“I lived 30 glorious years of my life without a hint of mental illness, although it runs deep in my family (my sister had schizoaffective disorder and committed suicide in 2002).
Life wasn’t always easy, but I considered myself incredibly fortunate to have an amazing wife and three beautiful children.
But everything changed in April of 2014 when I was strongly encouraged to get a prescription for a SSRI to combat some mild anxiety I was having over the graduate school in the coming month. The doctor failed miserably to take note of my family history and prescribed a popular antidepressant. His ineptitude would prove to completely change my life.
What I know now is this: if you have bipolar disorder, or a genetic predisposition to it, and take a SSRI without a stabilizer such as lithium, there’s a good chance that you will become manic, which is exactly what happened to me about two months later.
It’s a long story, one full of tragedy and triumph that involves dropping out of grad school, separating from my family, burning bridges, behaving erratically, crashing like a head on collision, becoming an alcoholic, unable to leave a bedroom at my mom’s for months, a suicide attempt, a stint in the psych unit, a life-affirming moment in the hospital, reuniting with my family, getting the help that I needed, a published short story about depression, a renewal of confidence, a yearning to help those who suffer the way that I do, becoming manic again (albeit, controlled this time) and starting a non-profit determined to raise mental health awareness (seatreadstudios.com), writing a novel and dedicating my life —a life that was nearly lost less than a year ago—to let others like me know that they are not alone in their suffering.
Every day is a struggle, but I’ve learned that trying to run from my mental illness is an exercise in futility. Mental illness doesn’t get distracted, it doesn’t have responsibilities, and it certainly never gets tired.
I’ve learned that turning around and facing my bipolar disorder, really staring at it between the eyes, has enabled me to live a meaning life without being consumed by the jaws of mania and depression. The first step is to be authentic. Don’t hide your mental illness like it’s a dirty secret because it’s not. Living an emotional lie is exhausting.
As sufferers of mental illness, we have the ability to tap into a layer of humanity that most people are completely unaware of. I’m talking about knowledge through empathy, compassion, and substance—all of which has been sculpted by pain. For this reason, we have something to offer the world that money can’t touch.
Your very existence is precious… never forget that.”
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