1 the first things to go were the birds.
The first things to go were the birds.
The birds in the trees, in the sky and in the air flew away. Birds on the ground took flight and never came back. Those who had swum away and those that never came back also left their nests behind; they did not return to them as they would have usually done so at this time of year. All of them flew away from an unknown future, leaving behind only empty homes where once there were busy bodies filled with life (or death).
2 The first thing to go missing was money.
When I was six, my mother lost her job. The first thing to go missing was money. We had enough for rent and food, but it became difficult for her to pay for my healthcare, medication and therapy costs on the small amount of government assistance she received.
The hospital gave us a few hundred dollars every month to cover these expenses with the understanding that we would pay back the debt if we ever managed to get off assistance. This is how we found ourselves perpetually in debt: every time my mother received an unexpected bill (usually from a doctor) or there were bills that she hadn’t been able to pay since she’d lost her job (usually bills related to me), our balance would rise by a few thousand dollars more than what we could afford per month until I was well into high school and old enough not only not need as much help with my medical needs but also old enough not need as much help with living expenses either
3 The first person to leave was dad.
The first person to leave was dad.
I was two years old when he left us, and I have only a few memories of our time together as a family. My mother told me that he used drugs and drank heavily, but she never mentioned him hitting her or being abusive (my mother has never been one for exaggeration). In fact, when I asked her about it she looked away with sadness in her eyes and said “we all make mistakes”.
It wasn’t until recently that I found out more about my father than just his name: Joe Delagrange. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago where he played football at high school before joining the army during Vietnam War era like so many of his friends did at the time. He got married while serving in Afghanistan around 1972 and came back home after being discharged from service six years later with an honorable discharge certificate which read ‘no misconduct record’ and signed by then Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird himself!
4 The first to change was me.
The first to change was me.
After a few weeks of writing, I began to notice that my mood had changed. As a child, I had been happy and carefree. I was the kind of kid who would play outside all day long with imaginary friends and never stop smiling. Now as an adult, I find myself working through depression and anxiety—and can’t seem to make time for things that were once so important to me like reading or writing poetry. The person I was before has become someone else entirely: someone who spends their free time avoiding social interaction because it makes them feel uncomfortable; someone who gets frustrated easily when things don’t go their way; someone who suffers from insomnia on most nights because there is too much going through their mind at night when they try to sleep
5 The first place I went was a psychiatrist’s office.
I remember the first time I went to see a psychiatrist. It was the autumn of 2014, and I was living in New York City. The day before, on one of my morning runs through Central Park, I had tripped over a rock and cut my knee open. As an amateur runner who thought he knew everything about his body, this happened at first as an amusing curiosity: there was a tiny trickle of blood coming out from under my skin, which caused me to begin obsessing about whether that small amount would be enough for me to need stitches or not. Then I started thinking about how much blood there actually was (a lot), and then I started thinking about how much more blood would have been flowing from that gash if it weren’t for all those cells working so hard inside my body (so many more than I could possibly fathom). And then I started feeling overwhelmed by gratitude for those cells—for their constant service—and also by all the other ways they were serving me right now: keeping me alive; protecting me from harm; keeping me moving forward even when all seemed lost…
The next thing I knew was that we were pulling up to our apartment building and Lacey had already begun helping me hobble up four flights of stairs so she could put some gauze on my knee with antibiotic ointment before taking off her own shirt (which she just happened to have brought along) so we could wrap it around my leg once more.”
6 The first thing I learned was that I had ADHD, depression, and anxiety.
The first thing I learned was that I had ADHD, depression, and anxiety. It wasn’t until I went to a psychiatrist for a checkup that my mom told me about a new medication called Adderall XR. She said that it was used to treat ADHD symptoms and help people stay focused on tasks at hand.
I was skeptical at first but decided to give it a try anyway because my grades were slipping due to distraction all the time at school, especially in math class where I had trouble focusing on the material long enough to finish an assignment without getting frustrated with myself when I didn’t understand something right away.
I ended up doing well with the medication—so much so that my doctor prescribed me more pills even though he said it wasn’t necessary yet! But then things got weird…
7 The first thing I realized after that was that this couldn’t have been easy for my mother. I imagined the many nights she cried herself to sleep, wondering if she made the right choice in leaving my father. Here I am, having my own breakdown, while also leaving her with $5,000 every year so that she can pay for my psychiatric bills.
When I realized that she was paying for my psychiatric bills, I felt guilty. It’s not her fault that I’m crazy. The depression and anxiety were caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain, which was also not her fault. But here she is, having to pay for all the medication and therapy appointments (which are expensive as fuck) because of me.
I already felt bad about myself; now there’s this new guilt on top of it. That’s why I came up with this idea: if we want the world to stop stigmatizing mental illness, then maybe we can start by making sure people who suffer from mental illnesses get help without their parents having to pay for it themselves?
8 The first thing she said was, “I don’t know what I would do without you.” Those words hurt more than anything else could have.
The first thing she said was, “I don’t know what I would do without you.” Those words hurt more than anything else could have. As a son, it was my job to take care of her and provide for the family. It was supposed to be the other way around; not many people can say they’ve taken care of their parents their entire lives, but that’s what happened with us.
My mother had been suffering in silence ever since I left home at 17 years old and even more so after finding out I had bipolar disorder when I was 21 years old. She always put on a brave face for me, but inside she was dying every day as she watched her only son suffer through his illness alone because he didn’t want her or anyone else involved in his life anymore due to his shame from being sick with mental illness (he had been homeless off-and-on throughout this time period). When he finally did ask for help at 29 years old after overdosing on drugs while homeless yet again during an episode brought on by PTSD from childhood abuse by our father (who luckily is now dead), she said those words aloud so easily because she knew how much weight they carried behind them; having no one else around made all of their problems seem so much worse than they really were until then…
A brief recounting of the author’s story of being diagnosed with ADHD and depression
When I was 18 years old and diagnosed with ADHD and depression, my first instinct was to think that it wasn’t me. It had to be someone else. But then I realized it was probably me after all. The first thing that went away was money—I’d already been broke for months before then, but now there were no more excuses left for being so broke that my parents had started calling me “The Welfare Queen.” The next person who left was dad; he packed up one night and disappeared into the world of trucking and I haven’t seen him since. Next, everything changed; the only constant in my life became change itself: new school every year after sixth grade because they couldn’t afford private schools anymore and then even public schools weren’t enough because they didn’t have their own buses so we could go anywhere besides our neighborhood or downtown (unless you wanted to walk). And finally came me—the first one who changed from how things used to be when mom still got us up on time before she went off to work at 7AM every morning without fail without fail without fail…
I guess the first thing I would say is that if you have these problems, you’re not alone.