Mental Health Speaker, Trainer, Writer, and Advocate
Living with bipolar 2 disorder

David first experienced varying levels of depression when he was 11 years old and was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 disorder years later. Being a firm believer in the power of human connection, David says his life was turned from mental “hellness” to mental wellness starting when a first responder created connection with him during a close attempt to take his own life. He is now thriving and hopes that by sharing his story, “others may be empowered to stand up, ask for and accept the help, love and support of others.”

David’s Story

What was your most difficult time?

On August 31, 2001, the monster of depression had convinced me of its lies: I was deplorable, grotesque, stupid, ugly, and terribly weak of body, mind, and spirit. My depression told me that I was an embarrassment and a great burden to those around me, and the most selfless thing I could do was to rid the world of my pitiful existence. I journeyed to the fourth tallest bridge in the United States to jump off and take my life.

What is your life like now?

I believe that mental illness thrives in the space of isolation but has no defense when we are connected. During my time on the bridge, a first responder established contact and by creating connection he was able to establish hope. I then began an epic odyssey from mental “hellness” to mental wellness. The difference in my life is nothing short of extraordinary. I have been taught how to successfully manage my condition by prioritizing my self-care. My strategy is the care of the whole of me: body, mind, and spirit. With this as my foundation, I now experience life in a joyous way I never thought possible. That said, I still experience periods of depression, but the longevity of these dips is dramatically less than before, as is the intensity of self-hatred that has long been a hallmark of my condition.

What do you do to manage your condition and stay healthy on an ongoing basis?

With the input, coaching, and support from many, I have been able to design a highly effective way to manage my condition. For my body, it is careful attention to my sleep hygiene, diet, regular exercise and time outside every day. For my mind, it is weekly therapy sessions, participation in a bimonthly support group, additional counseling with a specially trained psychiatrist, and taking my medication each and every day, even on the days I feel well.

Are there positives that have come from having a mental health condition?

I believe that those of us with any form of mental illness are more in tune with our emotions and feelings than the average, or dare I say, “normal” person. In an acute phase of our condition, the intensity of this access can be a severe detriment. However, when we can taste the sweetness of mental health, with the same access to deep feelings, life becomes more colorful, vibrant and wondrous.

What words of encouragement would you give to someone struggling with a condition similar to yours?

What has been helpful to me is the realization that depression is a disease of thought. In other words, the condition creates a thought, that thought inspires an emotion, and the emotion triggers an action. Being aware of this, I believe with a well-designed program of self-care we can amass the strategies and tools needed to heal our minds and change our thoughts. And in response to the great challenges that will still inevitably come, I would offer an acronym a dear friend shared with me: H.O.P.E. Hold On, Pain Ends.

Are there resources (books, videos, websites) helped and/or inspired you that you would recommend to others?

There are several I would recommend: the three TED talks by Andrew Solomon, all works by Dr. Steven Hinshaw (especially Another Kind of Madness), and Matt Haig’s book, Reasons to Stay Alive!