DBSA Board Member
As I reflect on my life, I feel extremely lucky. I have a loving family, loyal friends, and a successful law practice. I was honored to serve for eight years as the Mayor of Deerfield, Illinois, a suburban community of 18,000 residents. All of these blessings remind me that my path hasn’t always been an easy one.
Thirty years ago, as a young husband to Jani and new dad to our three sons, Ross, Marc, and Alec, I was stopped in my tracks. Suddenly, I wasn’t the fun and energetic dad I used to be. I lost interest in get-togethers with neighbors, friends, and colleagues. Concentrating at work and home became difficult, and I became distant from my loved ones. I was sidelined from my own life.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder, a treatable mental health condition marked by extreme changes in mood, thought, energy, and behavior. I don’t recall experiencing the “high” or mania of the disorder, just the “low,” and it was at times, very low. Thankfully, I was diagnosed early.
Mood disorders run in my family. Recognizing this, I was quick to seek help. Perhaps even more fortunate is that my first clinical experience was positive. After three decades, I continue to work with the same physician, Dr. Bill Gilmer. My treatment, a combination of medication and psychotherapy, works for me. I’m also physically active–swimming, jogging, and weightlifting–which I’m sure supports my wellness. My diagnosis hasn’t limited me professionally or personally. In fact, the treatment I receive has given me profound insight into my relationships.
Until now, I have been reluctant to share my experience with family, friends, and clients for fear of the stigma associated with mental health conditions. I know this diagnosis is not a character flaw or a sign of personal weakness, but do others?
Through my involvement with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, I feel I’m in a safe environment to now share my journey. Disclosing that I live with Bipolar allows me to share my experiences with others and to encourage people living in silence to seek help, because it’s there and it helps.
I have been fortunate. I haven’t experienced any form of discrimination as a result of my condition; perhaps because I found my balance early on. Sadly, I know others are not so lucky. My future plans include focusing my attention to combating discrimination against mental illness and paying forward the help that has been offered to me. I hope you decide to support me in this choice by supporting DBSA.
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