Monday, May 6, 2013

Helping Someone When They Don't Know How to Get Help

By Eric Ward

I was in my early 30s with three small children that depended upon me, when I lost my well-paying job. I went on COBRA insurance, but it quickly ran out. I was paying cash for my therapist, psychiatrist and for my prescriptions. Then my money was completely gone. I was losing my home and my therapist told me that he could not ethically take my money anymore. I was devastated. I had nowhere to turn.

I was obviously nonfunctional at the time, as opposed to now where I am considered high functional, but my therapist gave me his email and told me that I could communicate with him via email for free. To sum it up in a few words; he saved me.

I didn’t have the money for phone, computer or internet, but once a week I would ride my garage sale bike to my local library and email my therapist.

This was the hardest time of my life and I needed help.

I applied for social security and was denied again and again. I even lowered my head and walked into my local welfare office. For a proud father, this was the hardest thing that I have ever done. I obviously was doing the paper work wrong. I filled out the forms but my mind was scattered. I tried talking to the over-worked workers, and I know I made no sense. Obviously, I didn’t get anywhere at my local welfare office.

It wasn’t due to the people that work in the office, or even the system. It was due to the fact that I desperately needed help. I needed someone who understood me and my mental condition. Someone who could help me get things in order, help me with the paper work and help me fill out the forms.

I ended up ridding my bicycle around the small towns in my area looking for cans to turn into food money. I would use old plastic garbage bags and pick up cans, cash them in, and then go to the dollar store and buy food for my kids. (I’ll say also it is very hard to ride a bike and not get the plastic bag caught in your spokes!) I survived off of potatoes that the dollar store would sell.

Through all of my mess, my therapist, Conrad Nordquest, was by my side. During the holidays I was desperate for money to buy my children gifts. I was going to sell my bicycle. He told me not to do so because it was my only form of therapy that was working. Conrad told me just to wait and something good will happen. It did, one night I had a knock on my door and it was some stranger. He asked if I was Eric Ward. I of course panicked. I had been off my meds and my schizophrenia and OCD were in full swing. The strange man at my door gave me an envelope and then quickly walked away. When I cautiously opened the envelope it had $200 in it. Even though my therapist would never admit to it I knew that the money was from him. He was the only one that knew of my dire circumstances. Anyway, I was able to buy my children presents.

But more than providing some money, my therapist was kind enough to take a personal interest in me. He would respond to my emails and council me through this very dark time. He got me an appointment with a top local psychiatrist, Dr. Jackson. Dr. Jackson did not charge me any money and did a full psych evaluation. He helped me file the paper work for social security and even gave me free samples of antipsychotic medications. I was approved for social security, and from that moment on it’s been “all downhill” (which is great for a bike rider!)

Since that time, I’ve been able to start my own business, traded my garage sale bike for a new road bike, and have been in over 70 bike races and multiple charity rides. With a new business and three girls to keep me on my toes, I find time to cycle as often as I can. The sport allows me to clear my mind for some time, focusing only on what lies about 15 to 20 feet in front of me. For me, being on a bike is beyond exhilarating. It allows me to let go, gives me some great alone-time and helps me stay fit and sharp.

Of course there are still difficult times, and proper medications and therapy is an ongoing process, but I will never give up! I will never stop, and I owe my success to my therapist and psychiatrist. None of this would have been possible without them by my side, and my wish for everyone is that you have someone, just one person like these two men, there to help and support you.

As humans, it is important that when we see someone on the street, falling on hard times or just in a bad-off spot, that we realize this person may not know how, or may be totally unable, to get that help that is available to them. We need to help, and there are many things, even small things that we can do; at this moment and all the time. We can start by making it a priority to support the charities that are there for people in their time of need. Volunteering is every bit as appreciated as financial support, and as a cyclist and walker I know NAMIBikes and NAMIWalks organizers love seeing me and my family in attendance! If you have the means to support financially than please do. Take a stand! Be a champion and remind people that a mental illness diagnosis is every bit as real as a diagnosis of cancer. Treatment is available and recovery is possible. Fight stigma!

What I want to say is that if I did not have these two people around to help me I would have been homeless. I would have lost my children. I would have lost my life. We cannot turn a blind eye to those in need of help, and there are so many things we can do to help each other.

37 comments:

NAMI Western Riverside said...

You are our Inspiration , Eric!

Anonymous said...

Great story. Keep up the good work.

Sandra Moren said...

Sometimes the best thing for a person with a mental illness is the support he receives from his counselor, family and friends. Without this support, the isolation, fear and desperation that is mental illness, can take everything away and leave you helpless and hopeless.
I am glad you have this support and grateful that you shared your story with us. Our son has schizophrenia and is now doing well...this was not always the case, but like you, he found a way to keep going and to stay hopeful because he had a great support system. We must all stand up and support those who are as lucky and remember those in prayer that still deal with this illness 24/7. We need to end the stigma and offer hope wherever we can. Continued good health and thank you again for sharing your story.

Sandra Moren said...

my comment towards the end should have said "stand up and support those who are "not" as lucky"....sorry for the typo.

Eric Ward said...

Thank you for your kind words Sandra Moren. I am glad to hear that your son has the support he needs. Mental illness in my case is chronic and I assume that it is for most people. One must battle it day by day, hour by hour. Sometimes your are doing great and at other times it is more of a struggle.
Also, thank you NAMI Western Riverside I can always count on you for your support:)
To Anonymous thank you for taking the time to write a kind comment. I means a great deal to me.

Tanya J Peterson said...

Eric, this is a moving illustration of the power of human connection. Your story makes me want to do more as a human being. I'm so glad those two men responded to you with caring kindness. I hope that you realized that by raising awareness through your rides and walks, by writing these articles, by talking openly, by being the father you are, you are making a helpful difference too. You are just like the two men in your life who reached out to you. Thanks for reminding us that we can all help.

Penny Pinkerton Gearing said...

I have been in your shoes and am coming back from a crisis situation that landed me in the hospital. I ended up being homeless and am dealing with my kids' fears of mental illness with my ex-spouse (their father) contributing to that fear with lack of understanding. My oldest son, my middle child, developed depression and it is only NOW, that I am here for him and my ex-spouse is now willing to learn about mental illness - with a lot of tough love from me thanks the love and support of both my therapist and psychiatrist. I am also returning to school to change careers - the thing I was doing before I "crashed." I see myself in your story. I've been down, kicked around and wondering how I'd afford meds and even went without. But, I'm climbing back, just as you are. There IS hope with the right people in the right places at the right time. A saying I saw today: We may not be where we wanted to be but we are where we are supposed to be. I'm now a believer in that. You are an inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

your story is very uplifting to me and I am at a very low point myself and wanted to say thank you for the inspiration & hope !

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for your story Eric. You give people like me HOPE, and I'm sure to many others who struggle with mental illness.

Suzanne O said...

This is a great story Eric! Thank you for your perseverance and faith that better days were possible. With a mental illness, I understand that it often seems like "it's all uphill" so-to-speak. Having no insurance and needing care for a major mental illness is extremely difficult. Navigating the system in order to get much-needed care is made harder when you're ill on top of it, but I agree that having been through it, and still going through it, it's so important to give back and help those who are just getting into it or who are struggling to help themselves. Thanks for the reminder and congrats on creating brighter days for yourself!

Monica said...

What a beautiful and moving account, not only of your own determination, but also of those who were willing to come alongside you and not leave you in your hour of need. May we learn well from all of you. Thank you for sharing.

Tracy said...

Like you Eric I have lost my insurance and nearly my home. Even though we are financially able to pay our bills (barely) we have no insurance so there is no treatment and the out of pocket cost of my medication every month is ridiculous. Disability is a constant turn down & I can't work but I refuse to DO NOTHING. I had to get creative so I started an eBay business to be able to afford my medication so my husband doesn't have to stress with an extra expense. My psychiatrist was costing me a fortune so now I have no one but a family doctor that can only do so much in other words, he can only set an appt. to physically look me in the eye to see if I am at least functioning then renew my refills. By the grace of God and His mercy I am functioning enough to get through each day & on some days I have to give myself grace to be absent from life. May God abundantly bless you and your precious little family so you can continue to do great things & be the hands, feet & voice for those of us who are still trying to get up the hill you are finally coasting down.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Eric. I am glad you had people who helped you. What a story!!

Anonymous said...

Your story is an inspiration for so many! Grateful to have read it. Bless you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, you are a strong person and you give hope to others.

Anonymous said...

Awesome story!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your story and it gives me hope for my dear family members suffering from schizoaffective disorders.

Anonymous said...

Amen! Your point is spot on, Eric. Thank you for taking the time to share with us and to help change the world for the better.

Anonymous said...

I had been in a relationship for three and a half years. I wanted to get out of it from the beginning and this person always find the way to convince me to give him one more opportunity. "This time is going to be different"... but each and every time we ended up down the same road. I know he needs help and I do too. I don't understand how I am not able to take the decision once and for all to end this vicious cycle. I know he needs help but he will not admit it or go to see a doctor neither he can afford it.
He lives in my place which I support since he is not working. I don't want to stay in this relationship, and I don't know how to ended.

Anonymous said...

This story inspired me, given me hope.

K Johnson said...

Well done by all involved! How can any stigma be involved when people show such courage and caring?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your story! I have tears in my eyes. This is the reason that I have gone back to school for Psychology/Counseling. It may take me a while, but I want to make a difference. I have had major depressive disorder and post traumatic stress disorder for at least ten years. When my insurance ran out, I was dropped by my psychiatrist because I couldn't afford the fee and my medication was too expensive, at the highest dosage, for me to buy. I don't want anyone else to have to worry about how to get help while trying to survive these unforgiving diseases and disorders. It is so important to know that there is someone who cares about you and your wellbeing.

Stacey Hassapelis said...

Amen. Thank you for sharing. Thank you. :)

Eric Ward said...

I just wanted to thank everybody again for very your kind and wonderful words. I have read every personal story posted and all of the positive comments. Obviously, I am not alone in this struggle. Thank you for taking the time to write, post and share your thoughts on my story. It means a great deal to me.

Mel said...

I empathize with you, having been hospitalized for 15 months with a Bi-Polar illness. Thanks to my father's un-yielding support and therapy. I returned to college and got my Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology and worked in the field for 20 years.

I cringed as I read you story and am so damn glad you made it. God bless!

Raquel E. said...

This is such a great post to read. Sadly, the state welfare systems don't really care to recognize that mental health issues need medical care in order to maintain the functioning level to keep or get a job and sustain ourselves (and children). It's always so backwards the way things are ran... they want you to do something that you can't do before they will help you and the help you need from them will help you do what it is they want you to do. Make sense? Or does that all seem like a catch-22 to you as much as it does to me? I suffer from anxiety disorders as well as depression and without insurance, there is no way I could afford the medication required to stabilize things. I'm glad there were people there who cared to help out. It's because they recognize this is something out of your hands... If more people would see how many are affected and how truly common mental health issues are, maybe people would be kinder, more gentle and more apt to see from the point of view of someone suffering from a mental health illness. The stigma is changing, I believe, and reading your story may help show people just how much of a struggle it is but people, such as yourself, don't give up and can turn things around so wonderfully!

Melanie Jimenez said...

Thank you for sharing your story Eric. You have no idea what kind of inspiration you are to those of us out here in the same fight as you. Keep up the riding too. My husband uses riding for therapy too. :)

jamie winters said...

Oh Eric, What a wonderful and beautiful story, and so well written. It broke my heart and I began to cry. Due to the fact I could tell a story quite the same. It is great to hear someones hardships and moving beyond them. I am very proud of you and I feel full of joy for you. Maybe someday I can tell my story. Thanks Jamie Winters

Marilyn Hillsman said...

Eric,

Thank you for sharing your experience here. All of us who may suffer from mental illness or work with people who have mental illness need stories of recovery like yours. Too often I read stories of the opposite thread. I am so glad you had the support and endured the hardship.

Lisa Dare said...

I am so grateful for everyone's post. I have saw family members battle this illness and it is very hard, but I inspire them to never give up hope.

Lisa Dare said...

Thank you Eric and everyone else for the positive post. I have family members who fight with mental illness, they are very motivated and I encourage them to never become handicapped by it, there are people who live normal and fulfilling lives with mental illness. Having the support of family and love ones is very important. It is a double blessing when people outside your circle are willing and able to help.

Eric Ward said...

I was just checking my blog and rereading the comments. I was so happy to see even more positive comments posted. Thank you everybody for your kind words and Jamie I hope that I did not make you cry too much :(
I had some people ask if it was okay to "friend" me on Facebook. It is always fine to do so. I do not judge people on their life views, looks or whatever. I am not in any position nor am I the kind of person to do so.
Eric

isthar said...

Eric, it was nice reading about your story. I do not usually read or pay much attn to the email/newsletter but I did today.
I am a bipolar patient and had some terrible episodes last year. Have been going through treatment and I am also lucky to have wonderful doctor and therapist. My next challenge is to be able to move on and back to work force.

Zoe Liebrich said...

Eric,
Your story is one of hope and inspiration. My son is bipolar and
is rejected by his father, who does not understand him. He lives by himself, has 3 cats he cares for and does pay his bills.
He is supported by several friends and me. Am proud of him and proud of you, too.
Zoe Liebrich

Jerez Sherry said...

I'm concerned that you aren't finding the help you need to create a life for yourself. Surely NAMI groups in your area might have suggestions and help for you, and your partner/ friend to find your own way.

It's important to find help when you need it and NAMI is a great organization.
Hoping you find a connection and can work towards a positive outcome.

Anonymous said...

Eric so glad to read this.
Struggling with a lived one at this time who would have a dual diagnosis.
Trying to find a way to help someone terrified of help. It seems to be the case sometimes.
It's such a difficult thing.
Your story and the kind letters here are inspiring.
I'm grateful NAMI exists. And for great folk like all of you here.
Hoping we will get a rescue soon for my loved one. And wondering if any of you have tried supplants as in ortho molecular healing? To be beneficial?
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Here is another organization that helps others, each other, basically, to create better lives. Going from dysfunctional to functional. I'm not very familiar but it's good to know of any help available. They have facilitators in many states and countries. And also training for those who want to help.
http://copelandcenter.com/about