Hi.

Let's work to end the suffering together.

John Tessitore is the Founder of the JCK Foundation, a non-profit devoted to ending the stigma of mental illness.

How I (sometimes) Overcome Mental Illness

How I (sometimes) Overcome Mental Illness

‘Crazy’ people problems

Greetings, I feel it’s my turn to share my daily struggles with depression, anxiety and PTSD. My battle began much earlier in my life. However, I finally faced the facts and sought help three years ago.

I was a junior studying business administration at a university; life was going pretty much as planned. I had a 3.5 GPA, which would shock you if you knew me in high school, as I literally only went to school to play sports. (I know, bring on the stereotypes.) Over the course of the semester things began to get a lot harder for me. I wasn’t comprehending what I was reading, I wasn’t able to focus and, as time went on, I got lost in it all. I could hardly function! Anxiety attacks, random bursts of anger, immense sadness — I couldn’t fathom what was going on. I had everything I’d hoped and dreamed of. I had a beautiful wife, was closing in on college graduation and was actively involved in my faith. Yet there I was; a wreck with no idea what I was dealing with. All I knew was that up to that point in my life, I was able to do just about anything I set my mind to.

This frustration turned into an intense internal anger. My mind began to break down in frustration, so much so that I would sometimes slam my head against the wall until I felt ready to pass out. (This freaked me out, and especially my sweet wife.) ‘How could this happen to me?’ I thought. I always prided myself on the fact I had never done any alcohol or drugs; heck I even hated Nyquil. I had my reasons, but the main one was that I always wanted to be in control of my own mind. I thought I had done something wrong, because I was suddenly unable to control my own thoughts and emotions. I was ashamed of myself. I fell into the common belief that mental health was only a problem that ‘crazy’ people have.

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Reclaiming myself

I decided I would do whatever it takes to get my mind back, to get back to ‘me.’ I went to more than ten different therapists. I was told I had everything from anxiety, to bipolar disorder and every other mental health challenge in between. After a tornado of opinions I found the right tests, the right doctors, and the right psychologist. Money, energy, and time were lost in this course to recovery, but it didn’t matter; it’s what I had to do to find solutions. My mission was to reclaim my mind so I could be a better husband and father.

I went through the lowest of all lows, and I mean the lowest! (Those with depression challenges know what this is like.) Throughout it all, I felt this saying come into my mind that I’ve used to carry me forward in the toughest of times: “Today I Will Achieve.”

To be honest, today I don’t feel like it. I feel depressed, anxious, and have very low energy. I think we misinterpret the phrase, because in all reality my “achievement” for today is just to go with it. Today I Will Achieve getting through today. I may feel horrible, might shed some tears, might not even have the energy to get out of bed, but I’m going to get through this day. This “today” attitude has carried me to the point I’m able to live a high functioning life with my wife and soon to be daughter. I’m me. I never take anything too seriously, I laugh at myself, and I tell way too many ‘dad’ jokes. I still have my ups and downs, I take medication and see my therapist regularly, but I am me again.

I share this with you because I’ve learned not be ashamed of my weaknesses, but to embrace them. I choose to encourage, uplift and inspire others to do great things no matter what their challenges may be. After all, this is what Today I Will Achieve is all about.

Austin is the Founder and President of Today I Will Achieve

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