three questions. one of you.
Periodically, I will be asking a friend three questions about his or her experience with mental illness. This person might be a guy who deals with mental illness or someone (like my wife) who is a supporter. Over time, the 31U series will show how men of all sorts, with all backgrounds, and of all personalities can be inflicted in a variety of ways and how loved ones can better understand and support them. The hope is that this series will serve as a reminder for those in darkness that we are not alone in this fight, and that it will be a helpful resource for supporters.
Dealing with mental illness is a daily battle. Every morning, one who struggles pulls on his armor and leans on fellow soldiers just to get out of bed. Facing the day is no easy task.
I first met Jonny Carroll when we shared a stage. As a fellow singer-songwriter, I have a deep respect for his work as a touring artist, especially considering the vulnerability that is inherently intertwined with songwriting. It’s not easy to sing your soul out for sometimes seemingly apathetic ears. I’m eternally grateful for his willingness to not only be vulnerable on stage, but to write about his daily battle with bipolar disorder through the 31U series. Please check out Jonny’s music here. Read on to hear a slice of his story.
When and how did you realize you dealt with a mental illness?
I realized I dealt with mental illness early in high school, but it wasn’t until shortly after my college years that I became aware of bipolar disorder and received a diagnosis in the summer of 2012.
Mania was the biggest and most unmanageable symptom of the illness. Depression was often present, but I could function with it regularly. Manic tendencies frequently resulted in lost jobs, nullified friendships and romantic relationships, and the overall chaotic nature of my existence: compulsive spending, days without sleep, and an acute productivity before an episode’s peak.
What have been the most valuable tools, resources, or strategies that have helped you?
The humility to be fully self-aware is key for growth. It’s an ongoing struggle, and it’s not easy to believe you could be wrong about a social or emotional scenario. But when in a maxed chemical state, you usually are.
“An Unquiet Mind” by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison has been an extremely helpful read — not only in understanding the complexity of my own nature, but having given copies to folks who are close in my life has helped them to understand and engage in discussion concerning the illness. Learning to recognize tells of mood swings is also important, along with learning how to address them. When I start feeling or thinking a certain way that I recognize is brought on by the chemicals, I always ask myself three questions: Did I sleep? Did I eat? Am I being reasonable?
What gives you hope in the now and for the future?
There are at least a few people in my life at a time who relentlessly believe in me. That’s key. Additionally, understanding that growth isn’t always linear, and when it comes to chemical imbalances, one should never confuse what is happening chemically with someone’s character. There’s a reality with people who suffer from bipolar: when the chemicals drive your behavior and decisions, it will likely hurt the people around you. You have to learn to live in the tension of understanding, “It’s not my fault” while dealing with the fact that “I’m responsible.” But there’s an old Irish saying from the north that is simple and always relevant to me. It is a single line, usually exchanged between soldiers before battle, encouraging one another to stand their ground. “Keep your courage,” they said. “Keep your courage.”
If you would like to participate in the 31U series, head to my contact page, and let me know! Oh yeah, he’s a video of Jonny: