International Policy Analyst International Health, US Department of Health and Human Services
Living with bipolar disorder and psychosis

In college, Adam’s mental health issues worsened to the point that he needed to leave school. With professional help, medication, and the support of family and friends, he eventually returned, earning two master’s degrees and launching a rewarding career. Today his life is stable and successful. “I enjoy my job and have a loving family. I feel equipped to bounce back from whatever mishaps may come my way.”

Adam’s Story

When were you first aware of your condition?

In the spring of my college sophomore year I had a manic episode. It felt wonderful at first but then devolved. My senior year was a disaster. I was either psychotic and depressed, or whacked out by anti-psychotics and unable to think. I was hospitalized twice and finished writing my senior thesis in a locked psych ward. By a miracle, I stumbled across the finish line and graduated.

How has your illness impacted your life? 

My mental illness manifests with deep depressions, mixed states, auditory hallucinations and paranoia. There are gaps of hours, days, and months in my life, where I can’t really account for what I was doing.  As I’ve grown stronger I’ve had fewer of these gaps, but they do affect me.

How did you become more stable?

I eventually got better at managing my moods and hallucinations and through experimentation found a medication cocktail I could tolerate. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I became more proactive in ensuring my stability. Though I had ups and downs, I wasn’t hospitalized in the next six years. In 2013, I had another deep suicidal depressive phase. It was difficult to function and I was hospitalized again.

What do you do to manage your condition and stay healthy?

Work is essential to keeping me stable.  It gives me a place to go and a purpose.  Even on days where I don’t accomplish a lot, just getting up and going to the office helps. I monitor my mood and psychosis closely. I’ve built a close partnership with my psychiatrist to balance symptom management with medication side effects. In 2013, when I was hospitalized again, ECT was very helpful.

What advice do you have someone with a condition similar to yours?

First focus on getting stable, and becoming good at maintaining your stability.  Then think about your goals. Many are achievable even with a mental health condition. Setbacks will happen, but you can recover from them and move forward.