Co-Founder of The Manic Monologues; Mental Health Board Member; Geologist
Living with bipolar disorder and psychosis

Zack wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for one phone call to his mom. After receiving a bipolar diagnosis while completing his Ph.D. at Stanford University, he had to start over, rebuilding his career, health, and identity. Zack is the co-creator of The Manic Monologues and a leader in the mental health community.

Zack’s Story

When were you first aware of your condition? What was your most difficult time?

I had my first psychotic break at the peak of a manic episode on May 8, 2017 while a Ph.D. student at Stanford University. I was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar I disorder. I spent the following months struggling to climb out of the “crisis of confidence” and utter loss of sense of self I was mercilessly thrust into.

What is your life like now? What does success/living well look like for you?

My life has never felt happier, more balanced, or more fulfilling. I finished my Ph.D. in December 2020, and I am more inspired than ever as I continue my work as a mental health advocate and leader, and as a geologist and scientific researcher. Most importantly, I am fortunate to be surrounded (literally and virtually) by loving friends, family members, and coworkers from Palo Alto to Nairobi to Sydney, Manaus to Heidelberg to Chennai.

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

A strong support network, without a doubt. From the moment my mom answered my frantic 4 a.m. phone call while I stood looking over the ledge of that Stanford parking garage on May 8, 2017 to the terrific doctors, therapists, and healthcare professionals. From the weeks of my roommates looking over me as I lay in my bed, near-catatonic, to the accommodating and compassionate care with which my boss (my Ph.D. advisor) treated me as I gradually eased back into the workplace.

I will forever owe my life to my loved ones.

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

I spend time with friends and family at home or on spontaneous adventures, I take my meds and have learned to recognize warning signs of flare-ups, and I pour my heart and soul into my work in the mental health sector.

Are there positives that have come from having a mental health condition? If so, what?

Without my diagnosis, I would not have found this life that imparts more meaning to my day-to-day than I had ever felt prior to 2017. I enjoy my work as a scientist — and my work in mental health truly gives my life meaning.

Since opening up about my own experience, I have also been humbled to have close friends and strangers alike confide in me their own challenges — and we have bonded through our shared experience as never before.

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

“You are not alone.”

“You are not the only one.”

I must’ve heard these words at least three times a day during my first few months post-hospitalization, and I pretty much brushed them off every time.

But I am begging you to sit with these words, even if just for a moment. These words are the truth I desperately needed to accept while I was suffering from depression in my younger years, but I will admit that only in the past couple years have I truly come to see that there are people who have shared many components of my most difficult — and most joyous — experiences. Through my work as a mental health advocate, I have met dozens of people who cannot only empathize but can connect and resonate profoundly with my experiences. And that’s awesome.

And that’s part of what I love so much about The Stability Network — there are hundreds of us who are united in this experience, in striving to thrive and to help others thrive even alongside our bad days.

Are there resources that helped and/or inspired you that you would recommend to others? 

There is nothing that motivates and inspires me more than my work as co-creator and leader of The Manic Monologues, as well as my work for a number of other incredible mental health nonprofits and networks.

And, if you’re reading this, you probably already know how terrific The Stability Network is!

Is there anything else you want to share?

1) Please never hesitate to reach out.

2) Together, we can disrupt stigma.