Delaware County, Pennsylvania USA
"My name is Jared Bernatowicz, I'm 25 years old and I currently live with depression and anxiety, and that's okay!
This past month I finally put my toxic masculinity aside and accepted the fact that I needed help. I’ve always dealt with some form of anxiety and depression in the past 9 years. When I was younger I never thought much of it and didn’t realize it wasn’t 'normal' to be feeling how I was all the time.
During senior year of high school, I finally went to therapy; they gave me strategies for my anxiety and all was well in the world. I used these strategies through college and I managed as best as I could.
After I graduated college, though, is when things began to get worse. My anxiety turned into panic attacks and I eventually went back to therapy and did Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which did wonders. I learned, grew, and was feeling great. I no longer went to therapy and went on with life. When my anxiety would act up I would use my strategies from CBT because they worked! ...until they didn’t.
This past year, I began to decline and couldn’t get my mental health under control. A combination of moving out of my parents house, being in graduate school, being diagnosed with a lifelong connective tissue disorder, and the stress of my job (I work as a behavior aide in a high school Autistic Support classroom with students who have potential for intense behaviors) wore me down.
For the past few months, I let my mental health run rampant and just break me down into what felt like an empty shell, just going through the motions. Panic attacks had become an every night occurrence causing me to be desperately sleep deprived.
The depression though... the depression had become a beast I hadn’t met before. Everyday tasks became daunting, I lost just about any interest in things I once loved to do and, outside of work, I barely left my apartment anymore. I cried for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
The anger was the most unexpected thing to come from my depression and anxiety. I became furious and had this explosive anger that came out of nowhere; it was triggered by the dumbest things. I've put my fist into the freezer door, walls, and cabinets more than once, slicing my knuckles open over-and-over again, but I didn't care at all. Right before I caved, I can remember being at family dinner and lying to everyone saying my hands were messed up from a fall at theatre rehearsal. I refused to accept the fact I wasn't well. I refused to accept the fact I was sick. I refused to acknowledge that I was getting worse with every day that went by.
Then, I finally did accept I wasn't fine, but that I could figure it out on my own. I’m a man. Men are tough. Men need to be able to figure it out on their own. I refused to accept the fact that I needed to go back to therapy, and I certainly refused to accept the fact that medication is the route I need to take. I’ve always been outspoken about mental health, but one thing I never got behind was using meds. I refused to take medication for my struggles; I saw it as a sign of weakness. What would people think of me? I just couldn’t get behind it.
What finally did it for me was an absolute mental breakdown, and two incredibly smart women (my mother and Sascha) to be there when shit hit the fan to talk some sense into me. It hasn’t been easy, but I'm finally taking the steps I need to to ensure I can be the best version of myself. I don't know exactly where this journey is going to take me, but I have high hopes that it'll put me in a better place than where I have been.
I put my ego aside and it has now been a little over three weeks of being on an antidepressant; I couldn’t be more proud of myself. I still have a long way to go, but I am making positive changes in my life to get better. In addition to taking medication, I started writing and drawing again. I’ve been writing about my experience with depression and anxiety, as well as my struggles with accepting I need help. Drawing has also been a nice activity for when I do get anxious. It’s turned into a nice distraction, plus it is something I once loved to do that I am learning to love again.
Most importantly, I am being open and candid about my struggles. Instead of keeping everything hidden from everyone around me, I am telling them how I feel. By doing this, people have been able to help me through my struggles and I do not have to do it on my own. I am nowhere near saying I am fine, but I am on my way.
I hope that my story can help someone realize they may need to seek help. Whether it be to talk to someone or consider medication. Especially young men. Toxic masculinity is a very real thing and it kills men. I'm sick and tired of seeing young men die at their own hands all because we're 'too tough' to get help. It's okay to need help, at some point everyone needs a little help.
If you're looking for a sign or reason to take that first step to get help, this is it. I hope my experience can help at least one person. Seeking professional help is always ideal, so even if you're a complete stranger, please know that my DMs on my personal page are always open.
Seeking help can be scary, I get it, but talking to someone is better than not talking at all, so please reach out of you ever need to. Keep on fighting and remember there is always someone there for you.
As always, much love."