How I Handle My Bipolar Melancholy

By Rwenshaun Miller, as advised to Stephanie Watson

As a black man, I am solely allowed to indicate two totally different feelings — anger and happiness. Anything, and I am thought of weak. Seeming weak on this tradition can simply get you killed. We undoubtedly do not discuss psychological well being. There is a stigma related to that.

I grew up in Bertie County, a rural neighborhood in northeastern North Carolina. Once we’d see sure folks across the neighborhood who have been homeless or who have been at all times on the nook by one of many shops, we might write them off by saying, “Do not hassle him and he will not hassle you.” That was the extent of the conversations we might have about psychological well being.

It was solely after my bipolar dysfunction analysis that I had a dialog with my grandmother, and he or she ran down each symptom that I had occurring. I requested her, how did she know? And he or she stated, ‘trigger she’s been coping with all of it of her life. She simply by no means talked about it or obtained any assist. That was a dialog that solely got here up after my household had dragged me to the hospital.

Downward Spiral

I graduated from highschool close to the highest of my class and ended up going to UNC Chapel Hill on an educational scholarship. I walked onto the soccer workforce and the monitor workforce.

However after my freshman yr, I obtained actually near being kicked out of college. My grades have been horrible. Simply adapting to varsity was one factor, however adapting to a school the place I wasn’t very well-represented as a black individual was even tougher. I needed to discover my very own sense of neighborhood.

I got here from a small city the place I used to be a high athlete and a high scholar, to this huge faculty the place I used to be on the backside of the barrel when it got here to athletics and I wasn’t doing nicely at college. I used to be in an id disaster. Then in my sophomore yr, I suffered a knee harm, and that basically took away my athletic profession. Issues began to spiral.

It began with me withdrawing from my pals. I did not need to discuss to them. At any time when they might name, I did not reply the cellphone. Once they got here to my room, I would not open the door. I did not watch TV. I’d simply sit in my mattress. Some days it was arduous to rise up. Different days if I did rise up, I’d sit in a chair and stare on the wall for hours on finish.

This was in 2006. I used to be 19 years outdated. On the time, I would not have known as it melancholy, simply because I did not know what the phrase melancholy meant. I’d have simply stated I used to be unhappy or in a funk.

I did not go to class. I did not eat. Over a matter of about 6 weeks, I misplaced about 25 kilos. I would not bathe or do any sort of grooming. My hair was in all places. I went by a interval the place I did not sleep for like 2 weeks. As a result of I wasn’t sleeping, I began to listen to voices.


My mother would always name me and ask, “The way you been doing?” I’d lie and say, “I am good and college goes nicely.” At this level I hadn’t left my room in perhaps 2 months. She stated, “I can hear it in your voice that one thing’s fallacious.”

She obtained off the cellphone and known as my cousin, who went to North Carolina Central College. When my cousin got here to my dorm room and noticed me, she began crying. I wasn’t the Shaun she was used to seeing.

About 2½ hours later, the remainder of my household confirmed up — my mother, my dad, my aunts and uncles. Once they laid eyes on me, they obtained frightened as a result of I had misplaced numerous weight. I am fairly positive I smelled as a result of I wasn’t taking showers. I simply appeared unhealthy.

Once they requested me what was fallacious, I would not inform them what was occurring. I am making an attempt to behave in entrance of them like every part was OK. However they’re me like, you’ll be able to’t deceive us whereas we’re sitting proper right here you.

They stated, “When you do not need to discuss, we’ll take you someplace to get you some assist.” They advised me they have been going to take me to the hospital. I went kicking and screaming. I fought them the complete approach there.


They took me to the Duke College Medical Heart psychiatric ward. After I obtained there, I ended up punching the nurse. I wasn’t making an attempt to harm her, I simply did not need to go to the hospital. I used to be scared to go in there, as a result of if you hear about somebody going into an establishment like that, they’re thought of loopy. No person desires to be thought of loopy.

As soon as I punched the nurse, I needed to be restrained as a result of they thought of me a menace. They put me on sedatives to attempt to calm me down. They requested me a bunch of questions so far as what had been occurring with me. That was one of many hardest issues to do. I used to be restrained in a padded room, they usually have been asking me all these questions. I appeared by the glass at my household, they usually have been crying as a result of they’d by no means seen me on this state.

Then on high of that, no person within the hospital appeared like me. To be a black male in a psychological well being hospital, I wasn’t trusting anyone in there. I used to be scared to speak about what was occurring in my head as a result of I did not know what they have been going to do with the knowledge.

After I obtained my analysis of bipolar I dysfunction with psychotic options, in my head I used to be like, I do not imagine you. I do not care. I am simply going to say OK so I can get out of right here.

They advised me that after I obtained out, I did not want to return to high school as a result of it was one in all my triggers. It was a high-stress atmosphere. I wanted to go on a therapy plan, which included remedy and remedy.

Sport Changer

As soon as I obtained out of the hospital, I did not need to return residence. Being from a really small city, you do not come again since you failed. I thought of it a failure that I needed to depart faculty, and I used to be embarrassed at having needed to go to the hospital and obtain this label of bipolar dysfunction.

Fortunate for me, my uncle lived in Charlotte. So I moved there. Nobody knew me in Charlotte.

As soon as I used to be there, I obtained related to Dr. Kendell Jasper, a psychologist. He was a sport changer for me, as a result of he was a black male. He was right down to earth. After I first went to his workplace, he had on a T-shirt, basketball shorts, and Jordans. I wasn’t used to seeing docs like that. It was comforting, but in addition I used to be a bit of leery, like, are you positive you are not mendacity to me that you are a physician?

However as soon as we began to have interaction in discuss remedy and cognitive behavioral remedy, he was in a position to present me with a lot assist. He additionally referred me to a psychiatrist. Generally he would go to my psychiatrist appointments with me so they may work on my meds and determine what was working, what would assist me sleep, and what would settle down the voices in my head.


As soon as I obtained higher, I finished taking my meds and going to remedy as a result of I assumed I used to be cured. I went again to UNC Chapel Hill within the fall of 2007. However as soon as I obtained again into the groove of college, my signs got here again.

As an alternative of going again to remedy, I self-medicated with alcohol. I used to be consuming a fifth of tequila each different day. I did that for 3 years. I turned a practical alcoholic.

I used to be nonetheless going to work. I used to be nonetheless going to class. I used to be nonetheless doing every part I wanted to do, however the complete time I used to be in emotional ache. Folks would contemplate that a part of my life a hit, however they did not know the wrestle I used to be going by each day.

I felt like I wanted alcohol to get by my day. I’d get up consuming and I’d drink all through the day till I went to sleep. I assumed it was serving to, however it actually wasn’t. It was making issues worse.

Throughout this time interval, I made three totally different suicide makes an attempt. Within the first two makes an attempt, I attempted to overdose on capsules. The final time, I put a gun to my head and pulled the set off, and it jammed on me. That was my lowest level.

Therapy, Half Two

After the final suicide try, I needed to perceive what had helped me get higher the primary time. It wasn’t the alcohol. I needed to get again into therapy.

I used to be very intentional about remedy this time. I began to include totally different strategies into my each day life-style that helped me, like meditation, yoga, and journaling. I began ensuring that I ate more healthy, ensuring I obtained the sleep I wanted, and that I made sufficient time for myself.

The second therapy course of was about studying who I used to be, and studying what issues have been my triggers and what issues have been my protecting elements. And as soon as I obtained into that groove and understood that, I began accepting my analysis for what it was. I needed to take accountability and personal my bipolar dysfunction, and likewise perceive what I wanted to do to be wholesome. That is when issues began to alter for me.

From Affected person to Therapist

As soon as I obtained more healthy, I began noticing that a few of my household and pals have been struggling too, whether or not they have been identified or undiagnosed. Most of them have been undiagnosed, as a result of they weren’t going to get assist. That is what led me to grow to be a therapist, get my grasp’s diploma in psychological well being counseling, and likewise pursue my PhD in worldwide psychology.

A whole lot of the purchasers that I work with are males of colour. I can not count on them to return in and be utterly susceptible with me in a standard therapeutic setting. I can not come at them with a textbook answer. The textbook wasn’t written by us, and even for us. I’ve to satisfy them the place they’re and make them comfy.

I incorporate bodily exercise, whether or not it should the fitness center and taking pictures basketballs, or going to the native path and strolling the path. Particularly after I’m working with younger boys, taking part in video games is how I construct belief with them.

Constructing Consciousness

I additionally began a nonprofit group, Eustress. [Eustress is “good” stress — the kind that challenges you and helps you grow.] I do numerous work inside the black and brown communities to boost consciousness, and provides them the instruments to have the ability to handle their very own psychological well being points.

I do three psychological well being consciousness walks a yr — one in my hometown of Bertie County, one in Chapel Hill, and one in Charlotte. On the walks, we now have a yoga class. We’ve got different psychological well being assets. We do health boot camps. We perceive that psychological well being is well being.

I additionally do grownup coloring nights throughout the nation. We elevate consciousness and likewise introduce coloring as a therapeutic device. It is one thing folks can do at residence each day.

Each Wednesday night time, I do a convention name known as Locker Room Speak, the place males throughout the nation name in and we discuss something and every part for about an hour. We discuss in regards to the various things that have an effect on our psychological well being, so we now have area to open up.

Final yr, I began the Younger Black Male Eustress Initiative. I’m going into an area center faculty and do remedy with seven seventh-graders, younger males. I additionally do remedy with their academics and everybody of their family. The purpose is to scale back their incapacity to get to therapy, as a result of I’m going to them, and their incapacity to pay for therapy, as a result of I do it without spending a dime.

It additionally modifications the complete ecosystem of how they view psychological well being. I enable the dad and mom an opportunity to handle their very own points, and after they handle their points, I train them work with their youngster. That approach, we are able to actually begin to influence change and break these vicious cycles that we’re coping with within the black neighborhood, whether or not it’s trauma, melancholy, alcoholism, or sexual abuse.