PROJECT SEMICOLON IS A GLOBAL NON-PROFIT MOVEMENT DEDICATED TO PRESENTING HOPE AND LOVE FOR THOSE WHO ARE STRUGGLING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS, SUICIDE, ADDICTION AND SELF-INJURY. PROJECT SEMICOLON EXISTS TO ENCOURAGE, LOVE AND INSPIRE.
I am a spouse. I am a father. I am a son. I am a brother. I am a minister. My name is Chris. I live with treatment resistant clinical depression and anxiety. This is my story. My father’s first words to me were, “I don’t want you. You’re a mistake.” These two sentences became a creed that he recited and reinforced every day for the first 15 years of my life. While I can recall happy childhood memories, they stand in his alcoholic shadow. For him, my behavior was never exemplary enough. My grades, unless perfect, were failures. And without exaggeration, he wanted a machine, not a son. And through constant degradation and frequent physical abuse, he crafted just such a machine. My first thoughts of suicide occurred when I was 9. The frequency and intensity of such thoughts grew with each birthday. By middle school, I was already working hard to get into a college, seeing it as a more socially acceptable escape to suicide. By high school, mom and dad had divorced. But, my dad’s departure did little to remove the impact of his words. Still, I remained convinced that my college move-in day would be my independence day. Not surprisingly, dad’s words persisted throughout college. My negative self-talk, unrealistic personal standards, and poor self-esteem intensified. Worse, I had substituted formal therapy with the occasional Al-Anon meeting near campus. It wasn’t until 1998, my first year of graduate school, that I was urged by my housemates to visit campus health. I was not medicated until that year for either my depression or anxiety. I stayed on the meds for my first semester. However, by the spring of 1999, I was off them. I got by, but at great cost. In 2000, I married my longtime girlfriend, Summer. She entered my life back in 1993 and quickly became my first semicolon. We moved to England a year later where I pastored my first churches. If college got me away from home (i.e., freedom), and graduate school secured gainful employment (i.e.,freedom), then moving to another country would further both my distance and resume (i.e., freedom). Sadly, dad’s voice now had a Lancashire accent and a long-ignored sleep disorder now demanded medical attention. I began taking meds to treat my insomnia, but not its roots in my depression. We returned to the US in 2003, dad’s words made the flight home, and I began work as an associate pastor. I began to cope by mixing his medication with long workdays. I did this for several years before my next semicolon. In 2006, we adopted our daughter, Sophie. My first words to her were, “I love you. I want you.” She stirred in me a willingness to face my disease. I experienced a measure of recovery, but never remission. In 2009, my recovery left with the arrival of a new senior minister. I became increasingly detached as my depression returned along with my anxiety. I began working-over my family doctor and a psychiatrist for a continuous supply of benzos and tranquilizers. I again contemplated suicide. In the spring of 2010, I had my first stay in a behavioral health unit. By the end of that stay, my medication was regulated and I had agreed to avoid my overly-willing-to prescribe doctors. Family and regular medication made for another semicolon. By that summer, I was appointed to a new church and enjoyed a year of mental health before I slipped into a deeper depression that, at times, left me nearly catatonic. I began having hallucinations. I lost all interest in being a husband, father, son, brother, and minister. I began a four-year battle with treatment-resistant clinical depression and anxiety. For those years, it was like someone had anesthetized me as my memories from 2010 to 2013 exist only in others’ recollections. There would be two suicide attempts, three therapists and two more hospitalizations. When combined with a year of electroconvulsive therapy and a leave of absence from the Church, I reached another semicolon. I write this just on the other side of that punctuation. The wife to my husband, the daughter to my father, the mother to my son, the sister to my brother continue to enable me to type semicolon after semicolon. I have no guarantee that my depression will not return. Again, I’m living with treatment-resistant clinical depression. But, at present, I have hope in the occurrence of semicolons if ever I should start another depressive sentence.