My name is Evan Silverman. I am 34 years old, grew up in Denver, and have worked at the Tattered Cover BookStore for more than 11 years. When I interviewed for my position at the bookstore, they asked me to describe myself in three words and I answered “fun, fair, and honest.” I feel those words still fit me today. However, I wish life was that simple. After many years of battling depression, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after graduating college in 1996. Then my diagnosis changed to schizophrenia in 1999, which changed my life in many ways.
Along my journey of learning about my illness and how to cope with it, I have developed and been guided by some key ideas and experiences:
I believe that G-d exists and I rely on G-d for direction. I also think that G-d has given us free will which, among other things, means we have some control over time and money.
One positive way to use time is to cultivate love. This for me has occurred as a natural part of being an active member of a healthy community. Jewish Family Service fits in that category. I have found a wonderful volunteer opportunity through JFS. I am a cultural tutor for a young man from East Africa who receives Refugee Mental Health services from JFS. I meet with him weekly and take him on errands, help him with things he wants to learn such as how to write thank you notes, and basically fill in the holes with what others in his life can’t do. I am learning quite a bit, including how to be in the moment and focus on how I can help him. I feel better when I leave and it has been very interesting to learn about another country’s culture.
The Tattered Cover Bookstore, where I work, serves as a healthy community for me as well. Working there has taught me a lot of great lessons that apply not only to my job, but to life in general. I have learned great customer service, how to treat people the way they deserve to be treated, and the value of listening. I believe we are imperfect beings, but we can learn a lot if we listen, gain perspective, and live meaningful lives.
In addition, I recently joined the board of Mental Health America of Colorado and am enjoying serving the community in this meaningful way. In each group I am motivated as part of something bigger than myself rather than by fear or greed. I believe that when we make positive choices within a healthy community, we transform that community, and by extension we transform the world in general. This in turn further changes us.
Another positive use of time is to put yourself in a situation which allows you to be in the moment. Setting aside time to meditate is helpful for many people. Although it is impossible to be in the moment all the time, when one is in the moment with another person, you show respect.
Money is valuable as well. When we support a local charity we improve the community in which we live. The Jewish concept of tzedakah contains the idea that regardless of how little money one has, there is always at least a small amount that can be donated.
By cultivating love, playing an active role in healthy communities, living in the moment, using our assets wisely, and having a positive attitude, the chances are that one will move in a positive general direction over the course of one’s life. In addition, living in this way improves the biggest human community of all—mankind.
Some advice I have for others battling a mental illness:
- Educate yourself about your illness – go online and find out as much as possible.
- Find a community that works for you – that’s bigger than yourself – such as a church or synagogue or JFS. I believe that a healthy community values everyone for their uniqueness and there is a sufficient amount of love for everyone.
- Find someone you trust such as a sponsor or mentor and people to help you with your weaknesses, if necessary. For example, a woman comes to my apartment once/week to help me stay organized. I am also fortunate to have a caring network of support from Karis Community.
- Set manageable goals to improve your mental health.
- Find love – it is so powerful!
Photo courtesy of Nathan Armes and Magpie Media, Inc.