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07 February 2019

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2/7/19 #SameHere Hero: Yoni Cooper

Today’s #SameHere🤙 Hero: Yoni Cooper from Jerusalem.

 

I’m so excited that Yoni reached out to get involved w this initiative, via Facebook.  We have some big plans for bringing #SameHere🤙 programs, to the Middle East, & Israel specifically to start.

 

Yoni was a caregiver to his mother & her story is eerily similar to mine: many drugs pumped in her from all the classes, including MAOIs that did not work, being told ECT shock therapy was her “last resort” & it still not working.  His mother, his “Ima,” is still with us today as she’s finally found a treatment PLAN that works. But the caregiver role, & being exposed to some difficult situations as a soldier in the Israeli Army affected Yoni’s own MH as well.

 

He’s dealt with so much from C-PTSD to ADD to Depression & Anxiety, but much like our community here, it’s not so much about the labels for him as it is the fact that his MH has been affected bc of life challenges. Amongst other things, he’s utilized CBT, EMDR, TRE, mindfulness, & traditional talk therapy & coaching. And he’s too humble to brag that he’s one of the top performers in Israeli Football’s semi-pro league (he plays DE), which has been backed by Bob Kraft from here in the states.

 

Can’t wait to involve Yoni more. Maybe our programs in Israeli will even involve my former colleague at the Suns, Amare Stoudemire (who lives in Yoni’s town in Jerusalem). As this is the first time he’s told his story in its entirety, please welcome Yoni!

 

“When I was 12 years old, I remember sitting alone with my father listening to him tell me that over the summer, when I was away at summer camp, my mother was admitted into a hospital for a few days. There was not anything physically wrong with her, my father continued, but mentally, my mom was feeling very down & she was struggling with depression. He explained that she needed to go into the hospital to be evaluated & checked & would now be taking medication to get better. The psychiatrist prescribed some medication & I was hopeful that my ‘Ima’ (as I call her) would get healthy.

 

Unfortunately, the first medication did not work, & my Ima seemed even worse off. I first knew something was really off when she started to cook dinner for the family, or even join us to eat (Up until that point, she had cooked dinner for me almost every night of my life). Over the next few years, as her health deteriorated, her doctors tried to figure out her diagnosis (Was it just chronic depression? Was she bipolar? Was it Seasonal Affective Disorder?) and she was given a myriad of pharmaceuticals starting with SSRI’s & then moving to Tricyclic Acids & eventually MAO Inhibitors. Nothing worked for her. And she knew that eating certain foods & drinks (such as pickled foods, Chianti wine, fava beans, cough syrup…) with MAOI’s was very dangerous. So one Saturday evening, without anyone knowing, she drank 2 bottles of cough syrup knowing that it could kill her. My sisters & I witnessed our now normally depressed mother acting progressively stranger over the course of a few hours, asking bizarre questions, acting a bit loopy & complaining of being too hot & itchy, until it was clear that something was terribly wrong. My father spoke to her doctors who told him to get her to a hospital immediately.

 

I remember my father & I carried her out of our house & into our car, & because she started yelling & screaming & thrashing her arms & legs, I sat in the back seat straddling her to hold her legs & arms down while my father sped through red lights to get her to the emergency room.  I watched her eyeballs move quickly back & forth as she continued to yell. She was no longer the mother I knew, she had literally turned into someone else. Once at the hospital, the nurses strapped her down to a hospital bed & administered (what they later told me was) enough sedatives for an entire football team.

 

She spent the following few months in psychiatric wards of hospitals a& then in psychiatric hospitals. Not knowing what else to try to help my mother, as a sort of “last resort” her psychiatrist suggested that she go through Electro-Convulsive Shock Therapy (ECT), where her brain was shocked with an electric current weekly for a few months. The process was outpatient but caused my mother confusion & memory loss. I remember a note that we needed to put next to her bed to remind her of what was going on: ‘You are going through a process called ECT. Part of the side effect of the treatment is temporary memory loss. Your family is here with you & we all love you.’

 

I remember her crying to me that she was sorry she was incapable of being a good mother to me. For a few months, she would get shocked weekly on Wednesday afternoon & would return home in the evenings totally out of it, & would remain in a haze until Saturday or Sunday. The ECT did not work & her doctor said there was nothing left for him to try. My mother would continue to suffer from depression for a few years until eventually, she found the right doctors & utilized both therapy and medications to manage her depression, & she is currently living a healthy & productive life today (and recently just published her first book!).

 

At the same time that I was watching my mother deal with her depression, I too began to see therapists & psychiatrists & was prescribed anti-depressants & benzos for anxiety & depression. I was sad & alone. And felt that my world was crumbling.

 

I began seeing therapists & psychiatrists by age 13 to help me deal with what we thought was just depression & anxiety.  I was on & off of different medications & therapies for the next decade or so. During my army service in Israel, I served in a special forces unit where I was expected to be able to fully focus & function at the highest levels under stressful circumstances. I found myself sometimes with a wandering mind & I was unable to function on a high level. As I had always suspected that I had ADD, I requested that the army test me. I was subsequently diagnosed & was prescribed Ritalin. I did not like the way I felt on the medication so instead of finding another medication, I convinced myself that I was fine, & didn’t really need to take medication for the ADD. In 2014, during a particularly tense security period here in Israel (where I now reside), I experienced a panic attack, something I had never experienced before: I was almost paralyzed, unable to function properly as a person, let alone as a father to 2 kids.

 

I spoke to a psychiatrist about my family history with mental health complications, & my own, history. He told me that my experiences with watching my mother’s depression coupled with some trauma experienced while a soldier during battle, makes him believe that I have Complex PTSD. Until that point, I had always thought I had an issue with depression & anxiety & was treated for these diagnoses. But I was now learning that the ADD & C-PTSD could be playing a much larger role in my life and overall mental health than I’d initially thought. My wife also noticed changes in me & urged me to deal with the ADD.

 

For the PTSD & ADD, I have been trying numerous approaches, methods, and practices that have been beneficial including CBT, EMDR, TRE, mindfulness, and traditional talk therapy and coaching. I recently began taking Vyvanse for my ADD, which I believe, coupled with new tools & approaches to maximizing my potential with ADD, is helping.

 

I have never shared my full #SameHere story publicly, but as i speak more & more about PTSD & ADD, I find that there are so many other people who are dealing with the same issues & diagnosis but feel ashamed & weak, & thus do not speak about it. The time has come to break down the stigma.”