Living with bipolar 2 disorder

While Eric’s journey to wellness was rocky, he never gave up. In spite of a difficult divorce and a tough job loss — both of which he believes were primarily caused by the stigma surrounding mental illness — Eric persevered. Today he is remarried and enjoys a fulfilling relationship with his family and a satisfying professional career. Eric volunteers regularly, and he founded and leads a mental health wellness group at his church. He is committed to a life-long journey of advocacy, education, and storytelling as a means of reducing stigma.

Eric’s Story

What was your most difficult time?

In 2007, I Ieft a secure job to attend an MBA program an hour away. I was married with two young children. The anxiety of school quickly aggravated my mental health, and I became very depressed and began experiencing debilitating insomnia. The drive became difficult, so I began renting an apartment on campus. I isolated myself from my family and classmates. That feeling of being “stuck” in a mood, which I hadn’t experienced since high school, returned. I checked myself into the stress unit at the local hospital. My wife visited me and told me she wanted a divorce. It was the most difficult experience of my life.

What helped you to get well and move to stability?

My primary strategy was developing healthy relationships. With the consistent support of my parents and siblings, I stabilized. I saw a therapist and was under the care of a psychiatrist. I eventually graduated from the MBA program, spent a year volunteering in a local flood recovery effort and wrote a book about it. I also began attending a new church. Consistent time with my children was an integral part of my motivation to be healthy. My new connections at work, school, church, and the community were all foundational in the recovery.

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

First, seek professional help. Without stabilizing the most severe symptoms of bipolar, it is very difficult to maintain health. Second, allow trusted friends and family to hold you accountable in your recovery process. Third, customize your wellness strategies to work for you. Finally, get sleep or, if you can’t sleep well, relax and take deep breaths to get into a state of deeper relaxation. For me, insomnia is the primary trigger for developing the severe symptoms of bipolar.

What encouragement would you give to family members/friends who are worried about a loved one with a mental health condition?

Sometimes, sitting in the presence of a loved one dealing with difficult symptoms can be more powerful than trying to speak.