My name is Xavier Whitford, 43, I have been impacted by mental illness in many ways. My son, Tommy, lost his battle to depression by suicide in August 2014. After finding my son that day, I experience PTSD. This being my first experience with mental illness personally, I quickly realize how controlling and consuming it can be on an individual which helped me develop a great sense of understanding and compassion for those living with mental illness.
PTSD affected me in a way where out of the blue I would be transported back to the traumatizing day I found my son and it was like living it all over again and again. My mind and heart would race, my body would shake, and I would cry uncontrollably. I had no control over where my mind and body would go. I was terrified and had never experienced not being able to control my thoughts and feelings. I felt ashamed and weak, but I realized quickly that this was not something I could deal with on my own.
I started seeing a counselor and going to support groups immediately after losing my son, but that was mostly to deal with the grief. I never really focused on the trauma of finding him, until about a year later when my PTSD became debilitating and I knew I needed something more. My family didn’t understand what was going on with me, but suggested I get some additional help. A friend suggested I look into EMDR Therapy, so I did. This therapy seemed odd to me, but I was willing to try anything. After the first couple sessions, I started to notice a great improvement. Finding the right form of therapy improved my day to day life significantly.
From time to time I still have tough days and there might be small triggers, but I am productive and find myself able to talk about those events without extreme difficulty. I use my experience to relate to others I work with in the community and can provide an understanding and empathetic approach because of my personal experience.