This will be an uncensored, deep insight into my personal life. Considering the size of my viewer base, this is quite a big step for me. On May 29 I posted a video explaining some of my struggles with bipolar disease and major depression. Little did I know that exactly 2 months later, things would get out of hand in a way that I have thought possible before. But let’s back up to the beginning of this.
Being bipolar is fun when you’re high, but hell when you are low. The higher the high, the lower the low. It’s something I have just gotten used to. My lack of productivity during the lows I’d make up in my highs. No big deal. But more recently, probably over the past 3 years, the amplitude of these phases increased significantly. Not only that, but the frequency would vary as well. Sometimes there’d even be small phases superimposed on the larger phases. The highs were great; They made me thrive. They made many of my blog articles and videos happen. But the lows became harder and harder.
At the end of 2013, the down phases started to become so extreme that they were too much for me. I would isolate myself from anyone and everything, I’d sleep over the day and work at night. And when it got really extreme, I’d use alcohol and/or narcotic painkillers to ease the mental pain. I’d use narcotic painkillers more than alcohol. I mean after all that’s what they were made for, to ease pain, right? Clearly it was a big problem at that time already. I should have gotten help. My immediate family should have gotten me help. But nobody did.
There was no support grid for me either. The kind of friends I had here in the USA didn’t have the time or skill to help. Plus there’s so much stigma about mental health here in the USA that people think you’re nuts and are going to burn their house down or something like that. My friends and family in Germany were in no position to help because of the distance. Plus, I wouldn’t tell them anything about it.
That was about to slowly change in March 2014. Dan Payne of Teledyne LeCroy invited me to come down to the APEC conference in Dallas. March 16 – March 20. At that time I was in a pretty bad down phase. Not only that but I was also out of narcotic painkillers. At that time I took them every day. I had to. I was unable to deal with life without them. The night before the conference I was bored in my hotel room, waiting on food I ordered. So I went on facebook and checked out who is online to talk to. Not many options. But, a girl named Megan caught my eye. Before that I only knew her as a cashier at Walmart. Why is this section so important? Because she would quickly become that support grid that I needed.
She helped me through the down cycle I was in and then during summer I shot into my usual high. During that high I’d make a lot of changes. I moved into a bigger house, was very productive for work and my personal life was good as well. But obviously, nothing was good. The entire situation was a big disaster waiting to happen; An extreme high, which will force an extreme low, and a one person support grid. And of course Murphy’s law unfolded a near fatal real life demonstration. Just at the peak of the down, my support grid was dealing with things on her own. There was no way she could bring up enough energy to help us both. So the structure I counted to lean on gave way and I hit the ground harder than I ever did before. As a result I’d spend a weekend on a suicide hold in a psychiatric unit of a local hospital.
The stay didn’t solve anything but it kept me safe for a while. It was long enough to think. And I received some medications that were supposed to prevent that from happening again. But I didn’t like the side effects and stopped taking them. Of course I never followed up with a doctor. Cause after all I felt better. It’s a dangerous trap of bipolar disorder; After you hit the lowest point in the cycle, everything afterwards feels ‘better’ even though you’re still deep in the down.
Not too long after that, in early December, I had a trip to Teledyne LeCroy planned. A dangerous situation. I was unstable as it was. This trip had a lot of potential to go wrong. Sitting in a hotel room and thinking about how much life sucks was the last thing I needed. But due to lack of distraction opportunities in a hotel room, that was likely gonna happen.
But another friend to the rescue. I needed a camera person anyway. So I selected someone who would be capable and responsible enough to watch out for me and who can also operate a camera. Luckily, Justin was just the right friend for the job and he’s extremely interested in electronics as well. Everything worked out quite well even though my emotional stability was definitely borderline.
Until the beginning of 2015 I’d slowly recover from my low. Especially through the holidays, the local Sheriff’s Department was a huge help by letting me be part of the night patrols. It was a perfect deal for me; I got out to have fun and I had someone qualified to watch me. This element of having a close relationship with the local Sheriff’s Department would prove itself to be extremely helpful later on.
Then in May was the Tektronix trip in Santa Clara, CA. For some reason I was on a down path again. A heavy one, I could tell. So again, I took a person capable of watching me and capable of assisting me with the cameras. This time I took Megan. She loves California so it didn’t take long to convince her. I’m glad I took her cause my stability was borderline again and Megan was familiar with the particularities of my moods. She also knew some nice places in San Francisco. So on the second day we drove up there and had a blast. She made me see a San Francisco Giants game. It turned out to be more fun than I expected. I felt good but probably only because I was distracted.
Now between that trip and end of June is where it all went south. The down phase reached an amplitude that I had never experienced before. I started cutting my arms and chest. Just a little at first. Then more and more. I’m not sure how I can put the happenings in that time-frame in words. Lets just say lots of blood, police visits, suicide ideation and (involuntary) hospital trips.
I also split up with my wife and filed for divorce in that time-frame. My wife, Jessica, has literally been playing on her computer while I’d be in the next room determined to end my life. She knew what was going on. She knew what was happening. But she didn’t care.
It would mostly be Megan and her best friend, Linzy, who would actively intervene. Some of the Sheriff’s Deputies that I knew very well by now would also help. One Deputy in particular, Michael Davis, has gone above and beyond. It would be things as trivial as sitting on the couch with me, chit chatting until my sleeping pills kick in. He’d let me sit in the passenger seat of the patrol car and drive me to a hospital himself when he thought I needed to go. He also offered to take my personal firearms and store them in his safe until I feel like I should have them back. A minor detail that would become extremely important.
On June 21st I would get extremely bad. I cut my chest so baldy that my shirt was completely blood covered. Deputy Davis would drive me to a local hospital. But by magic of changing shirts I could convince the doctor that nothing was wrong. Up to this point in time it was the worst low though.
That was about to change on Monday, June 29th, my birthday. The weekend before that was already very hard and influenced by narcotic painkillers and alcohol at once, I was determined to finally end my life. Again, I will spare you the details but if I would have had access to my firearms, I wouldn’t be able to write this post. I woke up in the Lonoke County Jail the next morning. At first I was worried I did something really stupid and had criminal problems. But no, some relief, I was in protective custody. But I must have crossed a line or exhausted their patience; They filed for an order of involuntary commitment. I waived my right to a hearing. I knew I needed to probably stay somewhere for a while. So I was sent to the State Hospital.
If you ever want to be in a place where hours feel like days, I highly recommend a State Hospital trip. It was not a very nice place to stay at and I’m somewhat unsure about the helpfulness of the stay itself. My boss of course heard about the incident. At first I was worried about his response. But I was quite surprised; He hired an attorney for me, got me a new Apartment in Oklahoma, bought me a new car (wife took ours while I was locked up) and many other things.
Since then things have been calm and stable. But I am treading extremely careful. I am seeing a psychiatrist who prescribed me various medications. I can feel the difference and other people claim they can tell as well when they talk to me. Especially the mood stabilizers work to an absurd extent. Even the tiniest emotion changes are completely suppressed. It’s one constant happy and content mood.
Even though I am taking a lot of “What If” and “Why did I …?” questions out of this, I am also realizing how extremely lucky I was. If the right people wouldn’t have been there at the right time, I wouldn’t be alive anymore. In retrospect a scary thought.
So why am I writing this out publicly in such great detail? Well, for various reasons. For starters, to explain my inactivity. Second, to give at least some of the great people who made a difference in my life some credit. Third, to show other people out there that they’re not alone in living through something like this. I response to my “The Bipolar Blogger” video a lot of people affected by the issue themselves reached out. I’m sure at least one of them can relate to this story.
I reached out to all my sponsors about 2 weeks ago. The response was extremely supportive. Therefore, I have finished setting up my lab today. It looks exactly like the old lab. At least on the work-space side. Once I feel comfortable, I will start blogging again full throttle. Stay tuned!
Athina Horstmann, thank you for doing anything you can from the other side of the globe. And thanks for calling me out when I say something stupid. I love and miss you.
Shane Lee, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen to my sorrows and acting as the angel on my shoulder.
Megan Woodworth, thanks for being there. Thanks for calming me without words. Thanks for putting my mind at ease with your mere presence. I love you.
Linzy Allison, you deserve a lot of credit. You stepped in when nobody else did. For absolutely no other reason that that you cared. I’m sorry you had to see what you saw. I’ll be forever thankful for your dedication.
Dan Payne, without you, I likely wouldn’t have Megan in my life now. And I am forever thankful for that alone. But you also knew about some of my issues and supported me nonetheless. And of course I will never forget that you basically kickstarted my blog.
Michael Davis, thanks for going above and beyond. Thanks for doing more than just your job. You’re a great person.