Beverly Conforti and Vicky Demetriou
Today, we share a story written by the family of Anthony Conforti, an Oceanside High School Class of 2004 graduate who took his own life on April 11, 2005.
The day Anthony died was similar to his life and struggle against being bipolar. The sky was clear, the sun was shining, and the birds were chirping of the day’s possibilities. It was a beautiful spring day. But without warning or an explanation the day swung violently from visions of new life, to the pain of life being concluded all too soon. It’s the “swing” of bipolar disorder that leaves such a lasting impression upon the people who come in contact with it. One moment you are consumed by the vitality of the day’s beauty, and the next you’re trying to pick up the pieces of your family’s splintered spirit. Anthony sparkled just 24 hours earlier, but one bipolar swing and all that was left of him was a family left with an unspeakable amount of guilt.
The swings of Anthony’s bipolar disorder started when he was in elementary school. One day he was a talented athlete and musician with a big grin on his face, and the next he was throwing himself on the floor, screaming and carrying on. His extreme changes in mood worsened throughout his adolescent years. His parents sent him to several therapists and each failed to be able to help Anthony. With a growing sense of urgency, Anthony and his family attended mental health support groups; he was checked into local hospitals and programs; tried various medications and even an out-of-state program. And yet, Anthony continued to take one step forward and two steps backwards.
It is the hope of Anthony’s family that his story will encourage open dialogue about mental illness, and help those suffering be seen as someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, classmate or friend.
Less than a year after his 18th birthday, Anthony had a downward swing. He had neither the desire to apply any coping skills he learned nor take his medication. According to his suicide note, the struggle was too much and he looked forward to being at peace.
It is the hope of Anthony’s family that his story will encourage open dialogue about mental illness, and help those suffering be seen as someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, classmate or friend. Anthony died 10 years ago, when many treatments weren’t available and even getting a bipolar diagnosis was challenging. If you know of someone that may be dealing with a mental illness, or if you are dealing with a mental illness, start learning what you can NOW. Understanding the challenges of mental illness would be a huge step forward in helping those that struggle with this issue daily.
by Beverly Conforti and Vicky Demetriou