Today’s #SameHere Hero: Blake Kirinovic
“My convictions are a result of experiences led me to create a brand that inclusively and optimistically advocates for mental health with the belief that it can be used to our advantage -“Respect Your Gift.” I’m proud to be the first “Crazy Hero” from another advocacy group that will carry the torch of the #SameHere concept at all my visits. If we can all hop on board with a consistent global message, while maintaining our individual brands/programs, we will make a tremendously positive change in this world.
In 1997, at the age of 16, I was first diagnosed, medicated, and hospitalized for what was termed “mental illness.” During the next eight years, I experienced additional hospitalizations, sports-related concussions, behavioral issues, school suspensions, multiple incarcerations, dozens of medication combinations, clinical depression, cutting, drug addiction, and suicide attempts.
In 2005 as the result of a drug deal gone bad, I was arrested for kidnapping. Although the charges were eventually dropped I realized (having come from a stable family with two faithful and loving parents) that I was severely underachieving. So, I began making an effort to live healthier. In the spring of 2005, I started eating better, exercising, investing in positive influences, and distancing myself from a destructive circle of friends.
By the fall of 2005, I was enrolled in college, off medication, practicing wellness, coaching youth football, regularly interacting with my family, and pursuing a business degree with an emphasis in communication.
For the next eight years, I managed my mental health without many symptoms appearing. However, even though a successful college experience as a public address announcer, host, and on-air personality led to a job as a minor league baseball emcee, it was only a part-time job, and I did not go to college to work part-time.
Eventually, my inability to find full-time employment led to financial difficulties. This translated into a lack of both confidence and hope. Unfortunately, in the spring of 2014, about the same time that my professional and financial situations started to become problematic, I also tore my ACL for the second time. Without health insurance and athletic outlet, I spent the next year with limited mobility that exacerbated mental health difficulties.
This chain of events threw me into a depression the likes of which I had not experienced in close to a decade. From 2014 to 2016 I destroyed relationships and friendships, was evicted, started cutting again, went through multiple manic episodes, wellness checks, and community mental health evaluations, attempted suicide, continued to self-medicate with marijuana, and eventually found myself going through a toxic breakup that left me homeless.
It was at this time, having been in counseling for the year prior, that I felt, despite the adversity, like I was starting to come out of my depression, which considering the circumstances doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you understand the kind of resilience that living with mental health complications can produce.
I became homeless last November and moved into a marijuana grow-house where I lived for the next eight months. During that time I was exposed to destructive influences every single day. Despite the surroundings, I used my resilience to separate myself and develop the message of my “Respect Your Gift” program. I managed to overcome those circumstances and get sober from marijuana.
Today “Respect Your Gift” is not yet fully sustainable, but it is growing. I’m still in transition and live with a friend while I continue to work to earn a living that can provide stability. And although the last year has included two more knee surgeries (the fifth and sixth to my right knee) I’m developing my understanding of physical, nutritional, and mental wellness, growing my faith, and practicing a lifestyle consistent with my ultimate goal of someday becoming a loving provider for my future family.
I’m well aware that I will always live with an obsessive, anxious, and manic personality and that I’m susceptible to mental health complications. At one time I thought my education and personality would lead me to work as talent somewhere in the sports and entertainment industry, but my experiences have uncovered a greater purpose where I now apply my communication background and passion for mental health to advocate and help others.
We are all gifted, and to fully respect our gift(s) we must respect our mental health. This is an inclusive and optimistic message about using mental health to our advantage – a message that I believe in and most importantly live by. So, #SameHere! And I look forward to educating the groups I speak to and mentor with about this #SameHeremessage and sharing pictures with this growing community!”