My Story: Rwenshaun and Bipolar Disorder
Rweshaun, a popular athlete in school, realized he needed help despite getting good grades and holding down a full-time job. Watch his story here from getting a bipolar diagnosis to becoming a leader and mental health advocate.
RWENSHAUN: None of my friends at school knew why I left school. They never knew that I was in the hospital. I was ashamed to even talk about it.
I was an athlete. I was popular, and I was a black man. Those types of things are not things that we actually go through.
So I've been living with bipolar disorder for 14 years now. Even as a younger child, I had issues dealing with anger
and then also sleeping. We never really associated me not wanting to be bothered with people or me wanting
to stay in my room for extended periods of time as a symptom of depression. My initial break where I realized
that I needed some actual real help was my sophomore year in college. I suffered a knee injury playing football
and went through a period where I had to have surgery. So I really was secluded in my room then because I never left my room, didn't go to class.
That started that cycle of me having racing thoughts. I didn't sleep for about two weeks.
Over a matter of six weeks, that's when I lost about 25 pounds. My mom, she could tell that something was going on with me
just by my voice. They took me to the hospital. Initially when I got the diagnosis, receiving it from someone who don't necessarily look like you
or that you don't really trust, it kind of went in one ear and out the other. My first thing was it was not-- I couldn't be me. For a man at a very young age, we tell them, do not cry.
You know, you can't show any type of emotion. It's a weakness for you to do that. Especially as a black man, you're a target in so many different avenues.
I'm gonna go back to trying to do the same things that I was doing before to try to get by. I self-medicated with alcohol.
I was going through a fifth of tequila every other day, and I did that for over three years. At the time, though, I had my best grades.
And I was holding down a full-time job at the same time. No one were the wiser that something else was really wrong with me and I was tearing up inside.
I attempted suicide three times, attempted to overdose on pills twice. And last time, I put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger,
and it jammed on me. That was my actual wake-up call saying that I'm ready to accept it.
Once I started back treatment and understanding what bipolar disorder looked like for me, I wanted to share with others and learn what
the clinical aspect was like. That's what prompted me to go get my master's degree. But then also, while I was in my master's degree program,
I started to read things. And I was like, yo, this-- this is not gonna work with the population that I'm wanting to serve.
Because I know my people are not participating in a lot of research studies. I wanted to challenge it to actually be inclusive of my people.
My motto is be who you needed when you were younger. I needed someone that looked like me, someone that was able to relate to me without even always verbally
communicating. The individuals that I work with, man, we're not-- we're not even sitting in my office. We're playing basketball, or we're in the gym working out.
Or we're going to the park, you know, and creating the atmosphere where they feel comfortable. Although you have this particular diagnosis,
you can still be happy. You can still continue to thrive and continue to live and continue to live with bipolar disorder instead
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