“I’ve lived in Redding for eight years after growing up in the Bay Area, and I work in information technology. I like DJing, cooking, stand-up comedy and pursuing my hobbies.
I’m pretty private about the fact I was diagnosed with Bipolar II about five years ago. I don’t want to be seen as that ‘depressed guy’ or as a drain on people. That’s a personal stigma I’m trying to break. At the time of my diagnosis, I had a good job, I had a car and a place to live, but I was still depressed and struggling immensely. People can have a mental illness and be incredibly functional. When I’m in a manic stage, I can appear to be accomplishing a lot.”
“People with Bipolar II tend to lean more on the depressive side than the manic. Looking back, I realize now I was having depressive episodes with suicidal thoughts at 14. I was isolating, playing a lot of video games and overeating to comfort myself.
The depression subsided as I grew into adulthood. But a week before I was supposed to go to Southern Oregon University, I packed up my car and moved to Las Vegas on a whim to pursue playing poker professionally. Now I recognize that everything I experienced at that time – the rash decision making, the rapid thoughts and the insomnia – were part of a manic phase.”
“Starting medication was a weird experience. I went through this period questioning whether I was still my true self. I consider myself lucky because the first medication I tried for Bipolar seemed to work. One of the most amazing benefits of my diagnosis has been getting regular sleep with just one pill, Lamictal. Before, I was sleeping three to four hours a night. For me, all of these issues had become my normal. I remember my psychiatrist saying, ‘Justin, there’s no reason for you to suffer.'”
“Recently, I had tough period accessing proper medication. I slipped deeper into my illness because I didn’t realize how much the medication was actually helping. With community support and getting back on track, I now see how much of a difference I can make in the community.
Since I stopped drinking, I started going to a recovery program. It’s great being around people who are trying to improve themselves and who are open and honest. Today, I am finishing a degree in Organizational Leadership at Simpson University, and I’m helping the Shasta Humanity Project build a tiny house community for the homeless. I am starting to put all the pieces back in place, and now I can focus on getting better and not repeating the past.”
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