David W

My name is David and I suffer from a severe mood disorder and I have had psychiatric breaks that have significantly altered my life. When I was young I was very popular and extremely competitive. My father use to tell me that he thought he was raising an idealist because of my countless hours of practicing golf and basketball in the house. In high school, I was very social and showed a lot of talent in acting and golf. I went onto performing in Godspell as the role of Jesus and it was very well received. I continued with acting, golf and dating in college but in 1998 at the collegiate national championships for speech and debate as the returning national champion I had a psychotic break from reality: My First Episode.

It was a nightmare in the flesh while I was wide awake. My coaches and coaches from other colleges had no idea what to do. They thought I was just stoned and having a bad trip and just hoped I would come down. But I never did come down. With days left in the competition they kept watch over me in my hotel room as my psychosis started to really take shape. On the plane ride home to Orange County I kept trying to jump out, as I was now completely out of my mind. When we landed, I was in a full blown manic episode. My Father came onto the plane and escorted me to a mental hospital.

That was about 17 years ago. That weekend changed the course of my life forever. Ever since I have been battling daily with mood disorders and brain dysfunctions. I have found myself homeless, living in cars, caught up in the wrong crowds, on drugs, off drugs, in patient hospitalizations, out patient hospitalizations. And then there has been some good times. I won the Desert Amateur Golf Championship in 2003. In 2006 I joined the army and completed Basic Training and was a excellent soldier. I’ve been a good boyfriend a handful of times. I showed promise at work at companies such as Macy’s and Sport Chalet. And the one major thing I have accomplished is survival.

Let’s face it, the reality is that this illness devastated me. It has ruined about 10 serious relationships with girlfriends, stripped me of my military career, caused me to fail out of college, it disqualified me from areas of talent such as acting and golf and has destroyed my finances and my personal life: leaving me broke and alone. Fortunately I have found that I am blessed with the ability to rent a room from a landlord and pay my rent, live with others and not cause problems, all the while handling my severe mental illness.

I’ve had a series of manic episodes and severe bouts of depression. As I write this I’m just coming out of a depression that lasted all year. I usually get depressed after a manic episode. And I had a manic episode last summer. My worst one yet. I could write novel upon novel about my experiences with this illness but the major thing I see is the countless lives this stuff takes. I’ve have been to way too many funerals of friends that I’ve found who share a similar disorder. It has never left my mind the feeling of being at funeral of a person who is just like me. I fear it so much. I would be lying if I said that I haven’t pondered it. How the suicide element of the disorder is the major elephant in the room. How life gets harder and harder and manic depression and bi polar statistically gets clinically worse. I can concur, my mania gets more and more dangerous and my depression gets more and more painful. At 36, I see and understand that it wasn’t my friends fault, that it wasn’t a failure on their part. In dealing with my own mental illness I can understand they didn’t give up, this disease is deadly and the stigma of it just makes it more and more isolating. So I don’t shame my friends that succumbed to the pressure of their illness: I cherish them and keep them in my memory, because I don’t want to die : I want to live.

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