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Hear Gabe share his individual experience living with bipolar I. He has been compensated for his time.
Individual experiences with the condition and treatment will vary. This resource is brought to you by AbbVie.
My name is Gabe. I’m 42 years old, and the only reason that I am sitting here today is because I was lucky. I showed the symptoms of bipolar disorder, really as young as probably eight or nine. If you think about, like, “When did bipolar disorder start disrupting my life?”—it started impacting my life really just from the very, very beginning.
I always, always had two major thought processes. I am God. I am invincible. I am everything. Or, I am gutter trash. I am garbage and somebody needs to kill me. There wasn’t a lot of in between. Think about being a parent. It’s hormonal. It’s because he’s a teenager. He’s having problems at school. This too shall pass. All of the things that kids do that are really healthy yet negative.
So my parents really didn’t do anything wrong, except that they were trying to punish the symptoms of bipolar disorder out of the child, which isn’t going to work. And eventually it drives off the people around you, making you very isolated.
I thought about suicide as far back as I can remember. I didn’t discuss it with anybody because I didn’t know that it was wrong. I thought this was part of the human experience. I thought that everybody thought about suicide.
A woman I was casually dating at the time, she knew something was up. She walked up to me and she said, “Are you planning on killing yourself?” And I got really excited. Remember, I thought this was normal, but I thought, “oh, this is great. I’m going to have help.” And she said, “Oh my God, we have to go to a hospital.” And honestly, I looked at her like she was nuts.
So we hopped in the car, we drove to the emergency room. We walked in and she said, “This is my friend Gabe. He wants to kill himself.” And the intake person asked me a couple of questions. And a social worker came over and asked me questions. And then it was like this had happened before, like there was a routine.
Not an hour before, I thought that everything that I thought and felt was reasonable and rational and normal. And all of a sudden, everything that I believed about myself, my life, my thought process, the world, fell apart instantly. The next thing I remember is waking up in a psychiatric hospital. After I was diagnosed because of, you know, treatment and medication and therapy and knowledge. Oh, my God, knowledge. You start to work out some of this stuff so that you can see it coming. Also, you learn, oh, my God, the things that I have learned along the way.
My journey with bipolar disorder started in a psychiatric ward. I was there for three nights and four days, and when I was discharged, I like to say that that began my four year epic battle against bipolar disorder, and I used all kinds of supports. Obviously, I got a psychiatrist to control med management. I got a psychologist for therapy. I went to outpatient treatment programs to learn things like career counseling and just have a better understanding of what was going on.
And then I went to peer support groups because that just had a lot of value. It was great to be in a room with other people who lived with bipolar disorder, and my family got educated along the way. They took classes so that they could understand what I was going through and they could be supportive. And all of those things just lined up to give me the best chance that I had to live as well as humanly possible.
And finally, the last thing that I used to get well was time and practice and not beating myself up whenever I had a setback.
You know, here, here’s the thing that I think about constantly, it is how lucky I was. I was lucky that I ran into somebody that understood mental health issues and mental illness. I was then lucky that she tricked me. I was then lucky that there was a bed open. I was lucky that I had people who supported me and made sure that I went to all of the appointments. It was really hard work and sometimes I wouldn’t think that I would make it. And then I did. And it’s the “I did.” I did. I made it. I made it. It took four years. But I did it. I did it with a lot of help. But I did it. And that, that will get me through, ideally, the rest of my life.
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