What do you do when your dreams are suddenly shattered? What do you do when your best-laid plans fall apart in the face of life just happening? What do you do when you face an unexpected medical crisis that snatches away the very thing you have worked your whole life to achieve? Unfortunately, crisis is common, but I have seen it firsthand with my brother Joshua. Here is his story.
Joshua was a senior and a star football player at UCLA. Talented enough to go to the next level, Joshua was actively competing in combines convinced that his dedication to his craft and his natural talent would earn him a spot in the NFL draft. It wasn’t just him. His coaches and teammates believed he had what it took and encouraged and helped him prepare for the next step in what would surely be a promising NFL career. However, life has a funny way about it. After a particularly grueling training session, Joshua found himself in the ICU with blood sugar over 500 and suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis. This was not only a life-threatening medical emergency, but it was also a condition that would have lasting consequences. All fears and anxieties were soon confirmed when Joshua would hear the diagnosis: Type I diabetes. Shocked, uncertainty set in and questions began. How does this happen to someone who is in the best shape of their life? There is no family history of diabetes. Why me? Why now? Is this the reason for my most recent athletic struggles? Is this why I have been tired? Would it get better? Get worse? As Joshua laid in his hospital bed and watched his NFL dreams start fading, he grew angry. With every medical update, the anger grew and grew. The reality of the diagnosis eventually set in. His dream would simply remain that — a dream. What happened next in Joshua’s life is unfortunately very common for people who face a life-altering event. Feelings of depression, anxiety and self-pity set in. Joshua shunned help. His attempts to cope led him down the path of substance abuse. Life continued to compound, eventually leading him to a breaking point where outside help became the only viable option. Joshua is still navigating his journey, but his example is one we can learn from.
We all have dreams, some come true, and others do not. Joshua missed his chance to become an NFL star. It was a tragedy, but tragedies come in all sizes. In your life, it may be losing a loved one, a particularly bitter divorce, a major medical condition, or a conflict with a parent. Life is full of the unexpected, but it is not the event that defines us, it is how we respond. May is Mental Health Awareness month. Mental health is health. Yet despite this, many times we do not seek out the help that we need to deal with life’s struggles. I am here to encourage you. Learn from my brother Joshua. Get help. There are individuals in your life and groups in or community that want to help. Call the Faulk Center for Counseling or Ruth and Norman Rales Jewish Family Services. Talk to a mental health counselor, a trusted friend, a rabbi, or a priest. Don’t let the tragedy of the day turn into the tragedy of tomorrow. There are people that care and want to help. You just have to seek it. You are not alone.
Gwenesia Collins, PharmD, CPh is the assistant vice president of Acute Care Pharmacy for the North Region of Boca Raton Regional Hospital. She is also the board president of the Faulk Center for Counseling in Boca Raton. If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health, call the Faulk Center for Counseling at 561-483-5300, or visit faulkcenterforcounseling.org/.