We never know what might push us to the limit, make us step out over the edge and peer down into the abyss. The question is how do you pull yourself back? It can be done. No matter how dark… there is light and a way to use that light to inspire others. One man is proving it every day.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (59): Coming Out of The Dark
Jeff Emmerson has adult ADHD, it just took 35 years to figure that out. Millions of other people also share this mental health condition, and its OK to admit it. The problem is many don’t, are afraid, or remain misdiagnosed because they don’t realize that what is holding them back from living the life they deserve, from reaching their potential and making a difference is a condition that requires attention and focus, the same mind control they struggle to provide for themselves.
Jeff says he knew way back during his high school years that he wanted to inspire others. Those thoughts got him fired up, brightened his world, gave him strength. The problem was in the years to come the road to get to that place of inspiration would take so many twists and turns, especially in Jeff’s own mind, it didn’t seem possible.
During his youth, time after time, after wanting to be a pro-hockey goal tender, a body builder and then a host of other activities and eventually as he aged, working multiple low-paying, low-skilled jobs, Jeff remained angry and unsettled, unable to focus on work, or even in a meaningful, nurturing relationship with the opposite sex.
Then the wheels came off the cart.
“I had been so affected by my brother’s suicide”, says Jeff. “It is part of what pushed me.” Back in 2008, Jeff’s brother Ryan, took his own life. Jeff says Ryan was troubled with physical ailments, a spectrum of issues, but also had a wife and new daughter and a “ton of other stuff going on.” Jeff says the loss of his brother “did a huge number on me. It kills a part of everyone around you. I never experienced anything like that and it’s something I pray no one has to go through.”
Suicide. It carries a stigma which some quickly conclude as selfish, leaving others behind because you just can’t handle the unfairness of life, after all life is not fair. But Jeff says it’s just not the case. “For me as I look back, the first thing is it that absolutely someone is not thinking about themselves at the time, people are in their own world, completely self-absorbed and in such pain you can’t think about others and you are in this spiral, this rabbit hole, this place… this dark place, wallowing in exhaustion and who-knows-what going on mentally. We should be less quick to judge and slug those people off as selfish – remember but for the grace of God go I. it can get a hold of anyone in any walk of life, not matter what you have going on for you.”
While his brother committing suicide rocked Jeff’s world, the trouble truly began years before with that lack of focus, what Jeff refers to as a racing mind. After the loss of his brother, a very short-term marriage (4 months) and a failed attempt go back to school in his early 30’s all pointed to signs that something was amiss for Jeff Emmerson, but no one had yet gotten a handle on it.
It wasn’t until Jeff also nearly lost his own grip on reality. But it took the opportunity of nearly following in his brothers footsteps to bring it all to light. Jeff was working different jobs and eventually in 2011 had stepped into the world of entrepreneurship – as a copywriter and riding a wave, as so many others were, in the sea of the social media explosion. Jeff says in his business he had backed himself into a corner where he wasn’t building his client base quick enough and he was feeling down, way down, so low that Jeff was ready to fall apart, to end it all, just like his brother Ryan. Jeff had found love a second time and his new wife Aimee knew her husband had been depressed, feeling down, and always told her husband, “hey, don’t be afraid to wave the white flag and tell me I need someone to help me because I don’t know what to do.”
Jeff says he still remembers the feeling as he got ready to wrap the metal cable of the home gym around his neck: “inner self-hatred and self-loathing, feeling like I let down my wife, feeling like a complete failure. I had been hyper-focused for all these years, in the gym (where Jeff worked out as a body builder and helped others as well), so driven, but failing so many times, especially with different jobs and not knowing why. I had been so intensely positive at times and now I was so intensely the reverse. That was the formula for finally breaking down and wanting to die, wanting to end it all.” Jeff planned to use that metal cable and end the suffering he was feeling, the hurt and the shame.
“I was a guy so full of pride. Everyone around me knows me as this guy – driven, with lots of potential, which made it tougher. The perception of others mattered to me more than how I felt about myself. But it was my wife who had told me not to be ashamed, to ask for help, and the thought of her support, combined with my own feelings about my Dad, who adopted me at eight weeks old. I thought, for him to lose two boys in his lifetime, there was no way he would make it. He never gave up on me once, no matter what, he has been a hero to me. All these thoughts were rapidly going through my head and the pain of leaning into that metal cable and ending it all became too much. I got down, went upstairs and in tears told my wife what I had just tried to do. She immediately drove me to the hospital.”
The years of pain and suffering for Jeff were about to be given a medical name – but his journey had just begun. Jeff was diagnosed with adult ADHD and a lesser version of bipolar disorder called cyclothymia.
Eight million people suffer with adult ADHD. That’s 4% of the US population alone, but many of those who have it feel alone. That’s why it can sometimes lead to or be linked with depression, or worse. Now that there was a root to the problem, the challenge for Jeff was to get better. That was late 2011 and though he started treatment and was put on several different medications, the trouble persisted. Still trying to hold down different jobs, Jeff was too anxious, his racing mind and anxiety raised suspicions, like the time he tried to get a job as an armored car driver. He kept harassing the recruiters to see if he got hired, so much so the employer started to question the decision of this man handling the responsibility of the position and handling a weapon. Though Jeff had acquired a firearms license, even the person who gave him the license wondered if it was the right move, because during the entire process Jeff never left her alone. “I kept asking”, says Jeff. “My mind always racing, the questioning yourself, the spiral that can easily happen. We worry so much over one thing that some people go and self-medicate or make a terrible decision, hopped up on speed and in a bad mood. It’s the quick mind, the worry, the anxiety, the panic.”
By January 2013, Jeff voluntarily checked himself into a mental health center. He was going to get his life straight, and he realized the inspiration he wanted to bring to others was going to be about ADHD and he would eventually write a memoir. It wasn’t until the middle of last year that Jeff decided to get off the medication, (which Jeff warns you should only do with medical supervision or suffer dire consequences), because at least in his case, it’s the counseling, the chance to talk through his issues which for him is the greatest “drug”.
Jeff started his ReThink ADHD blog, (http://jeffemmerson.com/), with his number one goal to raise awareness, which is why a lot of what he writes about is for people who don’t have ADHD, so others can recognized the symptoms and are not so quick to judge those who might be suffering. “I have to admit I get off a little bit on standing up and speaking out” says Jeff, “I’m like a freight train inside. I still have that and always will. I am building my blog, building my Twitter account, writing articles for a few websites and going on from there.” Jeff helps his wife with her thriving business as a pioneer in the areas of digital strategy and search engine optimization and what he learns has helped Jeff to build his own brand and to spread the word about adult ADHD. And Jeff is doing a phenomenal job, having built a Twitter following alone of nearly 90,000 people, (https://twitter.com/ReThink_ADHD)
Jeff says his vision for this is not 100% laser focused yet, and to be fair how many times in his life has Jeff been able to focus 100% on anything? But he says he is committed to the cause: “it’s number one the warrior inside, the whole Rocky story. I am the kid who was the person who was driven and encountered adversity. It’s not about the money, this is personal. It’s about my brother and about mental health. Being a friend, being someone who listens. You don’t get a blood test to prove you have ADHD and if people don’t start to realize this, then tons are going to suffer.”
For Jeff it’s the inspiration to change, to make a difference for others, to let them know they can pull back from the edge, turn away from the abyss and find that one ray of light in the midst of darkness. Jeff Emmerson plans to be that light, he has a story to share and he is asking the world to listen.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time
Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Emmy Winner, Financial Services
The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
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