Journeyman's Row
         Discovering tomorrow's future starts by discussing yesterday & today.

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Thank you, Mr. Oryx Cohen.

Posted on August 18, 2019 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Thanks to Mr. Oryx Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of the National Empowerment Center, on August 9th the NEC was the first formal publisher to accept my article on youth and adult bullying. An article which, earlier this year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) had considered for publication as well. While I cannot thank Mr. Cohen enough, it is not overselling to emphasize the impact bullying has on our society.


Unfortunately, now more than ever.


I am an unknown in the mental health community burdened by the experiences and knowledge of what th;s is like. Much like actor Robert Downey Jr.'s character, Tony Stark, I am also a futurist and with the Advocate personality (INFJ). For the last three years, I had to put employment pursuits on hold because of crippling career indecision. "All these years, I have never been able to choose an occupation without feeling I don't know what to do with my life." Who can relate to that? I have no retirement fund flush with ample preparation contributing funds towards my future. What future? Though, all things considered, not nearly as bad as some even I will admit.


Oh I'm still young being in my late thirties.


To be fair though, consider some of the feelings I have lived with for a decade and a half or more - and - without conventional treatment until last year.


Am I happy? Why am I here? Why am I still here? Do I belong in this life? Am I meant or ever going to find true love? Am I worth it? (I know much more about my diagnoses now, but still) what is wrong with me? Why am I so cursed that I cannot decide on a direction for gainful employment? Most other people have. They have their families, children, and social circles. One of the worst of all is feeling as if I am running out of time. I may potentially be diagnosed with Chronophobia, or the fear of time-related stressors such as New Year's Eve. Perhaps one of the most ironic fears to have as a human being who was born, lives, and eventually will die. It is inescapable.


Yet, here I am. Still. What grips my heart more than all of this intense sorrow is having lived in a world where children younger than age twelve, when my first mental health symptoms emerged, have already taken their own lives. Many of whom have been victims of abuse and bullying that never should have happened in the first place. Let alone as they've grown much older into adulthood. Consider all the facts and circumstances you want. Blame skin color, economic background, who foolishly voted for who. It is unacceptable to go out of your way to be mean to someone else unless it is swiftly followed by the most sincere and honest apology.


I know not where my life will take me in the dreaded next '10 years from now'. Yet, I recognize a problem I can do something about. Not for me. For everyone else but me. I feel a great sense of responsibility. So, I am taking the pieces of my life, of my heart and soul that are left, pressing my feet into the ground, and motioning with my right hand to bring it on. Standing alone on the battered hill near the end of the film, Avengers: Endgame, Captain America knew he stood no chance. Yet, as I quoted in my first NAMI Blog, "I can do this all day."


Whatever ;t takes.


My article on youth and adult bullying does not take a side. It takes a stand. Against youth and adult bullying that affect people every day even to suicide, it takes a stand now when your lives matter most. It matters how people are treated started here, but it will not end here because Mr. Oryx Cohen has been the first to give it a chance. Hopefully, the first of many.


To my credit of having watched so many cartoons as a kid, I created an inspiring Success Kid meme demonstrating my unabashed gratitude for Mr. Cohen's decision to republish my article. And, no less, under their Trauma section. Upon receiving this meme, he decided to share it on the NEC Facebook page as well. When tomorrow is as fearful as the day that never comes, opportunities like these are what make me possible.


Thank you, Oryx and the National Empowerment Center. Thank you very much.




"We are thrilled to have published a new article on the impact of bullying by Jim Irion!"

Alas, I am a nobody no more.

Why do ;t?

Posted on August 15, 2019 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

(edited; previously posted on TheMighty.com)



After I started accomplishing nationally published writing since October 11, 2018, one thought in particular has stood out more in my mind.


Why do ;t?



Why risk my professional reputation in this County when, for one, I have not settled on a career yet? Neither do I have a job (career anxiety/indecision is my biggest problem). If I out too much information, I might not be able to obtain gainful employment because employers could discover my work and frown upon the writing. If this were to happen, the resulting stigma could ruin my chances of getting a job. It may already have...


Why risk my personal reputation in this volunteer/community when any potential backlash or discrimination could also affect my employability? Most volunteer communities typically include any number of community leaders such as local government, non-profit organizations, and people working in the specific field they volunteer for. With any mistakes or social missteps I make, trivial opposition to my background such as political views or election voting, any one single community leader could easily disrupt my ability to be an advocate. And much worse...


Why risk my specific mental health when, in late 2016, I hadn't even reached out for conventional treatment options yet. Personally, I am late to having the bulk of my mental health issues diagnosed and formally treated. At the time, I had no one to turn to for guidance either. I could have easily put myself at great risk without the safety net of helpful modern mental health treatment.


Why risk alienating people that I need the most outside of formal treatment: friends and family? In my situation, the top two by far are my Mom and Dad with whom I still happen to live. Mental health is not widely accepted, or fully understood, by enough people yet. By pursuing diagnosis and treatment, or especially advocating about it publicly, I risk stigma from people I care about and need to be supportive of me. Imagine someone as close to you as a best friend, parent or guardian, who turns their back on you because of your mental health...



Why do ;t?


Why do any of th;s?



Well... The answers may seem as simple as th;s is worth it, or all of you who read this (and millions more) deserve and need a strong voice for awareness and advocacy. Believe me; the drive to help others can be powerful. I also happen to have the Advocate personality type (INFJ), which makes me more driven to help others. Additionally, I am an empath who perceives and processes emotions from others much more than an average person. I am driven to do more for helping people while I also feel much of their pain along with my own. There is no one simple answer.


Our lives, our struggles, and very much so our mental health issues, are a journey we must undertake with great care. Please, do not wait any longer than you have to for pursuing or discovering the right, affordable treatment options you feel you need.


There will always be someone in your lives somewhere to help guide you along your way. Always. If not, look up to me. I started without anyone to turn to. Now, I seek to fill that void by lighting the way for others.



Worth ;t.



Worth. Every. Single. Smile.

Priceless.

The other side of Mental Health

Posted on August 15, 2019 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

(previously posted on TheMighty.com)



From time to time, you are likely to hear common phrases of positive encouragement, see or participate in mental health events that really connect with you on a personal level. Someone could say you are not alone in what you face with your specific issues. They would be correct, honest and certainly sincere. Taking each step of an AFSP-sponsored Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide awareness may provide just the right amount of hope you need at that precious moment. Being around so many people in such a positive atmosphere can help heal in a very effective way.


But what about those days, those moments where it is difficult for anyone to make you feel strong enough no matter what is said or done?


What about those complicated mental health issues? The ones that are difficult to address or talk about, if you happen to have anyone you can genuinely talk to?


Feeling driven to help others as a mental health advocate, but you only just started your mental health recovery or perhaps only recently actual treatment. You have no one to reach out to for guidance or help. When you do, you reach out to the members of the volunteer community only for some of those mental health professionals and volunteers to stigmatize or discriminate against you. Suicidal thoughts but not actually being suicidal. Or a close friend who has passed away because of addiction yet what they did was their fault.


How do you cope with issues like these?


There are experiences we deal with which are not always going to be easy to overcome. Neither will they seem to be resolved when we want or need them to. There are those of us who feel like we have to try twice as hard compared to others around us. To not see through positive comments as if they are not truthful or honest.


To be honest, 'you are not alone' has never really helped me. Why? Maybe it is because one of my dominant traits is to over-think most things. The 'I can get through this' mindset I took in years past now feels like a lie. Every time someone says everything will work out for me I find myself in disbelief. Why? I feel so much anxiety from diagnosable Chronophobia (fear of time-related stressors; New Year's Eve) yet my physical health is reasonably good. Wow. Wait... What? There is a fear of time? Who the heck has that?


What do you do if your feelings or mental health issues fall between the cracks of what is easier to cope with?


When I started my mental health advocacy website nearly three years ago, I came up with a quote to describe how to deal with such challenging situations. "Discovering tomorrow's future starts by discussing yesterday and today." (my words). In simple terms, the key to these issues is to discuss them. Talk about them with your family doctor, an agency that offers case management who can help get you financial assistance and guidance towards treatment, or your counselor.


Talk about these challenging topics amongst friends, family, and loved ones who are acceptant and understanding of your mental health needs. Doing so will help you better understand what to do, why you act or feel the way you do, what treatment options may help better than what you've been doing. I had been seeing my counselor for seven months when she figured out one of my basic problems with anxiety and depression. Not long after, she suggested I be assessed for Autism Spectrum Disorder.


Guess what?


I am about to be diagnosed for the first time with Autism. We wouldn't have reached this level of understanding about my challenging symptoms if we had not discussed every bit of what I experience. And believe me; even my Psychiatrist has said I don't fit the normal parameters for diagnosis and treatment. Nothing like a highly experienced mental health professional telling you that you are unique in ways you might kid about with your friends. I'm cool with that. Every day I seek to own that uniqueness about myself, too.


As a mental health advocate, thanks to NAMI Submissions since last October I am very lucky to have had my writing published nationally. For you because difficult mental health issues, such as what I live with or have seen others struggling from, are not just a bull whose horns I want to grab. You are not alone doesn't help everyone feel positive about themselves. Coming together in groups for treatment or volunteer work doesn't always make people feel stronger about themselves.


That is a problem I not only know too well, but feel I can focus on with a purpose and make a difference that matters. Who feels suicidal thoughts but aren't suicidal? I do, for one. These challenging topics to address are some of the most important issues with mental health. So, if I am lucky again, be sure to check back here in case TheMighty does choose to republish my writing. I have plenty more in store and a renewed passion to talk about stuff that is difficult for people to talk about. After all...


"Discovering tomorrow's future starts by discussing yesterday and today."


And there is no time like the present.

Pardon the pun...

Th;s just in

Posted on August 15, 2019 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

(edited; previously posted on TheMighty.com)



If you think depression and anxiety symptoms are hard to deal with on a daily basis...


...try living without proper diagnosis or conventional treatment for at least 20 years. And I'm only in my late thirties.


Sure I lasted this long without treatment (for most of my symptoms), though I definitely would not recommend it. Think of the thoughts that have rip-roared through my mind for all this time. Think of what goes through my mind now, because of being so late to treatment yet so deceptively young.


Sometimes I just feel like a prisoner in my own skin. Who actually stares out from behind these brown eyes? As if I am destined to struggle with things often taken for granted. Do I belong here? Am I meant to find true love? Why keep trying? People hate me. I don't deserve to be acknowledged that I exist. Have I enough strength left to face the loneliness of despair, hatred of the haters, and the certainty of the unknown.


As if that wasn't enough...



I am shamed because of being honest and brave enough to share my story ("unwanted recovery story"). The stigma I've faced so far has been from mental health practitioners and community volunteers who claim they are against such stigma. Without enough support behind me, I am powerless against such influential people.


I am hated because of my sexual orientation ("straight" privilege). I've never been homophobic or abusive towards anyone. Whether my critics like it, accept it, or not, I am not anti-LGBT. I. Am. *Anti-bullying*. That is not being neutral or helping the so-called 'enemy'.


I am despised because of my skin color ("white" people, "white" privilege). Since I first learned about the Civil Rights Movement in Junior High School, I've been strongly anti-racist from being inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. Judge by content of character. Amen.


I am feared because of my gender ("toxic masculinity"). I've felt incredibly guilty about this for a long time, because of immoral abuse, violence, and murder of women and children by men every single day. Frankly, there are times I'm ashamed of being a guy. Having to face additional stigma on top of this though, does not make my life any easier.


I am bullied because in some way, somehow, people see me as "the enemy". Troubled individuals who have nothing better to do then lash out at those around them. Either that, or spread rumors behind my back that they know are not true. Even some who go to Church and claim to be pious. I do not, nor will I ever bow down to social stereotypes or self-appointed 'justice warriors' who, in many cases, are nothing more than hypocrites themselves.



Enough is enough with tragedies like Columbine, or the first suicide I ever lived through (9th grade). Not now when you decide to be 'woke' because of your social media narcissism. Anyone can be racist. Anyone can be hateful. And everyone who is should be held accountable with uncompromising fairness. Just like anyone is susceptible to take their own lives from being treated so negatively. Unacceptable.


Yet, I still stand back up because "I can do th;s all day". How? Sometimes I wonder. I am fortunate that I can. Those who cannot never find that happiness in life they long for so much. Only moments of wretched s;lence. They deserve more. A helluva lot more. We can do better. I've seen it, too. All those beloved, caring people... You know who you are. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!


Th;s is why I feel so driven to bring together a group of remarkable people. Grit, courage, shield and all. To help put bullying behavior, stigma and hatred on notice. To begin a trend where it is no longer socially acceptable to go out of your way and be mean towards others.


I am not going to stop being a compassionate person no matter how, why, or by whom decides to hate and bully me. Not now. Not ever. I care for life.


Th;s guy is here to stay.


So should you be.

Not Forgotten Or Remembered

Posted on June 21, 2019 at 2:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Not Forgotten Or Remembered”

Poem written by: Jim R. Irion



I long to challenge this affliction of mine

       for all of you, for the better.

I want to hang on to this life

       as long as I possibly can.

To stay and live in the hopes

       of creating positive change.

To actually advance mental health awareness

       and improve suicide prevention.

Selfishly; by helping others.

Selflessly, though I'm struggling.

I am not all that

       remarkable of a person.

But I may have become

       something more than expected.

I can fight these battles

       that many never could.

I am not an Avenger,

       but I am an advocate.

I cannot live with myself

       if someone is being abusive.

How can anyone live with

       someone dying young from misery?

Enough was enough all those years ago

       when a classmate took his life.

Enough was enough all those days ago

       when a classmate drowned from addiction.

We cry from all this unbearable pain.

We wipe away a thousand tears.

How could I possibly settle for

       giving sincere condolences?

Their lives are worth far more than mine.

No one can prove otherwise.

I want their sacrifices to be meaningful,

       truly honoring every moment of silence.

I don't want to be forgotten.

I don't want to be remembered.

I want to change the course of history,

       or trade my life for theirs.

It Matters How People Are Treated

Posted on June 20, 2019 at 2:30 AM Comments comments (0)

"It Matters How People Are Treated" ©



With or without a mental health condition, bullying can or has likely already had a negative impact on your life. I know by personal experience, but not only from high school. This entirely avoidable behavior has been tolerated for so long it has even evolved with the emergence of social media. How can such an accepted social norm be challenged? The solutions are as simple as making the right choices. Join me as one voice to advocate for anti-bullying by sharing my insight. Together, we can finally change this toxic trend into a positive.


Bullying can be defined as one or more intentional attempts to cause unnecessary emotional distress and/or physical harm. Therefore, the common perception that it only occurs amongst younger age groups, in public and private schools, is incorrect. Age does not exclude you from being bullied. In fact, while advocating for mental health, I was targeted as recently as 2018 by someone older than me. Cyber-bullying has also emerged through social media well after I graduated high school. Why is going out of your way to be mean to others still tolerated or even socially acceptable? To address this issue, the best approach is to focus on its origins.


As early as fourth grade at age ten, I quickly realized how bullying made me feel: anxious, depressed, paranoid, or that I did not belong. What I could not know then was this distress actually triggered some of my mental health symptoms. Two of which are easy to identify from the words I chose. Harassment and teasing continued through adolescent age in High School. Without an effective deterrent to stop this trend, negative peer pressure allowed it to happen more often. “Kids will be kids” was also a common parent response clearly ignoring the mistreatment. Harsh social isolation I endured still affects me to this day.


Why are bullying and peer pressure so disruptive at a young age? Pre-teens and teens have not learned effective coping skills yet to deal with such aggressively upsetting behavior. They are also concentrated in school settings pursuing a necessary education for up to twelve key formative years. As a result, anxiety and depression develop and can quickly spiral out of control leading to suicide. Not only could such long-term psychological effects be avoided, the benefits will swiftly spread throughout society itself in a matter of years.


With a sustained and effective effort to eliminate bullying in schools, there will be a less confrontational environment for school shootings, peer pressure, and suicides plus fewer opportunities for depression and anxiety symptoms to occur. Education will improve and without excessive funding needed. The most important benefit of all will be greater intolerance of unnecessary hostility, but not just towards any single group of people. With uncompromising fairness, any form of social stigma fueled by ignorance and hatred should not be acceptable. Now, more than ever, we need this solution to be taken seriously.


Cyber-bullying continues to target an untold number of youths with no signs of stopping. Social media is used to viciously attack people and with no regard for innocence or permanent damage to their reputation. In the US, racism is used so often as a tool for political and economic oppression that actual racism is overlooked. In fact, stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and stigma proven harmful during the Civil Rights Era are still widely used. Toxic political intolerance regularly pits friends, family, and complete strangers against one another. These intentionally divisive trends have even been enough to cripple effective government.


Incredibly, all of this comes from choosing to be deliberately hurtful to others. It is disturbing to believe so much negativity is encouraged. Or for as many a year as many of you may remember. Let alone from as high up as political elitists who, as adults themselves, should be setting far better examples. However, challenging such an accepted social norm is not impossible. The change can easily start within each of us right now. All we need to do is make the right choices. Choose not to tolerate, participate in, or encourage any form of nasty behavior.


We all have our days. Not enough sleep, feeling over-stressed, strained finances, raising kids, physical and mental health issues, for a start. Several years after graduation, I bumped into a guy who pushed me around during Junior High. He explained there had been problems at home and expressed remorse for his behavior. I apologized for how I acted and genuinely forgave him. This made me realize there may not only be tragedies behind at least some bullying, but to not condemn anyone who could be struggling and just lashing out. In the end, we are all vulnerable to the same degrading effects of misguided hate, abuse, and ignorance.


Although peer pressure can involve bullying behavior, it is not as intense outside of younger age groups. Attempting to poison a classmate with a known substance they are seriously allergic to, irrationally comparing a person to Adolf Hitler because you refuse to tolerate their contrasting political views, making fun of people simply for looking or dressing, being different or less fortunate than you. Choosing to engage in actions like these can easily cause lasting emotional harm regardless of mental health status. Please, make the right choice. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.


With or without a mental health condition, bullying can or has likely already had a negative impact on your life. If this toxic behavior is eliminated from schools, and tolerated a lot less in our society, a whole host of real world benefits will emerge within a matter of years. A decrease in suicide rates, fewer school shootings, improved education, fewer opportunities for anxiety and depression symptoms to develop, and more. The sooner we take for granted that it matters how people are treated, the sooner mental health can improve for millions of people in just a single lifetime.



© 2019 Jim R. Irion.

My article is protected under Fair Use copyright law.

Formal publishers must contact me first.


• National Empowerment Center ( 2019, August 9). https://power2u.org/it-matters-how-people-are-treated/.


This body of writing also serves as professional presentation material (approx. 8 minutes). Interested parties should contact me right away to make arrangements at no cost or charge.




About The Author:


I am a two-time Pennsylvania State University graduate and mental health advocate with over ten years of dedicated community service volunteering. My primary focuses are suicide prevention, anti-bullying and empowerment. Currently, I am a NAMI member trained as an In Our Own Voice presenter. I also have QPR Gatekeeper layperson suicide prevention training.


Be sure to check out my NAMI Blogs today.

Th;s

Posted on June 18, 2019 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Amidst all of life's daily issues, thousands of people still struggle in dreadful silence for a shamed, unspoken reason. Some are willing and able to talk about it. But only a few are actually strong enough to do something about it, in others, even while braving their own menacing storm.



Th;s”

Poem written by: Jim R. Irion



Many of you may never know

       what was going through their mind.

Most still don't or will not

       understand why.

When the signs are, or were...

       supposedly missed.

How the pain can linger

       and lead to relapses.

Point a finger. Whose fault it was.

Blame is not that important.

Or why do it at all??

The nerve. The selfishness...


Yeah. Good one.


Especially when we are so

       deceptively surrounded

       by people who think they know you,

       and assume to know your feelings.

As if humanity has always been

       so dearly sweet and welcoming.

Why can't we all just get along?

That is the bloody problem.

Getting along should not be cliché;

       scapegoating negative attitudes.


No. It does not matter

       that I am almost thirty eight.

Wow. Who is this guy?

He must have it great!

Dressed well. Still living at home.

Oh so young still, many joke...

What's the matter with him?

Why no career yet?

What are you waiting for?

Id-i-ot.

Is it starting to

       sink in any, yet?

I'm an enemy of society,

       and for not choosing sides.

Is this really

       such a surprise?


Gay pride or politics.

Employed or unemployed.

African American or Caucasian.

Christian or Muslim.

Homeless in shelters

       or high-rise owners.

Reformed addict, currently addicted, or prison time.

Mental health recovery, still struggling, or institutionalized.

Oh, but you missed us;

       scattered all around.

The ones who just want to live

       yet feel so ready to die.


; know why...


It is time our society SToPS

       with divisiveness, hatred, and hypocrisy.

This kind of pain actually kills people.

Every. Single. Day.

Bright, caring, funny,

       as compassionate as can be.

The most wonderful people

       you will ever hope to meet.

I consider myself fortunate

       to have lived amongst them.

Unfortunately it is true.

I live on borrowed time, too.


All these years I have not been able

       to choose a single career

       without feeling I just don't know

       what to do with my life here.

Suddenly, my age nearly doubles.

Sometimes it feels crippled.

Or worse without having found

       a partner, no kids, or a purpose.

Even less of a reason to live.

I hope I don't overdo it.


I am a survivor of suicide loss,

       and a suicide attempt survivor.

Honestly, my pain has yet to heal.

I'm sorry if the truth is difficult.


The sooner people accept this,

       the sooner you can save us.

Just please don't hold out

       too much hope for me...

Helping each of you

       is my reason to be.

Not all of us make it.

But some of us do.

Th;s is for

       all of you.


<3



#ThePainIsVeryReal

#TheLoveIsRealToo


#ItMattersHowPeopleAreTreated


#MakeThisGoViral

Not forgotten or unforgiven

Posted on June 9, 2019 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Before I begin, I would like to dedicate this post to Nicole Ross. You, Ma'am, have met your match in someone who will not forget your courage to speak out about the truth of addiction. This post is for you, the many people suffering from or affected every day by addiction, the loved ones no longer with us because of it, and so many more tragedies.




For those who are new to my writing, hello and welcome to my advocacy website blog. Thank you for taking the time to read this particular entry despite its longer length.


I am a grassroots mental health advocate in recovery with a focus on anti-bullying and empowerment. To date, I have two nationally published NAMI Blogs (Oct. 11th, Nov. 1st) plus a third coming out in September. Be sure to check them out, as well as inspirational quotes listed under Words Of Wisdom. My determination to accomplish more as an advocate, this journey, is as passionate as you will find my way with words. Join me as I discuss what I recently learned about grieving for the loss of someone whose death was no one's fault but their own.


Certain details that will follow may be emotional for some who are sensitive to discussions about tragedy, addiction, and/or true suicide. Please. I encourage everyone to take as much care and time as you need in order to absorb what I have to share.


Remember Nicole, this is for you.

You own this moment.



My name is Jim Irion. I was named after my maternal 'namesake' Uncle, Jim Allis. Or as I like to remember him, "Born on the 4th of July (1952); died on April Fool's Day (1973)." Tragically, he was only three months shy of his 21st birthday with all manner of life ahead of him. My Uncle died in a car accident a total of three thousand one hundred and fifteen days before I was born (1981). A full eight and a half years, plus ten days. So, I never knew nor met him. More importantly, the accident that took his life was not someone else's fault.


The fault was Jim Allis' and his alone.


Just over a week ago, a former high school classmate of mine, named Jeremy, met an untimely end through unfortunate mistakes and poor decisions related to addiction. I had not seen him since graduation a lifetime of nineteen years ago. When I did know him, Jeremy was a unique kind of special. Easy going, laid back, charming as can be. When I heard what happened within hours of his confirmed death, I was shocked. From what little I know his passing, his mistakes as of late, were his own fault and no one else's.


Using what I'd learned through mental health advocacy, I wrote a very thoughtful and sincere condolence for his loss. Soon after, a close friend of mine urged me to make the Facebook post public. Once I did, someone close to Jeremy's family reached out to me. Bless her heart. You know who you are. I owe you one. Why? Well... Despite my years with mental health symptoms, while being very perceptive to tragedies around me, I discovered something unexpected about Jeremy's death. A lesson I'd unknowingly learned during my youth.


My namesake Uncle Jim, and former high school classmate Jeremy, both have something very important in common with each other. How are their deaths, a whole forty six years and however many miles apart, related to each other and in a way I could learn anything positive from them? It was their fault. How could someone, anyone, even a close relative or best friend, be able to grieve for a lost loved one who made bad choices that ended their lives?


Here is where my journey of compassion and forgiveness has now come full circle.


During the years after my parents told me who I was named after, I took personal responsibility for my Uncle Jim's tragedy. I didn't just mourn his death because I was young and didn't know better. I felt as if I was a twin-less twin experiencing survivor's guilt. I even developed a fear of car accidents, called dystychiphobia, as I got older through into high school. The tragic deaths of two classmates, Lynnette and Jason, made the phobia a permanent part of my life. But why?


I simply wanted to know my late Uncle Jim, even though all he and I will ever share are the same first name. No handshake. No hug. No pat on the back or words of encouragement. Nothing but a five-letter name...


In his letters home from college and anecdotes from living relatives, my Uncle Jim was a wonderful person to know. He had dreams of a career in mathematics (which I am horrible at, by the way), aspirations for a wondrous future, a "love of life", as well as a classmate with a crush on him whose heart was shattered when Jim died. I wanted to know where, when, how, and why he died by his mistake, because I felt I had to make sense of it. I was searching within myself for a proper way to grieve and cope with his loss. At the same time, I was also yearning for a way to genuinely forgive him.


But it was my Uncle's impatience to rush back to Brockport State University on that fateful April Fool's Day. It was his foul mistake to try passing that semi-truck trailer on a blind corner no-passing zone. At the time, my Uncle's Chevy Nova only had lap belts for restraint. I have no doubt my maternal Grandparents had raised him well, which included teaching him how to drive. No doubt at all. By all accounts, Jim was a capable and competent person. Yet, his one bad decision cost him his life. I moved on from this as best I could while I was growing up.


Fast forward to late May 2019. I, along with many others who cared about my former classmate, Jeremy, have had to face his unfortunate passing. What happened? What really happened? Why did he die? The first and most important thing I did was not to jump to conclusions. Besides, I scarcely knew anything about what happened or that led to his death. No assumptions. No hateful or ignorant comments made on social media. No stigma. I waited until confirmed information came out. Even now, there are a number of details still unknown. Some that may never be known.


When it was clear Jeremy had fallen into the trap of drug addiction that is a difficult truth to cope with. Like every single one of us, drug addicts do have a choice to not do drugs as we have the choice to not be ignorant towards others. Who cares? He would have probably died at some point. Should have known better. Didn't his parents teach him not to use drugs? Should have sent him to jail. That would teach him (which sounds more like a punishment attitude). Why wasn't he working a full-time job, or getting help for his addiction? He was seeking help, right? If he wasn't then it is his own fault.


Well for one, treatment, recovery, and the path to wellness all take time for everyone whether it is for drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health, and so on. One slip up on any given day could mean tragedy, another run-in with the law, jail time, a near-death experience, homelessness, and more. How many days are there in just a single year to stay clean? Three hundred sixty five opportunities, with twenty four hours each, to make a mistake. Or to not be getting the help they really need to clean up and recover.


In the meantime, staying true to giving up a mind-altering addictive substance gnaws at an addict's mind every chance it gets. Repeated uses of Narcan to reverse opioid effects does not solve the problem either. Even if someone is able to recover drug free, there are issues afterwards that can and still do make life difficult. A past record of addiction related charges can keep them from getting work, and for their closest loved ones to potentially be fired from a job. The fact of the matter is Jeremy had fallen into a tough situation to come back from. At his level, some have made it. Unfortunately, he did not...


On one hand, all things considered Jeremy still had some responsibility with what lead to his death. To just whitewash lawlessness or violence does not do justice or fairness to anyone who may have been affected or hurt. So, I found myself weighing the good and the bad of Jeremy's plight. This was while I continued to get to know the acquaintance of his family who reached out to me. I shared with her about how my namesake Uncle had died, before I was born, in the car accident that was his fault.


In fact... Exactly as I explained to her, I have intentionally reconstructed the same thought processes for all of you here so everyone has an opportunity to experience my discovery firsthand just as I did.


Suddenly, the next day, a light bulb went off in my head.


I was rereading the messages I'd sent the night before when I realized something that honestly I was shocked I hadn't thought of sooner. Want to know why? I am not just a survivor of suicide loss (1997), but also a suicide attempt survivor (2003) as well. A bad choice of its own, which gets far too much stigma just as addiction does. Not only that, and enduring untreated severe depression for more than five years, I have been constantly learning about mental health for the last two years as an advocate. How did I not realize this sooner? I inadvertently learned a very important truth about compassion, forgiveness, mindfulness, and wellness.


How do you cope with and/or grieve for a loved one who tried or has died from their own fault?


The truth is you actually can, and should, properly grieve when a person's death is their own fault (addiction overdose, true suicide such as from PTSD following military service, etc.). There is far more involved in a person's life than any one bad choice or timing. Rushing to judgment, ignorance or hatred, not only skips the opportunity to process these situations and people in a positive way. The chance to genuinely forgive what someone in your life may someday do wrong or hurt others is wasted. Allow me to borrow the words of a phenomenal actor who has had his own past struggles with addiction.



I shouldn't be alive... unless it was for a reason. I'm not crazy, Pepper. I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it's right.” -Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark (Iron Man).



Bad decisions, bad timing, do not define someone such as Robert Downey Jr., nor should they define my namesake Uncle Jim, me, or Jeremy. A reasonable moment of pause for reflection on facts should be given so the likes of hatred and stigma do not destroy the good worth of anyone's life. As well, if your eyes just went as wide as mine, you picked up on something I actually realized as I was writing these exact words. In. This. Moment.


When you stop and think about all this... exactly how many people are we talking about here that can be affected and/or benefited from a more mindful approach?


Millions of people.

Millions. No joke.


To think that only just a few days ago Jeremy's death was a negative. Now, with tried and tested legitimate wisdom, he has already produced positives in our lives. For a start, that is.


Taking a negative and making it a positive is a cornerstone for positive mindfulness and wellness, as well as compassion and forgiveness. There are so very many negatives out there in this world today (pardon me if I clench my eyes at that particular thought). The least of which are addiction, true suicide, hatred and stigma.


Starting with Jeremy...

Continuing with me...


A better future is possible. How do I know?

Because you are reading this.


You are smiling, crying, teeth-clenched, or fist-pumping.

If when you began reading my blog entry you had assumptions, doubts, questions without answers, or emotions without resolutions, you are now empowered with a very simple truth.


#ItMattersHowPeopleAreTreated




Jeremy Ross

Aug. 4, 1981 - May 29, 2019


Rest in peace, my dear friend.

Rest in peace.


The negatives in your life, and that of millions of others out there, will not be worthless or meaningless anymore. You will not be forgotten, but you won't just be remembered either. Nope. Not enough. Trust me. I know. I've seen people come and go... Names fading from memory... These mistakes, these deaths, being taken for granted as if nothing else can be done to prevent them.


The status quo is not enough.


"People keep telling survivors to move on. Some do, but not me.

Even if there's a small chance, I owe this to every moment of silence to try."

(adapted from the Avengers: Endgame film trailers).



We can and will transform your one negative into thousands upon thousands of positives.


Starting with me.

Continuing with You.




Whatever

;t

takes

Part of the journey... Conclusion

Posted on April 24, 2019 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Before I begin, I would like to dedicate this blog to Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania 2019: Danielle DeAngelis. Hearing your story for the first time, at this year's local NAMI Conference, and being able to connect with you one-on-one there as well were exceptionally inspiring. Your grace and courage touched my heart. I hope I shared with you the best of mine. Remember; whenever you take off your crown you will always have your halo.


Bless. Your. Heart.



"God, it seems like a thousand years ago that I fought my way back from suicide twice, became an advocate, realized I still believed in love. I know I probably don't deserve any miracles, but I was really hoping to find you while I'm still here."

(adapted from Robert Downey Jr., Avengers: Endgame trailer #2)


[With the following background movie trailer music: Really Slow Motion & Giant Apes - Imminence]



Since I ended the last blog entry with a lot of honesty about what my mental health is like right now, I wanted to begin this conclusion in poetic fashion to set the tone. Optimism and pessimism aside, at the end of the day mental health is what it is to deal with. We are all human and deserve a chance to find genuine happiness in our lives. There was one detail about my progress with treatment I intentionally withheld until now. It is something that can happen and may be challenging, but unexpected to deal with.


Setbacks can occur at any time during the progress of treatment. Between late February into early March (psychiatry) and just recently in mid-April (case management), I encountered setbacks of my own. Certain medications might not work for you. Not everyone may start or be on the same page. Sometimes people on your treatment team move on before you feel ready to continue forward. Do not despair. Even though when my case manager moved on a couple weeks ago I took it pretty hard, to be honest. We were so like-minded it was unreal (she was awesome).


Do not give up.


Life will throw you a curve ball when you least expect it. You will make mistakes when you may be least prepared not to. I often experience intrusive (anxiety) thoughts that something bad will happen to my parents before I move out. Or to my relatives, friends, and others I care about. People have shamed me for speaking my mind (this gets old quickly) even though I always work towards a positive point of view. Your life could turn upside down and tie itself in a knot, or it might already feel that way for you right now. One thing will never change. You still own this moment. You still have a chance and the choice to take control of your life at any time.



So, I remind myself, I can do this. I can choose life. I should choose it. I am meant to be here. I own this moment, same as any of you can, too. I can live my life and advocate for people like me.” Jim Irion, Things I've Learned from Advocating For Mental Health (10-11-2018).


Living with mental illness is possible just as advocating for awareness is too.” Jim Irion, Facing Discrimination While Advocating (11-1-2018).


You can even stare feeling-ready-to-die in the face for over five to six years, as I have... and still have what it takes to live your life. You can do this. You are possible.



The world has changed. None of us can go back. All we can do is our best. And sometimes the best that we can do is to start over.” -Hayley Atwell, Peggy Carter (Avengers: Endgame trailer #2).



I will do everything I can to take my voice to higher levels. As each week, month, and year passes by, I find out about people of all ages and backgrounds who unfortunately lose all hope and give up their fight to survive. Just how many people whether in your own community, province, state, or of notoriety? Too many. Way too many for it not to hurt me with every single one...


"I have seen all these people die.

We lost, all of us. We lost friends. We lost family. We lost part of ourselves. For some of us this is the fight of our lives."

(adapted from the Avengers: Endgame film trailers).



Enough. Is. Enough. Stigma has to stop. Bullying needs to end. Hate needs to be erased. All hate. Not just along racial or political lines. Suicides need to be prevented. Not for my sake. Not for my future. For their sakes. Forgive them all. Those who have gone before us deserve better. If we love them, then for their sake take a look in the mirror. Or go outside. Take a good look at the ground and the sky. Promise them you will not let their suffering and sacrifice be for nothing.


Stigma against suicide attempt survivors needs to stop. We are not a danger to anyone. True suicide victims and attempt survivors just want genuine happiness in their lives like most everyone else. Research has proven we can be some of the most unbelievably selfless and deeply caring people you may ever meet or know. We carry the burden of knowledge that l;fe matters. Why haven't I moved on?


"People keep telling survivors to move on. Some do, but not me.

Even if there’s a small chance, I owe this to every moment of silence to try."

(adapted from the Avengers: Endgame film trailers).



Whatever it takes.” -Robert Downey Jr. (my hero!), Tony Stark (Avengers: Endgame trailer #2).



No matter who you are. No matter what your situation was, is, or will be. No matter where you live. No matter when you read this message. Why? "It matters how you are treated. Part of the journey is the beginning. You own this moment. It is never too late. You can do this." Jim Irion, Mental Health Advocate, surv;ving warr;or, NAMI member & trained "In Our Own Voice" Presenter.


And for all of the suicide attempt survivors out there trying their hardest - every - single - day - and giving their lives all they've got... This is for You.


"Our very courage invites challenge. Challenge incites fear. Fear breeds stigma. We are not hopeless because we've tried to give up.

Any day can be an endgame for us.

Yet here we are.

With nothing but our hearts, our courage, and still al;ve.

So stay and l;ve.

The world is chang;ng.

They need surv;vors.

Before my time comes, you have one promise to keep. If we can't prevent suic;de, be damned sure you'll f;nish what I've started.


Whatever.

;t.

Takes."

(adapted from the Avengers: Endgame film trailers).




#BeHereTomorrow and every day after that.” Kevin Hines.

Kevin & Margaret Hines Foundation





Let me be the inspiration that runs through your ve;ns.” J;m Ir;on.

Part of the journey... Part Two

Posted on April 23, 2019 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Before I begin, I would like to dedicate this blog to the Pennsylvania-based anti-stigma drama group, the Go M.A.D. (Make a Difference) Players. For the last ten years, you have had an incredibly unique and positive impact in communities throughout the state. Seeing you perform at this year's local NAMI Conference was truly an experience I will never forget. Take your creativity and courage to the national stage, because so many people could learn a lot from the unbelievable kinds of special you all are. Go make a difference!




"Part of the journey is the journey." My words.



One of the more important things to share about my ongoing treatment is that it takes time for treatment to have a positive effect. If someone is also fighting co-occurring symptoms with addiction, that takes twice the effort to live with it. Mental health recovery does not happen overnight. Treatment takes time.


Treatment needs to be affordable. A resource case manager needs to be someone willing and able to help you. A Certified Peer Specialist needs to care for you properly and compassionately, while making sure not to misguide your treatment by offering inappropriate advice. The right comfort-fit with a capable and dedicated counselor needs to be found - and - maintained. A psychologist or psychiatrist first need to know who they are dealing with. Plus any mental health professionals such as these must be well trained with documented credentials to do their jobs properly.


A single counseling session, even if with the right counselor, is not a cure-all. A psychologist or psychiatrist appointment is not (and should not be) a rush to judgment. Psychotropic medications do not take one week to work at full-effect. Any potential side effects also need to be known and carefully prepared for. The person undergoing mental health treatment must be committed to finding what works for them and seeing it through. All progress must be monitored and assessed by the mental health professionals involved.


Treatment takes time.


Take Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for example. Or for someone serving in the military deployed overseas. The trauma can become so severe the person experiences nightmares that interfere with getting recuperative sleep. Relationships, marriages, and family lives can be affected. Difficulty differentiating right from wrong and emotion from logic. Even with an effective support system of therapy and medication, treating a condition such as PTSD requires determination, diligence attending to each part of the treatment such as taking regular dosages of prescribed medication, a mental commitment to yourself, hopeful support from friends and relatives around you.


Treatment takes time.


Time is what I would like to focus on, because my how time has flown since I posted the 9 Marvel-themed blog entries one year ago! My life has changed a fair amount since then. In some ways good. In some ways bad... the worst of which I discussed more in the previous post. How, or why, does the Avengers: Endgame film figure into my life (now) versus how Infinity War did last year? I welcome you to join me as I share another unique look into my life ~ Marvel-style.



First, I want to take a quick look back at how I described what I was feeling, and fearing, by quoting an excerpt from my blog "For a reason... Conclusion" from March 19th, 2018.


"A future that, for at least eighteen dreadful years to be fair since high school, I have gradually felt less and less that I belong here. Heck, I was ready to give up in 2003. What do I have hope for? What am I living for? What do I believe in anymore? Why am I still here? Think about it. Nearly two decades of only being able to believe in one week ahead of my life... And I've had fairly good physical health for all those years."


My goodness... Was that me? Were those thoughts... mine? I was pumped about experiencing the Avengers: Infinity War film, yes. I was also quite afraid of what my future would hold. When I posted those blog entries during March 2018, I hadn't yet begun any treatment compared to now. I didn't even encounter the brunt of stigma or discrimination at that time. Yet, my expression of or at least my situation was that stressful? Heh. Imagine what life has been like after last summer. It hasn't been boring. I'll say that much.


The easy plus is going from no treatment for the majority of my mental health symptoms to case management (financial aid, health insurance), counseling and psychiatry (one medication so far). While I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking proper treatment as soon as possible, I finally made the decision to seek treatment and turn my life around. Each step I take now is one in the right direction instead of aimlessly down the wrong path. As my treatment team continues to strengthen, I am confident I will have a much greater chance than without it.


An easy minus was weathering the bullying and stigma for being a suicide attempt survivor, plus discrimination by local mental health professionals all in the volunteer community. I still have no way of knowing just how much my reputation has been devastated as a result of what happened... Besides this, what I expressed about my life last year still has not changed very much. But why? I'm in treatment now. What is wrong with me? I am too negative to be around other people. I need to ignore my past and move on with my life. Positive. Positive. Positive. Shame on me for being, what was it, so negative. Correction...


Treatment. Takes. Time.


One of those statements was actually told to me by someone. Rather than use their experience to guide me towards positive treatment, they chose to stigmatize me. Twice. Uh uh. You don't save lives that way. Furthermore, I am a realist by nature. Being a realist also includes a generous helping of honesty, too. I am learning to tailor my realism so I don't send the wrong message as a mental health consumer in recovery, as a community volunteer, and outspoken advocate. Whose responsibility is it that I constantly learn and grow, while still being held accountable for my actions?


Mine, and mine alone.


Furthermore, I would not be able to survive if I was negative all of the time. I balance both forces in my life to work towards inner strength. I haven't lasted so long because this is easy to live with. Trust me when I say if I could always be uber positive, oh I would be.


On the other hand, I am terribly late to seek conventional treatment too. The longer behavioral symptoms go untreated or unchanged, the deeper they influence personality traits making them more difficult to reverse. According to my treatment team, I am suspected of having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder evidenced by how I frequently over-think things. I can remember all, yes, all the way back to - get this - fourth grade when my class was given a particular assignment. We were tasked to explain how to do something and give the presentation in front of the class. Guess what topic mine was?


How to tie your shoes.


Reread that just to make sure it sinks in, because when I tell you how I did on the assignment you will be surprised.


Ready? I over-thought how to explain tying your shoes so much the entire class was confused by my presentation. No offense to myself, they should have been. Cringe worthy... That was then. Probably the early to mid-1990s. Imagine me now. This is why it is important to seek effective treatment for behavioral symptoms. Autism. Bipolar. PTSD. You name it. The sooner treatment is sought the better the outcome may be. What's worse is having lived with prolonged severe depression without treatment...


Aside from experiencing suicide loss during ninth grade in 1997, and my overdose attempt in 2003, just how long am I talking about for these deep feelings of distress? To be as reasonable and fair as I can, and I have already discussed this with my counselor, I expressed feeling 'ready to go' as early as 2013. This was when I drafted an unofficial Last Will & Testament. Normally, doing so is a completely appropriate thing to do. I learned the lesson from having the last of my grandparents pass away several years before then. My parents had to manage their respective family's affairs.


However, between 2013 and by 2014, my depression was getting worse until the latter year I contemplated the suicide plan that I never acted on. Ever since, the last five to six years, I have simply felt so worn out by my prolonged depression experiences that when they surface I often feel ready to go. Keep in mind I did not begin counseling until October 2018 and psychiatry until January this year. Yeah... You should've seen the look on my counselor's face when, in vivid and effective detail, I described what prolonged severe depression has been like for me while taking into account my past suicide experiences...


What I could share would be nothing short of eyebrow-raising.


That is why being so perceptive and especially so expressive is really important for me to take seriously with my life now. Some people have three times as many suicide attempts as I have, and have great difficulty even talking about those feelings. If they can at all. I can. I should. And with great power comes great responsibility. I am not just a genuinely compassionate person at heart. I am not just trying to fill a void in my life by helping others. In my humble opinion, despite my critics I feel I have a responsibility to do everything I can to change the course of mental health awareness and acceptance for the better.


Deep down, do I think my treatment will solve the one most difficult issue facing me this intimidating year (career indecision)? To be completely honest, no. Do I still feel ready to go if my grasp on this life was slipping away? Unfortunately, yes. Right here, right now? Yes. I'm sorry if I let anyone down by being so honest. This is what it is like for what I, personally, have to live with. I have to accept it. I have to live with it.


I also choose not to give up. I give the tomorrows a chance. I keep waking up and trying to put forth effort into my treatment to resolve the problems I have. Whether anyone understands what I'm going through or not. This is my life and my mental health takes real world effort every day to live with. The very nature of my chronophobia (fear of time) creates a mindset which keeps me from believing by October, my 38th birthday, that I will be able to last that long. Next New Year's terrifies me in a way maybe one percent of people closest to me even know let alone fully understand. I couldn't say this sentiment any better myself.



"This is going to work, Jim."

"I know it is. Because I don't know what I'm going to do if it doesn't..."

(first line is adapted, both are from Avengers: Endgame trailer #1)



April 24th, 2019:

"Part of the journey...  Conclusion"