Michael Crook:
The Website

About Michael Crook

I am Michael Crook. On this site, I will at great length discuss my mental illness--including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia--with the intention of helping others who may be going through the same thing, or who may know someone else who is.

I do not have a presence on any of the far too numerous social networking sites. I do not maintain a weblog. I do not "chat."

I consider myself to be an intelligent person. As such, I do not waste time with idiotic things. For instance, I do not for one moment consider such preposterous beliefs as the moon landing, UFO's, conspiracy theories, life on on other plants ("aliens") and ghosts to be plausible. I shake my head and chuckle when I encounter people who believe in one or many of these things, pitying them for being what I believe to be people of sheer stupidity.

I also have no tolerance for those who loudly and arrogantly hold protests, maliciously, I think, disrupting the lives of innocent people. Just obey the laws as written and stifle yourself.

I do not socialize. It simply does not happen. My mental condition (which you can read about in a bit) has reached the point where I can barely conduct personal business let alone socialize personally, so I may have to find help in that regard. But, no, really: I do not socialize.

A true homebody, I prefer to be alone and at home as much as possible (the key word is "alone"), perfectly content to sit back and use my laptop while watching television and enjoying burritos and Pepsi®, which is my favorite soda. And what is a man without a hobby? I love history. I love researching family history, the history of places I have lived or have been, and the history of other things, such as my favorite soda pop. But I still prefer to do so inside, in my home and away from others.

Like so many other adult collectors, I also enjoy collecting Build-A-Bear Workshop® animals. Going to the mall where there are screaming, ill-mannered kids, not so much. But I have well over 100 and have collecting since 2008.

DUI: No Tolerance

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 that 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 drive while drunk clearly requires a series of intentional and malicious acts. It is as simple as that, in my opinion. I do not believe that a drunk driver can be considered to be a good person, nor do I feel there can ever be forgiveness or redemption for the same.

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 in a situation where driving is an issue, 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 by man.

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 malicious, bloodthirsty, evil person to drive while drunk. There is no other explanation and it is not up for debate.

Mentally Ill

Those who are mentally ill often face ridicule and scorn because, among other reasons, some ignorant people think that those who are so afflicted are somehow 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. Not when I have, whether knowingly or not, been dealing with it for at least 23 years. Not when I have attempted suicide many times. Not when I have lived the nightmares I have lived.

Throughout my life I have dealt with mental illness, though I did not know until adulthood. I first noticed it starting deep in the night of the summer's heat one night in 1991, when I was in sixth grade. It was then that voices first told me that I was worthless and that I should just kill myself. Scared, I looked around my room, but found no one lying in wait. The voices told me I should not bother going to school as I was stupid anyway. I was told to attempt to die by suicide.

Since that sleepless, tear-filled night, I have dealt with what I would later--much later--find out was untreated mental illness, which back then had a far more negative connotation than today. I was too afraid to ask for help, so I simply dealt with it and ignored it. I basically tried to sweep it under the rug, pretending it never happened, that it only happened to others and not me. How foolish I was.

That ignorance and arrogance on my part caused my teenage years to be an absolute hell and I know I acted completely unreasonably as a result; I am sure that I lashed out and acted erractically. Even though I was doing things that were unusual for my age at the time, 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 growing up. I just wanted to die. I often still do.

My obsession with suicide really started back in the eighth grade, a few months after the voices started talking to me. It was at that point that I served as the editor for the junior high yearbook at a school that was a combined junior and senior high school. I was consumed by the idea of taking a knife and slitting my wrists while my blood drained in pools around me. I fantasized about it, and the thought of my death brought great joy to me.

But there was one thing causing a hangup in my plan: I was adverse to pain. So, I checked out every library book on the subject to see if I find a painless way to do it. That is, of course, until the librarian snitched on me. To this day, I will never forgive her for that heinous act. But for her, I would be deep in the ground now, at peace.

It was not a cry for help on my part, and in fact, I was beyond enraged when I learned the librarian squealed like a pig, because I was under the impression that the books I checked out were none of anyone's business but my own. As far as I am concerned, she was a traitor and there can never be forgiveness for her. There can also be no forgiveness for a counselor who popped up out of nowhere and became involved. Rather than simply letting me die, these adults tried to get involved in something that did not concern them. I will never forgive the librarian or the counselor. Ever.

Also in that grade, I had what I guess was a serious mental breakdown. Nothing mattered. But I kept to myself for fear of being locked in chains in a padded room. Being an editor did not matter and all of the opportunities teachers said I would have in life--if I just but applied myself--did not matter. I was convinced I had to die by suicide at school. But of course, I had no knife with which to slit my wrist, nor did I have the sleeping pills I kept in my room. So I just told a teacher I was going to go kill myself, walked out of class and left the main building. I was not seeking attention; my mind was focused on one goal.

I was just being matter-of-fact about it. In retrospect, I was being a little too matter-of-fact about it, but my goal still was not seeking attention. I remember hiding in the spectator area of the football field, because I did not want to be found, but I had no way off campus until the buses arrived. Eventually, the nosy security guard found me and insisted that I talk to someone. I was not happy. I had failed. And they would not leave me alone so I could just do it.

Though I was too scared to seek help, I wanted it to stop, no matter what those cynics who thought I was merely after attention thought. I had turned to suicide attempts as an answer, and obviously I could not even get that right, not out of a desire to fail, but because of poor planning and an inability to tolerate pain. From 1992 on, I ran into problems at home and school in the form of behavioral issues caused by the anguish that was spinning around in my head.

Uncontrollable rages at home, at school and in public? Check. Poor grades because I simply could not concentrate? Check. Was it all because I was just a bad kid? Yep, because of course there could not possibly be any other explanation.

I was having problems because I was just looking for attention, right? I guess so, because the way to deal with me was detention, suspension, grounding and, at home, more physical forms of punishment.

When I did attempt to die by suicide throughout junior and senior high school, I did so via several methods: mixing hydrogen peroxide in with soda, taking sleeping pills and cutting. But none of it would work. Oh, I did these things, but I would merely throw up, oversleep or bleed just a little bit.

Clearly, I was not trying hard enough. I would only get sick or merely injure myself. 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 medical attention, but that I would not get it right the first time and not be able to be revived or wind up paralyzed for the rest of my life. My suicide attempts would continue well into adulthood.

Things became so bad in high school that I would often take an alarmingly dangerous amount of sleeping pills before getting on the bus, hoping to literally drop dead on the bus or in class. By all logic and reasoning, that should have occurred in my freshman year. I was very lightweight then, and there is no logical reason supporting survival. Instead of succeeding, however, I would walk around in a trance, fall asleep in class or generally act abnormally, or so I would imagine. I have been told I walked around in a daze, banging into lockers and generally acted "weird."

I would often cry because I would come out of my pathetic attempts alive. I could tell no one for fear of being locked up in some padded room. I just wanted to die, and it never happened for me. It was heartbreaking. It still is. On an almost daily basis, I go through phases of being content to wanting to die. The medications I am on help, but the suicidal desires are never gone.

During the summer vacation between my freshman and sophomore years, I contracted endocarditis and had to be hospitalized for two weeks or so during the end of summer vacation. Apparently and happily, I almost died. The sad part is I would have gotten what I wanted had I not told my mother my heart hurt. I would not have been taken to the hospital, where a blood draw was done. They would not have found the problem and hospitalized me. I would have likely just died in my sleep at home. No fuss, no muss.

Because I wanted to start sophomore year on time, they installed a device where I could self-medicate though a tube linked to my heart. That gave me the opportunity to simply ingest air into my heart rather than the saline solution, followed by the medication. Had I gone with the oxygen plan, that would have killed me nearly instantly. But of course, I punked out. I was afraid of any possible pain, I suppose.

My high school years were, as I have mentioned, filled with days controlled by sleeping pills and other medications that I thought would end my life. Shooting myself was out of the question as I lived in a rural area and not the ghetto, so buying a gun was not an option and anyway I would not have been able to either operate a gun or, if I tried, tolerate the pain if I failed. Plus, the criminal implications, if I failed, would be everlasting. Indeed, if I failed, I would have likely had a felony weapons offense over my head.

As one might expect, given my pill-popping habits, 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. Let us just say that I am fortunate to have earned my diploma, but along those lines there were students who ranked even lower than me, so I did not come out so bad at graduation time. In addition to nearly costing me my diploma, my problems led to me burning bridges in regards to several of the opportunities I had, both inside and outside of school.

While in high school, while my classmates cut their teeth flipping burgers, I was fortunate enough to be busy working at the area's first commercial Internet provider and at the local newspaper, helping update their then-new Web site. I also ran a U.S.-based fan club for 2 Unlimited, a wildly successful European dance group that saw one of its singles reach #1 in 35 countries. I formed the fan club myself, developing and running the Web site and weekly e-mail newsletter. My efforts were supported by the group's US labels and I was mentioned in Rolling Stone, the local newspaper and on radio stations in several countries.

I had many options. But for all those opportunities, I could not shake the overwhelming sense of depression and a sincere desire to just die already.

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. The first time I attempted in my adult life was on a dreary day in 2000, but for some reason, a reason that I regret to this day, I had a last-minute change of heart. Prior to that change of heart, I took a large amount of pills and tried to slit my wrists. In a moment of panic, I changed my mind and I called 911 on myself.

I was rushed to the hospital and my stomach was pumped, along with other testing, questioning and yet more testing. I was never allowed to be alone, except to go to the bathroom and someone was right outside the door. Some social worker came to see me and eventually I was released and sent to a halfway house. In the morning, I simply walked out and to work, complete with bandages on my wrists. I don't know why I was not confined, and why no one stopped me from leaving, but I am glad that I was not detained.

The way that I am comes largely from the fact that I am indeed mentally ill. I did not know that before, but I know it now. First, I should explain what caused me to be aware that I am mentally ill in the first place. But before I do go forward, please be aware that these are my experiences, which involve diagnoses from mental health professionals. I include links to external sites for the sake of explanation and reference. This article, and the external links (which I did not author and which I have no control over) are only meant to share my experiences. Those seeking a specific diagnosis or assistance should seek the counsel of a mental health professional.

I did not truly deal with mental illness until I was an adult. Though I have vague recollection of childhood visits to counselors, where "anger issues" were discussed, I was first officially diagnosed with a mental illness at the age of 25 in 2003, that being depression. I was prescribed Zoloft, but soon stopped taking it because I did not want to get better. I wanted the pain. That was probably one of many things I have done to stand in the way of my own self-improvement. I was told to make appointments in the psychological field and I did not. I was told to keep up on my medication. I did not. I thought everything would be just fine and that the symptoms would just go away.

In late 2013, it was a full decade after I had my first signal something was seriously wrong, though during that time I had minor breakdowns and other issues that should have been a clear warning sign. Also, in the years prior to my 2013 breakdown, I'd have random, crippling headaches that momentarily rendered me without memory and so forth. These headaches continue today and cause me to briefly forget my name, where I am and what I was doing. I forget the names and faces of people I met mere hours before. It is a nightmare.

But it was in 2013, following what I would guess was a meltdown at work, that I finally sought mental help.

The breakdown was so severe that I had an extremely involuntary four-day confinement (one more than the emergency 72-hour hold on account of the weekend) in a county-run mental facility. The confinement was just one of several previous confinements in several states throughout my adult life, by the way.

The 2013 breakdown involved an unpleasant incident at work involving voices, the police (who thankfully were also trained on handling a mentally ill subject), an ambulance and immediate confinement to a county mental facility. It was there that someone talked to me. I think. I only remember little slices of time. Apparently, I was in what I did not then but 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 vaguely remember that I was confined in a room with a mattress on the floor--well into the late night--until they found a bed for me in a mental ward of a hospital in the next county over.

My medical records from that date, August 8, 2013, indicate that I "presented...for psychiatric admission with complaints of depression and suicidal ideation." The reports also discussed my hallucinations and suicidal thoughts, so I clearly spilled the beans. I am being quite serious when I state that I recall very little of that day. One of the reports stated I had "paranoid delusions."

After being seen in the emergency room, I was "cleared medically and transferred over to [the Crisis Unit]." I remember none of this, so I take their word for it. But given the condition I was in that day, who can blame me?

Being admitted to the hospital and its psych ward, I had to turn over all of my property but for my clothes, sans shoelaces. As I checked in after midnight, bed came first. When morning broke, the wheels started turning. It was at that point that I finally got the help that I needed. The help I did not know I needed. Although I saw a doctor every day, and was checked up upon by nurses daily, not much work got done. It was just pills, monitoring and support groups.

My four days were, therefore, 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 those choices on Monday. While I was in, on the advice of a nurse who told me on my first day that the best way to get out fast is to participate in social groups, I, against every fiber of my being, took part in groups that allowed us to talk about our experiences and in some way help each other. Although socializing made me extremely uncomfortable, testy and resentful that I had to resort to dealing with other people, I have to grudgingly admit that, in the final analysis, it helped.

I took the medication they dispensed every day, and, like clockwork, 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, August 12 came, I was given an evaluation and asked if I had any thoughts of harming myself or others. I did not. Or so I told the nurse doing the evaluation. Others, no. Me, yes. But that I kept to myself. So, then, I went in front of three doctors and answered their questions, hoping they'd buy what I was selling and not keep me around. I danced the dance they were looking for, but the fact of the matter is that I belonged in there. But they did not seem to be too interested and I seemed content with that. They evaluated everyone first and then called people back in with their decision. I was discharged and in a taxi cab within two hours. I imagine the feeling was akin to what being released from jail would be like.

The discharge notes in my medical file state I was "cooperative" and that I "required no restraints or seclusion." But of course! I wanted out, and I would have said whatever I had to in order to accomplish that goal. Plus, it was not their fault I have issues and besides, acting up tends to keep a person locked up. What is funny, though, is the report stated that I "responded well to medications," especially when punctuated with the fact that I was "given Risperidal with no side effects." That was true while I was locked up, but wait a moment and you will see why I find humor in that statement.

Had I not been discharged, I would have called phone numbers all patients are given to access legal representation. Had that happened, I would have gone to court, just like others did every week, to demonstrate to a judge why I should be released. The hospital, of course, would either argue the opposite side of the story or not object. Thankfully, it did not come to that. After my discharge, I was thankfully welcomed back with open arms at work.

Yes, after only a few days (which seemed like years!), I was discharged, and I would soon make a poor choice.

When I was discharged from the mental ward, I was prescribed Risperidone. I filled the prescription right away and began taking the meds as directed. But 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, not to be rude, but for fear of being involuntarily committed again. My symptoms, of course, got worse and worse as the days dragged on.

When the voices became too frequent, too loud 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, was evaluated and I have been there for therapy and medication adjustment ever since.

Today, I deal with several side effects that are related to those conditions. What you are reading here is not a full representation of what I deal with, as some things are too personal or unpleasant to discuss on a Web site. For example, you probably do not need to know I do not pursue dating because I find the notion of intimacy to be sickening.

I deal with what I do in a less pleasant manner than I would had I sought help earlier in life. The most severe conditons, of course, come first: I have been diagnosed as having severe bipolar disorder (Type 1). This 2014 diagnosis includes depression, something, as mentioned earlier, that I was diagnosed with in 2003 but stopped taking medications for and never sought further help. It also involves manic episodes, which I will explain in a moment, that are related to the bipolar disorder.

I have also been diagnosed with schizophrenia (it does run in my family, and yes, it is possible to have both conditions. I live it, a high-profile actress has lived with it and so do many others!).

There are other things I deal with, which may be part of either my bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, or they are present on their own. Either way, I have been suffering with at least the symptoms of the following conditions for about as long as I have had bipolar and schizophrenia.

Indeed, apart from bipolar disorder, I often deal with the symptoms of personality disorders. First is schizoid personality disorder, which, according to what I have been told, causes me to be cold, distant and unwilling to socialize.

As I mentioned, I am disgusted by any and all forms of intimacy (emotional, physical or sexual) or closeness with others. I run away from it as quickly as possible.

What sticks out for me is that, at least as far as I can remember, I have always been cold and unfriendly, unwilling to become too close to someone. It all goes back to me not being responsible enough as a youth to say something was wrong with me. Perhaps if I had done so, I would be in an entirely different place today.

I also battle the symptoms of borderline personality disorder, which, among other things, causes me to be depressed or angry for as little as a few minutes for up to a few days. I also become very impulsive, which if unchecked can become a real problem.

As part of my bipolar depression, which I strongly feel involves major depressive episodes, I also find that I also deal with what is called chronic suicidal ideation, where, sometimes for no reason whatsoever, I think of and plan, right down to which knife, suicide often, usually daily. The feeling is so intense that I sometimes have to find ways to immediately distract myself in order to prevent carrying the plans out. There have been instances where I've had to call a crisis hotline or seek emergency help. It is not pleasant at all, and it is very real. And with immediate access to knives, I cannot afford to ignore the promptings.

Finally, and on a much less intense level, I deal with symptoms not unlike those that are associated with panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Anxiety, in many forms, is something that lots of people deal with in one way or another, so this is not such a big dea. For me, I am simply incapable of ceasing to worry about even the smallest things, like bills being paid when I know they were, bank accounts being at a certain balance, and so forth. I worry about a lot of things and it affects my life.

I also find that, like many people, I have the symptoms of OCD. Here, I do things repeatedly even though I know they are done. I have to repeatedly check that my door is locked, that my wallet and keys are where they need to be and so forth. But a lot of people deal with OCD, so it is not as big of a deal as the bipolar disorder (and all the things it causes to happen) and schizophrenia.

Needless to say, I require quite a bit of medication, as you will read later on.

Quite a few of these conditions, especially the bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and personality disorders, were, in hindsight, presenting themselves when I was as young as 13, but I simply did not know what I was up against at that time.

More importantly, I also suffer from manic episodes, which are directly related to my bipolar disorder (Type 1)--which has in my case been described in my files as "severe," (in fact the most severe form of bipolar 1--involves racing thoughts (which I also experience when not in a manic episode, but the manic phase makes it more intense) and the inability to remain sitting still and the inability to concentrate on a task. I also experience problems with my memory and with rapid cycling. The medications I am on help sometimes, but often it is a lost cause and I've lost jobs because of it.

While in a manic fit, it has been noted by professionals observing me that I talk endlessly and at a rapid pace, even when I have run out of useful things to say. I will even jump from topic to topic or task to task, kind of like flipping through channels. This has affected me adversely at work. I will take on more tasks than I can handle. It is quite embarrassing, whether in my personal or professional life. I try to shut myself up, I do. But it rarely works, and I end up looking foolish in front of those who do not know what I am dealing with.

Also, while in a manic stage, my self esteem, or trust in my own abilities, is elevated for no just cause, I tend to spend money foolishly and I engage in other foolish conduct. As if all that is not bad enough, I am well-rested after only a few hours, or so my body thinks.

I would describe that the symptoms I experience can best be described as almost as if I am playing a video game that has a point-of-view from the point of the player. Sometimes, I stop responding to a situation and even ignore someone, even walking away. Not out of a desire to be rude, but because I have no recollection of why I am in that situation. I also become very irritable, which has causes people to distance themselves from me. So be it, friend no more, as Metallica would say.

One other issue, which appears mostly when I am manic, is that I ramble. If you Google manic rambling, you will see I am far from alone. That does not make it any better.

Keep in mind that all of this often happens all happens at once. It is not pleasant. I would not wish any of this on my worst enemy. Also, things that may not phase someone without my conditions certainly cause problems for me. I can recall an incident where an elevator I was in got stuck and I went into a full panic attack that required paramedics once they got the doors open, a task that took over an hour. I rarely rode elevators before them as I have always been wary of them, but now I will not ride them, no matter how many floors I have to walk up.

Yet another embarrassing thing that happens to me as a result of my bipolar disorder is delusional thinking, including delusions of grandeur, the details of which that are far too embarrassing to put into detail.

Another thing people have told me, and I sometimes notice it myself, is that I am often incapable of making a firm decision, almost to the point that I practically need a legal guardian, or so it seems. 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, which could leave me with serious financial consequences.

Unfortunately, there is more. I also experience paranoia (where I often feel people and objects are out to get me, and trust me, they are) and what others insist are hallucinations but I call reality (both auditory and visual; they have caused numerous realistic but embarrassing incidents) as part of my bipolar disorder. I am always under the impression people are out to get me and lie to me (they are!). At times, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I do not know what is real or not, so watching out for myself and for those out to get me becomes a huge task. Sometimes, people are wrongfully accused, but I would rather that than mix company with someone who is out to get me.

One example of something I deal with in the area of paranoia is thinking someone is out to give me the lethal injection. When I am thinking clearly, I know it is all nonsense, but when I am in an "episode," I panic. What happens is this: I think I truly committed a horrific crime, too horrific to mention in full detail here, back in 1997, and that a man is out to get me to give me the lethal injection on the spot. I often see him outside of the corner of my eye. The fact is that sometimes I am not sure I did not do it, and I have to check newspaper archives to be sure.

Sometimes I run to get away from him. I know he is after me, and no one can convince me otherwise. When I am not medicated properly, I am told that I will run away from complete strangers or even tell them to keep the needle away from me, truly thinking that person is out to get me to put me down on the spot. It is humiliating. But that is where medications come into play, which I will discuss in a moment.

Also in the area of paranoia, and my bipolar diordr in general, I, at least according to others (I call it protecting myself from people who are out to get me!), am very cautious when it comes to opening my door. When it comes to deliverypersons (food, mostly), I will pay online or over the phone with my credit card and include the tip. There is a sign on my door instructing the deliveryperson to leave the food, which should be fine for him or her because my permission is there and he or she got a tip (at least 20%, more on days with hot or other unpleasant weather conditions). The same goes for deliverypersons from UPS® and FedEx® as well as the USPS®. My security camera monitors all and I do not open the door for these people as I cannot be sure whether or not they are out to get me.

Yet another embarrassing symptom of my mental conditions, based on what I have been told and what I can sometimes tell of myself is that I talk to myself, holding entire conversations, gesturing, laughing and all, 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. And I cannot control it.

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.

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. In the same vein, I treated people who were only trying to help me, even prevent me from making a suicide attempt, horribly. I regret that as well.

Add to that the fact that, as mentioned, I am often unable to concentrate and I "space out," whether it be at home, work, church or elsewhere. I jump from task to task (which made writing this section a long, drawn-out process!). For example, I will pause a television show on my laptop every thirty seconds to check e-mail, and it is quite an obstacle, even though I try not to do it. 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 often find myself out of touch with reality, as mentioned. I have delusions and when that happens, I go into fantasies. Things that are not real become real to me and I often do not appreciate what reality is. Sometimes, I think about an event and later on, I cannot determine if it really happened or not. This can happen with conversations, financial transactions or certain events. Almost every day, I have to question whether something took place or not, and that can be especially dangerous when finances or personal property or safety is involved.

That inability to account, of course, could prove at best awkward or at worst dangerous someday, but right now it has been nothing more than embarrassing. I also find, and am told that, prior to the medication I am on now, I flew into uncontrollable rages for no reason at all. The medications have helped reduce the sense of rage, but bad things still happen. I have destroyed things and relationships that were near and dear to me and I have ruined a lot of technological items, ranging from tablets to cell phones.

I, and others, have noticed a definite change in my speech pattern; I am unable to communicate as clearly as I once was and I stutter. Sadly, I cannot control it. It is humiliating. When I am talking to people in person, I will drift off into a trance, not out of a desire to be rude, but just because. I will forget the person's name or what we were talking about. That, too, is embarrassing.

I also find myself being quite dizzy at times, unable to keep my balance. It is more frustrating than embarrassing. Just as frustrating is my trembling. My hands tremble, often to the point where I cannot hold my phone still enough to deposit a check.

Also while confined in 2013, I was diagnosed with what in 2013 was called Adjustment disorder with psychotic features. It is now called stress response syndrome.

How do I handle all of this? I mentioned that I am on quite a few medications that help treat my mental illness. When I started as a patient at the new practice, they stayed away from the Risperidone, and first tried Olanzapine 5 mg, but when I had negative reactions to that, I was moved on to other drugs, until we found a "cocktail" that was right for me. A cocktail is a mixture of drugs that is specific to one person based on his or her condition(s) and needs. What works for one will not work for another.

I am presently taking Divalproex 1500 mg (aka Depakote), Quetiapine Fumarate 300 mg (aka Seroquel) (and 50 mg) and Lithium Carbonate 300 mg.

In addition to the fact that I am mentally ill, I do have to be aware that Alzheimer's Disease runs in my family, having killed my grandmother after erasing her memory and robbing her of having enjoyable final years. That alone, quite frankly, is a tempting reason to attempt to die by suicide, because I may very well suffer the same fate.

I deal with the difficulties that come with the conditions that I have, such as the severe mood swings (inexplicably ranging from 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. The thought of just fading to black, like a television station signing off, comforts me.

All is not lost when it comes to the voices. The voices that condemn me, that yell at me and that make my life miserable also protect me at times, as they have, oddly, for as long as I can remember. They let me know when someone or something is out to get me, and I abandon that situation by any means available to me at that time, and I mean any.

In the few situations where I mix company with someone, or I have to be out in society handling personal business or "errands," I respond best when there is a set plan and schedule. I do not respond well to, nor can I tolerate, spontaneous plans or anything that deviates, in even the slightest way, from an already-set plan or schedule. I have had serious issues with that in the past and it is best for all concerned that a plan is made and that the plan is followed.

When I am alone--which I prefer to be as 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 and with one thought at a time. As I have mentioned, there are times I will cry for no reason, even during the day. Sometimes, it is so intense that if I am around other people, I have to turn around or hide myself so they cannot see me cry or getting close to crying.

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. I picture myself walking around with black stitches on my wrists following a failed wrist-cutting attempt. It is not pleasant. 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 still take responsibility for and regret those choices. More importantly than that, I have long since abandoned that behavior.

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 and do hurt, regardless of whether one is mentally ill or not. If even one person takes their life by 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 throughout the years--written and spoken because I was acting out, trying to deal with my own pain and perhaps punishing everyone for my illness--over the years have hurt a lot of people, and no apology is adequate. I am especially ashamed to admit that iin 2011, I mocked a celebrity who also has bipolar disorder. Of course, 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 I am instead 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. I have been told I have no empathy for others. Is that my fault? No.

In May of 2015, after a year of unsuccessful treatment, my mental health professional recommended I apply for disability, and I started the process the next day. Although it was humiliating for me to do so--I want to work and be self-sufficient--I recognize that my conditions have caused me to lose a few jobs and temporary assignments. I have no financial stability because of that. I simply am not capable of working, at least not a 40-hour work week. But what I am capable of working, and what hours I am allowed to work, I will. And I am not playing the system; I want to work. I am just admitting that I can no longer provide for myself, without some help, even with over a year of treatment. Unfortunately, job instability is common among those with bipolar disorder.

My first sign of trouble on the job front was in January of 2014, when I had another meltdown, over a period two or three days, at work. It was pretty much a manic fit that lasted several days. It involved a supervisor and an executive from corporate headquarters. I almost got into a fistfight with the supervisor and almost threw an office chair in his general direction. Obviously, I did not last too much longer there. From there, I went from job to job, unable to concentrate, unable to stop talking, or otherwise unable to fit in or adapt.

Being mentally ill took some getting used to once I learned what was wrong with me. Having a label slapped on me was a bit of a shock, and at first it was sort of embarrassing. For all those years that I didn't seek help, I knew something was wrong with me, but I pushed all the problems down, much 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 in May 2013 after waiting almost two weeks to seek medical attention for a ruptured appendix.

It was so bad that, after going to the emergency room after over a week of this pain, as soon as the CAT scan or whatever came back (where they could not even see my appendix), they rushed--and I mean rushed--me through the halls, into an elevator and into surgery, namely a laparoscopic appendectomy. I barely had time to call my employer on my cell phone, while zipping through the hospital, and letting them know I was literally on my way to emergency surgery.

According to the notes in my medical file, it took a bit for them to even find the appendix. And the doctor that was operating had to seek help from another doctor. Had I not waited so long, that would not have happened.

All the doctors who were aware of this were surprised, shocked even, that I survived, because of the rupture and the damage that had been done because of it. 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, following the suicide attempts and my medical issues, I should without a doubt be deep in the cold, cold ground. I cannot explain why I am still here. To be honest, I am upset that I am still here. But here I am, and I have to deal with that unsettling reality.

One thing that helps me cope with my mental illness is music. I am rather eclectic when it comes to musical tastes. I find music to be soothing, and it stabalizes me, if only for a few moments. I take comfort in it. I like dance music mostly, but I also listen to country music, heavy metal, alternative music and classical music. Some of my favorite groups include AB Logic, Cappella, Twenty 4 Seven, 2 Brothers on the 4th Floor, Daz Sampson, Collage, Aqua, The Oak Ridge Boys, Beethoven, Metallica and 10,000 Maniacs. I also enjoy music from numerous other acts and artists, far too numerous to mention here.

Something else that helps me cope is my collection of Build-A-Bear Workshop® animals, of which I have over 100. Some people with disabilities have comfort animals, and I too have comfort Build-A-Bear animals. It all started with a cat in 2008 and went from there. I find that most of my bed is occupied by them and I would not have it any other way. I also have constant companionship with them as we have conversations about lots of things. Yes, they do talk to me and they are my only friends in this life.

Another thing that occupies my time and keeps me sane is playing video games, namely World of Warcraft. But I have to work hard to block those who think that playing the game requires an inexplicable level of socializing. I have also been known to play Words With Friends, but only with a few carefully selected people, all of whom I consider to be in my very small inner circle.

What I want you, the reader, to take away from this article is that, once again, I am not sharing my experience 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. I played fast and loose with words like "psycho," "crazy," and so forth. But 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. I feel that those who intentionally do not take their medication should be held accountable for their actions by virtue of that refusal. But that is a subject for another time.

Most of us, myself included, take our medications as a responsibility towards not only ourselves, but also 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.

As you have read, I, just like many others who battle mental illness, have survived a lot, physically, mentally and emotionally speaking. By all medical logic, and by my own personal wishes, I should be long dead. I never chose to be born and it is somehow considered abnormal to want to "opt out." But I digress. Being mentally ill has given me numerous challenges, and although it is tempting to brag that it will never have victory over me, I am fully aware that I may one day make the ultimate decision. I almost hope so. However, with medication, regular care and a support system, I just may survive, whether I wish to or not.

Anti-Social

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 everything within my power to avoid socializing or being around other people. This means I sit as far away from others and I avoid in-person dealings as much as possible.

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, at the pharmacy or store for example, in silence. I do not see the advantages of socialization.