“I was acutely aware of my dad’s struggles with depression, it manifested in addiction at times,” Zak Williams said
By Gabrielle Chung November 23, 2020 08:09
On Tuesday’s upcoming episode of The Dr. Oz Show shared exclusively with PEOPLE, Zak opens up about Williams — who died by suicide in August 2014at the age of 63 — and the dark times he personally experienced after losing his father.
“I was acutely aware of my dad’s struggles with depression, it manifested in addiction at times, and he took great lengths to support his well-being and mental health, especially when he was challenged,” he says. “It was something that was a daily consideration for him.”
The PYM founder continues, “The main thing for me was noticing how he went through great lengths to support himself while he could show up for others. It was clear that he prioritized his mental health throughout most of his life, at least that I experienced with him.”
Zak says he found himself struggling with depression and addiction as well following the death of his father and realized that he needed help.
“I found myself hitting rock bottom when I wanted to just be numb. I found myself wanting to drink alcohol and just not think,” he recalls. “That was something that was really dysregulating for me.”
“I found myself waking up in the morning and feeling like I was having a dissociative experience, but I just didn’t want to be living the life I was living. I realized something had to give,” he says.
For Zak, he says finding “forms of healing, specifically relating to not only a healthy lifestyle, but also connecting with people,” has helped his mental health immensely.
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“I can’t stress how important service is to my life,” he says. “The other thing is I found community support groups to be really helpful. I’m in a 12-Step program, that’s very helpful for me personally. For others, it might be connecting through community organization or through sports, there’s any number of things.”
Prior to his death, Williams suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, a type of brain disease that affected his thinking, memory and movement control. It’s the second-most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.
Earlier this year, Zak shared with PEOPLE about how he’s keeping his father’s spirit alive — which includes working with organizations such as Inseparable, a national policy and advocacy group that aims to ensure Americans are granted access to mental health care amid the coronaviruspandemic.
“I stay away from drugs and alcohol, I commit to support groups,” he said in May. “One thing I found very healing for me through my experience has been service and commitment to service work specifically around mental health and mental health support organizations. Eating well, committing to a healthy lifestyle. Things that I need in my weekly and daily regimen to better support my well-being.”
“I’m thrilled to have a family and live the life that I always wanted to live,” he said. “I’ve learned I’m not broken. Despite experiencing traumatic events, I can recover. And I am now on a path of healing and being the person I always wanted to be.”
If you or someone you know need mental health help, text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go tosuicidepreventionlifeline.org.