This article was written long before it was published. It sat in my WordPress drafts collecting metaphorical digital dust for over 2 years now.
I've been wrestling with whether or not to share it. Every time I was about to share it, I got scared.
I made excuses why I shouldn't share it just yet.
Sharing this story, professionally, does me no favors.
I will likely lose clients and people might start treating me differently.
"Bipolar" is not a word a lot of people are comfortable with. It sounds scary and might give the impression that I'm going to just flip a switch and act crazy at the drop of a pin. Fortunately, that isn't the case, but I understand the stigma, trust me.
Another fear was that this might come off as a cry for attention.
The thought of that is what bothers me the most as I neither want nor deserve your pity. Life is great for me now, but it wasn't always.
Over the years, I've actually lied about this story to many people out of fear of embarrassment. What I really should have been embarrassed about was the fact I was too afraid to tell the truth and possibly help others in the process.
Much of my past isn't something I'm proud of and any attention I get from it isn't the kind that I'd like.
All of those fears aside, this story needed to be told.
Although I write about mastering e-commerce and learning to make more money without a regular job, my brand can be broken down to one core purpose: helping as many people as possible.
Helping people is the fuel that makes my business run. It's how I make a living and I love every bit of it.
"Sharing this story, professionally, does me no favors. I will likely lose clients, people will read it and perhaps treat me differently."
Everyone has a story that they are uniquely qualified to tell that the world deserves to hear. As a blogger, we owe it to our audience to share these when we have them.
Mine just isn't glamorous, but nonetheless, there is value in sharing it.
I know that my story will be relatable to thousands of other people who unfortunately carry the weight of depression and obsessive thinking. People who held it together better than I did but are unhappy and unfulfilled as a result.
They never got help and this article is my attempt to provide some by sharing how changing my mindset (combined with medication) helped me change my entire life.
This is my story and I hope that it resonates with just a handful of my readers and followers. If it does, I'm ok with losing some followers, losing some credibility and perhaps even losing money as a result.
So, here it goes...
My Mental Breakdown
During my junior year of high school, I was admitted to the Ohio State Harding Hospital of Behavioral Health against my will. My parents made the decision to admit me after a sever manic episode fueled by years of obsessive, unstoppable negative thinking.
This all culminated in me slamming my head against the wall of my bedroom very hard, multiple times.
"...unstoppable negative thinking led me to slam my head against the wall of my bedroom."
To this day, I don't know why I did this. It felt right at the time. It wasn't a cry for help or an attempt to kill myself. I suppose it was a literal attack on the brain that was driving me insane.
Although I had a great life, good friends and a loving family, I struggled with an inability to control my thoughts.
It felt like my subconscious was sabotaging me and wanted me to be miserable.
Things that should have been great experiences were fogged by background thoughts in my head that depressed the hell out of me.
If it was a thought I didn't want to dwell on, my brain fixated on it.
It was like Chinese water torture, and finally, it broke me.
Fortunately, my parents admitted me to the hospital and I was closely monitored.
I had a history of head injuries from playing football and the self inflicted blow to my head didn't come without some scary consequences.
During a cat scan, it was revealed that I had a mass in my head and the doctors couldn't immediately rule out cancer. I waited for about 24 hours (which seemed like 24 years) to hear that the mass was benign and likely scar tissue from my past injuries.
Good news, I needed some at that point in my life and this did give me a new perception of how much I really wanted to live, no matter how shitty I felt.
I stayed in the hospital for the entire summer. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was told that my obsessive negative thinking was likely a byproduct of it.
After being released, I was readmitted about a month later (I will have to check with my mom on that timeline as the entire experience is foggy 12 years later).
I was put on medication but things didn't really get too much better.
I started drinking a lot and eventually moved out of my parents house at the age of 17.
The medication helped a little bit and aside from the mental disorder, my life was really great on paper. If I was born into different circumstances, I can't say I'd be where I am today and I am very thankful for that.
Nonetheless, I was still screwing up big time.
- I was charged with a DUI at the age of 19 (as I pulled into a Wendy's to order a Spicy Chicken sandwich after a night of beer pong).
- I wasn't taking my college courses seriously (literally was taking classes that I knew would be filled with girls...mostly art and nutrition classes) and was blowing the tuition money I was receiving from UPS on beer, music equipment and other things that were turning my opportunity at a student loan free life into a debt trap.
- I was the 5th room mate in a 4 bedroom house on Ohio State's campus and literally lived in a large closet that fit only a loft bed. There was a desk built in underneath, it was actually kind of awesome. You know what, scratch this as a low point, this was fine.
- I was fired from my job as a waiter at an Irish pub for spending most of my time in the keg room "testing" the beers.
- I was getting into fights and found myself on more than one occasion in situations that could have played out very, very badly if circumstances changed just a little bit. One fight I got into was with someone who I didn't realize had a car full of friends nearby who weren't super happy about what was going down. A slower version of myself wouldn't be here writing this story today.
- I was nearly arrested for an altercation with a street meat vendor over a price discrepancy on a bag of chips after a night of drinking (I still think he charged me twice). Again, a slower version of myself would have had a different outcome. I was able to outrun (on foot) the cops that time as well.
So, remember how I said I didn't want people to change their perception of me after reading this? So much for that.
I don't blame you if you think I am a total jerk based on these stories. I am ashamed of how I acted and I feel better each day that they are a little further behind me.
I do try and make up for these shitty actions by being a better person today, but yeah, I have definitely have lots to atone for.
A Forced Change of Perspective
Things started to change a bit when I met my wife when I was 19.
In hindsight, she has very strange taste in men and is very lucky that I panned out ok because at the time, it wasn't looking good!
We had our first son Sawyer when we were both 20.
I don't think I need to say that it wasn't planned, but yeah, it wasn't.
Now, people say that if you're really crazy you don't "know you're crazy." That is bullshit.
I knew I was "crazy" and the idea of being a young dad in this state scared me to death.
My illness became bigger than myself. I had a son to take care of and I didn't take that lightly.
"...people say that if you're really crazy you don't 'know you're crazy.' That is bullshit."
I knew that I had to do something for the sake of my son and I didn't want my mental illness to impact a single bit of how his life would play out.
I can be an asshole at times (especially back then), but the thought of ruining my boy's life or being a shitty father terrified me.
I wouldn't let it happen. I made getting better a priority.
Some years went by and I started to see changes in my life, but I was still quietly depressed and still dealing with the negative, obsessive thinking.
I learned to handle it better but still, things were not great inside my head.
My Obsessive Thoughts Continue, But My Obsession Shifts
My life changed though when I was 22.
I don't know why, but the idea of working for myself started to become enticing.
For no reason, I started to feel very confident that I could make it work.
This blind hope and deep interest led to an obsession to make it work.
Yes, the same obsessive thinking that led me to slam my head against a wall years earlier was now fueling my love for entrepreneurship.
I'd listen to podcasts for hours.
I'd stay up all night reading (a sign of mania, if you're doing this, I recommend you stop).
I bought every book on the topics that I felt would help me make this internet business thing work.
Yes, this obsession did result in my not taking my jobs very seriously. Doing things like taking breaks for company calendars (that weren't a thing) were common place...
Not super proud of this either 🙂 Some people just aren't cracked out for 9-5s, and you know I'm definitely one of them.
Admittedly, I spent too much time learning and not enough time taking action. After about a year of absolute immersion and obsession, I started to take action.
I started making niche websites, selling things on eBay and Amazon and freelancing on Fiverr selling jokes to standup comics (which made me probably $1000 total in exchange for more hours than I can remember, but was one of my favorite businesses still to this day).
I tried flipping junk cars and did random things like vending beer at the Atlanta motor speedway.
I started to notice something. My obsession with business was taking the place of the obsessive thoughts that depressed me.
Obsession after all is pretty all consuming and I couldn't obsess over multiple, opposite things.
This was beautiful and it made me love business even more. It was literally saving my life.
I let it totally consume me and money started to come in as a byproduct.
"I started to notice something. My obsession with business was taking the place of the obsessive thoughts that depressed me."
My Amazon business started to take off. I then started some services for other Amazon sellers to help them grow their businesses.
I learned about software development and outsourcing and leveraged the two to create products that people actually bought.
Flash forward to today.
My businesses regularly drive monthly revenues over $100,000. I'm able to take extended vacations with my family. I own nice things. I'm able to help friends and family members from time to time.
I don't avoid looking at my bank account anymore. I actually look at it with pride now instead of fear.
The moral of the story here isn't that money and business success will make you happy and crush your mental disorders.
The moral of the story is that shifting our energy and focus to things that we love does make us happy. Especially if you're like me and have a mind that requires constant stimulation.
I expect to always be an obsessive type of person but now, it has become one of my greatest strengths.
My mental illness is my unfair advantage over my competitors.
Seriously, you can't compete with someone when they are wired to be obsessed on a topic.
Yes, I still take the same medicines to handle my bipolar disorder. I see the brain like I see any other organ. Medication can help chemical imbalances but also, I don't think most people can typically solve their issues with medication alone. Medication alone helped me, but didn't cure me.
I'm glad it didn't "cure me" because without this obsessive instinct, I wouldn't be where I am today.
I didn't put myself out there in this article just for the hell of it. I did it to hopefully help some of you who are in a similar place that I was.
Now, I am not "enlightened' or some master of neurology and psychology. My insights come from my experiences. If yours are similar, take what I am about to suggest more seriously please.
1. Try to turn your weaknesses into strengths.
Sometimes, weaknesses are just going to always be weaknesses. There are occasions though that you can turn your weakness into a strength. For me, obsessive thinking and mania was a huge weakness. Once I learned to harness it, my life changed.
2. If you obsess over negativity, try to find something new to obsess about.
The brain doesn't like being idle. If you're like me, it REALLY doesn't like being idle. So, fuel it with something you love and that excites you. It's difficult to fully obsess over multiple things at once.
3. Don't be ashamed to get professional help.
Please don't confuse "harnessing your weakness" with just accepting it without a fight. If you have a mental disorder, I recommend that you visit a psychiatrist. Many people aren't down with that, but like I said, the brain is an organ, when an organ has a problem, we can at least try to address it with medication. While medication didn't cure me, it did help me. Without it, who knows if I would have even made it to the age of 22 when I learned to harness my disorder.