month of March has long since passed, even though we feel perpetually stuck there.

I remember my last day of work before the world shut down. I knew what was coming. No one came in the store that night. But there I was. Trying to savor every last second of my shift. I cried on the way home. At the time, I didn’t know just how much my life would change or for how long. I don’t think any of us did. I just knew it was going to and I just had to grin and bear it.

I took it well, though. I survived the lockdown. My company survived. Many weren’t as lucky. Many are still suffering greatly.

I can’t lie, that does weigh heavily on me.

Then in May, we learned about George Floyd, yet another unarmed Black man killed by the police. Over eight minutes, he was there, gasping for his breath. Eight. Fucking. Minutes. He even cried out for his mother. So many were horrified. But for so many, like so much else this year, their concern did not last. 

Performative allyship continued to rear its ugly head over and over again this year. People only seemed to care when it was popular or convenient for them to do so. Never once giving social and racial justice another glace once the headlines and hashtags went away. Some even became openly hostile to the cause, taking their cues from the likes of Candance Owens, because she at least made them feel comfortable. At least that’s what I gathered.

Summer was hard. My uncle died after his battle with cancer in August. He was the kindest, most gentle man you could ever know. I loved him. And I miss him.

Then came election season. Stress added to stress. 2016 was a nightmare, and the way 2020 was going, it looked to be the same this time around. And isn’t it just like 2020, where now half of us believe a whole different set of facts from what the actual truth is? 

Man, we sure have work to do, America.


In many ways, I kind of wish this year had never happened. If it could only be the year that wasn’t. But in other ways, I think this year can teach us something, if we let it. This year has shown a bright light onto many of our broken systems in a way I don’t think anything ever has before. At least not in my lifetime. Take your pick: Healthcare, policing, mental health, racial issues, election systems, government, social safety nets.

We do have a lot to work on. Maybe this year is the inflection point. Maybe, just maybe, in 2021, we can start to turn it around. Reform what needs to be reformed. Discard what no longer works. And build back what needs to be repaired.

We can do this. But it’s going to take our concern lasting beyond the headlines and the soundbites. So when we do get beyond this year, we don’t forget it.

We don’t let it become the year that wasn’t.

Old Me

It wasn’t too long ago that I was a religious fundamentalist with a horrible view of self and a bad mental state. I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. I’ve felt the need to apologize for him much throughout the last number of years. Man, he got so much wrong. But I’m learning not to beat on him too much.

This is all a journey, after all. He is me and I am him. We’re very different people, but somehow, the same. It’s almost as if he was holding his breath. He was trying to fit into a group and a worldview that would never have him. He was always different, after all. Not afraid to break with the status quo, even if that meant a blow to his own reputation. He, like me, wasn’t afraid to be blunt. He wasn’t afraid to tell people what he thought. That hasn’t changed. God, has it not.

In many ways, I’m thankful for him. I’m thankful for what he went through. His experiences and his stumbling. If it wasn’t for those, the current me wouldn’t be possible. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. I simply wouldn’t exist in my current form had it not been for growing up the way I did.

I’ve done things nowadays that would drive the old me mad. There are people who I’ve called out that I never thought I would. These people who I once considered close now see me and the causes I care about in a very negative light. I’m not being facetious. They seem to view me as an enemy. But to paraphrase Paul the Apostle, when you grow up, you put childish things away. Some people simply can’t join you on your journey forward because you’ve grown up and they have not.

But that comes with the territory of change. Somehow, the old me propels me forward in a way not much else does. It’s not that I’m trying to undo everything he did, he simply wasn’t that powerful. Which is a good thing. But he inspires me to continue to be better. To continue to do better. And like I said, some things between us are the same. We’re both people who have a fierce conscience and the courage to change.

Old me reminds me of where I’ve been. He shows me that progress is possible and things are in constant flux. He shows me that change isn’t a bad thing. That we should normalize changing our opinions and worldviews when presented with new information. He shows me how to sit and listen instead of speak. He prophetically tells me to look out for my mental well-being and just how quickly life can come undone.

The old me has taught me more about this life than almost anyone else. He’s taught me to be myself, despite the consequences. The twists and turns that got me here to this moment, are because of him trying to find his way. And I know in ten years from now, I’ll be saying the same of who I am today.

Life is in constant flux. We’re always hopefully growing and changing with the seasons. It’s something my twenties have taught me more than anything else. That I don’t know it all. That I should listen to my gut instinct, it has rarely steered me wrong. If something feels off, it’s usually because it is.

Old me teaches me how to be authentic. I try to never hide who I used to be. I can’t. He’s a part of me. It would be like denying my dad is my dad. He may not be who I am anymore, but he made me who I am. He’s important. As much as I think he was wrong about so much, I cannot and should not disown him.

How I got here is just as important than the fact that I am here. From where I’ve been, I can get an idea of why I truly care about the things I do nowadays.

I hope because I’ve grieved. I love because I’ve lost. I find because I sought. I healed because I’ve hurt. I live because parts of me have died.

It’s not in spite of the negatives that I am where I am today, but chiefly because of them. They made me who I am more than anything. I know I can never go back to who I used to be, but I can look back and see clearly, that it’s because of who I was that I am who I am today.

So, here’s to the old me. You made me a better person. You showed me so much. I love you. I’m rooting for you.

10.6.16

Four years ago today, my life changed forever and in ways I would’ve never expected. When I came out as gay four years ago, I did so with caution. If I were to have come out today, I probably would word some things differently, and maybe the whole blog post I wrote back then would take a different tone overall. But that’s the thing, really. If I didn’t come out four years ago, the monumental changes I’ve gone through wouldn’t have happened. I would maybe still be floating in the same headspace I was back then. I’ve learned a lot, taken many steps forward, and a few steps back. Through it all, however, I’ve learned to love who I am and who I’m becoming, more and more each day.

Coming out changed my life, it changed my outlook, it changed my beliefs. It gave way to new ways of thinking, new ways of living that have all been for the better.

We can never predict where the future will lead us, and I sure couldn’t have predicted back then, just where these last four years would go. 

It’s been wild.

Wonderfully Made From The Beginning

My sexuality is not a mistake. I didn’t choose to be gay, but the question remains: Would I change it if I could? After four years of this new life, after living as an out gay man and all that entails, the answer is a resounding “No.” I wouldn’t change it for the world. God knows I’ve tried. Even though I’ve lost people, the new friendships I’ve formed have been some of the most fruitful of my life. 

The new people who’ve filled the void in recent years have profoundly changed me and given me a sense of comfort that I’m not alone. That never would’ve happened had I not ventured out on this path in the first place.

When I was making the decision to publicly come out, I spent months counting the cost. It was the hardest and bravest decision I believe I ever made. I knew people wouldn’t like it, I knew everything was going to be subject to change. In many ways, no stone has been left unturned. Much has changed, and very little has stayed the same. 

Through many trials, toils, and snares, I’m finally living as my authentic self, and I couldn’t ask for more. These last four years have brought challenges, but they’ve also brought peace. 

I’m genuinely happy with who I am. I’m discovering more of that person each day. I like him.  I think he’s a badass, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.


I spent my formative years in a very right-wing, evangelical setting, one where the worst thing you could be was gay. I dissociated from a very important part of myself. I wasn’t able to fully be me. As I entered my late teenage years, I started to realize that I was gay and it terrified me. 

Someone would find out, I was sure of it. I could casually mention a cute guy and my secret would be out. 

But no, I kept this secret strapped tightly to my chest for years. No one knew. I’m a terrible secret keeper, but my entire social survival hinged on this.

So, I suffered in silence.

I suffered in silence until I couldn’t any longer.

I came out late one fall night on an old blog and then went to bed so I couldn’t take it back.

The secret was out. The toothpaste could not go back into the bottle.

Bird Set Free

But oh! I tried a few times to put that toothpaste back in. But there comes a breaking point for everyone, where you just have to say “fuck it, I’m being who I am, to hell with the consequences!” It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done, to be honest. Probably the best. It’s empowering to be who you are and to be unapologetic for it.

Truth be told, I’m still finding my wings. 

Sia’s song “Bird Set Free” speaks to me on this one.


“I sing for love, I sing for me, I’ll shout it out like a bird set free”

Sia

For years, I was a caged bird, held down by my own shame of who I was and who I loved. Typing that out now, I realize how silly it really all is. That is, being ashamed of love. It’s sad I spent so many years of my life worried what certain people would think, or what my reputation would be if I came out.

Yes, some of my community couldn’t join me on this journey, others came late, and still others were already miles farther down the road than I was. I also found new people on the journey that I would’ve never found otherwise.

I also found my voice.

A voice that speaks up for those who are persecuted. Namely, the LGBTQ+ community and the mental health community. I’ve found incredible, strong people in both these wonderful communities and it’s made such a difference in my life getting to know them.

It’s been said that it just takes one voice. My voice is a quiet one but don’t be mistaken: It’s fierce. I’ll always stand up for my communities against bigotry and stigma and bullying. I’ll educate, I’ll learn, and I’ll continue to grow.

I’m far away from where I was four years ago when this all started to go down, but I wouldn’t change any of it for anything.

My life is wonderfully complex. While there have been bumps in the road, things did get better. Then, they got fabulous. 

They also got much more glittery.

#BeHereTomorrow

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day today. If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you know my story and my multiple brushes with death by suicide. This year, I didn’t want to rehash those stories. You can always go to the archive and read them if you wish and I encourage you to do so.

This year, I want to take a look back at what the last year has been like, how I’ve grown as a person and how my advocacy moved from this blog and Facebook, out into the real world. I’ve made so many new friends this year in the local mental health scene and I’m probably more proud of that than anything. These people are warriors. Each and every one of them. They all have incredible stories of heartbreak, fear, pain, loss, resilience, courage, and strength.

Last year, I was a part of an event that changed my life. The event was put on by my local NAMI chapter. It was a Kevin Hines event. If you don’t know who Kevin Hines is, I encourage you to pick up his book “Cracked Not Broken,” here. His story is absolutely incredible and he tells it best. A lot has changed in my life since the last time I wrote about suicide prevention and how much this cause means to me.


After that Kevin Hines event, everything seemed to go in an entirely new direction. My story took off, as a matter of speaking. I was able to tell Kevin a little about my story at the event and give him a hug (this was obviously pre-COVID). Almost right after that, my local NAMI got into contact with me and asked me if I wanted to partner with them. Since then, I’ve been able to tell my story of a suicide attempt survivor trying to live mentally well, and in some ways, I feel, at least on a small scale, I’m making my hero, Kevin Hines, proud.

A couple months ago, I woke up and discovered something: That I am doing exactly what I feel I need to. I’m fulfilled in this work and it makes me feel I’m making a difference. I’m no longer content to sit on the sidelines, typing away on a keyboard. While my blog is a large part of my advocacy, this last year has shown me the importance of showing up, making my presence known and my voice heard.

I’ve gone through hell and back and I want everyone around me to know that they matter. I want to be that someone that I desperately needed when I was at my lowest. Someone devoid of the toxic positivity that so often plagued my friend group at the time (they’ve all since grown and have become mental health warriors along with me). Someone who can acknowledge the hard truth that yes, life does suck. Your depression is real. Your suicidal ideation is something that we should talk about.

I’m doing this all the while having to pay extra attention to my own mental health. I was on solid footing before COVID-19 ever came along, and I’ve been able to, for the most part, maintain being mentally well throughout the pandemic. But I’m finding that may get more difficult as fall rolls around and the days get shorter. I’m someone who’s incredibly susceptible to seasonal depression, and this year’s already no different. The past few days have been in the 50’s and raining here, and for the duration, I’ve felt a tightness in my chest and I’ve been lethargic to a high degree.

But I think I’ll be okay. No toxic positivity here, it’s just what I feel in my bones. And I trust by bones more than anything else.


For you, I hope life is treating you well. I know, for many of you, this year feels like another gut punch almost every day. Some of you may be on the edge as you read this. Please know that I’ve been there. I know there is no quick fix. I know recovery is hard work and it takes time. But I also know that it has been worth it in my own life.

Growing up, my parents took my brother and me on long, cross-country road trips. I simply loved them. I loved being in the car for sixteen hours at a time. I loved road food, Casey’s Pizzas, seedy motels, driving through the never-ending flatness of Nebraska and enjoying the peaks of the Rockies in Colorado. Every summer, I was blessed to go on one of these grand journeys.

Recovery is like that: It’s a journey, as well. There’s mighty peaks and long times of flatness. There’s seasons of seedy motels before you get to spend the night at the Four Seasons. But as beautiful as the purple mountain majesty, my recovery has to be to date, the most challenging, rewarding, and encouraging journey I’ve ever been on.

It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade.

So, today and every day, I echo my hero, Kevin Hines’ motto: Be Here Tomorrow.

When it’s not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The holidays can be hard for many of us, myself included. This last week, for me, has proven to be very difficult. I’m trying to keep my head above the waters of responsibility, gifts, and my own mental well being. It’s proving to be more difficult than I thought it would be. My care routine has been put to the test this week in ways that it hasn’t yet.

A little backstory

So, why is this time of year hard for me? Like many of you, I lost family members this time of year, and that alone has caused the holiday season to be hard on me. Add to that, five years in retail, and then the picture becomes that much more clear.

And then, you have the stuff that most people don’t. Seven years ago, this time of year brought with it my worst period of my life. A month after Christmas Eve, I attempted to take my life. (That story can be read here.)

The Christmas season and the abyss beyond it always seems to bring the trauma of that fateful day with it.

Breathe

Some of us have a real issue with this time of year, and that’s okay. For some of us, Christmas brings with it boundaries, familial drama, loss, loneliness, anxiety, and depression. For many of us, hearing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” sung over and over and over again makes us ashamed that we don’t think that. People wonder why we are so down. I mean, “It’s Christmas after all! Don’t be a grinch!

But we’re not. We have needs at this time of year that others don’t. We sometimes need to take a step back. Maybe from others and maybe from even ourselves. I know, for me, if I’m left alone with my thoughts for too long, it leads to no place good. So I have to be out and about much of the time. For you, it may look different.

The point is, if this time of year is hard for you, if you don’t like the holidays, that’s okay. You’re allowed to not like them. You’re allowed to hate them even. It’s okay, you’re not going to combust into a pile of red and green glitter and twinkle lights.

Do what you need to do to get through.

Breathe. Just breathe.

Please Stay

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. If you know anything at all about my story, you know my history with mental illness and suicide. It’s days like today that put everything I fight for into perspective.

I’ve been thinking a lot the past 24 hours about the nexus of all of this, what was one of the worst times in my life. It was a time I couldn’t have felt more alone and defenseless, but through it all I chose to stay.

Tim Coe who?

It was my sophomore year of high school and my grandma had just passed away, amid about a million and one other things went wrong in my extended family that caused everything I knew, everything I thought to be true, to come undone. Add to this, everything I was going through at school.

There were vicious rumors of a sexual nature going around about me at the time, started by one person in particular. I didn’t put two and two together until years later, but this kid was a bully nonetheless. He would torment me and call me a name that isn’t worth repeating. He would also post disgusting things online about me and get his friends to do the same. It all led up to the day he sexually assaulted me at school, in the hallway.

I did what my cop dad always told me to do in a situation like this, I reported it. What I was told and what was done (or not done) silenced me for years. I was forced to accept a non-apology from him to his face. I was told to “give him a break, his mom had just passed away.” Even at the time, I thought that excuse was disgusting. My grandma had just died, my extended family was falling apart, yet I wasn’t ever going to violate someone like he did to me. I wasn’t prepared to use my grief as an excuse to exploit people. Even so, the fact that nothing was done made me incredibly ashamed. The people who were supposed to protect me dropped the ball and made me feel as if I was the problem. And so, I shut up about it. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my parents, until last year.

But I knew. And it was slowly killing me.

Hold on tight a little longer

I remember standing in gym class and contemplating how I would tell my family goodbye. Would anyone at school even miss me? Would they even know who I was? What would the teachers say? What would be the excuse as to why it happened? I remember thinking up how I would die. But something told me to hang on. Maybe it was God, maybe it was the fact that by this time, it was May and summer was right around the corner. I don’t know, but I did hold on, somedays for dear life. Summer did come, winter did break, literally and figuratively.

The next two years of high school would be my best years of school yet. I made a name for myself being the kind upperclassman who looked out for the underdog. I did a double take my senior year when a kid called me popular.

“but I did hold on, somedays for dear life. Summer did come, winter did break, literally and figuratively.”

That wasn’t something I set out to be or even wanted to be, I just wanted to be kind to people. To be that person who I needed but didn’t have. If that was what made me popular, I can sleep easy at night. 

But none of that would have ever happened if I didn’t choose to fight for my life two years earlier. There would be many more times in the years since, for a variety of reasons, which would see me fighting in that same way, a couple times coming very close to taking me out. The fact I’m still here is something I am enormously proud of.

I’m brave for making it this far.

Facing suicidal thoughts and ideation is like staring down death itself for weeks, months, and sometimes, years on end. Just the fact that anyone chooses to stay and fight for a day takes remarkable, superhuman-like courage. Sometimes, the greatest battle is just getting out of bed. Sometimes, all you can manage to do is just simply exist. And that’s okay, you should be remarkably proud of yourself for getting up. Day by day. Step by step. Sometimes, that’s all we can muster.

I could easily be another statistic. I’m well aware of my risk factors. I’m very aware that, statically, there’s a higher probability of me dying by suicide than me dying of cancer.

But I know one thing, I’m strong. The fact I’m typing this here today proves it. It takes an incredibly brave person to battle their own mind, to fight against bullying, sexual abuse, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

I did, and I am.

I can’t say that I’m over what happened to me. Honestly, the person who did this to me is someone that I still haven’t forgiven. Every time his name comes up, or I see him tagged on Facebook, I get angry, I have flashbacks. This kid was almost my undoing, I don’t even think he’s aware of it, but he was. He took so much from me. But I’m strong. I continued in the face grueling circumstances, even though I had to go it alone for a long time.

If you’re in that same boat today, let me be maybe the first to tell you this: You are incredibly brave and you are unbelievably strong. Continue. Please stay.

It gets better.

Life in Color

They say there are only two ways to view the world. Either you think in binaries, black and white, or you have a more nuanced view of the world and think in grey. To me, that all seems too simplistic. I’d like to float something else, another way to see the world. And that’s seeing the world in color.

Seeing the world in color to me means seeing life all around me, the beauty of it all, and the tragedy. And not only seeing it but feeling it as well. Allowing myself to feel all the highs, all the lows, and everything in between that make this life what it is.

Life in color also means that I see the world not as it is, but what it could be. Some people may think that I’m just burying my head in the sand. I need to be realistic, you know. There are bad people out there. Yeah, I get that. There’s horrible, unspeakable tragedy out there, very real issues that need addressing and fixing. They’re the very issues I am determined to help fix. Because, again, seeing the world this way leaves much space for tragedy and feeling it to its full. When you see the world as what it should be, not as it is, fixing those issues becomes a top priority.

A tale of two cities

I live in an old manufacturing town in the Rust Belt of Northern Illinois, a place many have written off as past its peak. But for years now, there has been a small group trying to make this city better. They see potential where others see a lost cause. They roll up their sleeves while others scoff on social media. These people, and what they’re doing is changing my city, and it’s not just cosmetic. Those scoffers? Their numbers are dwindling. People are beginning to have pride in this town again. I would know, because I used to be one of those scoffers a few short years ago.

But since I started seeing this place I call home for what it could be, seeing it in color, my mind began to shift from “this place sucks” to “What can I contribute to make it better?” Since then, everything has changed. In rooting for my hometown, visiting new places, and meeting new people, this place looks very different, I can see it in a new light. And the city is changing, every day. Pride is returning, all because a few people chose to see in color.

But since I started seeing this place I call home for what it could be, seeing it in color, my mind began to shift from “this place sucks” to “What can I contribute to make it better?”

A life transformed by color

For much of my teenage and young adult years, depression and anxiety have been major themes. They’ve even almost killed me a time or two. There’s been many days I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning. In fact, a couple years ago, I was sleeping on average of eighteen hours a day. But seeing things not as they are but what they could be did good and set my recovery into motion. It got me into therapy, into a psychiatrist who found the medicine I was on was way off. I got help. I learned coping mechanisms, I know my limits, I know my boundaries and I stick to them.

Some people may see this all as idealistic and not a good way to view the world. They’ll say the old tired lines like they’ve recited them million of times: The world is a cold place and it will steamroll over you in a heartbeat if you let it. The world isn’t going to conform to you, you have to conform to the world.

Here’s the thing: Does this have to be our fate? Have we lost all originality to be able to do the work that will make this world better? I don’t think so and I refuse to believe that’s the case. My way of thinking is actually, I believe, the opposite of idealism, where idealism just ponders a better future, seeing the world in color helps create a better future. You don’t discount the pain and suffering, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, or racism in the world, not at all. You feel every bit of it, because colors can be light or be dark. Seeing those dark colors with the light ones helps you put a plan into place to obliterate the hate, prejudice, and indifference that plagues our hearts.

This world becomes a better place with people like you, people like me, who see it not as it is but what it could be if we just roll up our sleeves and get to work.

And just like my hometown, it only takes a few of us to spark a movement.

A Midsummer’s Thunderstorm

If you’ve been following along for a while now, you may know that life has truly been treating me well. Really, this warm and nurturing time in my life could be described as my own personal Summer. But, it’s also been no secret to those close to me that the past few to several weeks have been quite difficult. Two family members of mine have been diagnosed with cancer, one has now passed away, and in addition to all of that, things have transpired to try and upend the progress I’ve made this year in terms of my faith and my future. I’m emerging from these last few weeks feeling a bit shaken.

Having a history of depression doesn’t help matters much, and has only made me more anxious that my depression is relapsing and I’ll soon be back down in that hopeless pit wanting nothing more than to feel something again. See, for me, depression often feels like nothing. Literally nothing. I get numb and disassociate in major ways. I shirk responsibly, cut off my friends, and hole myself up in my room. It’s a terrible feeling, especially for someone who is naturally expressive and is, somewhat, an empath. Being numb and holing myself up in my room goes against who I am. I hate it, but I can’t seem to help it when it happens. There were times in high school where I had to be literally dragged out of bed and into school because of a depressive episode.

I’ve been afraid the last few weeks that depression was coming back into my life again, after what has been a long period without it. In fact, I’ve been in “full remission” since mid-2018. My prognosis has never been better, and honestly, I’ve never felt better. But still, that fear persists.

Honestly, though, when I think rationally about this (which can be hard to do) I’ve had a hard couple weeks, which included getting bombarded with bad news almost daily and I’ve, for the most part, kept my composure. That’s progress, my friends! These kinds of things would throw anyone off, for weeks, months even. And it would all totally be okay. I’ve kept going this time. I haven’t shirked from obligations or holed myself up in my room, I’ve been out there, and have been present as much as I can be.

No, this isn’t depression. Not yet, anyway.

It seems to be more akin to a midsummer thunderstorm. You know what I’m talking about: You’re by the pool in the afternoon, enjoying your favorite drink and then all of the sudden, big, black clouds fill the sky and you hear it: The rumbles of thunder. Soon, those rumbles become crashes, followed by pouring rain. You can’t see beyond the rain right now, and for a second, you even forget something important:

It’s still summer.

The weather is still warm, the pool is still open, and the sun is still shining bright. It’s all going to be okay. Thunderstorms are just a fact of summer, they don’t last forever.

The weather is still warm, the pool is still open, and the sun is still shining bright. It’s all going to be okay. Thunderstorms are just a fact of summer, they don’t last forever. Sure enough, the thunderstorm subsides almost as soon as it’s arrived. The sun is shining once again and you go back outside to resume your day by the pool.

All is well.

That’s what I’ve been resting on these last couple weeks. My personal thunderstorm has shaken me a bit, but it hasn’t changed the fact that it’s still summer in my life. I’m still firing on all cylinders, I’m still moving forward, and me taking a day to breathe here and there is a good thing and not a harbinger of a depressive relapse to come.

As my mom used to tell me growing up: “Don’t worry honey. It’s just a little rain.”

The Blog Post Everything in Me is Telling Me Not to Write

A quick note: The title of this post says it all: I am going to struggle my way through writing this, for a multitude of reasons. Another note: There is really no controversy here and you may think the title is “clickbaity” but understand something: What I’m about to reveal is something that has traumatized me since the day it happened. I alluded to this event in an earlier post, and said someday, I may be able to tell the tale without freaking out.

Hopefully, today is that day.

1.24.13 – The rest of the story

In January, I told the story of my suicide attempt and the events that proceeded and succeeded it. There were a few details I left out, such as the medication’s name I searched on the internet, names I know, and other things I just wasn’t ready to share yet. The first two categories are things I will not ever publicly divulge, hopefully for obvious reasons to you. The third, I can talk about, but it has to be on my terms.

There’s one major part of the story I left out I’ve felt for some time now if I shared, it may help ease the trauma and shame of someone else who may have a similar experience to my own. For my own mental well-being, I’ve kept it under wraps, but sometimes, exposing things to the sunlight is a good thing to do. I also recently found out that I’m not alone in this, and my experience of what I had happen isn’t isolated.

Within minutes, the ambulance came along with the police. I was mortified and in tears. I remember the EMT’s asking me about school and where I graduated from, but nothing else. 

Excerpt from my January blog post – 1.24.13

“The ambulance came along with the police,” when I wrote that back in January, that was already more than I was willing to share, however, the storyline wouldn’t have been complete without it in there. I knew it would someday set me up to tell the rest of the story – particularly the “police” portion.

Now, before I go any farther, I just want to say that I am very much in support of law enforcement. My dad has had a long, storied, and distinguished career in law enforcement and one of my best friends is in school as we speak to go into the field. I know what it’s like to go to bed every night as a kid and worry that your dad may not come home the next morning. I know how thankless of a profession law enforcement can be. Saying that the police acted stupidly is something that, for me, is almost heretical. However, they too are human and do make mistakes. I believe what happened to me that night at the hands of an officer was wrong and has led to years of shame, fear, and trauma.

“Do you want to press charges?”

When the police officer arrived at the doctor’s office that night, nothing was explained to me. I thought he was arresting me, and I was incredibly scared. “What did I do? I didn’t break any laws, did I?” I thought to myself. One thing you should know about me is that I am a rule follower. I don’t even go over the speed limit, for crying out loud. So imagine you’re at the lowest point of your life, and the cops show up for reasons you don’t fully understand, and then take you and handcuff you, still not explaining what’s happening or why it’s happening. I didn’t know if I was being arrested, or being taken to the hospital. But I certainly thought it was the former considering that you usually don’t get restrained to take a ride in an ambulance. Nothing was being explained. Somehow, after what seemed like forever, I found out that I was being taken to the emergency room. But what happened next continues to fill me with shame, dread, and trauma, he asked my parents if they’d like to press charges against me. For what exactly? For being sick? For almost dying? For needing obvious help? Of course my parents said no. But the damage had already been done.

Why are you telling this story, Tim? What do you want accomplished?

I’m telling this story because I fear that this treatment is far too common for someone in a crisis scenario and someone could honestly wind up getting hurt because of it. Luckily in my situation, that didn’t happen aside from the trauma I have carried with me surrounding the event. But first responders not having adequate crisis intervention training is a problem in America. Too few police departments even offer this as part of their officer’s training and many of the others only train certain officers. I’m not looking for heads to roll, I’m just looking for a better way to handle these very intense situations. We could do without the handcuffs in most cases and we could do without the criminalization of mental illnesses or making those suffering from them feel like a criminal. If more had been explained to me, that I hadn’t broken any laws, that I was going to get the help I needed and I wasn’t going to jail, that may have made a huge difference in how I perceived the events taking place.

I also tell this story to hopefully show others who may have had had similar experiences that they’re not alone. I still feel I was treated like a criminal that night and it’s still something that causes me deep shame. That shouldn’t be happening to anyone and if divulging more detail about my own story can ease someone else’s burden, then it’s worth it to me to share.

I’m going to wrap this up, because yes, this is still a raw wound, even six years later and writing just these few words has taken a toll on my psyche, but in a weird way, I feel better getting it all down on paper.

We Need to Stop Making Light of Psych Wards

You see it on TV all the time, ghost hunter shows exploring an old psychiatric hospital. You’ve seen movies such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and you think that must be what it’s like, but it’s not. There were no ghosts, no demons, and at least where I was, no Nurse Ratched. Lately, I’ve noticed more and more people making fun of mental health facilities and the people they think should be there.

“Take the tin foil hat off your head and get yourself up to the fourth floor.” I’ve heard this a billion times in reference to conspiracy theorists. Now, I am the farthest thing from a flat-earther or a believer in the deep-state, but I’ve been on the “fourth floor” twice. This isn’t funny to me.

The Joke Stops Here

There really isn’t much that truly offends me, but cracking jokes about mental illness, suicide, or psych wards is something that will set me off every time. Someone in their darkest hour warrants our support, not our scorn. Someone who finds themselves in distress needs our love, not our jokes. Just today, I found someone I know, a first responder, no less, laugh at a mental health organization for trying to implore people to use the term “died by suicide” instead of “committed suicide.”

A little aside: The roll first responders play in helping those in a mental health crisis is crucial, however, too often these people are not adequately trained and can end up making an already traumatic situation much worse than it needs to be. I have my own personal experience with this, and I’m still dealing with the trauma of it to this day. Maybe some day, I’ll tell the tale, but I still can’t tell it even to my counselor without having an anxiety attack, so I’ll leave it for now.

But back to the jokes: It just isn’t cool. The last thing we need is someone thinking their friends and family are going to judge them or disown them for seeking out the help they desperately need. To you, the jokes may seem harmless, but to someone like myself, they add to the shame and the stigma we already feel on the daily.

Cancer jokes? Not funny.

Jokes about heart attacks? Again, not funny and rightfully so.

Jokes about someone’s mental state? Totally fair game.

See a problem here?

That old phrase “No man is an island” is even more true for those of us who deal with mental illnesses. We need allies and friends. We need your support, your love, your kindness, and your patience. We do not, however, need your scorn.

My whole adult life has been the story of getting my mental illnesses to a place where they are manageable and to a place where I can be functional as an adult. None of this would’ve been possible without getting help for myself. That old phrase “No man is an island” is even more true for those of us who deal with mental illnesses. We need allies and friends. We need your support, your love, your kindness, and your patience. We do not, however, need your scorn. It hinders us from getting help. Even if you’re joking about someone else, it still affects us negatively and adds to the stigma.

I’ve been lucky: I had parents who made it totally normal for me to go to therapy on a weekly basis when I was younger and they encouraged me that medication was what I needed, just like someone with a physical ailment. I’ve never really gotten the impression people thought I was strange for needing these assets, at least by those closest to me. Unfortunately, my story doesn’t seem to be the norm for many people.

It should be though, and making that a reality is one of the things my heart beats for nowadays. Since I first disclosed that I’ve been hospitalized for mental health reasons, I’ve heard of more and more people who had the same thing happen to them. Honestly, it seems to be much more common than what people care to admit. Too often, it seems people feel the need to suffer in silence, like that part of their story is a dark stain on their life that they keep bottled up and don’t talk about.

It’s understandable. I got lucky with the people I have around me. No one really bats an eye when they hear what I’ve been through. But even for me, it’s always in the back of my mind and my chief worry: What if a future employer reads this? What if that new friend doesn’t want to associate with me anymore? Not even I’m immune, someone who has had an abundance of support.

Not telling that psych ward joke may seem like small potatoes to you, but it really can be huge to someone like me. People who suffer from a mental illness sometimes won’t disclose their condition because they feel unsafe around certain people. Telling that joke may be the thing that pushes your closest friend to not tell you they’re hurting.

The way our culture views being hospitalized for a mental illness isn’t something I’m willing to sit back and take. We’ve made so many gains but there’s still much work to do. No one, upon meeting me, would even think that I’ve been hospitalized for my mental illness, I’m high-functioning, competent, and fairly well-spoken, but then again, a large part of those who have been where I was are also.

I don’t speak very much about my experiences in a mental health unit because, yes, some of my memories of those times are quite traumatic. Most of that trauma, however, stems from me not knowing what to expect and having a level of stigma in myself at the time. Knowing that this was far more common than what I thought may have gone a long way in alleviating some of my anxiety about the whole ordeal.

Although it was traumatic, my experiences in a mental health unit are why I’m alive today. Do I want to go back there? Hell no. Was it pleasant? Nope, but when is a hospital stay ever fun? Am I, in a weird way, thankful for those experiences? There’s some hesitance on my part to type this, but kind of.

I hope in sharing more about this part of me, I can erase some of the stigma and maybe ease someone else’s burden of feeling like they can’t tell anyone about their own experience.

I wouldn’t be here today if I wasn’t hospitalized, I am well aware of that. It was, by far, the most vulnerable time of my life, and even for someone like me, who chooses to be very open about his mental illnesses, it’s still a part of my life that’s extraordinarily difficult to share. I hope in sharing more about this part of me, I can erase some of the stigma and maybe ease someone else’s burden of feeling like they can’t tell anyone about their own experience.

So, be careful before you make that crack about mental health units or make light of someone who looks “off” to you, you never know who may be in your midst or what pain they’re hiding, even if you think you do.