To be honest, I've done a lot of blockage where there is a lot of things that because of what happened (Casey's suicide) and how vivid my memory is of things, I've done everything I can to block as much as possible. So in doing so, there is a lot that is so deeply suppressed from coming out that it takes extreme measures to bring it out. Case in point, Turks and Caicos when I had to get trashed to talk about those deep feelings and thoughts.
I'm Nick Wiktorski, oldest of the Wiktorski clan—four brothers and one sister. The first time that I ever had anxiety was going to school—kindergarten. It's every young kid's story: they get made fun of for being miss goody-two-shoes to the teacher, not misbehaving, and doing the right things. Getting compliments from teachers and yearning from that. Kids are brutal when you're growing up—a lot like Lord of the Flies, but that's what happens. You have to go through that to be strong in life. It sort of is the strongest do survive, but it’s not even that. It’s just an environment that people go through and you see who you can be and who you are. Whether you recognize it then or you recognize it later in life, it’s a part of everyone's life. So I guess being the oldest, I didn't know how to handle it. I didn't have anyone else that I could see going through it to experience what it’s like and knowing the ups and the downs. I always liked to know how things worked—the why. But in going through it (adolescence) yourself, you have one of two ways of approaching it: going through the hardknocks or learning from others. I just chose to go through the hardnocks and to try and figure it out myself. And in doing so, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to not only explore and try and see things, but to be the devil's advocate to what your parents might say. Your brain doesn't completely mature until your mid-to-late twenties and how are you supposed to deal with the pressures? You're supposed to reach out and you're supposed to ask for help. But being raised in an environment where you have a feeling that so much is going on, by you asking for help, it might not be the help you need or it might not be the right timing for getting the assistance because others need it more.
I think everyone has this beast inside them that you're trying to tame—kind of like yin and yang. It's important to try and turn that negative into a positive; like for example, working out to release your anger. But the hard thing is to try and understand what that beast is at such a young age—I found out that it was anxiety. I was anxious a lot and if I didn't know something then I wanted to know. I was very schedule-oriented—it was a process that I had to stick to.
First time I ever had any attempt at my life was around fifteen and I tried to do it in the basement and my father came down and stopped me. We talked and it was okay after that. Then the next time was because of a relationship gone bad and I tried to overdose on Vicodin, but I had such a strong tolerance because I was using still that it didn't do anything. I was taken to the hospital and the psych ward and that was at seventeen. The last one was when I was twenty-one after I pretty much hit rock bottom a second time—that was on my twenty-first birthday. Took a trip to the hospital and it was a real wake-up call. After that, I thought to myself, "There's no way I could ever do this." That one (attempt) was really close. That really woke me up. Seeing my siblings reactions and my parents, the concern was felt—the sadness and the worry. I knew one day it would stop—my drug use and all of that. It made sense why I got into it—it was an escape. I remember leading up to my twenty-first birthday, I had been into drugs and I was also smoking weed all the time. No needles or anything like that though. I went through that whole phase and I hit rock bottom. Alcohol poisoning on my sister's birthday—that was the last time. A year later, done with the durgs and cigarettes. Haven't had any of that stuff since.
I've seen friends go through it too and I knew it would be their downfall. I know what it's like to have a serious mental illness. It was only in the last couple of years that I've learned about the development in the brain. But it made sense why I was using drugs and why I was struggling.
I still could never explain the pressure and why I felt it growing up. We were so competitive growing up and it was always like ‘who could be better?’. Sure it drove us to be creative, but along the way it may have cost a life. You just have to keep going and try and fill those voids that are there. Keeping yourself busy is big because it’s those times where you're not doing anything that your thoughts start to really eat you alive.
I can definitely feel my little brother's presence. Especially when my other little brother comes along. It's crazy. I can't feel sad though because it's such a positive energy of his.
We were so privileged growing up that when I left the house, I had to almost relearn how to take care of myself and how to manage this thing [anxiety] inside and channel it into something good. You work and you try and make impacts around as you go. Sometimes you get hit with a curveball, but it's all about moving forward and doing whatever you need to do whether it's going out and advocating or just toning things down to get by. For me, it's staying busy—occupy myself with things.
I try not to cry anymore. It's not even out of sadness that I cry, it's more out of anger—suppressed anger. I doubt I'll get through all the stages of the mourning process before I die because I'm still so stuck on the anger stage that I don't think I'll ever get to the acceptance part. If you look on paper what I've done since it [brother's suicide] happened, you wouldn't expect this. Only a few people know how I really am doing.
I've tried medications and anti-depressants, but those just blocked out everything. It was costing me my memory and I was starting to forget everything. So how do you deal with it? You have to grow up and man up and that's not even trying to bring in gender and masculinity. You just have to know that life is not easy and it's going to be hard. But if you know that at the start, it makes the journey much easier to bare. But when you're fed at a young age that it's going to be great and it's all rainbows and butterflies, that's when it really gets you. That's when you're affected.
For me, triggers now are based around stress. Stress from work, stress from providing, stress from wanting to do things, and wanting to plan for the future. Another big trigger is when I hear a song and it reminds me of Casey, or driving certain places—taking certain routes. When I go to Philadelphia I can't take the same route that I always took. If I do, it's the longest drive ever—it sucks the whole way.
Philadelphia was when I got the call from Cody that Casey had taken his life. I was at the hotel and I was feeling something off and I just attributed it to Bagginz [a friend who had passed away recently]. But I got a call from my Mom saying that Casey was missing and that he had been missing. She was freaking out and her tone—it was scary. I never heard her like that and I got real worried. I realized then that I wasn't having that feeling because of Bagginz, it was because of Casey. I packed up everything and I was pacing around the room just waiting for a call. That was when Cody called. I hopped in the car and drove back to Rochester through the snow storm.
Gina [girlfriend] saved me. If it weren't for her, I probably wouldn't be here. After Casey died, I was drinking heavily every night. I was drinking until I threw up. It was awful. I had no idea what to do. I was fighting myself and beating myself up and then she came along. Something dropped her in front of me at the perfect timing. She always wants to make sure I'm okay. If you want comfort, she'll give you comfort and when you need space, she gives you space.
When I was in college, I found out that the people I befriended had similar struggles to mine when it came to mental illnesses. All of a sudden you become more open about it because you realize that all of these people are going through the same thing. But as much as people are talking about it, what is actually being done to take that statistic [percentage of people with a mental illness] and lower it because it's only getting higher and higher. It's one thing to go to an organization that is helping people out and tell them that you support what they're doing, but what the f*** are you doing about it to help? Do I go out and advocate? No. One day when I get to a point where I can accept Casey's death, then I will. To be honest, I didn't want to do this [interview]. I still have second thoughts about doing it. I can't speak for anyone else going through their own battles. I can just speak for what's going on with me and hopefully it helps someone. I love everyone and I feel for everyone and I truly hope the best for everyone.