News & Events

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Features Editor Michelle Walsh

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by CCM Features Editor Michelle Walsh:

Michelle WalshAs a child, I yanked my shoelaces until the aglets broke, and couldn’t tolerate wearing anything with buttons, zippers, etc. Doctors were clueless that I was struggling with anxiety.

OCD has accompanied me for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would look at road signs and add the digits to make an even number. Early on, I learned I could find control in the law abiding, unwavering solidity that is math.

After starting middle school, I quickly inherited different forms of eating disorders and self-harm, ultimately leading me to spiral. Whatever I tried, these different vices only gave the illusion of control.

One of the most disastrous coping skills I inherited was dissociation. Dissociation was a coping skill brought on by the introduction of the heaviest antidepressant I was on. Being on a near toxic dose made me feel as if I was a voyeur to my own life. Alongside this, I was involved in several car accidents, one including the totaling of 2 cars and several visits to court.

Cycling out of centers and hospitals, a vast array of labels and corresponding medications were given to me like candy. From Attention Deficit, Borderline Personality, Generalized Anxiety, Unipolar and Bipolar, I was medicated with anything they thought could give me relief.

It wasn’t until I reached Princeton House wherein they correctly diagnosed me with CPTSD and OCD, and therefore placed me into a trauma-based program. I quickly learned that trauma was the root of all my suffering.

I was also placed on medication that saved my life. Currently, I am still searching for the ideal combination of therapy and medication.

Struggling with mental illness has led to me becoming an advocate for others and myself. I found myself recently within a group that hushed me when I spoke of my traumas. From this, I unearthed that silence begets silence and that we are losing if we choose to stay silent in the face of egregious action. I continued following my passion, and have cultivated a life I am proud is mine.

Irregardless of my achievements, my OCD is never satiated. I still struggle with an achievement equals worth mindset, despite countless therapies and medications. I’ve made peace that my mental illness and I must coexist for me to exist.

The scars left behind are representative of a battle I choose to fight every day, and show that relentless hope overpowers relentless mental illness.

Break the Stigma – Start a Conversation!

From Life Center Stage:

Help us Break the Stigma and inspire hope! Please share this video and start a conversation!

On June 22, 2019, a festival dedicated to “Breaking the Stigma” was held on the Morristown Green. The festival was aimed at inspiring hope through the sharing of personal stories of recovery from substance use disorder and/or mental health. The community members performed original songs and cover songs related to their stories to raise awareness. Alternative community activities such as drumming, yoga, and interactive art, mask-making and a “I AM” photo shoot were available inviting the community to connect with one another. Six courageous and amazingly talented people shared their stories of recovery from substance use disorders, depression, boarderline personality, postpartum depression, eating disorders, and anxiety to help break the stigma that prevents far too many from seeking help. There is hope! Don’t give up!

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Coordinator Eric Pedersen

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by CCM Engineering Lab Coordinator Eric Pedersen:

Eric Pedersen

My name is Eric Pedersen. I am a CCM graduate and have worked in CCM’s Engineering Department since 2012. I am the Lab Coordinator for Mechanical Engineering Technology and Physics, and I teach a couple of sections of our Manufacturing Process course. My official diagnoses are Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Attention Deficit Disorder.

Personally, anyone with ADD can attest, it makes life interesting and often impulsive. ADD is blessing in disguise, and with it usually comes a fountain of creativity and unlimited drive when it is channeled in the right way.

Major Depressive Disorder and OCD have been incredibly difficult for me literally, as long as I can remember. Until seeking more help for those in 2013, I had really hit rock bottom emotionally. Months of insomnia, crippling depression, and social anxiety, that made work and life in general, difficult to navigate.

However, looking back, that low point was the best thing that ever happened to me. I met amazing counselors and doctors, and opened up in ways I never thought I would. My wife has somehow always seen the best in me and has supported me since the day we met, through those breakdowns…. I would not be where I am in life without her. We now have two beautiful children and I am blessed to have learned the lessons, patience, and trust of others during those tough times.

Anyone who knows me knows that what drives me is helping others. I always try to do that at CCM and at the end of the day, helping others through their struggles is all that actually matters in life. Our life’s purpose is to help others. I won’t say Despite My Diagnosis, but thanks to my diagnosis and the supportive people I have met along the way, I am hopefully able to be a positive presence in others’ lives every day.

We meet many people in life who espouse negativity, but there are many more positive souls than we realize. They don’t seek attention or accolades and tend to blend in. But when others need help, there are so many willing to help.

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Contributor Tatiana Bonner

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Tatiana Bonner:

Tatiana Bonner

I was only 16 when I was diagnosed with Bipolar I. Something my mother’s family never saw coming, something I feared would shame them for the rest of eternity. I come from a long line of Italians. People who were taught to suck it up after World War II had ended. People who pushed their problems to the side, and acted as if nothing was wrong.

I never once thought that I should seek help for my prolonged sadness. For the longest time, I thought it was normal to feel that way. I’d let the little demons in my mind toy with my head. I’d let them get the best of me each and every time. I pushed my friends out, and built my walls up. I didn’t want anyone to know just how vulnerable I was. I wanted to suffer alone. My mother never saw the signs, as she didn’t even know what to look for. She never worried because I’d act like the world’s happiest person around her. I didn’t need her to worry. I also certainly didn’t want anyone’s pity. I’d felt that enough after the death of my brother, and pity was one thing that bothered me. It was one thing that I could not stand. Some days, getting out of bed was a process. I’d have to drag myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Every word spoken to me was like a poison to my ears, in the aspect of the fact that I did not want to hear it. It was a miserable existence.

My sadness would turn into Mania, into happiness, into irritability, and actions I could not control. The even sadder bit, was that I often would not remember the days I spent Manic. I would lose time from the story of my life. People would ask what I did yesterday, and I could not answer them. I knew I wasn’t myself anymore when I went home and asked to be signed up for a gym membership, when my depression was dragging me down into my sorrows, and I had absolutely no energy to even think about going to the gym. I knew something was wrong when my mother would be angered at me for having a fit that I could not even remember. I knew something was wrong when I went to the doctor, and they handed me a depression screening, and every single blurb on the little white paper made me feel as if someone from the office had been monitoring me. I grew paranoid. My mind played even worse tricks with me. I knew the government was watching me. I knew all about their plan to harvest my organs, and sell them on the black market. My mania went as far as me spending nearly three hundred dollars alone at Hot-Topic, just because I was convinced that the world was ending, and that I wouldn’t get the chance to spend that money tomorrow.

My mother thought nothing of it. She was never taught anything about mental illness. She didn’t think anything was wrong with me until I woke up at three o’clock in the morning, and ran into my grandmother’s room, screaming and crying about the man in my closet, who ate my dog who was clearly okay and sleeping in his bed in the next room over. I didn’t remember this at all the next day. That’s when my mother and grandmother had decided that I needed to seek help, and took me to the doctor, who agreed that something was wrong.

They made me pour my thoughts out on the table. They made me expose each and every one of my problems and fears. I was given medication, and the number to a therapist. My first few therapists told me I was exaggerating, and always put down my problems. I’d get to the second or third therapy session, and never go back. That was until I met my current therapist, who sat with me, and listened to me, and understood me when I spoke to her. She told me and my family that I had Bipolar I and Anxiety, and that I needed to see a psychiatrist, for my medications to be managed. My first psychiatrist was a complete idiot. She continuously put me on SSRIs, medications that I would learn are not always helpful to someone with Bipolar, as they basically make you more upbeat, often activating mania. Each time I went back to her with a new complaint, she’d threaten me with inpatient, something I certainly didn’t want to go into. My family saw that I was miserable, and decided to pull me from her care. We spent a long while looking for a decent doctor, until I met my current one, who listens to me, and actually does something when I say that my medication doesn’t make me feel too good.

It was 2 years prior to my diagnosis that I spent suffering in silence. Then, it took me two whole years after my diagnosis to get settled into it all. At first I was ashamed to say that I have Bipolar Disorder. I feared what people would think of me. I worried that they would think I was crazy or disturbed. I would scribble the words “Manic Depression” across forms at doctor’s offices, out of shame to say the word “Bipolar”. Even to this day, I still feel my heart racing in my chest every time someone asks me, “So, you have Bipolar?”.

Three years after my diagnosis, and I am doing wonderful. I’ve come to terms with my mental illness. My medications are managed well, and I’m seeing an awesome therapist. I still have my dog, my fish, and my plant collection, which all keeps me going. Keeping things alive helps me to feel alive. I am so, so happy that someone finally saw that something was wrong, and helped me to seek help. I don’t know that I ever would have on my own. Despite my diagnosis, I wake up in the morning. Despite my diagnosis, I get out of bed. I brush my teeth. I care for my body. I push myself to succeed. I keep feeling, I keep dreaming.

Despite my diagnosis, I keep living.

Prosecutor’s Office Delivers Opioid Presentation to Picatinny Arsenal

On October 21, Morris County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Brad Seabury provided an “Opiates 101” presentation at Picatinny Arsenal in recognition of the National Red Ribbon Campaign and Army Substance Abuse Program (A.S.A.P.).

Seabury was joined by Christopher Moore, Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program Manager, and Andrea Pastuck, Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center.

Seabury presenting in front of a projection screen
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Brad Seabury

The presentation was held in observation of Red Ribbon Week, a Department of Defense initiative to encourage service members to keep communities drug-free and to recognize outstanding outreach programs.

The “Opiates 101” presentation provided the audience with information concerning the heroin and opioid epidemic affecting New Jersey residents, as well as what measures members of law enforcement are taking to fight this scourge.

Seabury discussed the Overdose Prevention Act and Drug Court program, criminal justice measures to treat and not just incarcerate individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders; New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP) database; and the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations Intelligence Center Drug Monitoring Initiative, utilizing real-time intelligence.

CAP Seabury noted that since 2014, at least 342 people in Stigma-Free Morris County have lost their lives to heroin or prescription overdoses. CAP Seabury enforced that community education is a crucial component to combatting the crisis.

“This disease does not discriminate, it affects people of all different backgrounds,” said Seabury. “We know from this particular community problem that our traditional methodology of arrest and prosecute are not conducive to help individuals suffering from addiction. Instead, substance abuse-affected offenders need treatment to break the cycle of addiction.”

Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp said, “The heroin and opioid epidemic continues to be a scourge on the citizens of New Jersey. The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office will continue to combat this epidemic through our various initiatives and our strong focus on educating the public.”

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Contributor Meghan King

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Meghan King:

Meghan King

My name is Meghan and I have lived with anxiety and depression for over a decade now. I was diagnosed eight years ago in the fall semester of my junior year at William Paterson University (WPUNJ).

Looking back, I believe symptoms began to display themselves when I was about 15-16 years old. My mother left when I was a small child of 11 due to addiction, alcoholism, and living with bipolar disorder untreated. I know my battle with abandonment, trauma, and anxiety and depression have some roots in this loss. Anxiety shows itself as irritability, lack of focus, panic attacks. My depression has many faces from not wanting to get out of bed to accomplish daily tasks, questioning my value, not believing in my self worth, etc.

It took me years to realize that despite my diagnosis, I am a survivor and I thrive in the face of adversity. Seeing therapists since I was a teenager and taking the time to find the right medication to help me have a better quality of life has taught me this. I chose to stop attending school after missing school for 3 weeks due to psychosomatic symptoms I was having. I needed to take care of myself. That decision was frowned upon, to say the least. I couldn’t handle what I was going through and making my academic success a priority. My doctor started me on medication following my diagnosis. After trial and error, I have found the combination that works for me.

From August 2018 to June of this year I moved four times. I slept on couches, transferred jobs between North and South Jersey to living under a liquor store in Paterson because I did not have stable housing. I was basically homeless. If it weren’t for my loving boyfriend, his family, my brother, and my friends for emotional support, I don’t know how I would’ve traveled this road.

I have always had a spirit of surviving despite my diagnosis. I was having panic attacks while driving, things around me would slow down and I would have to practice grounding skills. I had to focus on my breathing and things around me to stop my racing thoughts. Nothing has scared me more than experiencing a panic attack while driving. Having to kick those ugly, dark thoughts out of my head, and convince myself that yes, I am worthy of love and my life is worth living.

As a side note, my boyfriend’s mother would have me over for dinner most of the week. Their home was too small to accommodate living there, but that woman fed me and let me stay on occasion. Simply providing meals for me and showing her care has made all the difference. She has shown me so much love and has been one of my greatest blessings. I signed a lease with my boyfriend in June for an apartment and I truly feel at peace where I am. I started a job that allows me to more than scrape by.

I can live comfortably and safe. I’m paying things off and paying for classes to continue my education. I have learned to live one day at a time and appreciate my blessings. I choose not to be defined by my mental health challenges.

Recovery Friendly Career Day at CARES

Rockaway, NJ, October 2019 – Join the Center for Addiction Recovery, Education & Success (CARES), Morris-Sussex-Warren Workforce Development Board, and employers in kicking off the first Recovery Career Day on Wednesday, October 23, from 10:00am-12pm.

The purpose of this event is to help people at any stage of recovery find community and purpose through work. This event will provide individuals with access to recovery in friendly employers and training programs. Participants will have the opportunity to apply for jobs and receive information on career training.

The event is FREE but registration is required. Contact Don Hebert at dhebert@mcpik.org.

The Center for Addiction Recovery, Education & Success works to engage and organize the recovery community by helping individuals find, maintain, and enhance their recovery experience through peer support, educational and volunteer opportunities and sober recreation, as well as working to reduce stigma associated with substance abuse through advocacy, education, and service.

Stigma-Free Mendhams: Special Program on Mental Health for Families — Oct. 3

A special program on family mental health issues will be held in Mendham Township on Thursday evening, Oct. 3,  at the Mendham Township Middle School.

The program, entitled “How Parents Can Support Positive Mental Health in their Children,” is sponsored by the Mendham Township School District and the Mendhams Stigma-Free Task Force.

It is open to all residents of Mendham Borough and Mendham Township, and residents of neighboring towns also are invited to attend.

  • Date: Thursday, Oct. 3, at 7  p.m.
  • Location: Mendham Township Middle School, 16 Washington Valley Rd, Brookside, NJ 07926
  • Speaker: Tracy Klingener, Assistant Director, Self-Help, Advocacy, & Education, with the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris
  • Topic: “How Parents Can Support Positive Mental Health in their Children”
  • Sponsored by: Mendhams Stigma-Free Task Force & Mendham Township School District

The Mendham Township Committee and Mendham Borough Council both passed resolutions declaring their municipalities Stigma-Free, with an overriding goal to help eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness and with substance abuse disorders and get people who need help into treatment programs.

As part of the countywide initiative, residents are urged to take the Stigma Free Pledgehttps://morriscountystigmafree.org/take-the-pledge/

A Successful Stigma “Squash”

For August 31st’s International Overdose Awareness Day, the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey asked NJ residents to participate in the “Squash the Stigma” water balloon challenge.

Participation was simple: The person needed to fill a few balloons with water, write stigmatizing words or beliefs on each balloon in marker, and then record themselves squashing them on the ground.

Check out the results! Thanks for all who participated!

Mind Matters 5K’ to benefit mental health programs at Madison Area YMCA

From the Madison YMCA:

MADISON – The public is asked to lace up its running shoes for the Madison Area YMCA‘s “The Mind Matters 5K” at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, at the Giralda Farms office campus off Madison Avenue. The event also will feature a shorter, one-mile “Family Fun Run/Walk.” Families are encouraged to dress in Halloween costumes.

Supporters may register online at https://www.compuscore.com/Race/Register/NJ/Madison/TheMindMatters5k. Participants who register before Thursday, Oct. 10, will be charged “early bird fees” of $27 for the 5K, and $8 for the “Family Fun Run/Walk.” Registration is free for all children 7 and younger for the “Family Fun Run/Walk.” USA Track and Field (USATF) members will receive a $3 discount off the race registration fee on pre-entry. Same-day registration starts at 8:30 a.m.

The race is a fundraising event for YMCA’s Annual Fund, which “enables hundreds of children and families to participate in YMCA membership, innovative programming, wellness initiatives and services including childcare, early childhood education and summer camps at the Madison Area YMCA’s Family Center and the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Madison Area YMCA,” according to CEO and President Diane Mann. YMCA CEO Mann noted that “The Mind Matters 5K” will support a range of mental health and wellness programs at the YMCA.

The Community Mental Health Initiative: “As mental health is rapidly becoming a leading issue across the nation, the YMCA has taken steps to establish the Community Mental Health Initiative to raise awareness and lower the stigmas associated with mental illness,” Mann said. “The Community Mental Health Initiative also focuses on reducing barriers to mental health care by providing community members with knowledge and skills” to help people cope with mental health issues.

Project Community Pride of the Madison Area YMCA: Mann explained, “Project Community Pride is a youth counseling program that has joined the YMCA as one of its community-based programs, and an important extension of youth development services for children, teens and their families throughout the Madison Area YMCA’s service area. The program was made possible through the collaboration of community leaders and the municipalities and school districts of the Chathams, Florham Park and Madison.”

Paths to Wellness: Mann further pointed out, “The Madison Area YMCA offers enriching community wellness and health-enhancing programs, including ‘Livestrong at the YMCA,’ a cancer survivors’ program; the Diabetes Prevention Program; ‘One Step,’ a multiple sclerosis program; ‘Delay the Disease,’ a Parkinson’s disease wellness program; ‘Enhance Fitness,’ an arthritis wellness program; and ‘Healthy Hearts,’ a post-cardiac rehabilitation program.” She added, “The YMCA also has a range of youth sports, youth leadership programs, enrichment classes and adult fitness classes.”

Mann summed up, “As a cause-driven charitable organization, the Madison Area YMCA is dedicated to nurturing the potential of every child and teen, and improving the community’s health and well-being and giving back by providing support to our neighbors.”

For information, contact Associate Development Director Melissa DeSalvo at (973) 822-9622, ext. 2248, or email mdesalvo@madisonymca.org.