Some call me Jared, most know me as J-Rob and I’ve been living with depression for most of my life. As a kid I never really had big dreams. My only goal in life was to be one thing, and one thing only: a man. Whatever that meant.
To understand my struggle with depression I have to start from the very beginning. I was born on June 5th 1992. My mother, Robin entered the delivery room alone but was later joined by my older brother’s (Anthony) father, Michael Leslie, who was also my mom’s ex-husband. I’m not entirely sure where my biological father was during my birth, but I’m pretty sure he was incarcerated at the time. As a result, Michael decided to keep my mom company as I entered the world and he was the first person ever to hold me. He passed away a few years ago. Although we were never close, I have always admired that he did that for my mother and me. Rest in peace Michael, you were an amazing man and a great father to Anthony.
For the next 6 years I lived with my mom, her new boyfriend (Les) and their two children-my brothers Les Jr. and Noah. My brothers and I were, and still are, very close. We were each born two years after the other so our proximity in age helped with that. Around the time I turned 6, Les, the man who I thought was my dad, left my mom. Before leaving, the last thing he said to me was “it looks like you’re the man of the house now, Jared.” I remember looking down at my two younger brothers and thinking that it was now up to me to protect them, to help raise them and to do whatever I could to help my mom. This was an incredibly hard thing to understand and it was all I would ever think about. “What does it mean to be a man?” “Is this what a man would do?” “How can I be a man?”. These kinds of thoughts haunted me for years. I could never focus in school, I would never express how I felt and I would try my best to hide what I thought were “weak” emotions, but life went on.
Having given birth to my 3 brothers and me, my mom developed a stage-4 infection in her ovaries and as a result, had to get them surgically removed. During that process there was a surgical error and my mom was left with a lot of scar tissue in her abdomen area, which wrapped around her intestines. This led to her having to undergo around 13 further operations throughout the years, with a few of them being near-death experiences. Additionally, my mom had to take a lot of heavy medication in order to manage the pain. I can’t count the number of nights I spent standing by my mother’s side, as tears flooded down her face because of the excruciating pain that she felt. My mom and I were very close, so in addition to having to witness the physical pain that burdened my mother, she would often express a lot of the other things that were troubling her too. She was very open with me and would come to me to express her problems. I would listen and try and tell her that things would get better, because they always do. Even though I never really believed this, I spent most of my life combating my sadness by distracting myself with the sadness that others felt. I did everything in my power to make everyone around me happy but I would never take the time to do the same for myself.
I started drinking and smoking weed when I was about 13 years old. It gave me the numbness that I yearned for. I had finally found a way to escape. Thankfully it never became an addiction and I still managed to pass each year of middle school and high school, which meant that I managed to graduate. Things changed for the better when I met my first girlfriend. For the first time in my life I had someone that I trusted, someone that cared, someone that I loved and who loved me back. I slowly began to express myself to her and I let her know about my upbringing and how scared and sad I was. It definitely made things a lot easier having her, but unfortunately we couldn’t stay together, so we broke up. She was still there for me and we kept in contact a lot but things weren’t the same.
I think that regressing back made things feel a lot worse than before. In addition to the break-up, I had just turned 19, I still hadn’t started CEGEP and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It was around this time that I started hearing voices and thought about suicide. I remember the feeling that I would get while waiting for the metro. It was like time slowed down when I saw the train coming my way and I stared into its headlights. It would slowly creep closer and closer as I’d hold my breath. I would shut my eyes as it reached my face then it would pass and I’d feel like I had suddenly been jerked out of sleep. I told my mom that I needed to see our doctor. She cried as I told him how I felt. I told him about the nights that I would spend awake until 5am, the emptiness I felt when doing something that I loved, how worthless I felt and how the voices in my head would constantly put me down. I spoke about how I always felt like I was being watched and wouldn’t be able to fall asleep without locking the door to my room. I told him about the times I thought about jumping in front of a train and everything else that went with it. He prescribed me anti-depressants and sleeping pills. They definitely helped in a way and I did feel different but the pain was still there. I was still closed off and felt constantly on edge. Until the one day, the day that I call both the best and worst day of my life, arrived.
It was Halloween of 2012, or maybe 2013. I was working at an elementary school as an after school counselor and we had to come to work dressed up. I spent the whole night trying to come up with a costume and it was giving me a lot of anxiety. I eventually decided that I was going to put on a suit and say that I was Will Smith in Men in Black. My mom drove me to work, so I hopped in her car, got buckled in and looked down to see that my tie was a little dirty. For me, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I broke down and cried for the first time in what felt like years. I told my mom that I would call in sick and that I needed time alone in the car.
When she left, I texted my ex and I asked her to say goodbye to me. She called me soon after, sounding confused. I told her that once I stepped out of the car I was going to swallow all of the pills that I had in my room. We spoke for hours and she begged and pleaded me to change my mind. What finally snapped me out of it was when she told me that she had just got her results back from an exam and she had either failed or didn’t do too well. She was an amazing student and always tried her best in school. So whenever she got results like this she would often feel down, and in the past, I would console her. She broke down at this moment and at that point all I wanted to do was make her feel better. I realized the hell that I was putting her through and the added stress that I was giving her. I got off the phone and told my mom that I needed to go to the hospital. I checked in and stayed in the psychiatric ward for a few weeks. Once I was evaluated and they felt that I was no longer a threat to others or myself, they let me go. I continued taking medication, started to see a therapist and a psychologist and eventually was weaned off of my medication.
Life makes a lot more sense now. I have goals and ambitions. Last year I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in screenwriting and since then I have written a TV pilot and a few short films that I am trying to get made in the New Year. I perform spoken word poetry as often as I can and I am in the midst of starting my own podcast. I try to be as transparent and honest about my past as I can be because I know how much it matters to have someone out there that has experienced similar struggles to you. Times still get hard, especially during the winter, but I just deal with my emotions a lot better now. I no longer push them away, but rather, I embrace them. When I’m happy, I smile and when I’m sad, I cry and I love every moment. Happiness, sadness, excitement, despair, adoration, anger, all emotions: they’re all blessings and I love being able to feel.