I’ve retooled a few coping skills for managing my currently stressful, topsy-turvy life. A diagnosis of bipolar doesn’t own me – it’s something in my life that I manage carefully. In this new frontier, it’s my responsibility to put this transition in perspective, keeping stress at bay and watching for telltale signals that my disorder could rear its ugly head again. Every day is different, but understanding how enormous change affects me is critical to maintaining my health.
My husband and I raised a seemingly happy, healthy, and talented son, who flourished throughout his childhood until his freshman year of college. Beneath his tall, handsome, athletic, easy-going exterior was constant emotional turmoil. To everyone else, he was called the “golden boy” and it seemed like he had it all, but inside he was struggling with crippling swings of anxiety and depression.
Thank you doubters and gossipers. You watched me fall and doubted my ability to get back up. Perhaps you talked about me and told people I was crazy. Maybe you think that I should remain silent about my past journeys. I forgive you. Truthfully, I am grateful for your presence in my life. You have taught me that it is okay to be honest and have a strong voice.
I never aspired to be a mental health advocate. I’m an entrepreneur, a business guy, a creative type with an appreciation for the bottom line. If things don’t work, you fix them.
When one of my three beautiful children became sick with a mental illness, our family faced tremendous pain and confusion. Stigma kept our struggle private, fear kept us on heightened alert, and treatment options were hard to navigate. We were now on the front lines of mental illness, and experiencing stigma first hand.
My father was dead at 51, a casualty of the manic depression he had fought for years. The New York Times, citing its suicide policy, declined to print his obituary. He lived in a time when mental illness was an embarrassment for families and a weakness for men. For Dad it was a crushing blow. He had left Harvard early to join the marines, and flew dive-bombers in the Pacific. He came home from the war to a different world, a wife, two small children, no money and bipolar disorder. He prided himself on his toughness and never discussed his demons.