My thanks and appreciation to Garry Jones for having the courage to speak out and share his story. Indeed, he represents two populations that need to speak out more on mental illlness - blacks and men. Kudos to Terrie Williams for lifting up the subject with The Stay Strong Foundation and The Stories that Heal Campaign. After you read this, perhaps check out other postings on Familiar Minds written by caring women about the men they love: Him, Finding Dad’s True Personality and From Another World, I Understood.
Lieutenant Jones reflects on his lifelong battle with depression which has included suicidal ideations. Thankfully Lieutenant Jones is doing well on a journey to brightness, having opened up and sought help. Familiar Minds has compiled a listing of resources, including suicide prevention, to support people living with mental illness and their families.
Lieutenant Jones’ Journey to Brightness
It’s not easy coming out of the closet exposing yourself; you get ridiculed, people shy away from you and you’re called crazy when you expose yourself. I’m a retired Lieutenant from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and founder of Advocate4justice. I retired because of major depression, post traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety disorder.
My depression started when I was a 6 year old boy. By the time I reached the 11th grade I went to a doctor who told me I was suffering from depression and he wanted me to see a shrink – I refused! I was afraid of what people would say.
Refusing to get help was not the thing to do; mounting damage occurred due to my refusal to allow the doctors to help me at that time. When I was in college I started drinking to ease the pain. I also smoked reefer but it made me paranoid so I stopped. After graduating from college, I got married; prior to getting married, I shared my depression with my fiance but she brushed it off. This made me close up once again on the subject of depression and anxiety.
One day I began actually planning my suicide – I decided I would blow my brains out; the mental pain was so unbearable – suicide was my only choice; then I thought about the affect it would have on my kids.
My next plan was to get on the highway and drive as fast as I could but I thought to myself if I failed at committing suicide and ended up a quadriplegic or with brain damage then I would be in worse shape, I will be living and not able to take care of myself which would only make the pain worse. I put deep thought into this, even going so far as to think about the insurance company paying my children.
I thought, if I carry out this act and the authorities could prove I took my life, the insurance won’t pay and my kids would be devastated by my death and wouldn’t have money from the insurance company. Working in the prison system I have seen inmates that failed at suicide and the condition the failed attempt left them in.
Eventually, I chose to seek help for myself and open up publicly. It took a great deal of courage for me to speak on a television show about my depression and anxiety. Today, speaking out about depression and anxiety disorders is not stereotyped with the term crazy as it was during the time that I was a young boy. Though I won gold medals in weightlifting competitions, was a correctional officer and eventually a lieutenant, no one ever knew that at any given time the pain I was in. I am currently seeing a therapist for my condition. While I have a good day every now and then, the depression remains – I am learning to live with it.
About the Author: Lieutenant Garry Jones
Lieutenant Garry L. Jones was born and raised in Kinston, North Carolina; receiving his formal education from the Kinston City Schools, where he lettered in football and track. He then went on to attend North Carolina Central University, earning a B.A. in Criminal Justice in 1986. Following graduation, he was employed by the D.C. Department of Corrections in Lorton, Virginia as a Corrections Officer. In January of 1991, Mr. Jones began working for the U.S. Department of Justice at Federal Prison Camp Seymour Johnson, eventually he was promoted to a Senior Lieutenant at FCI Tallahassee. After working a combination of 16 years for federal and state prison facilities, Mr. Jones retired. After retirement he started the organization Advocate 4 Justice and authored 3 books. His latest book entitled, “I Wasn’t Raised to Play by Their Rules,” touches on the negative affects of the retaliation he endured during his career with the Department of Justice and the events that helped reveal a secret he kept for 30 years.