Software Engineer, Facebook
Living with Bipolar Type I Disorder and OCD tendencies

Ten years after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Rafi has learned to know himself, catch his symptoms, and work with his condition. He now says that his condition gives him creativity and allows him to think outside the box. Rafi is inspired by others who have done great things while living with a mental health condition, so to those with a similar condition, he says, “you’re in good company!”

Rafi’s Story

When were you first aware of your condition?

I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder when I had a full-blown manic episode in the spring of my Sophomore year of college in 2009. I was experiencing psychosis in the form of grandiose delusions and mild visual hallucinations. I was admitted to a mental hospital for 7 days and withdrew from school for a year. That was my most difficult time. I’ve been medicated ever since.

What is your life like now?

I currently work as a software engineer at Facebook, where I’ve been for over 6.5 years. I’ve had “hiccups” while working; I once had to take 5 sick days due to intense hypomanic symptoms, but I’ve always recovered and nothing has ever developed into a crisis, permanent or otherwise.

What help or specific strategies helped you to get well and move to stability?    

Self-observation. I’ve gotten very good at taking a pulse of my mental health. My therapist says I’ve gotten very good at following the classical advice of “know thyself”. I catch my symptoms very quickly and act on them relentlessly until they subside. After over a decade of living with a mental health condition, I’ve developed an eagle-eye view of my mental health. I can now recognize my first bipolar symptom (the compulsion to write down almost all my thoughts). When I detect this symptom, I crank up my medication until any symptoms go away. Usually, I am able to avoid hypomania as well as the depression that follows it.

What positives have come from having a mental health condition?

Creativity. I once had a mental health practitioner tell me that mental illness can be one of the very few illnesses to come with benefits. My bipolar definitely comes with benefits. In the form of creativity. It helps me to think outside the box and approach problems from different angles.

How has your condition impacted your work and your career?  

Every so often I experience symptoms. In 2016 I had to take a full week of sick leave because I was experiencing the very same psychoses, delusions, and hallucinations I’d experienced back in 2009, and I had to do everything in my power to stay out of the hospital and keep my symptoms under control. I succeeded. A couple of years ago I requested an accommodation to ensure my mental health needs are met, mostly protecting my sleep, such as by avoiding red-eye flights.

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

You’re in good company. When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I immediately rejected the diagnosis (“this isn’t an illness, this is my superpower!”, cried my mania). The first time I accepted my diagnosis was a few days later when on a phone I saw a list of famous people with mental health conditions. And I remember looking at that list and thinking that if this many people did this many great things and they all had mental health conditions, then maybe they didn’t do it in spite of their conditions, maybe they did it because of their conditions. And that maybe bipolar disorder wasn’t just something I had, maybe it was something I wanted to have: it was the first time I felt remotely proud to be bipolar. So if you’re suffering from a mental health condition, mark my words: you are in damned good company!

What motivated you to join The Stability Network?

I’ve been living with a mental health condition and the stigma it comes with for over a decade. The stigma means it’s incredibly difficult to talk about mental health, but the only way to reduce the stigma is to talk about it anyway. That’s why I’m joining. To start the conversation and put my dent in the stigma.

Are there resources that helped you that you would recommend to others?

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide.