Every morning in early 2004 I listened AudioSlave's first album at maximum volume in my newly purchased Jeep Wrangler as I drove from the Olentangy Commons Apartments to Ohio State University. The jeep had sadly become my proudest accomplishment. A mere mask for the lack of sociability that haunted my internal thoughts. To the backdrop of the music I envisioned entering a room for the first time sober and without self consciousness. I felt invincible surrounded by supportive family, an understanding lady and loyal friends. I would continuously filter internal aspirations of social bliss through my head daily although I was settling for a somber existence. I was mere few months away from earning my college degree but graduation and life did not seem impending. I had not yet aimed to be a friend, a scholar or a professional. I only longed for sense of comfortable.
Mental health had started to become more frequently discussed amongst people in college. Prior to 2004, most of my knowledge had been derived from basic psychology courses. I didn't know everyday people were prescribed anti-depressants and I knew little about the science. I was living under the opinion ADs were drugs given to immobilize institutionalized persons like in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. This notion made me timid to address my concerns. Luckily, I had a great friend and former roommate had begun taking Zoloft. He told me about the favorable results he had with the drug. I also had a close friend that was majoring in psychology and contemplating an advanced career in the subject. These two people unknowingly led me to become aware of mental health. Although I wasn't ready to devote myself to my concerns, I began to understand I wasn't alone with my own personal convictions.
I had spend the previous two years obsessing over my personal appearance. I was fed up with dwelling over my body and character flaws. My behavior alienated friends and family and made the social bliss scenario I fantasized over was an impossibility. Nothing was ever said to me but I knew people talked about me when I wasn't around. I never moved passed the relationships and friendship of my late teenage years and was purposely avoiding changes. A product of my behavior had become a full fledged eating disorder, social anxiety and depression. I began to realize the previous three years passed at the speed of sound and I had failed to begin to form an identity. I knew if I didn't act the next three would pass by just as quickly. I hadn't liked myself since adolescence and in college I developed a full fledged hatred. At this point I only needed an external occurrence to begin moving in a positive direction.
The day after graduation I flew out to Las Vegas with my parents for an entire week. My sister joined us a few days into the trip. I was still obsessively working out and seriously contemplating competing in another bodybuilding competition. At this point I had hit an all time low. I would wake up with hangover at 8 AM and ride a bus to World's Gym. These trips made me aware I was suffering from body image disorder loosely know as the "Adonis Complex."1 I had no idea that the events that were about to take place would forever change my life and shape me into who I have become today.
The trip appeared it would be like the other vacations I had taken over the last several years. Disappointment was an inevitable conclusion with my current mindset. I never anticipated anything out of the ordinary to occur. I reckoned I would celebrate graduation then return to Columbus to work valet and keep my mental health issues secret. However, five days into the trip I suffered a mental breakdown. It occurred shortly after I lost money playing blackjack. It was only a hundred dollars but it felt like my life savings. Any loss at that time would have triggered my emotions. It was the catalyst that finally allowed me to express the negativity that encompassed my feelings. After losing at the table, I met up with my father in the lobby of the Imperial Palace. Without solicitation I desperately proclaimed,
"Happiness comes so easy to everyone around me and I am struggling everyday just to get out of bed. I am tired of being depressed."