Ron Share Story
Ron, a native of New Jersey, struggled financially growing up. His alcoholic father was in jail and his mother had a hard time making ends meet on her own with three kids. They lived with his strict Aunt and Uncle off and on and life there was difficult for him.
He first began noticing some of the warning signs of depression when he was 16 and developed an intense fear of school. Despite being a good student, he was terrified and refused to go for months.
Ron explains, “I wasn’t equipped to handle people and couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. I’d be ecstatic one minute and an hour later incredibly depressed.”
When thoughts of suicide overwhelmed him and they found him hysterical and crying uncontrollably, his anguished family brought the then 18-year-old to a Crisis Stabilization Unit. He was hospitalized for a week and treated for depression and adjustment disorder. Therapy and medication helped for a time, but he eventually stopped.
Unmotivated and directionless, he bounced from job to job, home to home and town to town for the next several years. The first time he went homeless he was 19 and it wouldn’t be the last – each time more devastating then the next. The more desperate and stressful the situation, the more suicidal and depressed he became.
He had bouts of success during which times he enjoyed lots of friends and drank too much. At 23, despite having an apartment and a good job working in technical support for a software company in Cape Coral, he was only one pay check away from the streets. When his brother bailed on the rent, he had no one to share the expenses with and no ride to work (a 17-mile commute) so he had quit his job and began isolating from the world.
Ron shares, “I tried to cheer myself up and decorated for Christmas. When I found myself making a noose out of the lights, I knew I needed help quickly.” He checked himself into two different local Crisis Stabilization Units where he stayed for more than two months collectively. There he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder which he says “just fit”.
While in treatment, he spent time understanding his illness and finally had an outlet to talk about all the pent up thoughts he had inside. He suffered in silence because he didn’t want his friends to know he was sick. He figured out that his fear of failure caused him to never really try to help himself. He was also afraid to be honest with his mother because he didn’t think she was strong enough to handle how bad his mental state really was. He, unfortunately, learned the hard way just how destructive his silence was on his stability.
He now understands that with awareness and a clear head from the consistent use of the right medications comes an ability to manage the illness and reduce the warning signs.
He shares, “It was like night and day.”
After discharge however, he moved to Naples without a housing plan, a job, transportation or a new doctor. He started drinking and began to feel hopeless. He went off his medications for a week and knew instantly he needed help. He came to the David Lawrence Center Crisis Stabilization Unit and his plea was answered.
After being stabilized, he was referred to St. Matthew’s House for housing and into DLC’s Project for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) Program. The PATH coordinator immediately knew with the right support, motivation and confidence, Ron could go far. In therapy it was reiterated, “that he just needs to stick with what he knows works and he will be okay.”
Now that he was off the streets and feeling more stable, he found a job, began seeing an outpatient psychiatrist and worked with DLC to create a plan for his future. Through the strong encouragement of the PATH coordinator, Ron applied for enrollment into FGCU for a degree in software engineering. Once accepted, they successfully secured financial aid and campus housing. Together, they met with the Dean of the college and all of his professors, toured the campus and he felt ready. Ready and excited to start this new chapter in his life.
Ron adds, “I’ve learned to manage my stress. I don’t isolate and I know I have people I can talk to when I have an issue. If I feel myself going manic, I get busy cleaning or putting a computer back together.”
In just eight months, Ron went from cycling in and out of Crisis Units and living on the streets to full time college student with permanent housing. Now stable and sober, he is armed with the skills he needs to manage his illness, a support system in place if he needs it and a plan for a bright future.
Ron shares, “I used to be terrified. Now I’m not even scared. This has been an awesome experience for me. DLC has given me a huge step up in my life. No one else has ever tried so hard to help me.”