Men just like you.
My life began in Athens, Greece. From the get go, I was born into an already broken home. My mother and father were having there issues and not long after my birth had decided to split.
One night, when I was barely 4 years of age, my mother and grandmother snuck me out of the country and brought me to Australia against my fathers will or knowledge. I would not see my father again till I reached adulthood. In what my mother believed to have been a good move at the time only resulted in further agony.
As I was an only child growing up in a foreign land, learning the language and getting used to a new environment of unfamiliar faces and the idea that my dad would not be around anymore, things would go from bad to worse. Raising me in a house with my grandmother proved to be what I can only explain as traumatic. My grandmother was very abusive toward us, and in particular my mother.
Navigating through that as an only child was very distressful. I found it difficult in the fact that I couldn’t find anyone, who could personally relate to my circumstances. Like in so many circumstances in cases similar to this, the person being abused, would find it extremely difficult to find the strength to part ways and felt guilty leaving my grandmother behind. Opening up to other relatives for assistance also seemed to be out of the question for my mother.
For the entirety of my childhood, teenage and early adulthood, I felt that I myself had no choice but to deal with the daily abuse, and do my very best to look after mum as best I could. Try to be strong for her, and pray one day this would all be a memory.
As for me…. The cracks were showing from childhood. Anxiety, depressive episodes, extreme mood swings, fits of rage to helplessness and breakdowns. The only problem was, my mother, so caught up with her troubles just couldn’t pay enough attention to these details and see the signs. And to be honest, I myself wasn’t educated enough about mental illness to understand them myself.
I finally found the lady of my life Adrianna and eventually moved out and got married. I thought the nightmare was over and that I could begin to live what many consider to be a “normal” life. Unfortunately, a build up in traumatic events throughout my upbringing caught up with me. And at the worst possible time. Deep into my honeymoon overseas I randomly suffered what I believe was a severe panic attack. I felt these before throughout my life but none that hit me like this. This one changed things. Forever.
Within moments I was a complete shell of the person I was and something I simply could not shake. Intrusive thoughts flooded my mind and anxiety and panic would set in permanently. I thought it would be a passing faze, but it was here to stay for years.
I soon got diagnosed with OCD and severe depression. I knew I needed support, and my wife was there for me no matter what. My mother tried to be strong for me however it quickly backfired. Within a month of her seeing me in the state I was in, and the lack of strength she already had, she herself fell into a serious mental state of depression, mixed with psychoses among other things. She was admitted to a mental hospital where she would be in and out for the next 5 years of constant Electric Shock Therapy and endless cognitive behavioral therapy to which she seemed treatment resistant. Not only was I desperately trying to help myself but I had to shoulder 5 heavy burdens:
I had some close people turn their backs when the chips were down as if I were some kind of burden. Others like my wife stuck by my side and did their very best to understand logic behind my irrational anxiety learnt to read my struggles even when I seemed fine on the outside.
Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years with no real end in sight. I did my very best to educate myself on the illness and come to terms with my reality but time and time again would relapse. I was never a quitter but there came a point where I felt that if I couldn’t find myself again through the right therapy or medication it may be time to call It a day. The years were passing by and the last thing I wanted was to be a burden on my wife and child’s life. My mother eventually ended up in a nursing home at a young age as she was unable to live independently again.
Thankfully I found the inner strength to persevere, and under the right medication was able to get that little boost I so desperately needed. And boy did I make the most of it!! I actually realized in that time of struggle, the strength that kept me alive was the ability to open up about my thoughts and mental illness. Imagine that… A MAN OPENING UP ABOUT HIS MENTAL HEALTH to end up being such a strength!
And that’s the whole point. Opening up and saying exactly how I feel hasn’t made me a weak man… It’s made me a powerful man.
Today I’m running my very own garden maintenance business. Training 6 days a week and keeping fit and reaching goals. I’m now reconnected with my father after all these years and making up for lost time. Still married to my wonderful wife Adrianna and now have 2 amazing children that keep me smiling. And all of this was possible because of the inner strength I found in being open about my mental struggles.
Had I kept it all to myself I can tell you with complete certainty I wouldn’t be around today. That is why I completely support Kaged Lions and this is why I urge any man out there to talk about your struggle, just do it. Even if you sound like a broken record!
Finding the strength to do so will in turn provide you with enough strength to face whatever you going through and come out of it a champion and the best version of yourself.
- Michael Belo
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