Welcome to my website. Here, I will discuss my mental illness, so I can perhaps help others. Of course, there is the other stuff one would expect to find on one's personal Web site.
Of course, I am Michael Crook. Much like the dwarf planet Ceres, I am content to remain in my orbit, largely left to myself. I do not tend to engage in social activities and I enjoy staying at home. I may, however, enjoy some limited online interaction in the form of games such as Words With Friends® and QuizUp, but I am anonymous in both places. We may very well have played against each other!
With the exception of Twitter [@IAmMichaelCrook], I do not have a presence on any social networking sites.
My claim to fame, albeit from way back in ancient history (okay, 22 years ago or so!), is that, while in junior high school, I ran my own little newspaper, which was written and published as professionally as I could at the time. Also, while in junior and then senior high school, I founded and ran what I believe to be the first--or one of the first--fan run, Internet-based, U.S.-based fan clubs for a musical group, that group being 2 Unlimited. The club ran from 1993 until the original performers left the group in 1996.
The group, aptly dubbed the Unlimited Too Fan Club, had hundreds of members (remember, the public Internet was still relatively new back then!) who would browse the fan club's Web site and read the weekly newsletter that I sent. My efforts were supported by the group's US record labels and I was mentioned in or interviewed by several publications, including Rolling Stone. Although the original crew is back under the name 2 Unlimited, I am no longer involved with them.
Also, while in high school, I was fortunate enough to work for the first commercial Internet provider in the area. Not only that, but I also worked for the area newspaper of record, helping implement and update the first incarnation of its Web site. I also wrote articles that explained how to use various aspects of the Internet.
My more recent and adult accomplishments lie in the area of dance music, helping promote prominent European artists in the United States and trying to secure deals on U.S. record labels and appearances here. I am honored to have assisted in securing the release of a prominent and legendary dance music producer on a U.S.-based label. It gives me a good feeling to scroll through the label's online catalog and see that single, knowing I played a role in its appearance in the U.S.
Forgive me for indulging in matters trivial, but my favorite type of music is techno and dance music and all the genres related to them. I enjoy hard or underground techno music from groups that have disappeared, such as RTZ Belgium, Psychoslaphead, Psykosonik, Tecknophonia Ltd., Incendiary and Kranz, but at the same time I also enjoy eurodance. In that genre my favorite groups include, of course, 2 Unlimited as well as Twenty 4 Seven, 2 Brothers on the 4th Floor, Captain Hollywood Project and La Bouche, just to name a few.
A true homebody, I prefer to stay at home as much as possible, perfectly content to sit back and use my laptop while watching television and enjoying burritos and Pepsi®. I also quite enjoy my iPhone® and I absolutely get as much use out of it as one possibly can.
One thing you should know about me is this: I especially hate drunken drivers. I have no tolerance for them, their excuses and their attempts to appear as though they are good people who made a "mistake." More often than not, when the driver is hauled into court, he or she ends up having more rights and considerations than the victim or the victim's survivors. Their friends will typically scream at the top of their lungs about how the he or she is a good person and that it was "an accident." Good people do not drive while drunk. And drunken driving is never an "accident," because to do requires a series of intentional and malicious acts. It is as simple as that, in my opinion.
When a drunken driver claims a crash was an "accident," he or she is being disingenuous at best. The person in question did not drink to the point of intoxication and then get into the car--while drunk--by accident, and he or she did not put key to ignition by accident. He or she did not start the car and put it into gear by accident, and did not take to the roads by accident. Therefore, driving while drunk is never a "mistake" or an "accident."
That is especially so since everyone knows drunk driving is wrong. Thus, there is no excuse for driving drunk, no matter many crocodile tears the drunkard pretends to shed. Any remorse a drunken driver feels is for himself or herself, never for the victim or victims they slaughtered to satisfy their drunken bloodlust, in my opinion. A person who is evil enough to drive while drunk is, I feel, incapable of feeling true remorse or guilt, because if that person were truly sorry, he or she would not have done it to begin with.
Again, drunken driving is clearly a malicious, planned and intentional act, since the person in questions knows they are drunk or are getting to that point, so drunken driving can never be excused. Never. Anyone with half a brain knows that there are options for people who inbibe when they know they will be driving. Indeed, choosing a designated driver is always smart, as is hiring a taxi or calling one's friends.
If a person is so irresponsible as to be under the influence of alcohol to the point of intoxication, and then malicious enough to want to drive while intoxicated, he or she can make it right by choosing one of these options. Because there are options, a drunken driver--especially one who injures or kills--can never be redeemed or forgiven.
Drunken drivers who injure or kill another need to be punished harshly. Why? Clearly, because they knowingly drove while drunk (intent) and then aimed a loaded weapon (the car) at the victim, which qualifies as murder, in my opinion. It is my opinion that anyone who ever has or ever will drive drunk is a threat to society and should be treated as such.
Sadly, very few states take serious action against drunken drivers and hand out weak sentences (piddly fines and maybe a short suspension of one's license) when no death is involved, and cake walk sentences like ten years when a fatality is involved, almost rewarding drunken driving. This is why drunken drivers take to the roads. They know that they will wind up having more rights than their victims, especially if they are able to find an attorney filthy enough to defend such an act. So much for justice in America.
I feel that any lawyer who defends a drunken driver is reprehensible and should burn in Hell right along with the drunkard he or she defends.
No, there can be no tolerance or forgiveness for drunken drivers. It is my belief that it takes a pathetic, slovenly, evil and malicious person to consume alcoholic beverages, and I further believe that it takes a malicious, bloodthirsty, evil person to drive while drunk. There is no other explanation and it is not up for debate.
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Those who are mentally ill often face ridicule and scorn because some ignorant people think that they are imagining it or faking it. I am here to tell you that that is not so. I am mentally ill and I am not imagining it. And when you read about my experience you will know that I am certainly not faking it.
Throughout my life, starting when I was 12 or 13, I have dealt with what I would later--much later--find out was untreated mental illness. I was too afraid to ask for help, so I simply dealt with it. That caused my teenage years to be an absolute hell. I am sure I lashed out and acted erractically. Even though I was doing things that were unusual for my age, like running my own tiny newsletter and a fan club for a favorite music group, and had awesome paying jobs, I was often consumed with the concept of suicide.
There were many times I simply did not want to live, even though I had great opportunities extended to me.
Though I was too scared to seek help, I wanted it to stop. I turned to suicide as an answer, though I could not even get that right. Hydrogen peroxide, sleeping pills, cutting...none of it would work. Why I did not simply jump into traffic or off a bridge is beyond me. I guess, looking back on it, I wanted to ensure not that I would fail and get attention, but that I would get it right the first time and not be able to be revived or wind up paralyzed for the rest of my life. I first attempted in junior high school and then throughout high school and well into adulthood.
Things became so bad in high school that I would often take a dangerous amount of sleeping pills before getting on the bus, hoping to just drop dead on the bus or in class. I would often cry because I would come out of it alive. I could tell no one for fear of being locked up. I just wanted to die, and it never happened for me. It was heartbreaking.
As one might expect, I stumbled and fumbled through my high school classes and probably acted irrationally in general. I cannot say for certain as there is a large portion of my high school years that I simply do not remember. I am fortunate to have earned my diploma. Also, my problems led to me burning bridges in regards to several of the opportunities I had.
Had I been more aware of mental illness in my youth, and for that matter my early adulthood, and what it can do to a person, I would have sought help. I accept responsibility for not doing so. We all make our choices in life, and my choice was to hide my problems as best I could, even from myself. Because I did not seek help, things grew worse whereas perhaps they would not have had I simply asked for help.
Almost certainly as a result of my conditions, I have attempted suicide several times throughout my youth and adult life, though I have not attempted for a long time. There are days, even now, that I wish I had been successful. Suicidal thoughts are often a part of my mental illness, but I have plenty of resources at my disposal to ensure that I do not act upon those urges. For example, the Suicide Hotline (800-273-TALK) saved my life, and I am grateful to them.
So what mental illnesses do I suffer from? First, I should explain what caused me to be aware in the first place.
In late 2013, I had an extremely involuntary three-day confinement in a mental facility in 2013--one of several previous confinements in several states throughout my adult life--after an unpleasant incident involving voices, the police, an ambulance and confinement to a county mental facility. It was there that someone talked to me. I was in what I now know to be a manic episode, so I do not remember what was said, but I vaguely remember being given a ton of pills without being told what they were.
I was confined there for hours, well into the late night, until they found a bed for me in a mental ward of a hospital. It was at that point that I finally got the help that I needed. The help I did not know I needed.
My three days were largely uneventful; I was confined over a weekend, so the doctors that made the decisions as to who gets discharged and who stays were made on Monday. While I was in, I was able to participate in groups that allowed us to talk about our experiences and in some way help each other.
I took medication every day, and I was evaulated every day. We were all closely watched for group participation and anything and everything else, right down to personal hygiene. All I will say about that is that shower facilities were made available to all, but all did not partake. I did, however, and thankfully so did my roommate.
When Monday came, I was given a final evaluation and asked if I had any thoughts of harming myself or others. I did not. So, then, I went in front of three doctors and answered their questions. They evaluated everyone first and then called people back in with their decision. I was discharged and in a taxi cab within two hours.
However, when I was discharged, I made a poor choice.
When I was discharged from the mental ward, I was prescribed Risperidone. When I experienced side effects such as random nosebleeds and extreme nausea, I self-medicated, or rather self-unmedicated. I just stopped taking my meds cold. I had already made an appointment at a psychiatrist's office, but I simply did not show, for fear of being involuntarily committed again. My symptoms, of coure, got worse.
When the voices became frequent and too much to bear, I finally sought help, calling every office that dealt with mental health that I could and that took my insurance. Every office I called told me the same thing: they were not accepting new patients. However, I persisted, and finally found a place that was gladly accepting new patients and they took my insurance. So I made an intake appointment and was evaluated.
After a series of evaluations, I was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar/manic depression disorders, schizophrenia (and yes, it is possible to have both conditions. I live it!) and schizoid personality disorder.
The schizoid personality disorder is likely what explains my non-interest in socializing and my complete lack of interest in intimacy, whether physical or emotional. It also explains, I think, my complete distaste for socialization, which is explained in the next section of this Web site.
The only exception to my lack of desire for sexual relations is when I am in a manic episode. I sometimes experience hypersexuality, which is a part of my biolar disorder. It is only when I am in a manic state that sexuality interests me. Without going into detail, it has not gotten me into too much trouble, but it has the potential to do harm to myself depending on the severity of my mania. Outside of mania, though, intimacy of any form simply does not interest me.
There are other symptoms, starting with what I now know are manic episodes, where racing thoughts and the inability to focus on one task at a time (kind of like a remote control changing channels) and trying to do a lot of things at once makes living a normal life next to impossible. Also, there is a definate disconnect from reality, almost as if I'm playing a video game that has a point-of-view screen and I am looking up on my life as a player. Keep in mind that this all happens at once. It is not pleasant. I would not wish any of this on my worst enemy.
Unfortunately, there is more. I also experience paranoia (where I often feel people and objects are out to get me), hallucinations (they have caused numerous embarrassing incidents) and delusional thinking (including delusions of grandeur that are far too embarrassing to put into detail), racing thoughts (as mentioned) and voices that distract me, as well as forgetting what I am talking about in the middle of a sentence and I stand there, unable to recover my train of thought, having lost it because the voices distracted me. The medications that I am on help somewhat, but I still have issues in these areas.
Yet another embarrassing symptom of my condition is that I talk to myself, holding entire conversations with myself. I am not talking about the talking to oneself that most anyone does. I am talking entire conversations. The best way that I can describe it is that I am out of my body, talking to myself.
When the talking to myself started, I did not know I was doing it until someone asked me if I was okay and told me what I had been doing. Oftentimes, I truly think I am talking with someone. Sometimes I notice it when I am coming out of the trance or whatever it is, but more often than not, it is mentioned to me and it is quite embarrassing indeed.
Another thing people have told me, and that I sometimes notice, is that I am often incapable of making a firm decision. I often vacillate between polar opposites on numerous decisions. It seems to happen the most when I am in a manic stage, although I cannot remember much at that point, but it happens often even when I am not. These decisions can be as simple as what option to choose for dinner to life-altering choices. I flip from side to side as often as every few minutes. I simply am incapable of making up my mind.
I also tend to say or write things that I do not mean, then I mean it, then I do not. I cannot even control that at times. It has caused great pain to others and myself and has caused the loss of personal and business relationships. If I could take back those things, I would in a heartbeat.
Add to that the fact that I am often unable to concentrate and jump from task to task (which made writing this section a long, drawn-out process!), even pausing a television show every thirty seconds to check e-mail, and it is quite an obstacle. I am taking medication that battles attention deficit disorder, though I have not been officially diagnosed with that condition. It helps somewhat, but I still do it, and it is quite annoying, yet unstoppable. As I mentioned earlier, it also seems that my life is often like a television, with its channels changed with a remote control at an alarmingly high rate of speed. It is horrific when I am in a manic episode, and less severe but still bad outside of one.
I have mentioned that I am on medications. As a result of the conditions that I have, I am indeed on several medications, including Divalproex 500 mg, Bupropin HCL XL 300 mg and Quetiapine Fumarate 250 mg.
These medications eliminate or at least reduce my symptoms to a point where I can function well enough to earn a paycheck and function in society. The medications that I am on also reduce the serious suicidal thoughts. But the voices never completely go away.
Because of my medications, made possible by a wonderful and generous health insurance plan, I am perfectly capable of functioning in the workplace--and I have, even being dubbed as the employee of the month at one point--and in society in general.
I do not let the fact that I am mentally ill define me. I refuse to. The fact that I am mentally ill is only one piece of the puzzle that is I.
I deal with the difficulties that come with the conditions that I have, such as the severe mood swings (ranging to euphoria to rage to majorly depressed) and hearing voices that tell me, among other things, to do awful things. They say very mean things and they sometimes hurt me to the point where I break down crying. I am embarrassed when others hear me yelling at the voices to shut up. Sometimes, I have fleeting thoughts of just ending it once and for all, so I do not have to deal with it any longer. Those thoughts often comfort me, just bringing and end to it all. But I do not act on those thoughts.
When I am alone--which I prefer to be, and as such I am friendless and have no desire to make friends--mostly at night falling asleep, it is sometimes a private hell trying to calm my mind down and think rationally. There are times I will cry for no reason, even during the day. If I am where I am with my meds, I shudder to think what would happen if I were to ever be unable to take them. I am noticing things are getting worse and not better, so I do not know what the future holds. As I stated before, I do not wish any of this on my worst enemy.
Through counseling, I have come to realize that poor choices I made in the past were made in part because of my mental illness, especially since I was untreated. However, that is an explanation, not an excuse, and I take responsibility for and regret those choices. More importantly than that, I have long since abandoned that behavior.
For example, I now stand in firm opposition to bullying and trolling in all its forms, and I find these to be no longer small problems to ignore, but an epidemic that must be resolved. Words can hurt, regardless of whether one is mentally ill or not. If even one person commits suicide because of bullying, that is one too many. And even if there is no suicide, bullying is wrong. If the person being bullied has a mental illness, the bullying can push that person over the edge, and that is just cruel.
I am ashamed to admit that my words over the years have hurt a lot of people, and no apology would be adequate. I am especially ashamed to admit that iin 2011, I mocked a celebrity who also has bipolar disorder. I did not know then that I too had it, but regardless it was wrong and downright mean of me. I do not know why I did it, but no matter the reason, it was not nice and it was not acceptable. I have since reached out to the person's representative to relay my apology.
Going forward, I am choosing to not mock or bully anyone, or intentionally say mean things. I was bullied a lot growing up, so I know how it hurts and as such, I really should have known better. But I am putting that in the past and looking to the future, where I see myself helping, not hurting, those with mental illnesses and those who are being bullied.
There should never be a stigma or stereotype attached to mental illness. People who are diagnosed with mental illness are just as normal and valid as someone who has not. And, although I have no problem with those who are legitimately disabled collecting disability benefits, I do not, because I am capable of working and I do. There are those who unfortunately use their condition to get out of earning a living, but for as long as I am mentally capable, I will not be one of them.
Being mentally ill took some getting used to once I learned what was wrong with me. For all those years that I didn't seek help, I knew something was wrong with me, but I pushed it down, like trash in a garbage can, hoping I could hide it. Well, the trash spilled out in 2013. My official mental illness diagnosis hit me like a ton of bricks. It was humbling to learn that my conditions are considered a disability. I never thought that would happen to me.
If you are thinking about suicide, talk to someone. You can also call 800-273-TALK. If you are in crisis, call 911. There are people who want to and will help you. You are worth it. You do matter. If you know of someone who is threatening to or thinking of suicide, get them help.
I have been through a lot in my life. Multiple suicide attempts. A heart problem in my teenage years that almost killed me. Almost going into septic shock after waiting well over a few days to seek medical attention for a burst appendix. It was so bad that as soon as the CAT scan or whatever came back, they rushed me through the halls, into an elevator and into surgery. One doctor took care of the appendix while another worked on the spetic issue.
All the doctors who were aware of this were surprised, shocked even, that I survived. It was a matter of hours, maybe even a day, before I would have gone into septic shock, exacerbated by my heart condition, and dropped dead. I remember thinking, upon learning that, that maybe that would not have been such a bad thing. Yes, I have been through a lot, and sometimes I have to wonder why that is. By all logic, I should be deep in the cold, cold ground. I cannot explain why I am still here.
What I want you, the reader, to take away from this is that I am sharing my experience not for attention or pity, but to show that those with mental illnesses are real people. You may encounter several of us every day and not even know that you have. We hold jobs, function in society and appear "normal," because we are normal.
I openly admit that I did not fully appreciate how serious mental illness is until it happened to me. What I have learned from my experience is this: if you encounter someone who may be having mental issues, please do not judge or mock that person. Show a little compassion, too, because take it from me, during an episode, it can be quite traumatic and almost too much to bear.
Those with mental illness should be treated with the same love and respect as those with other disabilities. And, the mentally ill should not be feared. Yes, there are those who intentionally do not take their medications and they do awful, violent things as a result of their illness, but they are the exception, not the rule. Most of us, myself included, take our medications as a responsibility towards not only ourselves, those who love us and society in general. Not all of us are violent or dangerous.
I hope by sharing my experiences with mental illness that I can help someone else who may be having struggles in the same area. You are not alone and there is always help available to you. Do not ever give up and never let others bring you down. Although being mentally ill has given me numerous challenges, it will never have victory over me.
I never have much cared for socializing to begin with, perhaps or perhaps not due to my previously mentioned mental illness, so it follows that I tend to not be around other people in social settings. I never have. I do not attend parties, raves, shindigs, hoedowns, hootenannies, celebrations, feasts, potlucks, balls, banquets, get-togethers, reunions, feasts, functions, gatherings, meetings, picnics, box socials, ice cream socials, rallies, outings, churches, revivals, square dances, support groups or anything of the sort.
I do not do what many people, for whatever reason, seem to do, which is engage in "small talk" in certain social situations. I am quite content to wait in the queue, using my iPhone® until I am called. I do not see the advantages of socialization, nor am I in any way interested in so-called "friendships" and so forth.
It is a shame that society has deemed it normal to socialize while punishing those who do not walk in lockstep with that mindset with labels that pertain to their mental health. Wanting to be alone and not wanting to socialize are traits that are not abnormal, no matter what any health care professional may say.
Indeed, I do enjoy alone time, and I insist upon getting as much of it as humanly possible.
(Please be aware that messages sent to this address go to a third party who screens messages and sends appropriate ones to me.)