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Today I have the privilege of sharing the story of Tommy’s personal experience navigating bipolar disorder and mania.
Like many people who have bipolar disorder, Tommy’s psychiatrist initially misdiagnosed him, and he did not receive the correct diagnosis until years later when he had a manic episode.
Today Tommy talks about his misdiagnosis, the manic episode that wreaked havoc in his life and career, finally receiving the correct diagnosis, and his life today.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the world of bipolar disorder and mania through Tommy’s eyes.
Hi, I am Tommy. I am a 34-year-old cat dad and tattoo aficionado. I am a deep-thinking introvert who loves to draw, write, read, study psychology and philosophy, and spend time in nature.
I also enjoy spending time with my friends while having philosophical conversations. When I laugh, sometimes people like my laugh more than my jokes. As much as I like to try new things, I prefer to live a simple life.
Identifying a Problem
I’ve had problems with depression and anxiety for years that were further complicated from my predilection to self-medicate with alcohol. I was hospitalized at age 19 and again at age 32 when my depressions reached the lowest of lows. I was on the verge of suicide during these times.
After the first hospitalization, I was diagnosed with ADHD and depression. After the second hospitalization, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder because I had a manic episode during the summer of 2018.
When I was 19, I was just starting my life. When I was 32, I destroyed the life and career that I built caused because of the symptoms of mania.
In May 2018, a year after I started self-medicating with alcohol and energy drinks to numb the pain of a divorce and death of a friend, I found myself riding my motorcycle through the Appalachian Mountains on my return trip from a vacation in South Carolina. I felt a euphoric high that I had never felt before, and it only got higher as time went on. I was having such a good time that I wanted to drop everything in my old life to live this life.
After three amazing days of beautiful scenery, I returned to my home. However, the high I was feeling stayed with me. It was better than any mind-altering substance I’ve ever tried.
By the end of my vacation, I decided to quit the job I had for 15 years. My dad told me I was having a manic episode and to go see my psychiatrist, but I ignored him.
I was thinking, “Why would he know what’s best for me? I feel better than I’ve felt in my entire life!” I spent the next three months doing the same thing I’d been doing all year: drinking alcohol and experiencing life.
By the end of the summer, I decided to quit drinking alcohol. My mind slowed down and reality set in. I realized that my dad was right. I was manic, and the decisions I made were not made while I was grounded in reality.
The damage was done, and I had already blown through half of my retirement account! I dove headfirst into a depression.
Seeking Professional Help
When I quit drinking alcohol, the mania I experienced in the summer of 2018 calmed down, and the reality of my decision to quit my long-term career really sunk in. I knew something was off.
I could see things very clearly once the mania subsided. I saw my psychiatrist and he told me that it definitely sounded like Bipolar 1 Disorder and I started to take medication again.
Facing the reality of my diagnosis was hard, especially when I was deep in depression. There was a lot of shame and denial. I wasn’t happy about my diagnosis, but it explained lots of things about myself that I didn’t fully understand until I experienced mania.
I think I subconsciously avoided being diagnosed because my father has bipolar disorder, and my family talked poorly about him. I was scared of him while growing up, but once I got to know him better as an adult, I realized that he’s actually a very good person with a bright, funny personality.
I was scared to tell my friends and family, but bipolar disorder is my reality and because I know how to take care of my mind now, I can live with it.
I’ve finally embraced my diagnosis, and now I write about it on my blog.
Tommy’s Treatment Plan
I take an atypical antipsychotic and a variety of supplements. I follow a ketogenic diet, and I have been alcohol and caffeine free for quite some time now.
I have a life coach, named Kellie J. Wright, who is a self-love guide. I’ve experienced more self-growth from the two-and-a-half years of working with her than I ever did when I saw a regular psychologist.
I also like creative outlets like painting, drawing, and writing. I meditate frequently and go for long walks or hikes to calm my mind.
Tommy’s Life Today
Living with bipolar disorder isn’t easy, but I’m much happier than I was before being diagnosed. Making the impulsive decision to leave my job during mania turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. It was a huge catalyst for growth, and I’m now sober because of it.
The last few years presented the biggest challenges for me. I experienced mania again in 2019, but I bounced back quickly without being hospitalized. I’ve worked really hard to balance my mind, and I’m proud of myself.
My grandpa passed away last month, and although he’s the closest person I’ve lost, I have been handling it pretty well. I can better navigate my grief because I’ve been successful in managing my symptoms.
I took a couple of years off from college, but I returned to school last year. I will graduate with my Associate’s Degree in Accounting on May 14, 2021.
I wish people understood that those of us who live with bipolar disorder are human and still feel all the normal range of emotions, just like everyone else. It is just sometimes we feel those emotions more intensely.
I found a quote one time on a fortune cookie that I love: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” My one piece of advice to others is to live a simple life.
Tommy’s Favorite Resources
Internal Journeys by Kellie J. Wright and A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle are two books that were instrumental in Tommy’s wellness journey. He also enjoys reading the stories of other people who live with bipolar disorder.
For more information on bipolar disorder, read the National Institute of Mental Health’s comprehensive article.
You can follow Tommy on his blog, Bipolar Expressions, Instagram and Facebook. You can also purchase Tommy’s art in his Etsy shop.
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Maria Black says
Thank you so much for sharing Tommy! It’s really not often we hear from men about their mental health so this is really eye opening. I’m so glad you’re doing better!
Maria, it was a privilege to share Tommy’s story. You are so right that men don’t often talk about their mental health concerns. I hope I have the opportunity to share more bipolar stories from a man’s perspective.