The first time I ever saw Seth he was the emcee for a charity event, hamming it up for a good cause. That seems to be an excellent description of his life’s purpose – using his humor and high energy for the greater good. It’s been a long and often dark road for Seth, but he’s a great testament to what is possible when you finally get help:
I have bipolar disorder, or I’m bipolar, whichever sounds more humanizing. I’ve had episodes where I felt like a living prophecy, and empowered by my delusions, I did some bad things. I also drank a lot, smoked a lot, devoured Adderall, and had dangerously little sleep. My behavior brought me to strange paths that I would not wish on anyone. But, then again, who would wish problems on others. I do hope however that everyone experiences a time of isolation, painful or otherwise, which brings about a profound sense of values. Then comforted only by these values one finds, as I did, a profound sense of self. When the pain leaves you numb, and you are tempted by death, it is only your imagined purpose that lifts you off your knees. Purpose is the strongest defense against loneliness, cynicism, and self-hatred.
Even if you don’t struggle with mental illness, you still struggle with pain. Now, imagine this pain leaving you completely powerless. Your life is now this pain, and you have to work every responsibility around it. If you are not bipolar, you are still familiar with mood swings. Now imagine your mood swings leaving you completely powerless, and your life governed by the rages and excitements felt in the pit of your stomach. After being dragged through months and years of the vilest hells, life has left a bad taste in your mouth. The only thing you hate more than the world around you is yourself. Your ups are explosive, your downs suffocating, and your mind is unable to find contentment. We define contentment through the lens of the past, because it’s all we know. In the bumbling search for satisfaction you turn to anonymous sex and alcohol. Your mind recalls a simpler time where these things were exciting and left you content, even if only briefly. Now you begin to substitute life’s gentle pleasures with your backwards pursuit of peace. The joys of being with friends, going for walks, working out, studying, eating, dancing, apple-picking, all begin to dull. You watch these things disappear into the horizon, and you’re either too hopeless or arrogant to care.
In my highs and lows, I had lost all autonomy. My values were not mine. Bipolar disorder untied me from the center, allowing me to fling radically from one personality to an other. At times I was cunning, manipulative, ill-intentioned, self-important and reckless. During these times I ruined parties, hurt friends, and tossed away lovers. One time I was impeached from student office for fraud. This was during one of my largest manic episodes, a lousy story that lasted six months. Depression follows the mania, at these times I abused substances, missed classes, laid motionless on the floor, and didn’t eat. Days felt like eternities, yet months flew by as my soul decayed. I’ve gotten back on my feet and fallen again. Now, by the will of some power unbeknownst to me, I am standing with purpose. Medicine helped, though it took a long time to find the right cocktail. Cutting out booze did wonders. These steps helped me steady myself enough to find the things worth living for. During a break from college I completed two recovery programs. From there I worked at a homeless shelter till returning to school and graduating. Now I teach for Americorps. I still feel very sad sometimes, and I can get a little moody, but these emotional fluctuations no longer control my life.
What I hope you take away from my ramblings and Amy’s beautiful displays is that you should keep going. Whether you have a mental illness, or love someone who does, or just find life hard sometimes, please address it. It was not my fault I did those things, but I must take full responsibility for my actions. The only way to do that is to name the problem, and work on it. Nothing is more satisfying than redemption. Redemption is found in purpose. Remember what you believe in and focus your energy on it. Talk to someone, preferably a professional. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Feeling hurt is nothing to be ashamed of. You are nothing to be ashamed of. Please be kind to yourself, and please believe that others will be kind to you. Onward pals!
If you would like to share how you are more than your depression, grief, bipolar disorder, addiction, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorder or OCD please email me at email@example.com for a Writing Guide.
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3 thoughts on “I Am More: Seth”
Great piece Seth! Your closing comments on negative behavior caused by mental illness and suggestions for owning said behavior and bringing mental illness into the full light of day are great! Another great essay Amy!
Thanks Avelino, thanks for reading!