What is a Role Model? Not too long ago, we decided that it wasn't enough to cast fashion models based on height and comp cards. We wanted to showcase the stories of real people, who are brave enough to wear their label. Michael is one of those Role Models. Here's his story.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Michael Schroeder. I am 56 years of age and I was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Because my father was in the Canadian Air Force I have lived in France and several provinces here in Canada up until I graduated from high school in Chatham, New Brunswick. Upon graduating I moved to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia with my family and then shortly after I enrolled in the Canadian military. After my training I was stationed at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown which is a short distance from Fredericton, New Brunswick. This was my only location that I served at during my career which lasted just under four years. I was given a medical discharge because I started to experience some seizures which confirmed that I had epilepsy. During my time here I met my wife who was going to university at the time. For the next several years I took up a career in the hotel sector working as a desk clerk. I switched gears and went to work at a call center which I thoroughly enjoyed until I started to begin having more seizures quite often and as a result I am now on long term disability because of epilepsy. From the time that I had my seizures while in the military until I was at the call center over twenty years went by being seizure free. These days I do not work but I do keep very busy. I love being outside and working on our yard and my garden. Our dog Zoey keeps me active even if I don’t feel like it because she needs her exercise. Now that winter is almost here I won’t be gardening but there is always housework and I enjoy Curling so I get my social fix and some exercise. Finally, the one thing that gives me the most pride, satisfaction and accomplishment are the two daughters we have.
What is your connection to mental illness?
The contributing factor to my severe depression is my epilepsy. My epilepsy has affected all aspects of my life because I have had my drivers licence taken away and I do not work and I am now on long term disability. Things in life were going great when I joined the military, then one day I had a seizure. After a stay in the hospital and several tests later I was diagnosed with Epilepsy. Just like that my hopes and dreams went out the window. I was medically released from the military. Things did get better, I got married, was able to get back to work, went off my medication because I was no longer having seizures, and we now have two beautiful daughters. Fast forward twenty years and my seizures are back. Because I do not drive and I do not work I am constantly fighting my depression. I am always fighting the voice that tells me that I am inadequate or that I am not contributing. It is always hard to constantly be relying on others.
Do you think there is a different stigma surrounding men who live with mental illness?
Over the last few years there has been greater public awareness and programs that tell men you are not a failure if you live with a mental illness. I believe that no matter what there will always be a stigma surrounding men who live with a mental illness. From birth men are programmed to be providers for the family, confident, successful and so on. Once people know you have a mental illness they view you as someone who can longer be a complete man. I also have found that you feel that people have such high expectations of you, in a way you are failure.
If you could tell your younger self one thing- what would you say?
If there was anything that I could tell a younger version of myself it's that I matter. That I am important to so many people. We get so caught up worrying about what other people think of us that in some ways we lose sight of who we really are and that it would surprise us how much others would like us just as much and most likely more if we were to be ourselves.
What are you most proud of yourself for?
I would have to say that I am mostly proud of myself. With the combination of my epilepsy and my depression I have overcome so much and have found that there is so much to look forward to every day I get up.
Who is a Role Model to you?
This is such an easy question. My wife Rhonda. She is my rock. From making sure I am taking my medication to looking out for me every single day. It is amazing the support that she gives me every day. My depression can at times make me difficult to be around but she puts up with it and is always there when I need her. When I go to the hospital it can be very stressful and she is always there to stick up for me if I get confused. I often say that if she was the lottery then I hit the jackpot.