A sign sits above my TV in my bedroom. It reads “Never Give Up.” Being a successful 31 year old with no history of drugs, having never been disabled seriously, or an arrest record, it feels a little over the top. It feels like it’s a bit more serious than it needs to be. It feels ridiculous, because what I have I had to overcome?
But it’s not.
Only those that know me closely know the sad side. Know the dark side. My great friends have heard it and lived it with me. My romantic relationships tend to center on it after a point. My family has had to deal with it too.
I’m not someone that has ever hurt anyone else knowingly and purposely. My biggest fight story involves me calling someone a “pussy” after he punched me in the face. That’s not a coincidence.
I do, however, tend to make things really hard on myself. It happened at Penn State back in 2005. I went through 3 years of college with minimal effort and a 2.85 gpa in about 4 different majors. Then something switched. I can’t even begin to guess what was the exact reason I started to feel anxiety every minute of the day, and I can’t even begin to describe the thoughts that went through my head on a daily basis.
Basically, I just stopped going to class. I didn’t withdrawal, because next week I was “definitely” going to start going again. It was just today, and tomorrow would be better. But it wasn’t. In the beginning I would go outside and wait for the bus, just to get off downtown in State College and stare at the hill in front of Old Main, only to choose to walk the opposite direction to grab breakfast or maybe to play basketball.
I would sometimes ride the bus a full 1 hour circle back to my apartment and not even get off. I started reading. I plowed through a ton of Hunter S. Thompson, Vonnegut, and Bukowski, a ton of non-fiction, never a text book. I would watch television and play GTA: San Andreas and MLB 2k5 non-stop when I wasn’t reading. I’d wait until my roomates came home and lie about how class was that day.
I’d never want to be alone. I’d always be around someone. Whether it was out at a bar, shopping for groceries, or playing a sport, I would just make sure to not be alone. Distractions were the only way around my incessant rumination.
After finishing the Fall semester with a 0.0 GPA, I went home for winter break, and lied about everything. I got inspired by being around family and I didn’t want to let them down. I was going to go back and get it done. Go back and take classes in the Spring, do well, and then I’d come clean about the fall.
I took out a loan with my mother co-signing and paid the tuition bill without thinking about it. I went back and in January got 3 A’s on my first 3 tests. Then I was late for an exam. The professor looked me in the eye when I walked in, didn’t listen to my excuses, and said I’d get a 0 and there was no way to make it up.
I couldn’t drop any more classes in late-drop, as I’d used all of that up. This was cataclysmic for me at the time. I remember coming home in a daze, and waiting for my friends to be around so I could just go out and have fun. Then things went back to the darkness, and I spent the last 4 months of college living with some of the best friends anyone has made in the world. I got wreckless, and I partied too much, culminating with one of the biggest parties State College saw in 2005 where the cops came and wanted to find someone to charge with serving minors.
It was a party like you’d see in movies. About 400-1000 people in University Terrace, a band, 22 kegs. It was also the day where I proved how bad of shape I was actually in, and how I’m a pretty good person at times.
I took the blame. There were 12 of us that had thrown the party, but everyone else was graduating and going places in 3 weeks. I felt that taking the blame was the best way for me to do something that mattered that semester. I did.
After graduation I tried to hang on. I lived by myself in State College for a few weeks, went to visit different people, and finally, as I was approaching rock bottom, my parents called.
I had to go back to Lambertville, New Jersey. Mr. “Most Likely to Succeed” was going back to flipping burgers at Dilly’s Restaurant.
It has crept in a few times over the years. Usually after I try something big, and experience some failure. It happened when I went back to Penn State in 2009, and didn’t enroll in school for the fall. I met a girl that would be the next 4 years of my life, and enrolled in the spring to impress her. It happened that summer when she went home to New Jersey and broke up with me for 2 months. It happened when I moved here and didn’t get a placement for my first 4 months at work.
All of these times, I was able to use lessons I’ve learned in my life and drive to just plow through it. I’ve never been able to feel anything but guilty looking back on these periods of my life after getting through them.
A few months ago, everything ended with the aforementioned girlfriend. I started to be a mess right away. 2 weeks of hell followed, and seeing someone that you still loved wanting you to be hurt was atrocious. Things could have been worse, but I had lived out here for a while and had gotten over the idea of ever being together with this person already, but it still hurt, and I still cared.
I met someone quickly and things went pretty fast. I threw all of my chances at being happy into that. I kept going at work, and finished up the best 6 months of my professional life. Then I sort of coasted. I was literally feeling about as happy and proud as I had ever felt. That morphed into cockiness.
I spent a ton of money travelling, going out, and on new clothes. I looked in the mirror every morning and was feeling like nothing could touch me.
Then things fell apart. I used my confidence to propel me to go back to the doctor’s for MS. I started dealing with that and found out what I needed to do. I paused on ordering my medicine, as they were asking for a $500 co-pay and that seemed too expensive.
Things fell apart with the new girl, my success at worked fizzled as I got content and lazy, and I started going back to a place that I haven’t been in for real in 12 years. I could feel the anxiety and depression coming. I wanted to do something drastic. I wanted to stop it. To tell it I was in charge. I made a video and wrote a journal post, and I decided to come clean with everything. To tell all of my family and friends that I was not doing anything about my disease and that I was going to start. To tell myself that living for fleeting fun and euphoria was not a long term plan and not a way to live. To tell myself that I was scared, but that I could win, I could prosper.
I threw everything into MS, into my health. I stopped smoking, stopped drinking and started exercising. I thought up the hike and the fundraiser and spent hours a day thinking about it, and thinking about way to politely ask my friends for more money. I thought about what it would feel like to climb that mountain. I thought about the symbolism.
After climbing the mountain, I realized my next mountain was real life. It was getting back to what I have to do on a day to day basis. I started to get motivated, and I started to do the things I needed to do.
Then the doctor called me and all of a sudden I realized that my MS was a real thing. That things were getting a little worse, and that I needed to take it even more seriously.
Over the last few weeks everything that happens to me seems amplified. Bad things happen and I take them really really hard. I had the night on the golf course where I lost my keys and had to get a whole new set because of the chip in my car. My tire blew out last week and I had to get it changed.
For the first time in a few months I had a day where I decided to just get drunk as hell because I couldn’t think about everything. I bought cigarettes and threw out the pack after smoking 3 of them.
I found out that I had never completed my online automatic payments for my Acura back in the beginning of June. I also found out the bank that had my car loan didn’t have a correct phone number for me.
I found this out when I walked out front and my car was gone. I am in the process of getting that straightened out. I bought more cigarettes and didn’t throw the pack out.
I had a conversation last week that resonated. I was embarrassed by doing something as stupid as not checking my bank account statements thoroughly, and I was sick of being a drain on my friends and family all the time, so I haven’t had as many talks.
“You’ve come so far, and you’d done so much. You’re a resilient person. And you let bad things roll off your back. Don’t take this situation, which, in reality isn’t that bad, and let it make you do something that will be a really bad situation that you can’t come back from.”
I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist. It was directly about me smoking again. I spent the last 16 hours watching Friday Night Lights and sitting in my bedroom thinking.
I finally fell asleep around 3am, just in time to miss the 6.1 earthquake that rocked the Bay Area. I woke up at around 6:30 to just turn on Friday Night Lights and keep watching TV.
I’m not doing this. I’m not going to let myself be the person I have been before. I’m going to keep fighting and I’m going to keep progressing. I’ve come too far in the last 10 years, and in the last 2 months to let anything derail me.
If I don’t use everything to make me stronger, if I don’t truly start to care about myself, and like myself, and if I don’t keep a fighter’s mentality, then MS will win. I can’t let that happen.
I’m coming home next week, and I can’t lie, I need it. I’m going to take this week, get my car, focus on work, and go to the doctors Wed night and learn as much as I can. I’m going to walk out of that office, and even if I hear things that scare me, that sound bad; I am going to jump right back into it.
My nickname in college was “Dippy” from chewing tobacco, and also probably just being a fun loving lush. I hate that name.
When I was sitting in Vegas, right after I talked to my neurologist, I called one of my best friends to talk me off the ledge.
“You got this. (inserted a web link to my fundraiser that raised 2146 dollars) Dippy is back at the bottom of that mountain.”
Let’s prove him right.