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 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.
Through the rain drops we can still see ahead of us, we can still keep on moving through them. We may feel every drop by it can only saturate us so much before it just stops being important anymore. Once we are so drenched in the water left by the rain we can realize that it cannot hurt us. And in that moment we truly become free. Nothing is so powerful over us that we can’t let it go. We are the only thing that can keep ourselves from enjoying the cleansing power of the rain or enjoying the feeling of splashing in the puddles that form around us. Be the kid in the puddle not the adult trying to avoid the drops.
We’ve been so many places and done many things together in this past year. A year, really? Ya, it seems like we’ve known each other for decades not just 12 mere months.
Elizabeth Jordan Carr/Comeau and I met online through Facebook on or around Halloween last year after I had commented on a Back on My Feet thread that my friend at the time Jess had started. We chatted every once and awhile about whatever and nothing at all and I seemed to always know how to get her to spit her coffee out because she was laughing so hard at whatever I had said.
On Thanksgiving I went to Davis Square for a 5k of which I photographed many peoples epic struggles to PR or just cross the finish before Turkey,Gravy and Pumpkin Pies! Also turns out the T didn’t run from Harvard Square all day so i had to walk from said T stop to Dorchester, one boot filled step at a time. But, I had an angel to get me the sum 9 point something miles home, it was Elizabeth who talked with me every footfall of the way! She asked me questions, listened intently to my answers and just took my mind off the sheer length of the walk ahead. One question she asked that I will never forget was, “If you could be anywhere right now where would you be?”. My answer went something like this, “I would be right here talking with you answering these ridiculous questions!”.
After that experience I was totally looking forward to meeting her in person. We had made tentative plans to meet at Summit Ave in Brookline,MA at the November Project workout (running hills) 6:30 am Friday where we were to be joined by stand out Marathoner Shalane Flannigan, to eat some of those hills together for breakfast with the rest of the tribe. I was walking up the hill and there she was as pleasant as punch and she said ” I thought that was you! “. We ran hills,exchanged hugs and went on our merry ways as she is a mom to a wonderful youngster we shall call littleman.
I went to breakfast with the tribe and made my way home to Dorchester and while there I remembered she had said that she had wanted to meet for coffee, in which case I messaged her to see if she was still interested and she was.
We met in Harvard Square at Crema’ a coffee shop right in the heart of the square around 1 pm, she had already ordered coffee and for some reason was given a free piece of Banana bread as well… Which I was more than happy to devour. For some reason I did not order a coffee, turns out I didn’t need it because the conversation was way more energizing than a cup of coffee could ever be!
One minute led to 3 hours! 3 hours of stimulating,spiritually sound conversation of epic proportion! It turns out she wanted to know everything about me. Every time I answered one of her questions openly, honestly and fearlessly she led with another, and another, and another! I am not sure how many questions I got to lob at her but my guess is not even close to as many as I got to answer from her. We were so lost in the conversation that before we knew it, it was time to say good bye. Little did I know it was just so long!
For the next month we continued to correspond through Facebook Messenger, I usually voice messaged her because it does two things well, one makes it so I don’t misspell anything and it let her here my voice too.
We had been discussing that Littleman was going to be staying in Massachusetts when she went back to Bethlehem and I just knew that it was going to be tough on her so I offered to drive back with her so she wouldn’t feel to alone! A few friends were going to spend her birthday with her so I knew that if I needed a lift back I could most likely get one home to Dorchester after the weekends fun. She picked me up at my brothers in Hopkington, So whether she was prepared or not she met my family. Or at least my mom and my brothers family as my sister and her girlfriend weren’t there.
I’m not sure I really knew what was in store for me, but I knew she was worth me sacrificing my own time to make sure her journey back was better than ok!
My Nana Mary who had passed that past February had been laid to rest not to far from Bethlehem off I 84 in Moscow, PA. So I asked if she would mind if we stopped so I could pay my respects to her and she was more than happy to as it kept us out of NYC as well! We got the address from my mom and put it in the GPS, said our good byes and off we went just me, Elizabeth and Chase the Beagle, Foxhound mix that Elizabeth had rescued while she was a reporter in Maine not to many years ago.
What was supposed to take 5 hours seemed to only take minutes as we talked,laughed and listened to good music all along the way. When we got to the Manger it seemed like we had been destined to live,laugh and learn together from that moment on! Somewhere, somehow it came up about me staying awhile and the way she helped me to feel about myself and with her helped me realize this could be something more like forever it seemed!
So much has happened, we visited Disney, ran a 10k and half marathon that made us get up at the crack to run them, got trapped in Orlando for days,flew to NJ and took a car the rest of the way back to Bethlehem.
We have eaten at diners, moved to Pawtucket, sold books at the Boston Marathon Expo for Runnersworld,Elizabeth ran the Boston Marathon with a 6 minute PR in the cold rain too.
We have taken littleman to the zoo,to the pool,and got him swim lessons too. Had to move lofts in our complex because of climate control problems. Dealt with mice and a long drive to get him to school every other week.
We have sold my art work at the Providence Flea and at Savin Kitchen too. We have raised money and awareness for mental health and wellness of which I am a survivor! We have also walked for hope with Resolve and Ovascience to raise awareness for IVF!
We have vacationed with her parents and littleman in Bar Harbor Maine, it is a long drive but so worth the miles traveled. He got Strep throat and we spent time in the ER oh and he threw up on me too! All in all a great trip!
We came up with a coffee table book of my photography of Boston that has been a hit and a line of T-shirts and hats with my photography logo too.
I could go on forever because we just do things to keep our journey together moving forward seamlessly one small step at a time!
Today Elizabeth became divorced legally and Thursday we sign on the line for our new home, along the way we got a new car and a new life together too.
We are blessed deeply and love sharing it with all of you! I hope you enjoy what our love means to each other and try to bring some of what we share into your lives too.