My Low Points: Depression, Homelessness, And Job Loss
Over time, I have come to accept that my ‘low points’––the sad, humiliating experiences I have weathered through––are a part of me, but do NOT define me.
As a person with bipolar disorder I fight my illness daily. There were a some good days mixed in with the bad, sad and humiliating ones. These are the days I experienced the low points of my life with bipolar disorder.
Losing my career job that I loved was a low point in my life. I had worked for the company for six years and worked my way into upper management. I made a really good salary and having the job gave me confidence and a good standing in the community and with my family and friends.
My job performance suffered due to my depression and sometimes when I was manic I was flippant and cocky. Those things stood out and overshadowed the successes I had with the company and my role in making it successful.
Quitting other jobs before I was let go were low points. Each time, and there were several, I felt like a failure. With every job my depression would kick in and my job performance suffered. Sometimes I just went through the motions of working. Quitting was a better alternative to being let go. I was fortunate to always see it coming. There was no bitterness. I was the one who failed to live up to expectations.
My wife Heather had to take jobs she hated to support us and make sure we had health insurance. I felt failure and guilt then for letting her down and i still feel it today.
Homelessness was the lowest point. I let my wife and kids down. I racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt starting a new business after having success owning six Subway Sandwich Shops that we sold for $800,000.
I lost it all and then some. Who does that? I was depressed and had to just escape from owning the Subway’s. I was manic when I started the new business and grew it too fast. Going broke was humiliating and embarrassing. Letting down Heather and the kids was the worst.
We went from always having money to no money at all. We went from an upper middle class lifestyle to one of poverty. This took a toll on the kids and I was a failure as a father.
Some friends of Heather took us in and we lived in their basement. We were fortunate to have friends. A homeless mission was the alternative.
I wasn’t able to work but had not completely given up yet so I decided to take some classes at Portland State University. I had gone years before until my illness made it impossible to continue. Going back was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Just getting to class was an epic struggle. Being there took everything I had. Every day after class I was spent.
One day Heather was coming to pick me up in front of one of the buildings. I’d had a particularly hard day and it was all I could do just to be. Heather ran late and as I sat there I knew if she didn’t come, I was not getting up. I sat there with my back against the wall and a blank look on my face like I saw on the faces of the mentally ill and homeless. At that moment I knew that but for Heather I would be sleeping in a doorway and invisible to passers by.
My sadness was overwhelming but there was also an odd calmness that came over me. Not getting up would be the end of my fight to overcome my bipolar disorder. Giving up was an attractive option. But Heather did come. As we drove home I saw homeless people and for the first time really saw and understood them.
At school I would look on the schedule of noon events in the commons building so I could see who was serving food. This way I could eat for free. I would cruise the rooms at 12:50 looking for leftover food. I ate what I found. But one day I hit my low point.
I was hungry and went into a room and saw pizza boxes. Pizza was my food of choice. But the boxes were empty. I came to a plate with partially eaten pieces on it. I looked around and ate a half-eaten piece. A piece some stranger had eaten before me. Embarrassment and humiliation overcame me. Who had I become?
Today I look back and have come to the point of acceptance of these times in my life. That doesn’t make me feel any better about them. These are my failures, my wounds and my humiliations.
These experiences are part of me. To dwell on them is pointless. I share them so people with similar experiences know they are not alone.