My Life by H.D. – Guest Poem

The following poem was written by my friend H.D. We’ve been friends for 8 years. He’s currently being held in a state psychiatric facility. Hopefully soon he’ll be released and be able to take the stage and share his story. Until then, I’m sharing his poem. I found it incredibly insightful. Anyone who lives with or has a loved who has bipolar, PTSD and/or struggles with addiction this poem will resonate.

My life is so contradictory it is as if it has been lived in reverse

My life is so ironic I wouldn’t be surprised if I was born in a hearse

My Life is having a slice of the American dream, a suburban fable

My life is a mutilated body, a toddler lying on an operating table

My life is an innocent boy taught never to yell or to curse

My life is a constant struggle, it stings and it hurts

My life is popularity while clicked in with the coolest kids in School

My life is a rapid rise to success, followed by a permanent position as a fool

My life is a privileged upbringing and food on the table

My life is a junkie brother that my Father would always enable

My life is the path of a warrior and the story of a survivor

My life is seeing drugs turn friends into backstabbing connivers

My life is an epic, yearlong, exotic vacation

My life is seemingly endless social deprivation

My life is a 3.8 GPA at a major University

My life is a mind skedded by psychiatric obscurity

My life is scaling massive peaks and climbing 1,000- foot rocks

My life is a battle to stand and it is agony when I walk

My life is endless mountain ranges that are covered in snow

My life is locked inside a cell with a dark, fluorescent, artificial glow

My life is a constant quest for action and thrills

My life is a daily force-fed handful of pills

My life is designer drugs and performance enhancing amphetamines

My life is barely missing a life sentence served in a state penitentiary

My life is moments of ecstasy and exciting nights without sleep

My life is terror filled unconsciously with Freddy Krueger on Elm Street

My life is being starved of rest till I scream and rip at my sheets

My life is energy so profound even the strongest meds couldn’t treat

My life is learning a language and flying around the world for a girl I never kissed

My life is a vast sea of potential wasted and opportunities forever missed

My life is Freedom to the wind, in Seattle, the city of rain

My life is the scorched Mojave Desert, stuck in confines, certifiably insane

My life is racing seamlessly through forests in an expensive Subaru sports car

My life is a continuous collection of broken bones and a bountiful set of scars

My life is on my hand and knees, searching for leftover drugs till I hurt my back

My life is Flushing a $3,000 necklace, just to see how my ego would react

My life is lived through fast paced excitement and fulfilling passions

My life is waiting endlessly for worthless commissary rations

My life is gliding through the sky at death-defying, terminal velocity

My life is seemingly ruined by a single, psychotic alleged atrocity

My life is holding onto audacious goals, I still believe I can fly

My life is day-to-day challenge, just to get by

My life is a constant case of close calls and unbelievable miracles

My life is intermittent unfortunate events, undeniably satirical

My life is overcoming incredible odds with un-phased determination

My life is a final freak accident, cheating me of remarkable coordination

My life is preachers telling me “you’re never given more than you can handle”

My life is having a guardian angel, when I still think religion is a scandal

My life is full appreciation for the moon, the stars, and all of creation

My life is characterized by risk taking behavior and suffering suicidal ideation

My life is day dreaming so much, my mind changes hand over fist

My life is waking up from a medically induced coma cuffed at both wrists

My life is a beautiful, luscious spot in nature where I prosper and thrive

My life is a barren, fenced off enclosure wondering what it means to be alive

My life is seeing and experiencing some of the world’s most amazing sights

My life is consumed by fire, as I am seared on bloody asphalt, and read my rights

My life is two severe brain disorders mixed with chemical dependence

My life is irreplaceable artwork lost through scorching fires of biblical vengeance

My life is a universe bent on pulling me down, in a world that always prevails

My life is a fate staying on track, when my luck tends to go off the rails

My life is struck by unexplained phenomena, an orb of white light in a powerful storm

My life is obliviously anything but moderate, typical, or adhering to the norm

My life can be summarized or defined in one final rhyme

My life is forever blessed and it’s cursed, at the same time

Perfection is hard on our mental health

As hard as I try to hold myself to high standards, I’ve discovered I’m not a machine. I still look in the mirror and find a human being looking back at me, with all of my flaws, faults and positives as well.

Sometimes I expect so much from myself, when I make a mistake or say something wrong I ruminate over it. I’m terribly hard on myself, especially when I make mistakes or hurt someone’s feelings. Perfection, as we all know, is impossible. Yet, it’s something I’ve had to fight through most of my life.

A lot of people I’m sure can relate to what it’s like to strive for perfection. When you’re an Olympic athlete, high standards, drive, determination and – yes – sometimes even perfection helps us land on the world stage.

Then, the game is over and real life begins.

I’ve spent much time and resources in therapy over the years learning how to not ruminate over mistakes and learn how to give myself a break. I practice forgiveness of self and others. When I make mistakes I try to learn from it and quickly pick up the pieces and move forward.

Every now and then I hit a bump in the road. My healthy coping strategies go out the window and I land myself back into the swirl of playing the mistakes over and over and over again. Why did I do that? Why did I say that? How could I have done this better?


What I have learned is – there is really a tremendous amount of freedom in owning our truths. I own my perfectionism. I let it play out a little. I give myself a break. I learn from my mistakes. I might get frustrated. I might cry (much more rare for me). I shake my head. I smile. I laugh at myself.

And then…

I move on.

Because I have learned over the years if we hold on to perfection for too long and let it rule our lives, it will really take a dent in our mental health. It can trigger obsessive thinking, interupt sleep with thoughts that won’t stop and the list is goes on and on.

I’m very quick to forgive other people when they have wronged me. I’m learning it’s okay to quickly forgive myself too.

Here’s to recognizing our human imperfection! It’s okay not to be perfect. 🙂

Amy Gamble



When depression comes all I ask for is “just one more day!”

I’ve been speaking and teaching about Mental Health and Mental Illness for the past five years and writing about my own personal experience for six years. The line from one of my talks that rings in my head is, “Physical illness makes mental health worse and mental illness makes physical health worse.” It seems rather intuitive to think of it in those terms.  Of course when you have a cold or flu you aren’t ready to change the world. You want to curl up on the couch while you feel miserable and hope the symptoms go away as soon as possible.

In my efforts to learn about how best to manage my own bipolar disorder I discovered almost every single time I got bronchitis, a cold, pneumonia – a depressive episode was getting triggered. It may last for weeks or months. But the episode, as you may expect, would drag my mood further down and in one big cycle my physical symptoms would feel worse.

After years of dealing with this episodic condition I’d happily admit I’ve gotten a bit paranoid about depression. Why happily admit? Because for so many years this cycle would happen and I’d have no idea what was happening or why or what I could do to fight it. I simply muddled my way through and struggled.

On January 2 when I got pneumonia/bronchitis and was told I had a nodule on my lung, my spirits were naturally disappointed. And then this massive cloud of paranoia swept over me about whether or not depression would follow. Was I going to get over my physical illness and then have to deal with a long, tiresome struggle of depression? I worried. I cried. I pouted. I probably even muttered a few “it’s just not fair” comments in there.

Then, I got some good news about the lung nodule–only scar tissue. Relief. Check that worry filled box off. Certainly good for the mental health to get some positive news about your physical health.

Over the weekend my friend Margaret called and invited me to come visit her in Florida. I told her I was sick, tired, frustrated and depressed. She said, “I know. I can tell.” It made me feel really good to know someone cared about me that much to reach out and pick up the phone and invite me into her home knowing I was not in the best of spirits. I was touched. Having a friend is so important. Someone who cares and understands the battle of mental health conditions. Priceless.

Margaret suggested that night I take out a notebook and write down my thoughts. They could even be one word. Write my feelings. I did it the next day. As she mentioned I did feel a little better after getting everything down on paper. But there were words and phrases I picked up on that I knew signaled depression had reared it’s head.

It was actually kind of a relief. Recognizing and differentiating the physical blahs with the depressive filter. Realizing I was sliding down a bit gave me a chance to fight back. What were some things I could do to make sure I didn’t slide further into a dark abyss or as an old friend Julie used to say, “Gamble went to her cave.” The cave was code word for depression isolation.

As much as I’d like to will my chronic bronchitis cough away after six weeks, I can’t. As much as I’d like not to have the flu thrown on top of the cough, I can’t control it. But when it comes to the depression there are some things I can do to fight back. I can balance taking care of myself physically with completely isolating myself. I can listen to meditation and piano music that soothes my soul. I can try not to solve all my challenges and over think everything since I have so much time on my hands. I can burn my clove candle. I can read my BP Magazine and look for other tips. I can keep a positive attitude.

And still…it doesn’t make it fun, easy, or any less difficult to have to deal with a mental and a physical health issue all at one time. I do find value in knowing what is happening to me. I do find relief believing the way I’m feeling will get better. The cough will go away, the flu will reside, I’ll get my energy back and my spirits will lift.

Soon, I’ll be out of my cave and among the living again.

For those of you reading who struggle with bipolar or depression know you are not alone in the battle. Your feelings are valid. Your battle is real. I suggest accepting how you feel and then taking control of the things you know you can do.

I will tell all of you what I tell myself, never give up fighting.

When I was struggling with very severe depression years ago, I wrote a song on the piano. I never wrote a lot of music but I did write a few original songs. The title of the song was “God give me just one more day.”

Here’s to one more day.

Wishing you well,

Amy Gamble


The Flower of Purpose

Five years ago I began a friendship with my friend H.Dale who was incarcerated because of a psychotic episode. We began exchanging letters. Since that time I have come to know him as a brilliant young man who like many of us got blind sided by a serious mental illness. Unless you’re the one who gets blind sided, you may not understand the difficulties and complexities we face. One day “normal” the next diagnosed with a stigmatized lifelong illness. 

I ask H.D. if he’d want to share his story that I could publish on my blog. He was very excited about being able to do this. He opted to use a pen name because one day he will be released from treatment and hopes to resume a regular life. His story is touching and dramatic. I hope you’ll take the time to read and leave an encouraging comment for my friend…who by the way will be getting released soon.

The Flower of Purpose

The most challenging and painful idea I struggled with as I moved through adulthood was that my story would remain untold. My life has been one of extremes, extreme pain, extreme pleasures, fortune as well as misfortune. As I write my tale of triumph and defeat, my story could still largely be considered one of failure. But I choose not to see it this way. I guess one thing that always kept me going was the anticipation that I would reach my goals. At times when my faith seemed to falter, the story of my own survival and proof of my personal strength would serve as a beacon of hope. The depth of my struggles, pain and suffering would only serve to galvanize and sharpen my own potential and capacities for compassion and loving kindness. My life always had a way of preparing me for the next challenge life had in store. I learned to accept and appreciate the fact that, in life, no matter the hand you’re dealt, it is never wise to fold your cards. I have goals that continue to inspire strength within myself and that I hope will inspire others. I have found that in the face of extreme adversity, you must nurture the seed of hope, which gives dreams the room they need to grow, and from this come the flower of purpose. Without purpose we struggle to find meaning in our lives. Like everything else in life, our purpose is temporal and is subject to change. When life’s conditions change, we too may be called upon to adapt our purpose to coincide with our values and conditions. If our purpose does not reflect our values, we will struggle to find true happiness.

As I write the first draft of my dream speech, I’m currently housed in a maximum-security Mental Hospital for the criminally insane. The last 5 years of my life I have live incarcerated in one of the most violent justice systems in the nation. I may be soon transferred to a residential outpatient treatment program within the year where I may serve another year before being restored to sanity. It’s hard to imagine that 5 years ago I was falling towards the ground at 150mph while gliding my body unassisted, over half a mile, over the desolate landscape of the Mojave Desert while completing my 20th skydive. This would mark the end of my very short lived skydive career. A personal quest to obtain my skydive license and salvage a sliver of satisfaction from a life that had already been ravaged by extreme physical trauma, mental illness, substance abuse and other significant life stressors. My skydiving serving as a metaphorical overture for the mental state I was experiencing; I was falling fast with no hope of a safe landing, or was there?

My adolescence was one of extreme privilege. My parents always supported any activity in which I showed any interest or natural talent. I believe I started snowboarding around the age of 9 and was given my first skateboard around the same time. I was introduced to lacrosse at an early age and rode dirt bikes as well. I seemed to show much interest and natural talent for high intensity sports. Personal injuries were commonplace as I grew up; I was always striving for excellence in whatever I did. Given the fact that most of my passions involved a level of risk, hurting myself seemed inevitable. The list of sports related injuries grew along with my age. By the age of 18 I had broken several bones, including 2 compressed vertebrae, separation of both shoulders, my jaw wired shut twice, broken wrists and cracked ribs. In school I was fairly popular but academically unsuccessful. I partied hard when given the chance and smoked put heavily, both socially and in isolation. After my parents divorced around the age of twelve, my brother’s addictive behavior seemed to worsen; eventually he was expelled form school for dealing cocaine and as terms of release he was sent to a boarding school. Dealing with the family turmoil, I sought refuge in my passions and seemed to handle things pretty well.

I chose to make a big change in my like and turn my act around. I discovered a few snowboard academies online where students have a unique opportunity of having daily access to mountain resorts whole working on their education and high school diplomas. I settled on an academy in California nest to North Lake Tahoe that had daily access to the world class Olympic resort of Squaw Valley. As long as I maintained a B average and stayed away from drugs and alcohol, I could ride every single day. I couldn’t have thought of a better incentive to stay out of trouble and it worked. I was able to turn a 1.6 GPA into a 4.0. After one very successful year, 4 of my fellow students and I made the bold choice to go across the pond to another boarding school instead of attending another year at Squaw. I enrolled in The American School in Switzerland. I had the time of my life. Life was lavish as we rode in Mercedes Benz taxis, ate authentic Italian food, wore three-piece suites and enjoyed weekend trips all throughout Europe.

I had large feelings of inadequacies surrounding my scholastic capabilities and my preoccupation with getting into a legitimate university took precedence over my weekend trips, my social life, and my efforts to run cross country. I still had a once in a lifetime experience that was full of great memories. During a Spring break vacation to the island of Malta in the Mediterranean my father called me with great news that I had gotten into my number one pick for college, the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The stage was set for success as I entered the first semester of university with a 4/0 GPA and the second with a 3.8. My initial expectation of Boulder was that I would continue my pursuits of snowboarding as I sought out my degree in business. However, after becoming a witness to the vast potential for rock climing in the region I was swiftly pulled in by the gravitational forces of mountaineering. I was gripped by the “connectedness” that climbing gave me to nature; I felt grounded and was overcome by a sense of clarity that life had yet to reveal up until that point. As I pushed myself to achieve greater physical endurance and strength, my mind became more conditioned to control fear and manage stress. However successful I was in living a life on the edge in some literal sense, I was about to be pushed to the edge of a whole other array of trials and tribulations.

My second year of college was not nearly as successful. In the beginning of the year I started experiencing subtle signs of depression, anxiety, and mental fatigue from having to constantly preform academically. Unfortunately, I was introduced to amphetamines by a member of my fraternity; I was quickly self-medicating for school and found myself in a state of dependence that verged at times of addiction. The downward spiral continued as I was soon smoking marijuana again after 3 years of nearly complete abstinence. I didn’t know it yet, but I was gradually and steadily developing two mental health disorders disregarding my ADHD. I continued to climb which seemed to be a refuge as I struggled increasingly to manage academics, my personal life, and substance abuse. (While I am of firm resolve that my substance abuse did not cause the onset and development of my mental health disorders, I strongly profess that it had a very serious negative impact on my long-term ability to identify, address and cope with my mental issues. From my personal experience I have found that most mental health disorders perpetuate additional problems rather than being caused by them. This isn’t to minimize the fact that drug abstinence and medication should serve as the basis for any successful mental health recovery plan.)

As my anxieties and mental health were deteriorating, I found it no longer appropriate that I should stay at the fraternity and quickly called my mom for help to move my stuff to a single bedroom apartment, on the other side of campus. Living away from the frat seemed like the right thing to do, but my depression fed voraciously off my isolated living situation. I found myself spiraling further down in a pattern of severe depression and cannabis dependency. I had graduated to getting my own medical marijuana card and because I was located in the epicenter of the medical marijuana movement, the culture of smoking pot was highly accepted. After acquiring a large prescription of Adderall from a friend I went on an amphetamine binge that lasted up to 3-4 days and resulted in a come down that was so extreme I resorted to calling mt mother for help. Furthermore, this severe drug induced depression was undoubtedly amplified by my persisting mood disorder that was steadily and progressively getting worse. I was so depressed that I ended up withdrawing from the entire academic semester a week or two before finals.

I managed to clean myself up enough to still make a 30 day vacation to Brazil where I went to Rio de Janerio by myself for 4-5 days before going to meet a good friend that I stayed with for around 30 days. She lived in the South of Brazil and the whole experience felt very authentic as it was sort of off the beaten track in terms of mainstream tourism. I had the experience of a lifetime due to the beautiful authentic Brazilian culture and social interactions I got to have with her and her family. Brazilian culture fascinated me ever since my international experience in Switzerland, there was a high number of Brazilian students at TASIS and they were by far the most socially compelling and outgoing nationality I had been exposed to. I enrolled in Portuguese classes at the University of Colorado and it was very successful as I was speaking within the first semester or two and by the third I was very affluent with the language. This without a doubt helped enrich my travels to the country, and their rich, extravagant culture continues to fascinate me to this day. Although I had every reason to be on top of the world, I still was suffering internally. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it but I just felt off the whole trip. Uneducated to mental health as I was, I automatically scapegoated my recent slipups with Adderall and my Cannabis dependency. I was convicted I had turned into an addict like my brother and because of this I abstained from drinking for almost the whole trip where was a strong level of shame and guilt that came with this notion of addiction. Little did I know, I had a whole other challenge rapidly bearing down on me that was going to open the door to a new brand of suffering.

When I returned from my trip it was time to start my spring semester and I did so without use of Adderall although my dependence with cannabis started right back up where it had left off. My anxieties increased as did my smoking and me grades became increasingly compromised as a resorted to self-medicating more and more. At night my sleeping schedule became disrupted over time and I remember having sporadic dreams that were highly vivid and graphic in nature. I think during this time I still loved climbing so much that I was still finding time to do it regularly enough but looking back it seems nothing else was really coming naturally. I made it through the semester somewhat intact as far as my grades go, by that I mean to say I was still passing. I stayed up pulling an all-night study session for a Calculus final that I somehow managed to do quite well on. I walked back to my apartment and prepared to smoke a large joint to calm my nerves and relax. As I did, I began to allow myself to be taken in by the extreme fatigue the sleepless nights and stress from finals had caused. As I nodded off into a rapid state of unconsciousness, I was instantly kicked awake, screaming as if in duress or in a state of terror, this was coupled by a natural shot of adrenaline. These fits of terror, quick shots of adrenaline, and screaming continued to occur at increasingly shorter intervals as sleep remained unachievable and my fatigue over time increased.

Unaware of why these fits of seemingly unprovoked anxiety, terror and sleeplessness where taking place, I managed to make it through the night with some help from a random girl I met on Facebook that very night. We linked up via Skype and she stayed online until I was able to obtain an hour or two of sleep before catching a flight to Seattle that following morning. The same girl picked me up from the SeaTac airport and we had a quick date before she dropped me off at my father’s house. This night proved even more difficult than the previous one in Boulder, as I attempted to fall asleep. I was running on a few hours of sleep in the last 3-4 days and as I smoked a cigar loaded with marijuana to try to ease the process of slipping into unconsciousness all attempts at relaxing my tense body and exhausted mind proved futile. As I sat up on the floor pressed against the corner of the downstairs living room each incredibly brief moment of unconsciousness was paired with a fir of uncontrollable screaming; it was as If I was waking up screaming before I was even asleep. As I was new to this level of sleep deprivation, my body yearned for sleep, yet rest seemed impossible save for the brief moments of unconsciousness that lasted for fractions of a second. The whole situation was extremely confounding and in desperation I got on the internet seeking answers. Using Google, I searched key words like “insomnia”, “anxiety”, and “night terrors.” Several hits for PTSD appeared, although I had only heard about this acronym in passing. As I read the symptoms for diagnosable PTSD, I seemed to have every base covered yet the first criteria seemed to be a new concept to me that I had not yet considered. “Subject has experienced a serious, life threatening evet.” Suddenly I gradually glanced down and began to consider my scars and childhood injuries, serious in a way I never had.

The truth was I had been involved in an extremely traumatic lawn mower accident at the age of 2.5 that I had repressed from my earliest memories. The accident was an extensive multi-trauma case that required immediate medevac. I don’t deem it necessary to go into the details of my injuries, treatment, or recovery for this presentation. The most important part is the concept that my trauma was so severe and occurred at such a young age that I was mentally incapable to deal with it on any level at that time. This memory would remain dormant in my psyche for nearly 18 years before surfacing as a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder condition.

Not long after my revelation about my new potential diagnosis of PTSD, I decided I needed medical attention. I called my mom who lived just over aa half-hour to the south. I informed her that I was in a bad way with my sleep, needed to go to the hospital and that I believed I was not mentally or physically fit to drive myself. This would mark the first time I was admitted to a hospital for psychiatric reasons, but it would certainly not be the last. We drove to her house initially and she encouraged me to just relax and go lay down. However, my state became more unstable and irritable until given a few hours we were both convinced I needed to go get checked out. I was admitted for a quick observation and it seemed the doctor also needed a bit of convincing to the unique mental state I was in regarding my curious and unsettling sleep disturbances. The doctor told my mom that this type of behavior is typically exhibited by patients coming down off of long meth binges; he ordered a urine drug screen and issued a prescription of 50mg tablets of Seroquel and sent me home. After allowing the medication to kick in, I was eventually able to achieve a sleep state. The drug screen would days later come back negative, aside from the copious amounts of THC in my system.

The period of time in which I experienced this onset of PTSD was also coupled with my first episode of significant and prolonged mania. I quickly found myself dating the girl I met through Facebook/Skype during the night of my first attack. Falling asleep every night continued to be a huge challenge as I fought to adjust to taking medication to counteract my new sleep condition, or rather the lack thereof. As I fought to ride the sedation train to sleep every night, my mood during the day seemed to progressively become more elevated as the days, weeks, and months went on. It was as if my insomnia kick started me into overdrive; I was rick climbing like crazy. I impulsively bought an expensive Subaru sports car. My motto that summer was “live fast, die young” as I raced quite recklessly all throughout Washington state with my new girlfriend. The symptoms of mania were undoubtedly present although I was completely aloof to the notion that anything was wrong. My current mania was an invigorating alleviation from the cloud of depression and anxiety I had been under preceding the recent developments of my sleep disorder. In some ways I held the notion that my PTSD had somehow unlocked new talents or emotional capabilities. My confidence was indefatigable, and I felt euphorically liberated from the epilogue of the melancholic shackles of my distant past.

I found myself living with my girlfriend in Boulder after the end of the summer and I was back enrolled in school that fall. A couple months into our domestic relationship the trap door opened as my mood rapidly deflated and I was quickly consumed by depression once again. This semester proved even more challenging then the last as I now had a sleep disorder, girlfriend, and undiagnosed bipolar disorder to handle. Needless to say, things fell apart in ways I was not prepared. The fury of my PTSD raged every night. My girlfriend and I had a tumultuous break up. I had developed a severe dependency on cannabis, and I was using several times a day. After the end of the semester, I decided to drop out of college until I could try to get a handle on things. I returned to Washington state for the summer to try to climb and find myself.

My good friend J.P. (Name changed to protect privacy) and I had driven up to the pass near North-bend Washington to do some local crag climbing. After a solid afternoon of climbing we decided on squeezing one more ascent on a 3-pitch sport climb on the other side of the interstate. I had done the climb a couple times before so I felt fairly confident we could get it done without complications. I was still pretty shaken after a rope fall that occurred a couple months prior in Eldorado canyon, Colorado that was probably over 90 feet. I didn’t feel comfortable on lead yet and thought this would be a great opportunity for J.P. to expand his climbing experience and take responsibility for leading the climb. After a quick rehearsal of rope logistics, he assured me he understood his responsibilities and I felt confident he would do just fine. About halfway up the wall J.P. was belaying me from above; I was around 75 feet off the ground. We lost audible contact with each other due to our voice reverberating off the unique shape of the rock and the roaring interstate below. Due to an undetermined accident of miscommunication I ended up falling, unprotected the full 75 feet to the ground. During my rapid decent my knee was caught in a crevasse 15 feet from the base of the climb; I watched my leg twist as my femur broke in two. With an audible “snap” I bounced off the ledge and fell the remaining distance. My pancreas was also damaged as my abdomen hit the deck with a tremendous amount of force. Miraculously I was still conscious and was able to prop myself up with my hands and crawl backwards far enough to reach my friends pack. Using a knife and a phone I was able to free myself from the rope and call out for 911.

I would spend the next 10 days in the intensive care unit after being Medevac’d to Seattle’s Harbor View medical center for the second time in my life. The pain during recovery was at many times demoralizing, if not unbearable. It would take 10 months for me to eventually achieve full weight bearing capabilities without pain. During my 10-month recovery my extreme physical struggle was accompanied by emotional pain. The depression ran deep in its course as I fought to re-learn how to walk.

Meanwhile my brother managed to manipulate my parents into sending me to a residential rehab, where I was admitted for severe cannabis dependence, but was also regrettably taken off the Seroquel which I so desperately needed for PTSD. My brother took up my life as his own, selling heroin out of my apartment, wearing my clothes and had full access to my car which sustained thousands of dollars in damage. Once I was discharged from rehab I was able to eventually reclaim my life, including my physical health and my climbing. After such a fall, it is almost inconceivable to imagine I wouldn’t have sustained more serious injury, moreover that I would make a full recovery and would return to active climbing within the year. As the pain of my injuries lessened my mood began to decompensate, the alleviation of my severe physical pain seemed to trigger my Bipolar. Before I had time to appreciate the newfound freedoms of mobility I was thrown into hypomania once again. I was spending increasingly more amounts of time outdoors rope climbing and making “slack-lines” to practice agility and improve my balance. As my mania increased so did my apparent cognition and I was able to build rope systems for my climbing and line-walking that were of an ever-growing complexity.

On April 14th, 2012 I set out to his in Chautauqua State Park which overlooks the city of Boulder. It was very common for me to hike this area and I have been there countless times before to enjoy the pristine trails and rock-climbing the park has to offer. This hike produced some very interesting weather and I happened to witness something truly remarkable. I came very close to being struck by a very rare atmospheric phenomenon known as “Ball Lightening.” The whole experience was very surreal and so rare that it is almost carried with it a mythological connotation and served to only enhance my manic state. My current life stressors, recent phenomenon experience, and unknown psychotic tendencies from undiagnosed and untreated bipolar seemed to create an amalgam of physiological and psychological stress, spiritual transformation, and delusionary ideation. I felt as if I was being carried on a journey. During my weeklong journey I felt as if on autopilot, as if something was drawing me closer to an unknown cause or higher purpose. Aimless, yet at the same time I felt guided with purpose, I started practicing forms of tai chi, and meditation to the best of my ability. In the days following the phenomenon it is unclear to me how much I slept, I was extremely manic. On the seventh day I was silently meditating in my apartment as the sun rose. Holding a rock, I had gathered from the site of the incident, I entered into an altered state of consciousness that I can only describe as other worldly. It was as if I wasn’t just pulled beside myself but pulled beside reality as well gazing from the outside in, looking at some ancient, hidden, truth. Free from the many lenses of mediocrity that cloud our ordinary day to day perception. Everything that was “out” became “in” and everything that was “in” became “out.” I was at one with the cosmos and yet I was separate from all things at the same time. At once, the rock and I seemed to embody the mythological connotation that surrounded the encounter I had with the strange phenomenon. I bolted out of my apartment, in way too much of a hurry for shoes. With rock in pocket, I was overcome with a manic intensity that I have never experienced. This intensity enthused delusions as fantastic and grandiose as the phenomenon and bipolar illness they were built around. I ran through the streets of Boulder, yet it felt more like I was running through time. Again, the situation oozed with mythological connotations. Symbolism and archetypes took precedence over logic and reason. My rock was not just a rock; it had become a talisman with powers and significances unknown. I was no longer encumbered by the broken body of Hunter Rolfe but had become an unbeatable interstellar being named “Goku” with a Destiny and Purpose of untold proportions.

In actuality the “Goku identity” I had temporarily assumed was the remnant of a heroic figure from an anime cartoon I used to idolize as a kid. Somehow my ego had latched onto this legendary savior once it had become untethered from the ordinary reality. What resulted next I can only summarize as “tragic.” My psychotic state began to dramatically worsen as my delusions became more chaotic and fragmented in nature. Soon I found myself blocks away from my apartment, confused, barefoot, disoriented, and amongst the growing congestion of cars making their morning commute. The raw power and purity of my spiritual awakening was replaced by the unsure feelings of paranoid hysteria I was now experiencing. I was no longer almighty Goku, I was vulnerable and exposed. The majestic purity of the sandstone formations glowing in the early morning light contrasted violently with man’s hideous creation that chaotically raced about in the foreground. My attention shifted to the rock talisman in had in my pocket, still a believer of its power I wasn’t so cure of my ability to yield it so brazenly. Just at that moment I was hit with an over whelming sensation, a feeling, an epiphany or premonition that I was at the very midpoint of my life. Every cell in my body sensed this balancing of scales, a transfer of power and existence. The weight of my own mortality has never felt so real. I was over the hump, descending slowly into my own demise and powerless to change my own destiny with death. I looked up at the blue sky and started to scream will all my might, cursing directly at my creator over the futility of life as I was armed with this new realization of life and death. I crossed the large intersection of Colorado and Broadway, when I got to the other side, I saw a figure calmly approaching my frantic state. Appearing to be a gypsy he was tall with dark weathered skin and clothes with long dreads, he was adorned beads and was also barefoot. Yet his body, his entire figure was translucent. He whispered a cryptic message to me, “You look like you’re doing the largest balancing act on earth.” This message was so similar to the epiphany of being caught between life and death I had seconds earlier that I was overcome with fear and confusion. Before I could see where my messenger went, I bolted back across Colorado ignoring the “do not cross” sign, vigilantly looking and hoping there was no oncoming traffic.

I ran back towards my apartment hoping to seek shelter from the onslaught of mysterious events that had unfolded. I felt like I was running from my own shadow. As I struggled to perceive my surroundings, colors were vibrantly enhanced as my peripheral vision narrowed and my feet seemed to race autonomously under my body. As my body circulated and surged with adrenaline, I came to a gravel lot situated between a motel and my apartment building. The lot was held up by retaining wall that ran alongside my apartment complex and was protected by a chain-link fence.

Before I could think, the pressing urgency of my paranoid hysteria caused me to leap off the retaining wall instead of taking the long way around the fence. This proved to be a horrific mistake. My altered depth perception caused me to drastically underestimate the size of the ledge, I lost my stomach as I dropped 10 to 12 feet and landed with my left foot taking the entire force of the concrete impact. I felt bone shatter. I felt my life shatter. I knew instantly that my dreams of El Captain were destroyed, and I would never climb the same again. The pain I experienced as my heel bone exploded against the cement was astonishing. The physical trauma jolted me out of my psychosis immediately and although I was still manic and delusional, my overall frame of mind was much more rooted in reality.

Moving my story along, I ended up spending the next 3 weeks in a psychiatric unit where I gradually recovered from my psychosis. Surgery was never done on my calcaneus as the overseeing surgeon determined my unstable mental state could complicate post-op recovery. My foot has never been the same. My heel cup is misshapen and has a prominent protrusion of bone protected by a very thin layer of scar tissue. My sub-taylor joint was damaged significantly to the point that I lost 60-70 percent of the lateral motion of my foot. I now suffer from chronic pain. Finding suitable footwear is an ongoing challenge.

After my first psychosis I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 1- with psychotic features. Bipolar has changed my life in such a dramatic way that it almost leaves me at a loss for words. After my first episode I developed a pattern of severe cannabis abuse and avoidance from my traumas and mental illnesses that would last for the next 2.5 years. I suffered from sever identity loss as I was no longer able to follow my athletic passions like climbing or perform academically. I gained considerable weight due to side effects of psychotropic medication and lack of physical activity. I have suffered disconnects of countless relationships because of stigma, changed in perception and my own isolating behavior. I was ignorant and uneducated to the seriousness of my diagnosis and as a result I would always quit taking my medications soon after I was stabilized and discharged from the hospitals. I would suffer 4 severe manic episodes through the course of my untreated mental illness, the last of which would result in my incarceration here in California.

After recovering from my foot trauma, I bought a 2004 Blur Ford Econoline Van. I had some vague aspirations to still follow through on my dream to travel the United States and be a climber and videographer despite my physical and mental setbacks. This dream was spearheaded by professional climbers who had made successes out of hitting the road in their vehicles and living on a small budget. I had these aspirations before the onset of my disorders. The problem was I spent most of my time as a failure to launch, emotionally crippled by the untreated depression of my disorder. I lived mostly as a hermit at my father’s place smoking cannabis and nursing a growing alcohol problem. My depressions were long, between 6-9 months and would be intermittently relieved by periods of normal mood that would develop into mania. “The bird would fly the nest” as I tried to enjoy my newfound lease on life and make up for lost time via the relief from my unrelenting depression. Three of my four episodes would be spent in this fashion living in my van and aspiring to live a nomadic existence. The first two times I didn’t make it out of Washington before I was picked up by the authorities and admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Both times I was taken to Western State Hospital in Washington where I spent 4-5 months before I was stabilized and released.

The 4th and final episode I had I made it as far as southern California. I ended up at the Perris Valley skydive school where I would receive a certification for skydiving in 1 week and would accumulate my 20 jumps over the course of the next month. I started to become very manic in the same pattern as my prior episodes. In very much the same way my first psychosis unfolded I experienced the paranoid hysteria characteristic of personal disorder. Only this time I was behind the wheel of my van. This time I will omit the lengthy perceptions of my personal experience and will only summarize what took place.

After attempting to break a window of a McDonald’s establishment I found myself in the drive through. I then collided with two vehicles which contained a total of 6 occupants and fled the scene. Luckily no one was injured despite the fact that I hit the second vehicle with enough force to break out the back windshield I would then be apprehended minutes later after my van was hit with a spike strip and caught fire. Stunned by my delusions I remained in the burning car for over 4 minutes during which time I was struck in the back of the head by a “less-lethal-munition” that pierced my back window. I narrowly escaped the inferno suffering smoke inhalation and burns localized to the back of my neck and hands. I was then violently taken down by a police K9 which bit my shoulder and elbow region. The bleeding was profuse, and I would require stiches and staples to close up my bite wounds.

As stated in the beginning of my writing I have been incarcerated for the last 5 years. I spent 2 years in County Jail before being ultimately found not guilty by reason of insanity. I was transferred to Patton State Hospital where I have served out the first 3 years of my 11.5-year sentence. It is easy to get discouraged by the harsh conditions of my situation. Yet I continue to maintain because my creams demand it. I want to finish my education. I want to climb. I want to skydive. I want to be stable and successful. I want to help others who had similar struggles. These are my dreams; this is my purpose. I continue moving forward because I have a family who has supported me through indescribable struggles. I have learned the absolute vital importance of taking medication to treat my illness. While it is easy to feel the injustice of the hard hands I have been dealt, I must take on the challenge seeking redemption through responsibility. While it is unfortunate that I am being held for a crime I did not willingly commit, I am placed I the very unique and hard position of being responsible for it. I do see the justifications for my detainment, because I must prove through legal process that I possess the skills and tools necessary from preventing anything like this from happening in the future. But unfortunately, once you get caught in the legal system, it is not what you know, it’s what you can prove. Till then I will continue to have faith. This gives me the hope I need to hold onto my dreams. And my dreams will continue to give me the flower purpose and aroma of happiness. I will continue to be content in this one very moment.

-H. Dale

I have bipolar disorder and it’s not my fault

I’ve been really open about my struggles with bipolar disorder.  Before I had a good handle on this illness it really rocked my world.  I’ve come to learn that bipolar disorder will destroy your life if you don’t get the proper treatment and learn how to manage the condition.  It can be life threatening during times of severe depression episodes and suicidal thoughts.  It can put us at risk during manic episodes which often lead to psychotic episodes.

After my initial diagnosis I felt terribly ashamed.  The other day I was thinking about an analogy people might be able to relate to.  If you’ve ever had a night of drinking way too much alcohol and you engaged in embarrassing behaviors, the next day you might wake up with not only a hangover but guilty feelings about your behavior.  The things you said and did while drunk didn’t take away the fact you said and did those things.

This is what happened to me during manic and psychotic episodes.  I’d say and do things and then when I was stable I’d have to deal with the guilt of what happened.  The guilt leads to shame and the terrible tapes rolled in my head about what a bad person I was for having been sick.

But after many years of learning about bipolar disorder, I don’t feel badly about what happened to me while sick.  I’ve come to learn that I have bipolar disorder and it’s not my fault.  What is my accountability is now that I’m stable I need to manage my condition so well I won’t ever end up in a compromising position again.

But if for some reason I have break through symptoms, I’m not going to be ashamed.  I’m going to be proactive and do everything I can to manage my condition.  And if I have moments where I feel a little paranoid, make up a story or two based on that paranoia, I’ll live with it too.

One day people are going to realize mental illness doesn’t make you crazy, it just makes us vulnerable.  I wouldn’t blame myself for having cancer.  I’m not going to blame myself for having a mental illness.  And neither should the general public.





Getting off the bipolar rollercoaster!


I was having a conversation with a mental health care professional.  We were discussing the need to treat bipolar disorder.  The conversation was inspired by a young man I met who had his first episode of bipolar disorder.  I’ll call him Matt.

After he was released from the hospital Matt came to talk with me at his mother’s request.  He told me about smoking a lot of marijuana with high THC levels.  And I replied, “Not sure if you know this but it can cause psychosis in people who are at risk for mental illness.”  He answered, “Yeah.  I know.  They told me that at the hospital.”

We continued our discussion and it was clear to me after three weeks in the hospital Matt was still not stable.  He admitted to “cheeking” his medications.  The hospital than begin to give him injections.

So, as I was discussing with the psychologist about what happens to people with bipolar disorder who have had psychotic episodes and don’t stay with a treatment plan, I said, “Matt is headed down a bad pathway, if he doesn’t stay with his treatment.”  The psychologist looked at me and said, “None of us have a crystal ball Amy.”

Well…I wouldn’t claim to be clairvoyant but I am rather intuitive.  More importantly I have seen my family members struggle without the proper treatment (my sister had over 40 hospitalizations), I personally have had my own challenges and every single person who I have met with bipolar disorder road a rollercoaster until they got the proper treatment.

I had another experience just a few short weeks ago with a person who I helped get to the hospital.  She was released long before she was stable.  I was livid.  She is now a missing person.  Her brother said to me, “I can see how people become homeless.”

I’m not intending for this to be a downer blog post.  There is a lot of hope when it comes to mental illness and bipolar disorder.  I live a meaningful, productive life.  But I also have been on that rollercoaster ride.  Even if I’m not a psychic, I know with 99% accuracy, if you don’t take bipolar disorder seriously, it will destroy your life and will impact the lives of everyone in it.

The mental health care system is terribly broken.  And mental health care professionals must start educating people about their conditions, including the possibilities of what can happen if the proper treatment plan is not in place.

I see two doors.  Door number one is not taking medication and staying on a high-low rollercoaster that wrecks havoc and keeps us sick.  Door number two is difficult.  But we learn everything we can and keep learning about wellness strategies, how to recognize symptoms, how to deal with depressive episodes, how to keep fighting.  It’s not an easy peaceful path.  But door number two…is the audience choice on Let’s Make a Deal.

We can’t allow our frustrations with something we deal with on a daily basis to keep us from persevering.  If you live with bipolar disorder, you must learn as much as you can about this illness.  It is manageable, treatable and you can learn to live with it.  Doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.  But as with other illnesses a person who has it must take responsibility.

None of us bought the ticket for the rollercoaster ride bipolar disorder takes us on.  But when you can get off the ride, life gets a whole lot better.

Winning against bipolar disorder with my faith as my anchor

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“As I lie in my bed trying to squeeze out the suicidal thoughts, the horrific pain of being all alone without one friend in the entire world, and the mortifying realization that in that moment I couldn’t care for myself, I turned to what had always gotten me through the tough times.  I turned to my anchor, which is my faith in God.”

There are a lot of stereotypes and misunderstandings about bipolar disorder and those of us who live with it on a daily basis are subject to these misperceptions.  Just last week I was giving a talk at a conference on the stigma of mental illness and addiction.  Most of the feedback was positive, but there was one person who said, “Bipolar disorder is an excuse for bad behavior.”


After speaking for an hour on stigma and sharing some very personal stories about bipolar disorder, the needle never moved in this person’s mind.  And then I realized most people have absolutely no clue what those of us who have lived a lifetime with the impact of bipolar disorder have struggled through.  I’ve never once thought bipolar disorder was an excuse for anything.  A reason, yes.  An excuse, never.

My first episode was way back in 1999.  I was a director in a corporate office with a multi-million budget to manage.  Not only did I have a manic episode, I had a psychotic episode.  I ended up in an inpatient psychiatric care facility, which made me feel crazy.  And when people questioned my views and insights, I wondered if they thought I was crazy too?

Over the next 12 years, I struggled through 10 hospitalizations, a three-week stay in jail and worst of all losing most, if not all of my friends and some family members.  No one wants to be around people who are not mentally well.  It’s just a fact.  Maybe after a first episode, people may give you the benefit of the doubt.  But when the struggle goes on, everyone including family members get worn down.

I was fortunate.  I had a few strong and tough family members who have borne witness to my entire journey.  They stood with pride when I became an Olympian.  They dealt with their own disappointment when I started to struggle with my mental health.  And they hung on to see me recover and flourish again.  They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

I was also isolated for a long stretch of time.  I went weeks without having any family member in my home.  But I had two things that helped me bear the unbearable pain and suffering of relentless depression and suicidal thoughts.  I had my three dogs who I absolutely consider a gift from God.  And I also had my faith.

As I lie in my bed trying to squeeze out the suicidal thoughts, the horrific pain of being all alone without one friend in the entire world, and the mortifying realization that in that moment I couldn’t care for myself, I turned to what had always gotten me through the tough times.  I turned to my anchor, which is my faith in God.

Did prayer instantly solve my struggles?  No.  But it gave me hope.  And in those moments of struggle and despair, hope is the one thing that kept me going.  And that is why I feel anchored, even though managing bipolar disorder can wear me down.  I keep going because I’m driven by a higher power.  I’m driven to help other people.  I have found my calling.  And I am grateful to have a purpose.

If you’re struggling with a mental health condition, I can tell you the first thing you’ve got to do is work on getting stable.  If you have bipolar disorder, a treatment plan is 99.9% always going to include a medication regimen.  There’s just no and’s, if’s, but’s or reason to think you’re going to be the only person in the world who can manage a chronic, severe mental illness without medication.  If that’s your choice and it works for you – great.  But from experience I can tell you it’s not gonna work out well.

Secondly, I believe in mind, body and spirit.  When you combine getting stable with a personal recovery plan, spirituality is a big component of being well and balanced.

It helps to take small pieces of this very overwhelming journey to manage a mental illness.  And the one thing that’s required to have a healthy and happy life is a lot of hard work.

For those of you reading who have family members struggling, I just want to reach out and give you a big hug.  It’s not easy being you.  But whatever you do, don’t give up hope.  You’ve got to become the best salesperson in the world in selling to your loved one the whole idea that it’s okay to get help.  In fact, it’s a sign of strength to reach out.

Finally I want to finish by saying thank you to all my readers.  I’ve been blogging now for over four years.  Those who’ve been with me along the way know what journey it has been.  Thanks for all your support.  It matters.



A story of bipolar disorder and courage


It takes courage to pick yourself up after any kind of loss or hardship.  But the kind of courage I’ve seen from my friend, Hunter has been filled with real live parallels and life lessons.  Hunter is a 27 year old who has bipolar disorder.  And he is currently staying in a state mental hospital as a result of a psychotic episode.

Hunter is a brilliant young man who had his first psychotic episode while he was in college at the University of Colorado.  He was quickly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but like me and many other people, he didn’t realize how serious one must get about learning how to manage the condition.

From the time of his first episode about four years passed.  He struggled with inpatient hospital stays and never really got stabilized.  After a manic and psychotic episode Hunter had the misfortune of being arrested and charged for running into people in the drive through lane at a McDonalds.  He wasn’t thinking clearly, got scared and ran into the car in front and the car behind him.  No one was hurt.


Hunter was thrust into the criminal justice system.  After nearly two years in jail his case finally made it into court.  He pled not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to Patton State Hospital in California.  A year has already passed since he has been there.

Even though he has been through so much and doesn’t really know when he will be released, he maintains a positive attitude.  Yesterday he talked about the possibility of him getting a job in the hospital and perhaps taking a class.  Some days he finds it difficult to get out of bed and go to his video class.  He struggles with coming to terms with why he didn’t get the help he needed.  He wants to release his emotions, but he’s just been through so much it’s very difficult.

Although I haven’t been institutionalized for more than three weeks, I can relate to Hunter.  It wasn’t that many years ago that I struggled to get out of bed.  The grief process I went through over the losses I experienced was intensely consuming.  And sometimes the loss of my very promising business career and lifestyle that matched haunts me.  But it also gives me the wisdom to share in real time with Hunter authentic emotions.  It gives me the ability to simply say, “I understand.”

Experiences and stories don’t have to be the same to touch upon a deep level of compassion that exists for one another.  There is no one with bipolar disorder who has not struggled.  It’s a very difficult illness to manage.  Some people deal with it by harnessing the positive extra energy one can have while hypomanic.  Others try to make sense of their psychosis experiences.  Some people paint it as a gift.  Personally, I choose to call it a worthy opponent.  Something I must continually work at to beat.

Those of us who live with bipolar disorder all have one thing in common:  we all have the courage to get out of bed in the morning.  It gives us the ability to face the fear of experiencing sometimes disabling symptoms.  It challenges us to remake our lives and deal with disappointments.

It takes courage to not give up trying, even though it may be hard to keep on going.  Hunter is one of the most courageous people I know and one of the most important people in my life.  He encourages me, inspires me and fuels my passion for mental health advocacy.  He is my example of a person who forges ahead even though he doesn’t know what the future may hold.

I hope I can do the same thing.

“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”  ~John Wayne











A Letter To All The Bipolar Warriors


Every so often I take a look at the blogs I have written over the past four years and see which ones people view the most.  Tonight I noticed one of the most popular was “Rebuilding a Bipolar Life.”  It was written almost four years ago.  It had to do with my quest to work on my spiritual self.

Another blog that has been very popular has been “Bipolar Disorder Destroys Life and then what’s next?”  It was written a little over three years ago.  If you’ve been following my blog or Facebook page you probably know I have found my “what’s next.”

After reading the blogs and comments I’m inspired to write a letter to my fellow bipolar warriors about some of the things I’ve learned from reflecting back in time.

Dear Bipolar Warriors,

I’m not sure where you are in the journey of living with bipolar disorder.  You may be newly diagnosed and confused as heck about this illness.  You might still be struggling trying to find the right combinations of medications.  Like me, you may have experienced a significant amount of loss because of bipolar disorder.  Maybe you’re kicking it and have mastered how to live well with bipolar.  Wherever you are on the journey here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Living with a chronic mental illness is challenging.  Okay.  That’s clearly an understatement.  There are challenges with people who are close to you understanding the illness, accepting that sometimes you’re not always going to feel well and giving you a chance to live to your potential when you are well.  There are complications with relationships.  It all gets better over time.

Some days it gets frustrating to have to fill pill boxes (I fill three weeks at a time).  But looking back I can tell you there was a time when I would sit on the edge of my bed, dump the pills in my hand and begrudge having to take them.  I would think, “I’m sick.  Why me?”  Then I would swallow them and go to bed feeling “less than.”  Fast forward over three years, it’s just part of my every day habit.  The pill boxes make it easy.  It’s a habit and I rarely ever forget to take the medications.  That’s what has been keeping me healthy.

But.  It doesn’t mean I have to like the whole process.  I don’t like having to call in the pharmacy for all my meds.  It’s a pain.  Some days I wish I didn’t have to do this, but it’s all part of managing the illness.  Without meds I have no idea where I’d be and I’m not ever going to take that chance to find out.  One could say, “Been there, done that.”  If you’re curious about that journey you can find my book  “Bipolar Disorder, My Biggest Competitor” on Amazon.

I am a strong proponent of finding the right combination of medications.  Besides my own story, I have my mother and sister’s examples and almost all the people who I have met needed medications to deal with this very tricky illness.  But it’s a bear finding the right ones.  Don’t give up.  Keep trying.  If you don’t like the doctor you are seeing, find a new one.  Learn about the medications for bipolar disorder.  Click here to find information on medications.

I can also share with you that recovery is possible and very likely if you have the knowledge, determination and access to care necessary.  But it’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.  For those who don’t know, I’m an Olympic athlete and that was pretty darn challenging.  Recovery makes training for the Olympics seem easy.  And let’s not forget recovery does not mean “cured.”  It means different things to different people.  For me, it means I can use my talents and skills and contribute to my community.  It means I live a peaceful existence.  And I mange my illness to the best of my ability.

But.  There are other warriors out there who are in pain.  They’re having a frustrating time with dealing with bipolar.  Medications are causing bad side effects.  I understand.  What I can tell you from experience is don’t give up.

I’m gonna sum it all up and say what has worked for me might not work for you.  But I can tell you that you must have a desire to get well, dedication to find a successful treatment plan, discipline to stick with the treatment plan and the determination to beat this very challenging competitor.

Good luck warriors.  You are not alone.


Brave souls change hearts and minds!

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Photo: “This is My Brave” cast in Wheeling, West Virginia 

There’s a special feeling when we can be a part of something far bigger than we could ever accomplish alone.  This is my overwhelming feeling of having participated in Youth Services System and NAMI Greater Wheeling’s “This is My Brave Show,” which was held last night at the historic Capitol Theatre in Wheeling.

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Photo:  The Experience Church Worship Team & Audience

If you aren’t familiar with “This is My Brave” let me shed some light on it for you.  It’s a national non-profit organization co-founded by the amazing Jennifer Marshall.  The purpose of the show is to allow those who live with mental health conditions (mental illness & substance use disorders) to share their stories through creative expression-poetry, original music, essay.  The intent is to impact the stigma of mental illness through story telling.

The sixteen cast members in our show inspired the audience and made a lasting impression on all those who attended.  Those who shared struggle with and persevere daily through challenges related to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, binge eating disorder, suicide attempts and alcoholism.  Our show had an added bonus with the Experience Church Worship Team (aka-the band), kicking off the show with their inspiring and impactful musical talents.

The audience feedback has been nothing but positive.

Many people have said the IQ on that stage was beyond impressive.  Translation – people with mental illness can be smart.  Multiple people said, “it was fascinating to see the broad range of socio-economic levels and diversity of those impacted by mental illness.  Translation – mental illness does not discriminate.   One gentleman said, “I’m not affected by mental illness and I never realized what people go through.  This show helped me understand what others deal with.  I’m so grateful to be here tonight.”

And…the overwhelming comment by numerous people, “This show is inspiring.”

This morning I received this amazing quote from one of our cast members, Mr. Bill Hogan.  Bill writes,

“I have been involved in a bunch of stuff in my almost 90 years but never have I been so “electrified” by a group or an event as I was last night.  I love the word mystery and last night the wonder of it all, that unidentifiable power that charged the people on the stage as a group and as individuals was wonderful and gave everyone in that theater, on stage and off , a sense of joyful peace.  Everything was lined up the way it is supposed to be.
I am thinking of a quote  by W.B. Yeats  “ Go forth teller of tales. And seize whatever prey your heart desires.  Have no fear. Everything exists.  And everything is
True. And the earth is but dust under our feet.”  I am truly blessed to have been fortunate enough to have been part of a great happening.”

And that my friends sums up my feelings of being a part of something greater than myself.  Being part of a movement to shed light on mental illness, one person and one story at a time.  As Jennifer Marshall says, “Storytelling saves lives!”  Indeed it does.

Jennifer Marshall and Cast Photo:  Jennifer Marshall speaking to the cast of “This is My Brave” Wheeling, West Virginia