Do you have bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD)? If you do, you have come to the right place. Pull up a chair and let me introduce you to Justin.
Today I have the privilege of sharing the story of Justin’s personal experience navigating bipolar disorder, anxiety, and OCPD.
OCPD? Did I mean to say OCD?
You heard me right the first time. I did not misspeak. Justin does not have OCD. He has the much lesser-known diagnosis, OCPD, but we will get back to that later.
The thing that is even more interesting to me than Justin’s bipolar and OCPD diagnoses is how his faith in Jesus Christ and his love of rock music have been the cornerstones of his recovery and ongoing stability, along, of course, with the continuing care of a great psychiatrist and proper medication.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the world of bipolar disorder and OCPD and the impact of faith and music on stability through Justin’s eyes.
Meet Justin—Passionate Musician and Advocate with Bipolar and OCPD
Hi, my name is Justin. I’m 39 years old going on 13, and I love that. I’ve been married for almost nine years, and I couldn’t be happier being with my devoted, beautiful wife. God has blessed me so bountifully!
I try not to take life too seriously, though I certainly have a very serious side. I like to take things in stride and find the humor in pretty much everything.
I have a bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University in Health Sciences with a minor in Psychology that I received after two years at Penn State. I work in Information Technology, so clearly, I’m putting that degree to good use.
I’m most passionate about creating music (mainly heavy rock), mental health advocacy, and my faith—but these definitely intertwine. I love to sprinkle in comedy whenever and wherever I can, as I love to make people laugh and see them smile.
Identifying a Problem
In high school, I became heavily depressed and was just flatlined emotionally, tired and disinterested in a lot of things that I liked, and my mom was very aware and eager to help.
I recall in physics class I had my head down on my desk many days for seemingly no reason, and my teacher would come to me at the end of class and asked if everything was okay.
I blew it off like it was nothing; I wasn’t eager to talk about it, especially to a teacher I would see every day. Things that would typically bring me great joy lost their luster—things like gaming and playing the guitar.
I saw a psychiatrist at the insistence of my mom that year and began taking medication. My original diagnosis was depression and anxiety with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). The mania and beginning of bipolar disorder kicked in years down the road.
It was my phone calls with my parents my freshman year of college when I would alternate between hysterically laughing and crying that showed more than depression was at play.
Justin’s Diagnoses—Bipolar 1, Anxiety, and OCPD
Once I had my first manic episode when I was a freshman in college, they changed my diagnosis to bipolar 1 disorder with anxiety disorder, coupled with OCPD.
After having dealt with mental illness for more than half of my life, I knew I had to do all I could to help others who struggle with mental illness.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) permeated many, if not most, aspects of life. I am extremely methodical and structured, type A with an easy-going demeanor on the surface.
I’m a super germophobe, and my hand washing and sanitizing (even pre-COVID-19) are borderline extreme at times. I’m hesitant to touch much of anything, and if I do, I always wash my hands.
I lock and make sure doors, car windows, door locks, garage doors, etc. are locked and secured multiple times. It doesn’t impact my overall life, but it’s definitely there in the background.
I attribute much of my attention to detail to my OCPD tendencies, but I see it as an excellent thing, though this focus can certainly slow me down sometimes, too.
Perhaps I’m putting too much weight on the (smallish) OCPD diagnosis. I’ve just attributed many of my idiosyncrasies to it.
It is important to know that OCD and OCPD are NOT the same diagnosis. Although they have symptoms that look similar on the surface, they are two very different diagnoses.
Justin’s Treatment Protocol
I’m on different antidepressants and mood stabilizers and they work well, but it takes time to find the right cocktail of medications.
Some medications have had some truly nasty side effects, and others have turned me into a robot emotionally. But the same medication that was horrific for me works wonders for other people.
I have been on antipsychotics, which are my favorite of all medications because, well, when you are trying to reverse your psychosis…you’re actually psychotic.
Yikes. Enough said.
I don’t currently see a psychologist or counselor, but I have in the past. Playing guitar and making music are huge therapeutic outlets for me, but my biggest source of support, growth, and ongoing well-being is God.
The Impact of Faith on Justin’s Bipolar and OCPD
Medication, counseling, family, and friends have all been essential to my recovery and stability, but God is the glue that holds it all together.
God brings gives me the purpose, strength, and courage to help others through mental health advocacy.
I hid my diagnosis not just from the Christian community, but really from everyone, for most of my life.
Mental illness is still a taboo subject, seemingly everywhere, including the church. It is not well understood and traditionally has looked at, as, well, “just pray harder” or “you don’t have enough faith” or “you’re not trusting God enough” or that “it’s not real” or “it’s all in your head.”
I’m fortunate to be at a church where they acknowledge the legitimacy of mental illness. My wife and I started a small group called Downside Up to discuss the intersection of faith and mental illness in the church.
In time, we will team up with local mental health organizations, like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, to help in whatever capacity we can end the stigma surrounding mental illness inside and outside the church walls.
Living Well with Bipolar and OCPD—Justin’s Life Today
Right now, I am thriving, and I give all the glory to God. Am I completely stable all the time? The medications have served me incredibly well since becoming stable in early 2009, after a manic episode in California.
Periodically in life, things change, and anxiety fluctuates and affects stability. I stay in touch with my psychiatrist and adjust my medication as she recommends.
People do not know my diagnoses unless I tell them. I’m a quirky, idiosyncratic guy for sure, but they don’t know that I live with mental illness.
Justin’s Favorite Resources
The Bible—God’s Word holds great power, hope, redemption, and love.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the quintessential resource for information and statistics about mental illness and is also a place where people can go to find help. It’s been an absolute honor and pleasure to work and volunteer with the Greater Cleveland chapter of NAMI giving speeches about my journey for almost ten years.
When not at work, I spent much of my time crafting original songs. Music is one of my greatest passions, and I hope to make music for a living one day, God willing. You can check out my original music on YouTube, SoundCloud, and Instagram.
A couple of years ago, I started a YouTube channel called Wings Without Strings. It has roughly half a dozen videos that are longer, deep dives into my personal story and struggles with mental illness. I also talk about mental illness on TikTok to normalize it and end the stigma.
Support Justin’s NAMI Walk Team
My Downside Up small group has a team taking part in the Greater Cleveland NAMI Walk on September 11, 2021. Click here to make a financial donation to my team.
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