July of 2013 was the last time I was hospitalized for a bipolar 1 mania flare up. Coincidentally, it was Independence Day. I had gone back on Amphetamines because the depression and pain caused by my anti-psychotics was just too much. It once again got to a point where I had not slept for a little over a month and I lost control of my mind. I could not get any kind of grasp on reality. I thought my emails were hacked. I thought there was some master plan for my friends and family to put me away for life unless I abided by their rules. I would sit and talk to the newscasters on TV. It was bad. It was not the worst I had been, but it was really bad.
I remember trying to lie my way out of it in the ER; although I am sure everyone could read how fast my mind was going from my face. I could not make eye contact with anyone. I was stuttering, sweating, and I was scared to death of everything. After a couple hours of trying to keep my psychosis under wraps and lying to my Doctor she said, “Please Joe, you need medication just like Robin Williams needs medication. You remind me exactly of Robin Williams. You know, you are a little anxious, and a little erratic.”
I was more than a little confused by the comment. I thought I was being very serious but I guess my words were coming out as if I were joking or being overly sarcastic. It was about a year later that I finally understood her completely. Robin Williams commit suicide in August of 2014 and the moment I found out I knew I had to make some serious changes in the way I was approaching the topic of mental illness, depression, suicide, mania, or whatever physical illness they claim caused Robin to end his own life. No illness is funny. And by joking about illness we take away people’s hope and that is not fair. Sometimes hope is all someone has. The truth is it does not really matter what the precursor was because no matter what the illness you would have to be suffering from immense stress. Stress can be emotional or physical and the symptoms can get mixed up. There are many times in my life that I have been very depressed or manic and I would feel physical pain. There are also many times that I have been physically injured and have become extremely depressed.
I remember a lot of my family and friends told me how sad they were that Robin commit suicide and I had the same response to everyone, I would say “, I know, this one really hit me hard because I understand him right down to the last second and for some strange reason or some little blink of hope in the distance I decided not to go through with it.”
Either way, my state, or anyone’s mental state was not something that can be joked about. I thought it was okay for me to joke about my own life, but once I saw a man that I could relate to take his life it finally felt real to me. This “funny” man was screaming and pleading for help. And no one had a clue. People take words literally for the most part and no one is trained to read through mania to the deep, deep depression behind it. I needed to explain to everyone exactly how I felt the whole time I was sick, without dancing around it or laughing about the things that I said. Nothing was funny to me. Everything was extremely sad and as much as it may hurt at first, everyone needed to know the truth. My bipolar was the most serious thing in my life and that was the only way I would be able to get through to or relate with anyone.
I just want to note that I am not blaming Robin’s friends or family. I am sure they knew and felt his pain. We are all a composite of everyone we know and reach out to in our lives. Yes, maybe his family and friends were there for him, but in his sad and stressed eyes there were millions of people that did not understand the real Robin at all. I don’t know anything about fame but being bipolar I do understand percentages and proportions. Everyone in the social media and electronic generation does because whether we have 10 followers or 100,000 followers it is usually never enough. Thankfully I have learned that substance in any number is much more gratifying than a million people that are in love with a figment or false representation of me. I believe that as a society we need to stop labeling people for the rest of their life over a 2 hour movie that we know them from, or a 4 minute song we heard on the radio. We all have feelings. We all have good days and bad days. Every woman is someone’s mother or daughter. Every man is somebody’s brother or son. Believe it or not, deep down inside we really are all the same.
September is Suicide Prevention Month. And from today forward we must all stand together and have compassion for each other regardless of our disabilities, race, religion, nationality, or sexual orientation. Let’s start to respect and embrace each other. Just think about how boring life would be if we were all exactly the same? I would never try to change you, so please do not try to change me. Thank you. I give my peace and best wishes to everyone.