Everyone has issues. We complain about everything – jobs, relationships, even when our technology craps out on us. But have you ever thought, “does this trivial crap even matter?” Look, I am not gonna get all “High and Mighty” on you guys, because I can honestly say, I have spent the last 11 years buried underneath a huge pile of trivial crap. Seriously. I did the endless (and pointless) dance of online dating, had a bunch of meaningless one-night stands, ended up at the bottom of a liquor bottle countless times, and I went spinning and spinning in a manic mess fueled by an overwhelming online addiction. (Online addiction meaning hours and hours on social media, forums, chatrooms, sex sites, etc. And don’t you tell me that being glued to your tablet or phone for countless hours isn’t addiction. Who are you kidding?)
In recent weeks, I have had a lot of ups and downs. I had experiences that sent my Bipolar Illness into complete overdrive, and when I crashed down to Earth, my brain was frantically trying to figure out the difference between God’s work and what doctors have told me is mania. This is not a “preachy” post I promise you, but as a person who always believed in God, I can’t even describe to you what happened when I started traveling the fantastical journey deep into the essence of the universe guided by the Hand of the Divine. I was filled – overcome with the presence of God in my heart, and then in one big flash of ambulances, doctors, pills, (so many damn pills), and psych wards, all of it was taken away and I was told by “professionals” that everything I experienced was mania. Hmm. Do they tell the preacher in the church who is filled with the Holy Spirit and praises Jesus at the top of his lungs that he is “hearing voices” and is mentally ill? Trust me I have been REALLY struggling with that paradox recently.
I met up with an old friend from my past yesterday who was in a Day Treatment Program with me called Gateway back in 2007, right when I was released from the psych ward after a total manic blowout. (I had gone off meds for three WHOLE years, thinking what most people think: “I don’t need meds, I got this.” I got news for you guys, that shit COMES BACK so don’t even try and fool yourselves). Anyway, Gateway is also where I met my therapist of 11 years, along with a host of messed up people – drug addicts, alcoholics, mental patients, you name it. We were all so screwed up, me included. I can’t even tell you what it did to me to know that after I tried to be med-free, and SUCCEEDED for three years, to have all that psychosis, mania or whatever the hell, come back and destroy my life all over again. I went straight for the bottle, along with my old friend and the countless others there. We were ALL in pain, but though that pain, we bonded. This group of users, misfits and outcasts became my family for the next two years, and we all cried, laughed and healed together. Due to funding issues, (which is relevant to the problems we are having today), Gateway closed, and all of us went our separate ways, including my old friend. I ended up following my therapist to a counseling center and continued treatment with him, which in itself is a total miracle that place was allowed to remain open.
Years passed, and I had been doing nothing but wasting time. Complaining, whining, bitching about the most insignificant shit, (like a guy ghosting me and making my whole world crumble, Jesus Christ, what a total waste of energy). I was letting being bipolar be my excuse to lay and wallow in it, and I hate to say it, but that stigma they slap on us is totally true sometimes. My therapist told me that he has clients who straight up say, “I am never working again, I am going to stay on the system.” Like you know, that’s it, I am mentally ill, so I can’t do anything else. And you wonder why people treat us the way they do, huh? But then again, I am TOTALLY guilty of doing this too, like I said the last 11 years of my life living on disability is living proof of that.
Meeting my old friend yesterday was a wake-up call. I arranged for her to meet my therapist to talk about old times, (my old friend was in Gateway long before I got there), but the happy reunion we were having took a somber turn. One by one, name my name, we counted how many people from Gateway are DEAD today. They didn’t make it man, they didn’t make it. I can’t tell you what that did to me, and I know mental health professionals are supposed to show restraint and be reserved, but it totally looked like my therapist almost broke down in tears. Gateway closed because of the lack of funding, and all those tortured souls who were making progress didn’t get the help they needed and are DEAD today. People can say what they want today about the whole “we need more mental health resources, let’s do something about it,” but as someone who is a living witness of the REAL shit that is happening, that damn statement means as much to me as the frickin’ “sending our thoughts and prayers” nonsense.
Oh but it didn’t end there. When I came home, my mom, (who has been really sick lately), sat with me and told me that she contemplated killing herself last week when I went to help my dad work on our new house. I cried with my mom and FELT her pain, because I truly understand it, more than anyone really could. I told my mom what I found out about all the people from Gateway, I told my mom about my struggles with God and what is REAL and what is mental illness, but most of all, I told my mom that I loved her so, so much, and it’s not her time to go yet, it just ISN’T.
I went and took a shower after all that, in an attempt to wash away all the pain that was in my heart during the day’s events, and then I started thinking, REALLY thinking about what is really going on here. It is no coincidence that I had a brush with psychosis last week that almost landed me in the hospital. It is no coincidence that my sister has now moved on and is most likely going to shack up with her new boyfriend, leaving me to look after my parents. It is no coincidence that I had to literally slap the shit out myself for all this lack of self-discipline by staying up all night on the computer, wasting away countless hours on total nonsense.
My dad needs help renovating the new house because we can’t afford any help. The man is nearing 70 and works like a 20-year-old Mexican, (yeah, spare me the “politically correct” shit on that one, I don’t give a damn anymore about any of it). The point is, the time is NOW to stop hiding behind this mental illness, and start making REAL-LIFE changes to do the right thing here. My dad needs my help now. My mom needs me to take her to her doctor’s appointments so we can figure out what the hell is wrong with her. My parents need me to provide a good solid income to help them live into their twilight years with comfort and ease. So, enough is enough of this disability bullshit. You can say what you want, but it’s EVERY DAMN CHILD’S responsibility to take care of their elders. Don’t even try and say it isn’t, I don’t want to hear it.
At the end of all of this, I did a recount of all the times in my life I have had a brush with Death. All the nights binge drinking and the driving 120 mph like a mad woman. All the car accidents I got into due to manic episodes, (amazing that alcohol didn’t even have a hand in those, go figure). All the dangerous risks I took over the many years, being totally and completely lost in a bipolar haze and raging in a self-destructive path of crazy alcoholism.
God had a hand in me being alive through all of this, you can bet on that one. I am just going to go ahead and believe anyway, despite what any of the doctors say, especially because of these revelations I am sharing with you now. All those people who were in Gateway are dead. They weren’t saved, they were thrown back out to the wolves and into the clutches of their addictions and mental illnesses, right when they were making progressive breakthroughs. But there is light in the midst of this dark, heartbreaking, depressing tale.
Dr. John M. Grohol, Treasurer and Board Member of the Society for Participatory Medicine and the Founder and CEO of “Psych Central – Mental health & psychology information and support.” is the LIGHT for all of us struggling today with mental illness. I have been a member of the forum on PyschCentral for 6 years, with more than 20,000 posts under my belt, lending support and rebuilding the camaraderie I had with all those magnificent and misunderstood souls that I knew back in Gateway. Thanks to DocJohn’s effort, Psych Central has become the Internet’s leading mental health and psychology network, (online since January 1995), reaching over 4 million unique visitors every month and named one of the 50 Best Websites by TIME.com in 2008. For over 20 years, the souls that have been pouring into PyschCentral have gotten REAL answers from their AMAZING peers who suffer with mental illness, and who offer excellent advice with comforting support.
In a time where the world has “thoughts and prayers, let’s do more for the mentally ill,” stuck on a meaningless broken record, DocJohn has been out there for 20 years, making a REAL difference in the mental health community, and has provided us all with a place to find peace.
This blog has recently been inducted into the “PsychCentral’s Bipolar Resource” section of DocJohn’s amazing website, and I am making it my top priority to reach as many souls as possible as I continue on my journey of sobriety and relentless dedication to improving my life. This new mission, God’s mission, is to provide for my parents, and kick the shit out of Bipolar 1.
If you are struggling, PLEASE give PsychCental a chance, and if the website is too overwhelming for you, start here: Forums at PsychCentral This is a section where you can post, share your story and get the help you need. That’s where I started back in 2012.
There is help out there. There is hope.
This post is dedicated to all the lost souls of the The Gateway Program for Mental Health and Substance Abuse – Long Island, NY – 2002-2009