Why I Started D.R.E.A.M. and Why Mental Health is Important to Me
The summer of 2000 was one of my favorite summers and one of my favorite years by far as a kid. I was a 10-year-old boy enjoying every day hanging out with my friends. This was the time where Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue came out and my friends and I would be playing non-stop all day and night. During the summer, it was more of the same except we would be playing by the pool or at the beach. It wasn't until the end of summer where I realized something was wrong.
It was another day at the beach with two of my friends and our parents. We were sitting under the Lifeguards' tower laying on our backs with our legs crossed with our Gameboys in our hand. This eerie feeling entered my body like some sort of poison. I don't know why but I started freaking out. I crawled under the tower and just started running towards my mom. I've never told her this story but that was the first anxiety attack caused by the fear of death...and it definitely wasn’t the last.
For the next few months, I would be triggered by those thoughts. Sometimes it would happen at school, during basketball practice, while watching wrestling, and especially while I was at the beach. At the age of 11, I realized I suffered from anxiety and I was not proud of it at all. There would be nights that I would be sitting awake in my bed with this cold feeling gripping my neck. I would get head rushes when I thought about my inevitable end. For an 11-year-old, my mind was not right. For about 2 years I had to silently suffer because of my fear of being laughed at if I discussed my issues.
It wasn't until I was 13 years old that I finally found a coping mechanism; writing. All day and night I used to write poetry, lyrics, and short stories in my notepad that had a picture of Eminem from 8 Mile on it. Everything I wrote reflected how I felt. As a 13-year-old, you could imagine just how scattered my thoughts were. My writing reflected that.
I never brought up my problems with my friends or family out of fear that I would be judged. In my culture anxiety and depression is not really seen as a real problem because most Armenians and Middle Easterners are prideful people and mental illness was not something a "proud and macho" person would really talk about. I kept the notebook to myself and would occasionally record music from the lyrics from my notebook. For the next 7 years or so I was able to mask my anxiety behind my thoughts and dreams.
I still had nights where I would get out of bed and start pacing around my room because of my dark thoughts. Throughout my whole life, I always could remember my dreams and nightmares. Some of my dreams used to put a smile on my face when I woke up and some would ruin the entire outlook on my day. As I got older and more experienced in life, everything got worse.
There were a lot of changes in my life in my early 20’s. It was the time where I started making new friends, shedding a lot of weight, losing close friends because of silly arguments, getting closer to marriage with my girlfriend, and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life once I get out of college. Naturally, I opted to become a psychology major to learn more about how the brain works and how to cope with my issues. At that time, I found out that a close member of my family also suffered from anxiety. That tore me apart. I realized that this issue I have is serious after seeing what she was going through. I still didn’t bring up the fact that I go through the same thing out of fear. Even with a beautiful fiancé, a college degree, a group of loyal friends, and a law school acceptance letter, I found out that my anxiety led me to the point of hopelessness and depression.
The issue with me never telling anyone about my anxiety & depression was that no one really understood my mood swings. Every day was a different day for me. Whether it was my insecurity or my fears, something would trigger me and cause me to not act the way most people expected me to. This drove some people away and forced me to push myself away from everything. I finally was admitted to law school after telling myself that was the right path for me. For a kid that was at the bottom of his class in high school, I felt that going to law school would show everyone just how smart and accomplished I am. One semester in and I realized that until that moment in my life I only lived for other people and not for myself.
The 8 months I spent in law school was the darkest moments of my life. The way I started coping with my depression in law school was dreaming about a future after law school and all the other things I could have done. I used to get triggered by seeing my classmates from college and all their success in psychology after school. It caused me to unfriend most of them on social media. Although I lived with my best friend who went to a neighboring law school, I found myself alone in my room at nights either crying or biting off my fingernails because of my illness. After Winter Break I knew I had to drop out of law school for my own sanity. Even though it would upset my parents, friends, and fiancé, I had to do it for myself.
In March of 2013 I did the unexpected and withdrew from law school with no future. At the time, I got an internship as a writer for a popular sports website. I even found mild success doing it. However, being alone in my house without any family around started to trigger me again. As I prepared for life without law school those dark thoughts reared their ugly head. At age 22 I thought my life was over. I had no distractions keeping my mind at ease. I was seeing classmates from high school enjoy success in their field while I was sitting at home sulking.
At this point, I started to slowly open up to select people about my problem. I heard a lot of “it will pass” and “it’s all in your head” being thrown around. That didn’t make me feel any better. Most of my friends would tell me I’m lucky to have a good family, a fiancé, and a college degree. Unfortunately, no matter how many things I felt that I had I still couldn’t escape my issues.
One night before I slept I had one of the best dreams ever. I had just finished watching an episode of a TV show that really helped me get through the dark times out of law school. I woke up and quickly ran to my desk and started writing down what happened in that dream. I started to do this a few times a week. I never shared it with anyone. Some of my dreams were dark, and some of them were bright. Even if I didn’t write it down, I replayed it in my head. My mood that day would be dictated based on how my dreams went. One of my dreams was the reason why I applied to get my Masters in Business and I did just that. Another one of my dreams influenced me to become an entrepreneur which I also pursued at the time. Although the original version of my idea failed, it was an experience I will never give up.
From 2012-2017 a lot of changes happened in my life, one thing that did not go away was my illness. I was finally starting to do more with my life than just plan my life out. I got my first real job in 2013 after 9 months of unemployment. I got married and graduated college in 2014. In 2015 I was hired to work for a major company in my business field. In 2016, I bought a house and had my first child. Throughout those years my anxiety attacks and depression were not major components of my life. Life was moving fast and my mind was at ease for the most part. I had my occasional scares at night and mood swings during the days, but the thoughts were at bay for most of that time.
The Birth of Dreams Rule Everything Around Me
In early 2017, those thoughts came back again. You can imagine just how much more I value my life now that I am responsible for a child. Fears of dying and leaving behind my son and wife were terrifying me quite often. I can’t imagine being without them and vice versa. Throughout the year, I was going through a lot of events that started to trigger me. Although I won’t share what those events were, they were bad enough to where I felt that dark energy enter my soul once again. I couldn’t find a coping mechanism anymore. It didn’t help that my job had me work from home thus keeping me alone with my thoughts for most of the day. Most of my friends and family tell me how lucky I am that I live in a nice house, have a beautiful family, and that I work from home. Blessings are subjective. What others thought were blessings to me are the things that are slowly destroying me.
In late 2017, I told myself that I can’t fix this anymore. I am who I am and I must accept my problems. One day I will die and so will everyone around me. Where my soul will travel is unknown. It is unknown when it will happen and who I will leave behind, but it will happen. Instead of fearing death and the darkness I decided to fight it with all my power. I want to give my family, and most importantly my son and the legacy they could always be proud of. That was not going to be accomplished by my current job or skillset…it was going to be accomplished by my dreams of a better future for not only myself and family, but for everyone who suffers from mental illness.
In November of 2017, I started Dreams Rule Everything Around Me (D.R.E.A.M.), a relaunch of a clothing line I started in 2012 because of a dream I had of me being a successful entrepreneur and because of my passion for streetwear and fashion as a means of expressing myself. D.R.E.A.M. is going to be more than just a clothing line. Over time I plan on making D.R.E.A.M. a way for the 13-year-old boy suffering from anxiety because of fears of death and isolation who was too scared to tell anyone to have a way to talk through his problems. With D.R.E.A.M. I want to let everyone who suffers from anxiety and depression know that they are not alone. I want to help any soul who has ever contemplated suicide realize that there is a reason to fight. As someone who always dreamt of a better life, my goal at D.R.E.A.M. is to make everyone in the world into a dreamer so that they too can have their dreams carry them through all their nightmares in life.
As of this writing, I still admit that I wake up in the middle of the night with those fears. Lately, I’ve been waking up not being able to find a breath because of a dark thought, but now…I know this pain is temporary and I have a reason to fight. I hope to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness. I hope to be part of the change that helps people understand that mental illness rivals physical illnesses in the amount of damage it can do to a person and how important it is to seek help. Not everyone is able to find their own coping mechanisms and go through the fight themselves and I hope I am able to help change all that and provide a better way.
Most importantly, I hope to inspire people who are too scared to come out and discuss their problems. It was a mistake that it took me 18 years to start opening up to everyone about it and I encourage no one to wait so long.
I also hope to inspire people to constantly reach out to their loved ones and make sure to understand their struggles...you have no idea what that can do for a person.
Disclaimer: In respect for many people I love I left a lot out of my story. It was hard enough admitting this much about my problems and I do not want to make public of some of the events that took place in my life. I do come from an amazing set of parents. I have an incredible older sister and two amazing nephews. My wife is the person who motivated me to be the man I am today. My supporting cast of friends is great. And most importantly, my son is the reason why I want D.R.E.A.M. to be successful so that once I am gone, he is there to keep my vision alive.
I welcome you all to my journey and hope you join me.
If you would like to support D.R.E.A.M. visit our collections page and find a style for you or a loved one. For every sale, we donate a portion to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Find out more about our donation structure here.