It takes courage to pick yourself up after any kind of loss or hardship. But the kind of courage I’ve seen from my friend, Hunter has been filled with real live parallels and life lessons. Hunter is a 27 year old who has bipolar disorder. And he is currently staying in a state mental hospital as a result of a psychotic episode.
Hunter is a brilliant young man who had his first psychotic episode while he was in college at the University of Colorado. He was quickly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but like me and many other people, he didn’t realize how serious one must get about learning how to manage the condition.
From the time of his first episode about four years passed. He struggled with inpatient hospital stays and never really got stabilized. After a manic and psychotic episode Hunter had the misfortune of being arrested and charged for running into people in the drive through lane at a McDonalds. He wasn’t thinking clearly, got scared and ran into the car in front and the car behind him. No one was hurt.
Hunter was thrust into the criminal justice system. After nearly two years in jail his case finally made it into court. He pled not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to Patton State Hospital in California. A year has already passed since he has been there.
Even though he has been through so much and doesn’t really know when he will be released, he maintains a positive attitude. Yesterday he talked about the possibility of him getting a job in the hospital and perhaps taking a class. Some days he finds it difficult to get out of bed and go to his video class. He struggles with coming to terms with why he didn’t get the help he needed. He wants to release his emotions, but he’s just been through so much it’s very difficult.
Although I haven’t been institutionalized for more than three weeks, I can relate to Hunter. It wasn’t that many years ago that I struggled to get out of bed. The grief process I went through over the losses I experienced was intensely consuming. And sometimes the loss of my very promising business career and lifestyle that matched haunts me. But it also gives me the wisdom to share in real time with Hunter authentic emotions. It gives me the ability to simply say, “I understand.”
Experiences and stories don’t have to be the same to touch upon a deep level of compassion that exists for one another. There is no one with bipolar disorder who has not struggled. It’s a very difficult illness to manage. Some people deal with it by harnessing the positive extra energy one can have while hypomanic. Others try to make sense of their psychosis experiences. Some people paint it as a gift. Personally, I choose to call it a worthy opponent. Something I must continually work at to beat.
Those of us who live with bipolar disorder all have one thing in common: we all have the courage to get out of bed in the morning. It gives us the ability to face the fear of experiencing sometimes disabling symptoms. It challenges us to remake our lives and deal with disappointments.
It takes courage to not give up trying, even though it may be hard to keep on going. Hunter is one of the most courageous people I know and one of the most important people in my life. He encourages me, inspires me and fuels my passion for mental health advocacy. He is my example of a person who forges ahead even though he doesn’t know what the future may hold.
I hope I can do the same thing.
“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.” ~John Wayne