Chris (Tustin, CA)

I was on my way to a lunch meeting, having drank many cups of coffee and I had been on and off my psychiatric medications so I was completely unbalanced, when I caught myself speeding on the freeway. I knew I was a danger to myself and others so I started making phone calls to my sponsor and to my recovery partner, but none of them answered. So I felt the best thing to do was to call 911. This event started one of the most difficult times in my life. I pulled off to the side of the freeway where an ambulance came to take care of me. They then brought me to the ER, where I declared I really wanted to die! So I think they put me on suicide watch. (See, this is why we need to talk about these things with our families afterward because I don’t even remember anything. Our culture slides these episodes under the rug and I feel we need to talk about these difficult times out loud to not feel ashamed of our actions, but to own up to them to build our own character.) From the ER, I was brought to Royale Therapeutic Center. It was there that I began a routine to get better. I would make-up crazy ideas to survive that place. This was overall a difficult time in my life primarily because I was away from my family, acting out to survive, doing all that I could in a foreign place to get better. The judge let me leave at three days, but I knew I needed more time, so I stayed for two more weeks. So even though it was difficult, I feel like I persevered and was honest with myself to be a whole person in the outside world. I overcame these difficult times by writing my play “StanD” to help break the stigma of mental illness. The play has given me an outlet to perform and witness other testaments of similar stories. I therefore don’t feel alone, and I overcame a dark time to live in the light. I wouldn’t be as safe as I am now without the local resources. I mean, I didn’t know what was happening to me when I was out on a 51/50 and it was the resources automatically provided that made my recovery faster. I just wanted to be with my family.

As for therapy, I have Medi-Cal, and there are case managers, therapists and psychiatrists out there for barely a fee to support my recovery and everyday living. So like, there’s no reason to be living without mental health resources. A quote I live by is “Sometimes you have to let go of the life you expected to live and find the joy in the life you are actually living.” Manic-depression is what makes us unique. It’s what makes us geniuses. Is what makes us a person in society. We have a voice, and although the everyday struggle is real, we have a responsibility to do what we can in the moment, because for all we know, we may be the inventor of the next big thing. Or write the next best book, or make the most legendary film ever. And although we “don’t need to be sensational for people to like us” (a quote from Fred Rogers), we have the opportunity to live and do something sensational. So let’s go out and do it.

My advice to others would be to find something that helps you live. For me, it’s writing. When I feel I want to kill myself either in mania or depression, I immediately start writing. Whatever my mind comes up with, I write down. I’ve even written a character in a play who takes his own life, so I just repeat to myself, “Don’t do what that character did, I have the future to live.” I am most proud of being a son, brother, uncle, nephew and cousin. Family is very important to me, and the fact that I am staying alive to be their support makes me very proud. We are all special. And to co-exist with the loves in my life fulfills my heart and breathes my soul. I am proud of myself. I am me.