Feb 22, 2017
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
I grew up watching my mother battle Bipolar (I) Disorder.
It was a scary and confusing experience when she would cycle into a manic moment and then plummet into a deep depression. She was in and out of hospital several times during my youth. I was always fearful that one day the disease would get me too. I carried this worry with me constantly. In spite of my concern, my life seemed to be going quite well; I graduated secondary school (as class Valedictorian) and left home to attend University where I studied Kinesiology and played Varsity football (’98-’02).
I felt angry and ashamed that I was so ‘weak’
Unfortunately, during my athletic career I suffered several concussions. Upon graduating university (as Valedictorian of the Faculty), my childhood fears were realized when I had my ‘first episode’… likely a result of heredity and my head injury. I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar (II) Disorder. I felt angry and ashamed that I was so ‘weak,’ that I couldn’t just ‘shake it off,’ or ‘deal with it and move on.’
It was hard to hear that I would likely need medication (and therapy) for the rest of my life. I reluctantly started treatment and several months later, began to stabilize. Years rolled by and I was, thankfully, managing my mental illness. I got married, and my wife and I had a couple of children (a girl, now 4, and a boy, now 2). In the back of my mind, I wondered and worried if my children would ever have to suffer from the sickness. After the birth of our son, my mind began to unravel. I entered a depression that was so horrific I was contemplating suicide; I even had a specific plan to kill myself.
Thankfully, my wife took action before I did anything drastic, and got me to the Psychiatric ER at a local hospital. I was an absolute wreck… crying hysterically and craving for it all to end. I was immediately admitted to the Mood Disorders Program. Over the next few months in hospital, I experienced great pain; however, I also gained new perspective. I began to internalize that I was ‘sick not weak,’ that needing medication was not an attack on my manhood, and that the shame and stigma I carried was senseless.
Mental Health is a continuous ‘work-in-progress’
Thanks to the excellent care of my psychiatrist (who actually pinpointed a misdiagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, and noted I had Unipolar Depression with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder… shifting medications that were effective), as well as, the nursing and support staff, I recovered. After being discharged, I went almost a whole year before my mental state started to go south again. In turn, I was admitted to the hospital for a second time, where I, once again, received the respect and achieved the recovery I needed.
My experience has made me realize that Mental Health is a continuous ‘work-in-progress’ and a battle that so many people face daily. It is now my goal to educate my children and many others about the intricacies of Mental Health, so that if/when they are afflicted with a related illness, they will seek the help they need and experience stigma-free recovery.
Thank you so much for running this campaign.