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Austin’s story

“I grew up with this hazy cloud that something was wrong with me, and that was only perpetuated by the cloak and dagger my family performed to hide that my father has Type 1 Bi-Polar.”

What kind of stigma did you experience/observe?

I grew up with this hazy cloud that something was wrong with me, and that was only perpetuated by the cloak and dagger my family performed to hide that my father has Type 1 Bi-Polar. I think my parents wanted to hide and hope that it had passed me by, but that was not the case.

I struggled through high-school with motivation and drive, and I had my ups and downs which mostly came through in life-changing events, such as when my friend Kaed died by suicide in my junior year. That was a bunch of firsts for me, first suicide where I knew the victim, first death of a friend, first funeral where I went alone. First time I really started thinking about my health and suicide, but I was not ready to admit it yet. Things progressed into my senior year, and were going fine, until my Uncle also died by suicide. This one rocked my world in the worst way possible, he left behind his wife, his 4 kids, his passions and his careers; he left behind my father and he left me worried about time. When would I snap? Death had slowly crept into the forethought of my mind. I could never commit suicide. Period. Call it a fool’s compassion, but I didn’t want my friends and family wondering where they went wrong. But I wanted to die, either in a blaze of heroic glory, or in some freak accident, but regardless, some days I was done living.

It wasn’t until I was 18 (I’m 20 now) that I started to put the pieces together, in the summers I would rally and tackle the stresses of school and then I would taper off and fail. By tracking my grade performance, I can almost track my mood swings, and I began to try to fight what had happened to me. I wanted to do what my parents did – hide my mental state from myself and others. I started to fantasize about all the ways I could prove I was OK: I looked into the marines, I spoke with recruiters, my family freaked, and it was the first time that I got a glimpse into what was really going on. My paternal family had a hidden, largely diagnosed history of mental illness, my grandmother’s side was subject to bi-polar, my grandfather’s side had a long history of depression and suicide. And what gets to me is that it was never recorded, never diagnosed and treated, and it was never talked about.

How did you overcome this experience?

To catch up with the present, I’m 20 now and have been formally diagnosed with type 2 bi-polar(no manic episode), I went to a dietitian, and found out I’m allergic to a whole slew of things, and new studies show that the gut and the brain are tied far more closely than ever thought possible. I’m on medication (thank god) and, mostly now that I know who I am, I try to share it with everyone, I look for the signs, and I make it okay to be frank and to talk about my mental illness.

Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.

Talk, talk to family, talk to friends, talk to anyone with the heart to listen. Humans are broken and social creatures, we need each other, and we cannot let our fear of judgement result in the death and failure of the ones we cherish most.

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