At the age of 17, I developed bipolar disorder, a very severe it nearly cost me my life and nearly destroyed my family. My parents are getting divorced at the time [of my suicide attempt]. I believed that I was the only one under that cloud. That was so far from the truth, so far from fact. Millions of people around the world are mentally ill, so many more undiagnosed but that have the diseases in their brain. I don’t want to have this disease. I don’t want to be flawed. Bipolar disorder, that’s not me. I was a wrestling champion in California, there’s no way. My football team went to state, this is garbage. And I was in so much denial, and that denial ruled the day. Until I crashed, hard. And it was September 24th when it all came to a head. I sat at my desk and I penned that note: Mom, Dad, brother, sister, girlfriend, best friend, I love you but I got to go. I was gonna go to the Golden Gate, and I was gonna disappear. I thought I was my family’s burden. I wish I asked them. I just wanted the pain to stop. That’s the common denominator, with people who we lose to suicide, they just want the pain to stop. But what they don’t realize, is that their thoughts don’t have to become their options. Their thoughts don’t have to take over, because suicide is an irrational state of mind. You think you have to die, but you don’t really want to. You know, I found myself in my father’s room that morning, I startled him awake, he looked at me, he said, “Kev, what’s wrong?”, like with parental instinct. I said, “Nothing Dad, I just want to tell you that I love you.” It was for the very last time. He goes, “I love you too, Kev. But it’s six in the morning and I don’t gotta be to work til nine, go back to bed.” I walked around the other side of the bed, I sat on the carpeted floor, and I rocked myself back and forth in tears begging myself to tell the man who loves me the most in the world, the truth. But the voice in my head said, “be quiet Kevin, you have to die.” And that’s what took me to the Golden Gate that morning. I took a bus there, and on that bus all I wanted to do was screen and beg for help and live, but the voice became so loud. I sat on that bus in the back row middle seat, I’m crying my eyes out like a baby, mucus dripping from my nose, people staring at me now. Then I’m yelling aloud at the voices in my head. I desperately wanted someone to say, “Are you ok?” I would have told them everything. Why do I think those people did not reach out? Fear. Apathy. There was a guy to my left, said to the fellow next to him, pointing to me with his thumb, “what the hell is wrong with that kid?” with a smile on his face. Apathy, that’s his or her problem, but it isn’t mine. The bus got to the bridge. I sat there crying. Bus driver turned, he stood, he looked at me and he said, “Kid, come on, get off the bus, I gotta go.” I walked across the walkway of the Golden Gate Bridge, for 40 minutes, up and down, back and forth, crying like a baby. Bikers, joggers, tourists, runners, they all went by me. Police officers search for suicidal people went by me twice. I’m leaning over the rail, crying like a baby, they went by me twice, nobody cares. And the voice in my head said “jump now,” and I did. At the millisecond my hands left that rail, instant regret for my actions. And the absolute recognition that I just made the greatest mistake of my life. Falling head first, right as my body accidentally landed in a position that wouldn’t kill me. On the way down, I said to myself “What have I just done? I don’t want to die. God please save me. Then I hit the water.” I went down 70 feet beneath the water’s surface but I opened opened my eyes, my legs couldn’t move. I shattered my T12, L1, and L2 lower vertebrae into chards like glass. I had missed severing my spinal cord by two millimeters. I swam to the surface only using my arms. When I came to the surface, bobbing up and down in the water, swallowing salt water, kept going down, couldn’t stay afloat. A woman driving by in her red car saw me go over and she called her friend in the Coast Guard. The reason the Coast Guard got to my body within less than the time I was hitting hypothermia and drowning was because of that woman making that phone call. The Cost Guard arrived, they fished me out of the water, they put me on a flat board, they put a neck brace around my neck, and they started asking me a bunch of questions. They guy looks at me, he leans in, and he says, “Kid, do you know how many people we pull out of this water that are already gone?” And I said, “No, and I don’t wanna know.” And he said, “Well I’m gonna tell you. This unit has pulled 57 bodies out of this water, and one live one.”
Kevin’s family was notified, his father was the first to arrive to the hospital.
I looked up at my dad and said, “Dad, I’m sorry.” He looked down at me and with great conviction, he said, “No Kevin, I’m sorry.” And waterfalls flew from his eyes. He put his hand on my forehead and he said words I’ve never forgotten, “Kevin, you are going to be okay, I promise.” And that got me through the night. Now I had this opportunity to recover. And a lot of people think that I went from this incident and was like, “Oh, I’m so much better now.” You know, oh great, it’s all gone. No, this was just the beginning.
In the 10 years after his incident, Kevin would be hospitalized for mental illness 7 times.
In the first three psych ward stays, involuntary, forced in against my will. But those next four, I found self awareness. I found the ability to say, “I’m gonna accept that I have this disease, I’m gonna fight it tooth and nail, I’m gonna beat it one day at a time.” And that’s what I’ve been doing. Exercising every day, eating healthy most days, educating myself about bipolar disorder, being able to utilize all of those things, work them into a regimen, a routine, that helps keep me here. The common denominator of recovery from mental illness is routine. There are so many things we can do that are not clinically based for all the people that don’t get clinical care. If you can train your body and your mind to wake up to at the same time, go to bed at the same time, take your pills at the same time, train your body and mind to eat at the same times, work out even as simple as 23 minutes a day that leads to 12 hours of better mood. Your 8 second hugs wherever you can, they release endorphins in the brain to make you feel better. I thought that I had one chance, one choice, one burden to take care of, I had to die, I was wrong. Learn from me. Know that your thoughts, don’t have to become your actions. You were not meant for this world, to leave it by way of suicide. But one thing you can never do, one thing you should never do, is silence your pain. I silenced my pain for years, I buried it deep down inside me, like so many people do, and I lost myself. And it came out in a burst of rage against myself. I want you to learn from me, suicide is not the answer. You deserve to be here, for you. But your pain is valid, your pain is real, and your pain matters because you do. No matter what you think about how you aren’t valued, or you’re worthless, it’s not the truth. You have to find a way to turn back to logic. Logic says that, “I do get to live, you matter, you’re beautiful, we need you.” Please, be here tomorrow.