I want to start at the moment when things were at their worst.
At some point in our lives, we all say to ourselves, “Wow, I don’t think it can go any lower. This is as bad as it gets.”
I finally hit rock bottom. It was August 19, 2016
Let’s be clear: I’ve had worse events happen in my life. My Mom had just passed away nine months earlier, I’ve had health struggles not related to depression, my Dad has had several life-threatening medical issues. I’ve had career disappointments, relationships that haven’t turned out the way I had hoped, etc.
But my low point physically, emotionally, and medically was on that Friday in August 2016. It started days, weeks, months, hell, maybe years in advance. And it came to a head while laying on my couch that afternoon.
I was on the second day of a two-day bout with the flu. Except on that second day, physical sickness took a backseat to what I was dealing with mentally. One week earlier I finished a six-year stint at ESPN Cleveland as a producer and on-air personality. In the aftermath of trying to figure out my next career move, I was getting more and more overwhelmed.
I didn’t know what was next. Several stations were calling me. In order to try to keep my salary and benefits, it looked like I was going to have to anchor updates for a news radio station. My head was spinning in a thousand directions.
Two days before I hit rock bottom, I went to a Paul McCartney concert and when I got home later that night I started throwing up.
But in addition to the flu, something else was seriously wrong. And it was boiling over by the time Friday arrived.
My personal walls were closing in against me.
I’d had depression before, but nothing like this. I was scared.
Finally, what put me over the edge - what completely turned everything ugly - was something that’s plagued me all my life: hating the idea of letting people down.
We’re always the hardest on ourselves. I might hold the record for worst at forgiving myself. I do not let myself off the hook from mistakes.
I hadn’t felt up to going over to my Dad’s house on Thursday to do my usual chores of sorting out his multitude of medications for him, taking out the garbage, and cleaning the litter box of the family cat.
My sister called me on Friday while I was already falling in an emotional black hole. She told me that Dad had been up until 3 a.m. trying to get everything out of the house. He never took his pills. The guilt and anger at myself for not being there for my Dad put me over the edge.
I started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t breathe
My hands turned into two wet, sweaty sponges.
I thought I was having a stroke because my face was numb and I couldn’t talk. I no longer had any control over my body.
Was I having a heart attack? No. It was a panic attack.
My sister being the cool, calm, and collected mother hen (while talking to me on her cell), grabs her home phone and calledthe paramedics to take me to the hospital.
What was going to happen next? Everything in my mind was negative.
Cripplingly negative thoughts like 'I’m going to the hospital. They’re going to put me in the loony bin. I don’t know what they’re going to do to me,' consumed me.
Here’s a medical secret: When you’re a heart patient checking into the hospital, you go to the front of the line for speedy service. So it didn’t take long to get me processed in the Emergency Room at Fairview Hospital so the doctors and nurses could go to work.
Once the attack subsided, physically there wasn’t really anything wrong with me. All of my vital signs were normal. I got the feeling that the doctors were about to send me home.
Two things happened: My Dad came down and was trying to tell me that I needed to stay in touch with my supervisor at Total Traffic. He was taking on a role as a coach and motivator. He didn’t realize at the time that it was exactly what I didn’t need. I nearly had a second panic attack while my sister got him out of the room.
The epiphany was when someone from behavioral health came into the ER to see me and mentioned that there was potentially help for me. There was inpatient care available at Cleveland Clinic’s Lutheran Hospital. Would I be interested?
It’s an easy decision but a tough one. I knew I needed help but I didn’t know what I was getting into.
My only experience with mental hospitals was watching Jack Nicholson take on Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
I was going to have to be out there with other patients. Was I ready for that? What would they do to me at this hospital?
At that point, I didn’t care anymore. I knew I just wanted to get better.
If I hit rock bottom at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, August 19, 2016, seven hours later, I finally picked myself back up.
I didn’t get to Lutheran until about 1 a.m. Saturday morning. Suddenly, everything I thought I knew about my life was about to change.