Mental Health Advocate
Interviewed on the Maggie Linton Show SiriusXM Radio
The typical bipolar patient can sum up his or her life story in four words: lost relationships, lost jobs.
Bipolar disorder untreated is hell, but you don't know you are in hell. You just know that you have ups downs. You are very productive when up and ready to die when down.
A major manic episode in June 1988 destroyed my marriage and ended my faculty position at a small Christian university in Arkansas. I left my wife of 18 years and two young children choosing instead life in Hollywood convinced I could make a living as an actor.
Less than a year later, major depression returned and I took a long, sad bus trip back to Arkansas hoping to pick up the pieces. It was all gone. I supported myself as a hospital janitor and lived in an unheated cabin in the country. The only bright spot was getting to see my kids once a month.
Why did it take five more years before I learned I had Bipolar disorder. The illness should have been diagnosed when the first symptoms appeared when I was 18. That, as ABC News commentator Paul Harvey used to say, is when you know the rest of the story.
My professional resume is my "cover" for the emotional anguish:
- M.A in Radio-TV-Film University of Kansas
- Ph.D. candidate in Theatre Arts University of Missouri
- TV News Co-Anchor
- Radio News Director
- Associate Professor of Broadcasting John Brown University
- Technical Writer Silicon Valley California
- Technical Writing Instructor University of California-Berkeley Extension
- Professional Actor
- Voice-Over Artist
Eventually, cognitive impairment (memory and spatial memory cognition), a common symptom of Bipolar disorder, made work impossible and permanently disabled me.
I learned in 2015 that I have Multiple Sclerosis—a disease of the central nervous system. It left me partially blind and it caused trigeminal neuralgia in 2007. TN is a chronic pain condition that affects the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve carries sensation from your face to your brain. It is the worst pain known to mankind and was known as the “suicide pain” for many years because people with TN often killed themselves before effective treatment was discovered. Surgery in 2009 finally relieved me of the agonizing pain. The cognitive impairment is directly related to MS, I learned, instead of to the bipolar disorder.
Now, more than 20 years after my diagnosis, I speak to college students and business groups about bipolar disorder and the stigma that keeps many people from getting help. There is a 15% suicide rate for persons with untreated bipolar. I hope my experience will prevent suicides by those like my brother and sister who are too afraid of stigma to get help.