By Kevin Hagen
You could say my story with my mental illness began several years ago (maybe 15?), but I chose to ignore the signs and figured it was just me. I was bullied in high school and that had an impact on my self-esteem as I was growing up and even in my adult years. I was married for 20 years and for most of those years I was told what a bad person I was and that I was not a very good man. After hearing such things for that long, I started to believe them! I have had tragedies in my life like most people, and some that affected me for many years, like the death of my mother. I believed that I was not worthy of being happy and that I was meant to just be that way so I should live with it. I managed to struggle through life like that for most of my adult life.
My job as a police officer added to the issues I already had. I have seen some very terrible things in my career, and some of them stick with me no matter how hard I tried to forget them. Because I chose to ignore my problems, they just got bigger and bigger: the 800 pound gorilla in the room, if you will. I managed to stuff my feelings and tell myself, “Hey, this is what I deserve, so I just gotta suck it up.” I ended up getting divorced, and I figured that was the answer to all of my problems. Obviously it was not. I went from bad relationship to bad relationship, always finding women that needed help; that way I could be the hero and fix things for them. It never worked that way. I just ended up taking on more and more problems, more and more debt, and finally I could not find happiness in anything, but I figured that is what I deserved.
I felt I had successfully stuffed my problems, but then all of the sudden, I was not ever happy. I lost interest in most things I enjoy; I ignored my children who I only see every other weekend; I pushed my friends away and just isolated myself in my home. One night everything came to a head. The hopelessness overwhelmed me. The nightmares came every night, so I was scared to go to sleep some nights. All I could see in front of me was a black wall, and in my mind it was all hopeless and I was lost.
Swimming in a sea of debt and overwhelming sadness, thinking about all of the tragic things I had seen and not being able to get rid of those pictures in my mind, I was convinced life was over for me and I just needed to end my life. I could not focus on anything but the pain of living with no hope, no joy, and no happiness. I hated everything about what I had become and was convinced nothing would ever change, so what was the point? I made a decision that night. I was going to end my life or I was going to call for help. Right then and there I fell on the floor crying, begging God to take this pain away, take away the blackness and sadness. It was then I could picture my children and how devastated they would be if I took my own life. I got up off the floor and made the call for help. I spoke with Sean from Safe Call Now.
Safe Call Now is an organization that helps police officers, first responders, firefighters and others who are dealing with mental illness. Two days after I spoke with Sean, I was on a plane heading for treatment. The thing that helped me get through that two days was that I was receiving several calls a day from Sean and others who are part of that organization. They helped me to stay focused on the help that was coming. Once I got to treatment, I was terrified. Here I was, a man from small town Minnesota, thrown into what seemed like a different world. The minute I was picked up at the airport I was treated with respect and kindness.
After getting to intake, I started out with a group of people I did not know. I was not there for chemical issues but for depression and PTSD. Amazingly, I found that we all had so much in common. To make a long story short, I went through the program and made it the whole 30 days. The staff was amazing. The comfort I was given that first week was also amazing.
I feel as though I have been given my life back! I am happy again and feel so much like a great person. I have learned that I am a good person, and I deserve to be treated as such. I can look in the mirror now and l like the person who is looking back at me. I went through an unbelievable transition in my life I am alive today to write this story because I went to treatment. I will be forever grateful for my experience and to once again be able to smile and enjoy what life has to offer. I know that God has blessed me with so many wonderful gifts that I can see now. The veil of depression and sadness has been lifted, and what I have found on the other side is beautiful. I now have an appreciation for life. Sean told me to hang in there and things would get better. I did not believe him at first, but he was right.
I have a new appreciation for love and life that has not existed in many years. I am thankful to wake up in the morning and know I can greet one more day. I am truly blessed to experience life now. I found my smiles. If you are reading this and have not made that first step, DO IT!! What are you waiting for? Make the call so you can get the help you need, and I promise you that life on this side is so much brighter, and you can experience being happy again. Don’t delay; do it now. You are worth it! Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Don’t be afraid. Just call. You can do it. God loves you.
Safe Call Now: 24 Hour Hotline: 206-459-3020
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