Tuesday, August 29, 2017


If there is one thing I absolutely love is music. And if you know me, you know that my musical taste is wide ranging. Music is my lifeline. I have said more than once, “Music is my salvation.”

When I look back at my early life with bipolar disorder I would experience delusional thoughts associated with the music I listened to. In the clinical world, this is called “ideas of reference,” thinking that a song is about me. This isn’t something I openly talk about. But hey, it’s part of my journey and I cannot deny what I’ve experienced.

Over the years, I’ve prided myself with staying on top of musical trends. When hip hop emerged, I followed such artists as The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, and Public Enemy, among others. Now, rap is an integral part of the musical world.

And with that, art can imitate life. There have been many hip hop artists that have written about mental health, Kendrick Lamar, DMX, and Lil Wayne who says in the song, I FeelLike Dying:

I am a prisoner, locked up behind Xanax bars...
I feel like buying
And if my dealer don’t have no more, then I feel like dying."

This is real.

Most recently, rapper Logic penned a track called 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). This is the telephone number for the National SuicidePrevention Lifeline. The song is on the concept album “Everybody” where he confronts the issues of race, suicide, and mental Illness. He stole the show on this past weekend's MTV Video Music Awards with his soul stirring performance. It culminates with the stage lined with individuals who proudly stand together to declare that they do, in fact, want to live.

The simple fact that Logic takes on such a stigmatizing topic as suicide is a credit to his desire to claim his independence and not be afraid to talk about something that is often perceived by society as a moral weakness.

Logic’s life was riddled with many barriers: a crack addicted father who was not in his life, a mother who lived with bipolar disorder, siblings who were engaged in drug dealing and he lacks a high school diploma.

These are all potential risk factors for mental illness and/or suicide. Literally thousands of youth in the United States face similar obstacles. The way that Logic shares his message of “Peace, Love and Positivity” is a prime example of how one can develop protective factors and withstand all the pressures that society places on us and not fall prey to those same risk factors that so many have succumbed to.

In 1-800-273-8255, Logic expresses his despair:

All this other shit I’m talkin’ ’bout they think they know it
I’ve been praying for somebody to save me, no one’s heroic
And my life don’t even matter
I know it I know it I know I’m hurting deep down but can’t show it
I never had a place to call my own
I never had a home
Ain’t nobody callin’ my phone
Where you been? Where you at? What’s on your mind?
They say every life precious but nobody care about mine

How many of us have felt this way before? I know I have. But help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255, is there to help. No matter where you call from in the United States, you will be directed to the crisis center in your area where you can get help. You’re not alone.

But Logic sums up his feelings in a positive way by concluding:

I finally wanna be alive
I finally wanna be alive
I don’t wanna die today
I finally wanna be alive
I finally wanna be alive
I don’t wanna die
I don’t wanna die

And that, my friends, is what it’s all about. There is hope for the hurting and no matter how bad you may be feeling, it will get better.

Be well.

You can watch Logic's performance featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid here:

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Under My Helmet - Book Review

This vlog is devoted to a review of the book, Under My Helmet: A Football Player's Lifelong Battle with Bipolar Disorder by Keith O'neil. This remarkable story is born out of perseverance in the face of adversity.

Correction - The book is only currently available on Amazon. You can obtain a copy here:

Also, stay tuned for a free giveaway that I've worked on with Katie R. Dale from Bipolar Brave.

Be well

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Is Real Recovery Possible?

In this vlog I explore the concept of recovery, which for some people, can be an elusive goal. Please feel free to comment.

Be well!

image: Pixabay

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mental Health, Self-Determination and Personal Freedom

When I experienced my first manic episode, and for many years thereafter, my life was directed by others. Whether it be my parents, therapists, or psychiatrists, many of the decisions made about my care were dictated by what others thought would be in my best interest. This kind of influence was like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, there were truly times that I was incapable of making any decisions on my own due to the fact that I was incapacitated by my disabling condition. On the other, there were certainly periods where I was completely capable of deciding what I wanted, for better or for worse.

 For instance, when I was a patient at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center in 1982, I was experiencing a major depressive episode that was associated with my bipolar disorder. At this time, I was recommended for ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy).

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a medical treatment most commonly used in patients with severe major depression or bipolar disorder that has not responded to other treatments.
I recall not initially wanting to have the treatment however I was made to do so.
Remarkably, this treatment did work for me and there was a marked improvement in my condition. So, in the end, despite not making the ultimate decision about my care, I did benefit from the recommendation from my treatment team.

Many years later I was faced with a different choice. I was in session with my psychiatrist and I asked to discontinue one of the psychotropic meds. This was my choice. What my psychiatrist didn’t realize in my 15-minute session was that I was hypomanic. At this point, she agreed to stop prescribing the medication, and lo and behold within two weeks I was in the midst of a full-blown manic episode. This was not a good choice on my behalf. 
This last manic episode was in 1995 and I have not experienced one since. More recently in 2012 I underwent a medication change with my mood stabilizer. I ended up experiencing a mild depressive episode, not one that was completely incapacitating, but it did make typical activities more challenging. At this point, I consulted with my therapist who recommended that I check-in with my psychiatrist, which I did. He immediately placed me on an anti-depressant and within a couple of weeks I was doing much better. The point of the matter here is that I initiated the conversation with my therapist. I was in charge. These have been hard lessons to learn, but they were a wake-up call about the importance of adherence to my treatment plan as well as being my own self-advocate.

The concept of self-determination comes into the picture when one considers the many choices that those of us living mental health difficulties face every day. By being able to participate fully in one’s recovery through such means as seeking employment, housing, and utilization of external supports, there is a significant degree of empowerment that accompanies our ability to advocate for ourselves. And with this sense of freedom we are able to change the course of our lives.

When I’m able to take control of my life in such a manner, my sense of identity, self-awareness, and self-esteem all improve. Yes, there are many external factors in my life that I am unable to control, however I do have certain freedoms that make life that much better.

Self-determination is much more about choosing one’s direction in life than just following a treatment plan. I make hundreds of choices every day, some more critical than others. But in the end, since I am the one who is able to exercise a certain level of control in my life, I have come to the realization that I do not have to become someone who is pigeon-holed into so-called categories. Yes, I may have a bipolar diagnosis, but I am much more than that. When I able to break free from the limitations that are placed on me by society I can live my life more fully and intentionally. I made the conscious decision many years ago not to be a square block forced into a circular hole. I am the master of my destiny.

image -PIRO4D - pixabay.com