“It’s perfectly okay to not always be okay” - Erik DaRosa
For as long as I can remember, I have been “okay” according to society's definition. Yet, I’ve experienced everything from the fear of sleeping as a young child, to the onset of terrifying obsessive thoughts as an adolescent, to the ever-worsening panic attacks and paralyzing anxiety throughout my high school and college years. This all culminated in two debilitating dissociative episodes as an adult. To this day, I have no recollection of two lost weekends – the first in summer 2004 and the second in fall 2007.
Looking back now, from my 49-year-old adult and better-equipped perspective, I can see all the triggers and related physical and emotional manifestations. I continue working to manage my mental illness on a day-to-day basis, no different from how a Type 1 diabetic manages that disease.
For some reason, I did everything to hide my "not okay-ness" from the world. After years of therapy and a highly effective regime of medications, there were still times that I chose the path of least resistance, the same path that far too many people choose: to suffer in silence. For decades I outwardly displayed a facade, that of a usually smiling, highly functioning, type-A successful overachiever. I had, subconsciously or not, chosen to accept society's stigma rather than embrace my own vulnerability.
If I'm being brutally honest, for the first 33 years of my life, I knew deep down that something wasn't right. That all began to change in the fall of 2004. With the help of my adoring wife and treasured therapist Dr. K, I finally began to find my voice. The memory of Dr. K brings a smile to my face as his kind and gentle demeanor never wavered, even when faced with a spiraling NYC finance executive.
The voice I found was so loud and powerful, that it led me to recognize my heart, own my feelings and truly take care of myself. I resigned from my 18-year corporate career in September 2011 to move west. My wife, two cats and I headed to the snow-capped mountains of Colorado where my full healing process could finally unfold and where I founded and co-host the mental health podcast From Survivor to Thriver.