April 1, 2018

I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2006 after three years of psychotic behavior and multiple hospitalizations.  Drug use and manic behavior had been an issue, as in 2002 – 2005 when I lived in Amsterdam and then got fired, became depressed, and moved back to North Carolina to live with my parents.  In 2006, I finally accepted my bipolar diagnosis and got on the right medication. I began working full-time as a piano player and was able to maintain my position as musical director and teacher at a Chicago theater.

Music and improvisation have always played an important part in my personal discovery and healing. My song I’m Listening to You,” is a song about rediscovering life and “letting people in” after being hospitalized.

I was episode-free for about eight years until a few months ago.  Things were starting to get… well… TOO good. I began to decrease my medication and stopped sleeping.  Soon I was hearing voices again and behaving psychotically around my friends and coworkers.

Back to the hospital, but this time felt different. When I was released, I “came out” as bipolar to my friends on Facebook and shared with them my experiences around hospitalizations and learning more about myself and my path. My friends are now able to be supportive because they understand.

Below is are excerpts from messages I wrote on Facebook.

“When you show up at the hospital,” I wrote on Facebook, “the people admitting you are confused about what is going on. Furthermore, as a result of THEIR confusion, [you believe] they are trying to attack you: with needles, commands, instructions, and pills. As you first encounter the other patients, YOU believe that YOU shall save THEM too. YOU are the doctor, and the doctors/nurses/counselors have it wrong. But, over time, you start to feel that the hospital staff is starting to get it…. You start to have more normal conversations with the staff, who now seem genuinely interested in getting to know you.

Eventually, during meals and groups, you have a bird’s eye view of folks who are struggling inside their own minds and recognize that condition in yourself. By the time you are discharged, you get the sense that everyone, both inside and outside the hospital, inside or outside of a conversation, is playing both roles: doctor and patient.

No one has all the answers, but people do try to help others find their way.

My experience of readjusting, of getting my head and medications to a better place, has reminded me of the importance of listening, and of staying in touch with those who want to listen to you.”

Now, I am determined to see my psychiatrist regularly, to stay on a better sleep schedule, and to NOT PLAY GAMES with my medication. That, and music, is my path to wellness.