Mental Health Revealed: Appearances aren’t Always What They Seem

To an observer of Tyson’s life in the early 2000s, he was the picture of success. He had a lucrative career as a petroleum engineer and the material wealth that came with the job. On the inside, however, he was miserable—suffering from depression and feeling dissatisfied with his life. In 2016, he walked away from the oil and gas industry and his life has never been the same.

Prozac and pandemic

Tyson began using Prozac to cope with depression while he was still working in oil and gas. Unfortunately, he was also one of the small subset of people who experience psychotic breaks as a side effect of the medication.

As a result, and after over 10 years working as an engineer, Tyson walked away from the industry in 2016 to dive into intensive therapy and address the schizoaffective symptoms he was experiencing.

As a practicing Buddhist since 1997, he also decided to give himself a clean slate in 2017, mostly free of material possessions. He sold the majority of his personal belongings, ended his apartment lease and moved to the Drala Mountain Center, a Buddhist retreat in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where he worked as their volunteer coordinator for two years.

An artist at heart, Tyson decided to pursue an art degree at the University of New Mexico shortly after completing his service at the Drala Mountain Center. Only a couple semesters into his degree, he was visiting Denver when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the world shut down.

Tyson quickly found himself stuck in Denver with nowhere to live, no resources to fall back on and his mental health deteriorating.

Finding a lifeline

When you’re at zero, or even below zero, how do you pull yourself out, especially without resources? While experiencing homelessness, needing to navigate the pandemic restrictions in place, using substances to cope with his trauma and not sure what else to do, Tyson found life-saving services at WellPower’s Behavioral Health Solutions Center (BHSC) and Walk-In Crisis Center (WIC).

Both the BHSC and WIC offer in-the-moment care for people experiencing self-defined crises, the impacts of substance use, homelessness and more. While the WIC is open to anyone in need of help, the BHSC requires a first responder drop-off to provide care to individuals. Tyson was able to use these services to keep himself alive and afloat during an extremely painful and turbulent time of his life. He was then referred to ongoing care using WellPower’s other services, like therapy and psychiatry, to support him in long-term management of his mental health journey.

“Substances have always been something I turned to when things in my life got too rough – they were a way to help me shut down,” said Tyson. “That said, the drugs aren’t necessarily the problem here—for me or for others—they’re a band-aid on a much larger wound, namely the trauma or issues I (and other people who use drugs) haven’t been able to address.

“That’s one of the things I’ve appreciated most about the staff at the Solutions Center and the WIC. They met me where I was in that moment and they were really supportive. I felt like the staff there were ready to listen, empathetic and willing to find a solution for what I needed next. I always felt safe there. The biggest thing that WellPower has given me is the sense that people actually do care about the people they serve and the work they do.”

New beginnings

Since working with WellPower, Tyson has found housing, continues to access services like therapy and psychiatry and he has truly leaned into his art as a form of self-expression and self-discovery.

“Part of what I’ve learned on this journey is that no one actually has life fully figured out,” said Tyson. “The Solutions Center staff helped me realize that. We’re all on a spectrum of well-being, of enjoying life versus acknowledging what’s not going well or what isn’t healthy.

“I was really hard on myself in the past because of the homelessness I experienced. I was scared to commit to asking for help, but I also realized that I needed help and I couldn’t figure this all out by myself. Every day isn’t perfect, don’t get me wrong. But I get to practice art now. I get to be part of studies I’m passionate about. I understand myself better now. I’m so grateful for the kindness and nonjudgmental support I’ve received from WellPower.”