This memoir is dedicated to those who suffer from mental illness and their families. Mental illness is a very real disease. Many people are afraid to acknowledge it because it is so hard to understand what people with it are experiencing. It can strike at any age and may be debilitating. Families often feel devastated and powerless to help their loved ones who suffer from these illnesses. Unfortunately, like most people who live with mental illness, I have many questions about what I could have done differently; sadly, I have no answers. Not a day goes by after Steve's death that I don't say to myself, "I should have ....” or “What if I had said..." But I now realize there is nothing I could have done differently. Mental illness can be like a cancer of the mind. In Steve's case, it finally took over his mind and metastasized to his soul.
This book was a labor of love for me and has helped me work through my grief over the loss of the love of my life. I had to question myself as to what my goals were by publishing such a personal and private part of my life. I want to inspire conversation to help remove the stigma associated with mental illness. How often do we see in the headlines the story of a crime committed by an alleged perpetrator that has a history of mental illness? In his or her own way, the alleged perpetrator is a victim as well—a victim of a terrible disease that is capable of altering the mind to do something very out of character. Of course, not all crimes are committed by people with mental illness, just as all people with mental illness do not commit crimes. But mental illness is a disease that knows no bounds. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, nor should it be swept under the rug. It’s important to know that many individuals suffering from mental illness are not necessarily defined by the disease. Their lives can be productive and filled with joy, laughter, and love.
I want Steve's legacy to be his kind and compassionate self in spite of his own personal struggles. He was someone who impacted so many lives in a powerful and positive way. He gave so much to so many with no expectation of a return. Steve was not just a coach of sport, he was a coach of life and I learned so much from him. He was a gift to all of us and that gift was only ours to borrow.
The majority of the proceeds for the sale of this book will be donated to Project9line, a non-profit organization on Long Island (www.Project9line.org). You may wonder how I chose this organization. Throughout this entire process of publishing this book, I have felt the hand of Steve guiding me. I believe, as he did, there are no coincidences. One day, I dropped off some promotional bookmarks for the memoir at my chiropractor's office. I was directed to place them on a counter next to another stack of promotional cards that caught my eye. It was for Vet Stock, an event presented by Project9line to honor all veterans. I wanted to find out more about this organization as Steve and I both sympathized with the plight of our country's returning veterans. Project9line has a unique approach to assist returning veterans who may be suffering from PTSD and depression; they create multiple venues for the veterans to showcase their talent and share their experience through the arts.
What is the significance of Project9line? “9line” is derived from a very important U.S. Military protocol known as “9 line MEDEVAC.” It is a procedure used on the battlefield when placing a call for assistance related to a casualty. A soldier must provide the nine most important facts about the scenario so the most effective help can be sent. I am sure Steve would want important facts of his own story to be told in an effort to help others with mental illness, just as Project9line is helping veterans when they return home.
Many years ago, Steve asked me if my corporate job was fulfilling and if I felt I was helping people with my career choice. I didn't understand why he was asking me this question since I chose my job based on my skills and the fact I needed to make a living. Now, in retrospect, I realize that with the career path choices Steve pursued, it was his mission in life to help people and he wanted to know if I shared that sentiment. He was a Jones Beach lifeguard, went through the process of applying to the New York City Fire Department, and finally became a coach to help people be the best they could be—both in life and in sport. Now, after so many years, I finally understand Steve's question and I hope by writing this book, it will serve to help people in some way. Perhaps the book proceeds can help develop a program that helps a returning veteran get through his or her depression or help an individual know they are not alone in dealing with mental illness and suicide. It is my sincerest hope that something good can come out of the tragic circumstances surrounding Steve's life.