Stories of Hope: An Interview with Richard Brea
This is part of a series featuring individuals who share their life experiences with mental health issues. Recently, I asked mental health advocate Richard Brea about his history of mental health challenges and about some of his current advocacy work. Here’s our interview:
DS: Tell us about when you first started becoming aware of concerns related to your mental health. How did these issues continue to affect you and those around you before you sought treatment?
RB: I first started to get concerned with my mental health when I was a freshman in high school. I had a hard time adjusting to high school. I would come home every night and lock myself in the bathroom and cry between 30 minutes to an hour. I was extremely sad and I didn’t know where these feelings were coming from or why I felt that way. Around this same period of time I also started to have suicidal thoughts.
These issues didn’t affect my family because I was very good at hiding my feelings and emotions, but I was affected by these issues because I didn’t care about my grades and I had a hard time socializing and making friends. My depression and feelings of hopelessness continued to build up over the next couple of years. It all reached a boiling point my junior year of high school.
DS: What was the turning point that led you to decide to seek help?
RB: The turning point that led me to getting help was when my first relationship ended during my junior year. That breakup hit me extremely hard. Even more so because I felt like everything was building up over time. It was the last straw for me. The pain and sadness I felt consumed me. It overwhelmed me. I was ready to leave this world.
That was the first and only time I tried committing suicide by mixing alcohol with pain relief medicine. I didn’t tell anyone what happened until two weeks later. I decided to tell my mom and little brother because I was tired of suffering in silence. I was tired of keeping everything inside. I remember having a conversation with my ex-girlfriend’s brother and telling him, “I’m going to talk to my mom. I’m tired of feeling this way. I’m tired of feeling alone. I need love. I’m done feeling this way.”
The following day my mom took me to the emergency room at the request of my pediatrician. The rest is history. Over the following nine months I was hospitalized four times at three different hospitals. Although that was a lot to deal with as a teenager, it allowed me to get my life back on track and it wasn’t as hard as most people think it would be. Doctors told me the best thing I did was open up and decide to get help. I fully agree with them.
DS: What has your treatment consisted of, and what have you found that has worked well for you?
RB: My treatment has consisted of therapy and being placed on antidepressants. I was placed on a lot of different medications in the beginning (Prozac, Celexa, Welbutrin, Lexapro) and that entire process was annoying for me but I knew it was important to find the right medication. I have found that therapy and medication have both worked very well for me. Therapy has been the most helpful because I tend to keep things bottled inside and that’s never a good thing. Therapy has showed me that communicating and being open about how I feel is always the most helpful.
DS: How are things going for you now? What have you learned that has helped you stay positive and healthy?
RB: Things are going amazing for me right now. I’m the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been. I am currently living in Los Angeles (it was always my dream to live here) and I just spent my first month in my first apartment. I’m currently in the process of finding a publisher for my autobiography Out of the Darkness and I’m taking a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Peer to Peer class once a week.
I recently went through a rough patch where I was self-medicating and isolating (due to feeling lonely and homesick) but once I got over that, I called my mom and told her I was doing better. I plan on visiting my family in Boston in a couple of weeks and I’m very excited for that trip. Being around family always brightens my mood and fills me with love.
I’ve learned that being sober keeps me healthy and happy. Writing, working out, going for walks, and volunteering also keep me productive and positive. Above all, my faith in Jesus Christ keeps me grounded, humbled, and at peace.
DS: You’ve been active in mental health advocacy and social media. Tell us about your involvement in those activities.
RB: I love using social media to be a mental health advocate because it gives me a great outlet to share my story with family, friends, and people all over the world. Having my writing published five times this year also gave me the chance me to break the stigma attached to mental health. I use social media (Twitter and Instagram) to raise awareness for mental health and I also use it to collaborate with non-profit companies specializing in mental health.
I was on Twitter when I came across your website and a lot of the websites that I have shared my story with are thanks to Twitter. Social media has allowed me to come across other mental health advocates and there are so many wonderful and helpful communities providing love, support, and guidance for many people in need. I’m very grateful for social media.
DS: What would you like to say to encourage others who are still working on their journey of recovery?
RB: Although it may be cliché, I would say to stay positive and never give up. It’s easy to give in to negative thoughts and temptation. I would also say to remember that nobody is perfect and nobody has it all figured out. Although I have come a long way from my battle with alcoholism and addiction to marijuana, my journey and recovery is still a work in progress. I still fight for my peace and happiness every day.
I recently made the decision to get a therapist and go back on medication to help with my anxiety. It wasn’t easy to admit that I needed help but I did it because I want to continue living a healthy, happy, sober, and fulfilled life. Just like you, I have my bad days but I also have great days. Keep going because whatever you are going through, it too shall pass. The sadness or pain you are feeling is only temporary. Don’t stop now because there’s a rainbow waiting for you on the other side. You are loved and you deserve to be here just like everybody else.
Richard Brea is 29 years old and living his dream in Los Angeles, CA. His firm belief in Christ and his faith has helped him in his struggles with mental illness. He is a writer and is working to publish his autobiography, Out of the Darkness, later this year. He loves music, movies and reading. He strives to break down the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and disorders by sharing his story. He hopes to inspire the mental health community. You can connect with Richard on Twitter or Instagram.
Thanks so much to Richard for sharing his inspiring story of hope!
Would you like to share your story of hope? I plan to feature more personal accounts like this from time to time on my blog. If you are interested in sharing your story, please notify me via my contact page. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!