Mental Illness – An American Odyssey


Before we get started down this road, I wanted to talk to you, the reader. I don’t want this to be weird or stiff. I don’t want it to be cold or clinical. I just want to have a conversation; me and you and your most comfortable chair, I don’t mind sitting on the floor.

Here’s the thing, I’m not a doctor. I’ve studied the basics of mental illness in the name of being informed, but I’ve got no real answers. All I’ve got is my personal experience, that’s why I’m writing this.

I know that, for me, whenever I’m going through something, it helps to hear from others that have gone through the same thing; folks that I feel understand where I’m at. So that’s why this book exists.

It’s a big hug from me to you.  


  • JV

56bde3d72963d66e1424c3cee179e2c9 bipolar



The first cut hurt the worst. I was going on three days with no sleep and it woke me right up. I almost cried out, but I managed to hold it in; my wife was asleep in the next room and the last thing I wanted to do was wake her up. The wound on my arm was starting to bubble blood, but it was weak and shallow. Non-committal. I was using a pink Bic (my wife’s). The thing was built for cutting hair, not skin. The rubber safe-guard made it especially hard to get in and get the job done. I had to turn it just right to even break the skin.

Once I got over the shock of the initial pain (I’d never cut myself intentionally) I gave it another go. And then another. And another after that. I cut my arms to ribbons. Eventually the pain started to feel good. There was a certain rush. I felt alive. I dropped the razor to the floor and sat there with my arms in my lap, staring at my handy-work, wondering why I hadn’t done this sooner. Self-harm would become an addiction of mine later on down the road, a quick fix for stress and anxiety, but more on that later.

I wasn’t done. I’d come in here intent on killing myself. The mutilation had been an ice-breaker, something to deal with the jitters, like a stiff drink before asking the well endowed blonde at the end of the bar for her phone number. I stood up and found my Ativan bottle on the back corner of the sink and then sat back down on the toilet. I sat there for awhile, staring at the foggy, orange plastic with my name printed in block letters.

   Jon Vincent

            No refills remaining

            “This is the last refill I’ll ever need.”

Minutes passed. I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t hesitating. I was trying to find the light, a reason not to do it. For as long as I could remember, I never felt like I belonged on this planet. I always felt like an alien, observing humanity, but never able to partake in what it means to be human. My life seemed like one big train wreck after the other: abused and abandoned by my father, bullied to hell and back through school, addiction problems, suicidal ideations, a carousel of therapists that never brought me any closer to the root of my issues…you name it.

I’m not saying that there wasn’t any good in my life. I’m not saying that the light didn’t exist. I was just incapable of seeing it and I didn’t know why. I always felt like I was just below the surface of the water, suffocating, holding on for that next breath, but it never came. I was married to an incredible woman (still am). She should have given me all the reason in the world to soldier on. But the only thing I could see was how I was disappointing her: a wannabe author, pushing 30, with a useless college degree, working a dead end job at Chili’s that barely brought home enough to cover the utilities. In my mind, she was going to be much better off without me saddling her down.

I flipped the top open on the bottle, divvied out enough to get the job done (or so I thought) and swallowed them. Then I curled up on the floor and waited to die…or at least I thought I was waiting to die. I was already on Ambien and 150mg of Benadryl, I figured adding Ativan to the mix would get the job done.

Why not take the whole bottle, you might ask.

That’s a good question. My psych tells me it’s because I wasn’t trying to kill myself, I was crying out for help. That very well could be the case. I’d been screaming for help my entire life in one way or another, perhaps I thought that was the only way anyone would hear me.

They definitely heard me, but we’ll get to that later. But before I tell you what happened next, I want to rewind the tape, and tell you how I got here.

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