“There were plenty of times when I would feel suicidal,” said liberal arts major Elijah DeVivo about the hardships he navigated as a child.
DeVivo released his autobiology, “Resilient: One Boy’s Story” in early January.
Devivo used a marketing strategy to gain some early purchases. Due to the success of his sales, “Resilient: One Boy’s Story,” was on Amazon’s bestseller list at number six around a month ago.
DeVivo believes that his experiences developed his ability to overcome multiple difficulties when the odds were stacked against him.
“The overall message focuses on the fact that you have to be your own superhero in life because no one else is going to do it for you,” said DeVivo.
At a younger age, DeVivo felt he had to learn this lesson the hard way. “I didn’t have anyone to save me,” he said.
DeVivo’s story focuses on his family’s own struggle to function. His parents were unable to provide for him and his siblings, so the bulk of the responsibilities fell on him.
“As a young kid, I had to try to deal with taking care of a mom when I should have been the one being taken care of,” he said.
When DeVivo was one, his mother had a brain aneurysm.
“She wasn’t around for most of my childhood,” he said. DeVivo’s father was there to care for him, but he suffered from mental illness.
“The combined stress of taking care of my mom, and also taking care of me and my twin led to him having a nervous breakdown,” said DeVivo.
After his breakdown, DeVivo’s father became abusive. “I had to try to avoid my dad at all costs,” said DeVivo.
DeVivo writes about his father’s mental illness, and how it affected the people in his household growing up.
“My dad is bipolar, and not all bipolar people experience his symptoms. He has mood swings, and he can become very reckless,” he said.
DeVivo’s father would threaten him and his siblings as children, and would go into detail about what he was going to do to them. As a result, most of DeVivo’s childhood was fraught with fear that his father would act recklessly.
Devivo remembers being frightened when he was younger, especially after his father purchased a gun.
“That was not an appropriate thing to buy because he experienced episodes of depression and extreme happiness,” said DeVivo. “If he was having a depressed or manic episode then he could have taken it out on us,” he said.
After multiple stunts of violence, DeVivo took matters into his own hands with his father, and acting as a parent.
“As I grew older, my mom had two more kids, so I kind of became the father-figure,” said DeVivo.
Although his father was present, DeVivo felt he had to do more to help his family.
“When I was about 14, things started to become really bad,” said DeVivo. “That’s when I decided, ‘Okay, I can’t just wait around and hope for things to become alright – I actually have to do something even though I was just a kid,” he said.
Around the same age, DeVivo started homeschooling so he could spend more time caring for his family.
“I got two jobs, and all of my money would go towards managing our lives,” said DeVivo. “At [some] point, we couldn’t handle it anymore, so we put our house up for sale.”
Taking on more responsibilities at home, DeVivo’s father showed signs of behavior that put their entire family at risk.
“After putting the house up for sale, my dad became more abusive than normal,” said DeVivo.
Due to the violence, DeVivo had to file for a restraining order against his father at 15-years-old. Despite the order, his father would attempt to break into their home.
“I would walk downstairs and discover the lock broken,” said DeVivo. “He would break in during the middle of the night, and it was scary to hear something going on downstairs,” he said.
DeVivo went to court, and received the restraining order against his father. The order included a 30 day period where his father could not come into contact with DeVivo.
“It was a 30 day period, and then they would have a court date to hear the grounds for filing the restraining order. After that, they would decide to keep it in place for a year,” he said.
During the period that the restraining order was put in place, DeVivo’s mother decided to file for a divorce, finding it safest to file for a divorce with him unable to be in contact with the family.
“If we had told him we were filing for a divorce when he was living with us, he probably would have tried to kill us,” said DeVivo. “He was pretty unpredictable, so we couldn’t really guess what was going to happen,” he said.
Once DeVivo’s house was sold, the assets were split, and custody of him and his siblings was given to DeVivo’s mother.
Despite all of the negativity surrounding DeVivo’s childhood, he has come to a realization to forgive his father and have him be a part of his life.
“Surprisingly, now I have a relationship with [my father],” said DeVivo.
DeVivo sees his father periodically, and has taken steps towards forgiving him for his actions.
“I want a dad, or a father-figure, even though he has done some bad stuff,” he said. “I still love him.”
Besides these struggles, DeVivo also struggled with his sexuality. “I had to come out in a Christian home, and that was not the best,” said DeVivo.
DeVivo came out at bi-sexual to his family, and his mother disapproved due to her religious beliefs.
“I had to deal with losing my dad, and then I had to deal with losing my mom as well,” said DeVivo.
DeVivo believes that anyone in a situation similar to his own should look to the future for inspiration, and look for strength.
“When it comes to life, nothing stays bad forever,” said DeVivo.
DeVivo believes that those who push through hardships will be satisfied by the end results.
“If your situation is pretty bad, it probably isn’t going to stay that way,” said DeVivo. “Just ride it out to see what’s in store for you along the way.”