From darkness to light – Richard’s mental health journey at NYGH

Sometimes there’s no breakthrough without a breakdown…and I learned that first-hand.

Two years ago, in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was in a very dark place. Diagnosed with prostate cancer for the second time, I felt hopeless and depressed. I’ve struggled with short spurts of depression off and on my whole life, and I successfully navigated my way through them. This time was different.

A specific course of treatment for my prostate cancer was recommended; with the caveat that depression was a possible side-effect. I agreed to the regime, believing I would be able to cope. I was wrong. I spiraled down into a black hole of paranoia, depression, and self-isolation. I withdrew from the world, suffered debilitating headaches, hardly ate, barely slept and became severely disillusioned. My reality was warped, and my imagination drove me to believe things that were untrue and confuse the past from the present. I was broken inside.

A mental breakdown was where my NYGH journey began

Watching me deteriorate was undeniably difficult and painful for my wife. She’s a loving and patient person, but my extreme behaviour was more than she could bear.  She watched me tumble hopelessly downward and eventually hit rock-bottom. One day I was having a full-blown mental breakdown and needed immediate help. She called an ambulance to take me to the Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency. Somehow, she knew all the help and supports I needed would be there waiting for me.

My health care team’s efforts worked miracles

Dr. Lorne Tugg

Over time, a medication was found that worked beautifully. The voices in my head stopped and my mind felt clearer. I worked with my psychiatrist, Dr. Lorne Tugg, my peer support staff worker, Rahim and an recreation therapist Nadia – all of whom supported my recovery and gave me so much to consider. The most remarkable thing was that through the work, I began drawing again, something I had loved doing when I was younger. Art has opened a door to a life I couldn’t have imagined was possible just a few months prior.

After two-and-a -half weeks, I was released from NYGH and enrolled in the Outpatient Program two days a week. I was like a sponge soaking in all the helpful information that would support my recovery. The combination of the proper medication and the outreach program truly worked miracles. I couldn’t believe my transformation from hopelessly depressed to excited and engaged. Where there was once only darkness, my life was now filled with colour and possibilities.

Grateful for the support & care

Looking back now, I can see that what I experienced resembled the making of a cocktail. The reoccurrence of my prostate cancer, my treatment regime and its side-effects, my depression and isolation were all thrown into a blender, and I was shaken to the core. I can see now how far I had fallen and am thankful that so many people were there for me when I desperately needed their help.

I can hardly put into words the fullness of my appreciation and gratitude for the kindness of the people at NYGH I don’t know where I’d be without their patience efforts to bring me back to the life I deserve.

In the last two years, I’ve learned a valuable lesson – that healing takes time and asking for help is courageous. I can say from personal experience that when you’re down in a rabbit-hole of your own mind, it’s a terrifying place. No one should have to suffer in silence and what’s comforting to know is that there are people and programs to help. My experience at NYGH shows I’m living proof. I couldn’t be more grateful.