Jake Willilams: My Story

by Guest Author, Jake Williams

pill bottle
I like many suffer from Bipolar disorder. My official diagnoses are Bipolar 1 with psychotic features (includes hearing voices, visual hallucinations, dilutions, and paranoia). It is easy to confuse it with schizophrenia (was at one point diagnosed with). My symptoms started off with anger, big outbursts, fights at school, and hostility with adults in general.

At 13 I and my siblings were put in foster care and separated. My first manic episode came out of nowhere. I had slept maybe 4 hours the whole week leading up to a visit with my mother. Manic energy feels more intense than the best cocaine high you could ever experience and is intensified with caffeine. Mania leaves cocaine in the dust. But this was different. I was also depressed (mixed manic state). I was literally fighting the urge to lose control of my emotions. I didn't know whether to laugh cry or punch out the window of the car. By the end of the visit, I became psychotic. I told the CPS worker I wasn't going back and he argued with me (bad choice at the time). I began yelling loudly and with extreme anger. He called 911. I walked around the kitchen staring at knives. I grabbed the biggest one and ran out the door. Full blown mania took over and I blacked out. 

I woke up in the hospital in restraints. I was in pain from being shot with rubber bullets (feels like real bullets, except you don't die). People told me I ran down the street yelling loud and with anger, but nothing I said made any séance. It was the only time an episode involved violence. I wasn't even violent. I didn't attack anyone. I don't even know why I grabbed the knife. I was put in another foster home and was introduced to my new best friends, cocaine, crystal meth, pot, and my favorite, alcohol. I didn't know it, but I was managing symptoms on my own (people think I’m normal when I'm high and think I'm on drugs when I'm sober). Lucky for me my foster mom had an endless supply of cocaine and pot, and of course vodka.

Eventually, I couldn't handle her cocaine binged and alcohol outbursts. I turned her in and she lost her foster care license. I don't feel bad. She was in it for the money. When I was 18 I decided to live on the street to pursue my career as a full-time addict and alcoholic. By 21 I had been in rehab 9 times and had three minor heart attacks from cocaine. At 22 I quit meth and cocaine for good, but the drinking continued. I did have long periods when I was sober. I was approved for social security and was given low-income housing for the mentally ill. I soon was put on meds. It was obvious I was sick. The problem was really bad side effects. I had to quit them abruptly which intensified symptoms. In 2012 I was hospitalized 8 times for psychosis. One was a serious suicide attempt. I hung myself with a power cord. It was close. The said I had maybe another 30 seconds and I would have been dead. I was unconscious by the time they cut me down. I to this day have nerve and neck damage. I can no longer feel half of my neck. I feel horrible for the hurt it caused everyone around me. I was put on Seroquel and 8 others (wasn't actually taking them, just Seroquel). Soon after I moved into a house with recovering addicts. I began having serious side effects and without telling anyone stopped my medication. I soon reconnected with one of my sibling who I hadn't seen or talked to in ten years. 

Mania hit and in a split second manic impulsively decided I was moving to Alaska. Manic impulsivity is almost impossible to control. You don't think any decision through (quit your jobs, finance a new car you can't afford, break up with your significant other, or move to Alaska...). When you're manic the idea that anything can go wrong is absent from your brain. I pulled five years of saving out of the bank and in within a week was gone. I didn't realize how different my family was (I assumed the same person I grew up with). I now have more pain and hurt than I ever had (complicated). I soon found myself having to take a twelve gauge shotgun and a dog to do laundry, crashed twice (due to ice), wound up in legal trouble (driving without a license, (you have to drive, it's survival up there). I didn't even think to look up life in Alaska. I walked an hour to school in -20 degrees, 30 m/h winds rain and snow on solid ice. The weather is almost impossible to predict. The weather is bipolar. Extreme temperature changes. It will go from 30 degrees no wind to -20 30 m/h winds and rain in seconds. I had the worst kind of stigma of mental health I ever had. There is no support for mental health. You're the only option is a gunshot to the head. I had to leave without any money (Social security got screwed up do to the family.). 

Before Alaska, I was pretty much an atheist, and I pretended to believe in God for twelve step programs. I hated going to recovering meetings and had no interest in working a program that involved a higher power. I thought if there was a God he hated me. The way I got back to California was a miracle (I only share that experience with Christians). I will never doubt God's presence again. I am now a full faith Christian. I now live alone because I no longer take medication (hard for others to be around). I do have lots of animals around (two dogs, six chickens, and a Japanese fighting fish). My roommate is always gone and when he is home is isolated from me. We do our own thing (roommate has no interest in getting involved in each other's lives. I am OK with this. I now have a 12 step sponsor and go to meetings. I pray and meditate every day and have hope for the future. I started gardening. I am growing herbs and vegetables. I am continuing my education and am going to pursue music in any shape of form (don't care about money). Music is the one thing I go to bed to wake up and do. I am now a little over one year off alcohol. I have friends who care about me. And I am getting good coping skills from 12 step meeting. I am grateful I am an addict. 

Thanks for reading and God bless.

About the Author

Jake has lived with Bipolar Disorder from a very young age.  He's had a difficult life and has come out the other end being able to live a full life.

Pain Junkie No More

by Guest Author, Lauren Gray

Reading Nancy Werlin’s gripping novel about surviving horrific child abuse, The Rules of Survival, triggered painful memories… The first rule of survival is pretending.  Pretending that each time you get beaten up will be the last time.  This novel reminded me how adept I became at switching gears from fearing for my life to acting as if everything was perfectly OK.  It also made me realize how fortunate I am to have, for the most part, left the flashbacks, the negative voices, and the pain behind.

It is only in retrospect that I can see how very, very hard it was to let go of the emotional pain that had seeped into my essence and how I subconsciously recreated that pain by allowing negative relationships into my life and by choosing emotionally unavailable men. 

I had also been perpetuating my pain by a still yearning for the approval of a parent who will probably never be able to provide that.  For years I wanted to understand how my parent could have beaten me up, yet never acknowledged that it happened.  And how so many relatives ignored the clues.  

Why is it that certain individuals never develop a conscience?  Are capable of tremendous denial that allows them to black out their destructive behavior?

I had to accept that there is no explanation for the denial.  Letting go of that need to understand allows me to have compassion for a troubled soul.  It also allows me to keep my distance when necessary.  

I will never know whether having my head slammed against a wall time after time, year after year, contributed to the chronic bouts of depression I have experienced, but I have learned how to make choices that promote my health and kick my depression into remission.  I had a lot of help.  

Ultimately, my health depends upon my continuing to seek light, positivity, and not dark, to stay in gratitude, and to chase away those voices in my head that tell me how pathetic and unworthy I am and that I will never amount to anything.   Years of cruel derision helped to create those voices.  Before therapy and learning how to practice my spiritual discipline, those voices were automatic.  Numbing them, mainly through binge eating, ruled me so absolutely, I could not even “hear” them.  Nor did I know me, my gifts, or how to connect.

Neglected or abused children tend to become self-destructive adults.  With all the emphasis on health care lately, I would like to see effective outpatient treatment for scarred individuals including vocational rehabilitation that empowers them to design healthy lifestyles for themselves. 

My childhood did yield some unusual benefits.  Because my survival depended upon reading an explosive individual’s moods, I developed a keen ability to read people.   My experience growing up also left me without prejudice, because I saw quite a few people with quite a bit of status behaving so hypocritically and awfully behind closed doors and was helped by so many with so much less.  And I will never forget what it is like to be a minor.  The experience of childhood and adolescence is forever etched into my memory.  

Being an adult is taking responsibility for oneself.  And becoming an adult is not easy for anyone, even those blessed with nurturing parents. 


Lauren Gray lives in California and is a survivor of childhood abuse.  She works for in international mental health magazine.