I have Bipolar and for most of my life it has had a long leash on me. I have attempted suicide more than once. I have been hospitalized as a boy and as an adult as well. I have been through Foster Care homes and have been pretty close to being homeless too.
I found much solace from the world in movies,music and sports. Playing music in the background always helped subdue the unhealthy thoughts I had on a daily basis, movies led my thoughts and feeling to places that had fun times or happy endings which was far different than my home life. Playing sports gave me a sense of camaraderie and acceptance as well as a way to get away from the toxic, nervous energy of my life.
I once during high school stayed home for 30 plus straight days. See I switched schools from Cape Cod Tech which I had positive experiences to Barnstable High School where I had only one or 2 friends. If I had understood what mental illness was, then it might have made more sense why i didn’t want to go to a place that made me feel uncomfortable. Or at least maybe find the strength to tell my mom i felt that way instead of fighting with her physically to be let stay home every one of those days.
As an adult it got far worse and eventually led to being admitted to Cape Cod hospital in Feb of 2001 and a diagnosis of Bipolar 2. I was in the hospital for 6 weeks before I was let out into the world with meds and an action plan. I stuck to that action plan for most of the next 8 years. Taking my meds, seeing my doctor and therapist. trying to learn to overcome, understand and heal from the life I lived up until that point. None of it helped though, it left me drained,fat and numb. I couldn’t cry, be creative or be any sort of the self I knew.
So in the summer of 08″ I decided to stop taking meds and start to find out where my pain stemmed from as hard as that seemed at the time. I think the hardest part about Bipolar for me was the loneliness,anger,fear and torment that was inside me that wasn’t my fault. I was just born into a family with so many issues before I came into the picture.
One part I haven’t mentioned yet is my grandfather is Jimmy Piersall, former Major League Center fielder, broadcaster and roving outfield instructor.
He was one of the first documented cases of Mental Illness in Baseball/sports. So I have has a pretty large shadow over me since the day I was conceived. Unfortunately I was born a boy. Why is that bad? Well, in the house were many women who felt like men only hurt them so they used many words to describe them that made me feel very strongly that I was bad. It is a huge burden for a boy to bear. I was fighting an uphill emotional battle with myself from the get go. My mom is the oldest of the 9 children 7 girls 2 boys.
All of the above led me to learn to be very destructive to myself and to try and be strong for others as well. Boy, is that a never ending struggle.
There are many more stories to tell you but I will leave you with this for now.
On Jan 4, 2010 after 25 1/2 years of self destructive behavior I came to my true rock bottom. I watched a girl’s car leave that I didn’t even really know and I asked myself is this really MY life?
Thankfully I realized the answer was no! I also realized that I was responsible for my own well being. The words I AM came to my mind and then words like, Powerful, a Survivor,worthy,important,here of my own free will and so many more great adjectives to let me know i truly mattered passed through.
I was 265 lbs at the time and just plain fed up with the struggles I was going through at the hand of others and myself. So I decided to go out and get a gym membership, a pair of running shoes and start to deconstruct the years of self torment,torture and pain I was putting myself through. I was going to learn to heal myself instead of continue to try and kill myself slowly. I am so thankful i did.
In Feb of 2010 I bought my first DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera. i was working at a French bistro in Harvard Square, Cambridge across from the university. One of my co workers was discussing about how he was selling his Canon Rebel xt and before I realized what I was saying the words I am buying it crossed my lips. I guess I was buying it! It forever changed my life. As did fitness too.
7 plus years later I weigh 185lbs, I am a professional photographer and a free fitness group leader in Central Massachusetts. Also I speak publicly on my own struggles and successes living with Mental Illness. I have a strong healthy relationship with my girlfriend Elizabeth and get to spend time with her amazing 6 year old son and our 2 dogs Miracle and Chase both Beagle mixes. I AM aware.
If you or someone you know is having trouble coping with life please have them reach out to NAMI the National alliance on Mental illness there is one located in every state and many states have several locations to best help you. Here is the number and website, toll free help line 800-950-6264 and the web address is www.nami.org
I AM aware of my surroundings and my inner strength.
I AM no longer relying on instinct alone.
I AM learning to do more good than harm to myself and others.
I AM growing forward.
I AM home.
I looked forward to sharing my story and the artwork I have created overcoming Mental Illness along the way. I never thought I could open up like this or share my work and actually sell it for money either. But here we are and I can hold my head up through it all. Thanks Lord for your faith in me. My faith in you keeps me going on my way, today.
Thanks to Rapper Getty D for capturing the moment,well! I appreciate it so much.
You can stop by Anna’s Cafe at 275 Medford Street in Charlestown, Mass. daily to admire or even purchase a piece or 2. I hope you do. Support local art and overcoming the Stigma of Mental Illness along the way.
Tonight will hopefully be the first of many moments I share of myself and my work with the world around me.
Celebrating my Mental Illness and the struggles I have gone through is tough. It opens old wounds and shows off lasting scars that life has provided along my path.
I will not stand idly by and allow others to not realize that they to can overcome the pain of the past. The power lies in understanding yesterday and tomorrow aren’t real but today is. Live in the thought that what you do today will create a brighter tomorrow and that is where true Self Empowerment lies.
I hope if you are around Boston or Charlestown this evening you might stop in buy a piece of local art and see what Mental Health means to many including myself.
We are #strongertogether so let’s share good vibes and good conversation about how we move forward as a community, together.
I made a choice 7 years ago, a choice to see what is possible if I overcome the pain of my past self. Being Bipolar is a blessing and a curse!
I started stepping out in Faith, with a little bit of Hope that I could be better if I faced my Demons.
I chose to start moving forward in a new pair of running shoes and shape my 265 lb frame into one that uses food for fuel far more than to fill the emptiness I may feel inside.
I picked up a Canon DSLR and started facing the day in brighter ways that I could share with the world through the internet by what I saw from behind the lens.
March 10th at 275 Medford Street Charlestown, Mass is a big day for me in ways that say, you are headed in the right direction Alan. We will gather from 7 to 9 pm to share my work and great spirits.
I cannot live my life without trying to help others who are suffering inside themselves as well. I hope I am making a difference by learning to be a better example for myself and to share it out into the world even though doing so can be painful.
Check out the Monthly Challenge and interpret this month’s piece. Upload your own art in reaction and your piece could be selected as next month’s feature!
Source: Consenses Monthly Challenge