July 9, 2018

Michael's Recovery Story


Here is my recovery story: I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan on September 15, 1981. When I was a baby, I suffered atrial septal defect of the heart and was sick for the first three years of my life. In this time, I was prone to getting sick all the time and I was held back from school. When I first encountered stigma at an early age,

I didn't understand why I was being treated this way. When I was little my biggest influence was 1980’s pop culture. I soaked it up like a sponge.

From the time I was six years old to the age of 13 I was exposed to multiple environments that were difficult: schools, summer camps, foster homes and psychiatric establishments. When I was little I showed interest in art and music; they have resonated in me as long as I can remember. In 1987, when I was a six, I attended music therapy at Western Michigan University. I recall wanting to play grown-up instruments and I wanted very earnestly to learn the electric guitar at an early age. I wasn't interested in playing bass until I reached my late teens.

The cartoon "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" caught my attention and whenever he was on television back in the day, it resonated with me. That cartoon was one of many influential sources and why I am an artist today. Of course, the various environments at that time tried to remove that powerful influence from my mind and remove access to the action figures, so that left other influences, such as the first generation Transformers, Inspector Gadget, Chuck Norris, Rambo, G.I. Joe, Miami, Vice, Ninja Turtles and various actions shows. The ones in charge tried to take away action figures from me. It served them no purpose, anyhow. However, these people who were in charge at the time failed. So, I bided my time and waited for the 21st century to arrive, then I would retrieve what was taken from me. I am content, as far as that is concerned. I got what I wanted out of it: a sense of closure.

But the stigma I was exposed to never goes away, it just evolves over time. Each generation will have their own set of individuals who are part of the problem or part of the solution. The older generation believes one thing; they only want things the old way: put people away, shot up or doped up and docile, so we can't fight back!

That generation has no stake or say in what we're doing today. They have no claim in what the new generation is doing as far as services and programs. I have a voice! You have a voice! It's time to look beyond and be stigma free!