When I started this show a little over one year ago, it like all of my half-hashed ideas, came to me while I was in a state of hypomania -- thoughts were racing through my brain, confidence was abundant, and potential was apparent. It was around midnight, I had just finished an intense workout, fueled by pre-workout and frustration with my circumstances. I was in the shower at the 24 Hour Fitness I worked at and the idea struck: A Podcast!
But unlike most of my half-hashed ideas, I actualized this particular one.
I had been listening to podcasts every day, since discovering their existence. They were a great alternative to country music and angry Republicans on AM radio as I made my 45 minute commute from a tiny Missouri town to a small Missouri town, where a relatively menial job awaited me. I found myself in what I described to my mother as a state of purgatory.
A year before that, I was an ambitious academic, having just earned a Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree, and in Law School on a scholarship. I was also an ambitious creative, having written several feature film scripts, created a somewhat popular web series, and even come close to completing my own feature film, which, being the narcissist I was (okay, am) I also of course starred in.
My ambitions had been grand and expectations about as high as they could be. I was then fueled by a bitter anger at the world for failing to recognize my greatness. I felt betrayed by higher education, my mediocrity-accepting and inducing creative collaborators, and perhaps most of all: the leaders of my country, who had set into effect a chain reaction of international events that rendered the quietly dismal state of the American and therefore global economy.
I was a lonely, bitter person, to whom ambition was a sole ally.
I wish I could say that then things got better, but they didn't; they got worse. Much worse. Without knowing it, I had spent a quarter-century of my life with undiagnosed mental conditions; the most debilitating of which being BiPolar disorder*. I didn't come to realize this until I had already dropped out of law school during a manic episode, damaged or relationships with the people I cared about most, and isolated myself from realities I found disagreeable.**
It wasn't until I broke a door with my hand, and visa-versa, that it became apparent to my family that there might be something beyond stress going on. My mom promptly booked me an appointment at a mental health clinic, where I spent three days filling out questionnaires, talking to therapists, undergoing brain scans, and meeting with a neurologist (brain doctor).
When I received my diagnoses, and saw the scan of my brain -- which indicated overactivity, basically across the board -- to my surprise I wasn't upset at all. To the contrary, I was relieved. I had always known something was different about me, but I never knew what. I had been plagued by anonymous demons since adolescence and now they had a name.
If I could see what they were I could beat them, I reasoned; or learn to live with them at least.
And so began what turned out to be a much longer than expected period of recovery, coping, and introspection to avoid the dark fate that awaited a great many BiPolar people: suicide. I had never attempted suicide, or thought I ever could, but as I found myself working for an unethical company that only solidified my worst fears about the economic realities in America, the depression only got worse, and my abuse of drugs and alcohol attempts at self-treatment only increased (it was always the gym or drugs if I wanted to change how I felt).
Before long, I found myself jobless and completely incapable of sustaining myself in one of the most expensive counties in the country (Orange County). I had to sell off all my most valued possessions just to pay rent, to include my Rolex Air King, my graduation gift, and my exotic cat Lana, one of my last remaining friends.
It was bad. I had no choice but to do the thing many in my generation had to do, but that I feared most of all... the thing I swore I would never do: go home, and move in with my parents. As a self-perceived failure in every respect, I reached a new level of depression I'd never felt.
I wish I could say it got better from there. But it didn't. It got even worse.
Amidst another manic episode, I found myself desperately trying to finish the movie I had never completed... and doing it to win the affections of the woman I knew I would end up with. Both things were relics of the past I knew I needed to let go, but something inside me refused to allow me to. I fluctuated between knowing I would achieve all my dreams any day now and knowing I was a crazy and delusional person who would do well to just end his life.
When it finally became clear to me, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the woman I had been trying to reconnect with had no interest in me anymore... and had been intentionally ignoring me for months (something I couldn't so much as imagine being a possibility the whole time) I lost all interest in finishing the movie. It was meant to be a means to an end: her being the end.
So now I had even more nothing than nothing. Without family to support me at that point, I'm not sure I would have survived that incredible low in my life. But I did have family and I did make it. Unable to move forward in any discernable direction, and still plagued by emotional volatility and insecurity, for the second time, I found myself in another mental health clinic.
The treatment seemed to help, but only slightly. It was helpful to learn more about my condition(s), but the more treatment I got, and the more I was surrounded by people far crazier than I, the more I came to adopt a victim mentality. "I'm crazy" is something I would routinely say, arguing with whoever dared argue. "It's just how I am. I can't ever live a normal life. No one will want to be in a relationship with me and no employer will ever hire me. The system is rigged against me as is... with my disorders, I have even less a shot. I'm screwed. But I don't care anymore. I'm not interested in happiness. I just want to be a great. I want to make work that will hopefully find recognition in my lifetime. To leave the world a better place. Then I can die. Finally. Until then, my life will just have to be a sentence I have to live out."
So I gave up on having friends. I gave up on caring about romance. I accepted that I needed to rely on medications to change my emotional states, and did all I could to let go of my ambitions. Weed helped me see the world a different way... it helped me not care as much.
Life was purgatory, that Catholic world you go to after you die that's just a waiting room. Once enough of your relatives pray and pay to light candles for you or whatever, you get to go to heaven finally. That's what it was for me. I just had to wait, and hope someone recognized my potential as an artist and/or thinker. If they did. Otherwise I'd just die depressed and alone someday... something I often looked forward to.
Depressing shit, right? Tell me about it...
So I dedicated myself to just learning things to pass the time.
Learning more about the world in my room alone, all night every night, seemed to help. Curiosity didn't give me purpose, but it took me outside of my own head. I realized I could be one of the smartest beings in human history up to now, because if you paired my cognitive capacities with consistent isolation and immediate access to the unlimited knowledge the internet proffered, I could make connections no one else had yet. Maybe I could be a genius?
That became a sort of goal I would pursue, considering earning PhDs in everything from economics to physics... imagining myself never ending my education, and one day figuring something out that alters the course of human history, validating my seemingly useless life. I liked that perspective. Maybe I wasn't crazy so much as I was meant for genius. After all, pretty much every great artist and thinker and inventor was pretty crazy right? I came to refer to myself as eccentric instead of crazy. That was at least a step in the right direction.
Being offered a few screenwriting jobs... the first paid writing jobs I'd ever gotten, as menial as the pay was, gave me something invaluable: validation. I again began to develop hope... all the while remaining woefully aware the world was still a very unfair place and I probably wouldn't make it. But of course I would! It was my destiny! But no it wasn't. There is no destiny.
I fluctuated now between great hope and great apathy and disdain for all the feeling I did.
Then, to skip ahead a bit in the interest of time (I have somewhere to be) I moved to New York.
I'd like to wait to tell everyone what happened there when the show returns. Because a lot happened. I reached more lows. And new highs. I have a lot of stories to tell. I wrote a book longer than Harry Potter in a month; one that I hope will be published. I did a lot. And endured a lot. And am happy to report that for the first time since I started this show, I'm stable enough to hold down a job, develop relationships with people again, and look myself in the mirror.
I have a long way to go, but I'm confident it will only go up from here. Because I've come to understand myself a lot better over the past year. I've come to realize medications are not the answer, but a necessary component to proper treatment. I've grown to understand that I'm only a victim if I allow myself to be. And I'm done being a victim. I now see that the world really is... as stereotypical as it sounds, what you make it.
Our perception shapes our reality.
Our presuppositions determine what we notice and how we subconsciously interpret it.
Our relationships with one another are tremendously valuable, but we can't depend on someone else to ensure our own stability and happiness.
And it's hard to be depressed when you're useful.
I find myself forced to make a very difficult decision, and one I've balked at making for some time now; that decision is whether to continue creating and airing TriPolar.
As you may have noticed, I haven't released an episode in quite a while. One reason for that is that I'm not content with the quality of the show as a whole. I am very proud of a lot of the work, and I don't for a second think any of the episodes are bad, per se. But they're not good enough. And I have, to date, fallen short of fulfilling my true goal with this show: to make a real impact on public understanding of mental health, to remove the stigmas associated with mental health conditions which bar people from treatment, and last but not least: to have somewhere to put it all. I need outlets. Writing is my main one. This show became another.
Another reason I've thought ending the show may be wise is that it's very time-consuming, which was far less of an issue over the past year than it's about to become. I'd need to change the way I produce the show, delegate some of the work to other people, and make some big overall changes in the production process. That's all something I can't make my priority.
Most of all, if I'm honest, I fear this show may have been, and will continue to, bar me from meaningful employment. It's hard enough getting a good job as it is. It becomes a lot harder when you have a controversial show that makes you a posterboy for a condition most people don't understand and oftentimes fear, and understandably so.
But finally, because my dad always told me "If you do something, you do it right, or you don't do it at all." I've come to learn absolute statements like that... black and white thinking... can be very dangerous and disempowering, but on that point, I tend to still agree.
Right now, I can't do this show right. So I'm not going to do it at all.
I started something here that I am going to finish, or die having tried to finish... and that's to reframe mental health in the public eye so that treatment is finally made available to all who need it, to reframe "disorders" as "re-orders" as people who are different or deficient in some way also tend to be enhanced and possess the propensity for genius in other ways. Their potential is just usually not recognized or capitalized on.
I'm not doing the show right now, or for the (closely) foreseeable future. But that doesn't mean I won't ever do it again, because my dad also always told me something else: ""You finish what you start." That's why I still have every intention of either continuing this show and/or launching a new and better show, in a new style, that works toward the same objectives.
But for now, I'm making a new name for myself here in this here New York. Literally. I'm going to define what I am this time around, rather than let what I am define me. Once I've done that, I'll be back, and in full force, with amazing guests and a show that I hope goes on indefinitely.
I hope TriPolar helped some of you. I hope you found it entertaining. And I hope you learned a lot from it. I did. In fact, it's quite possible... probable even, that the show helped me most of all.
I plan to leave all the current episodes up, and will still respond to you if you write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for listening. And don't lose hope. But if you do, remember that it's something that's lost not gone... so go find it again.
Until Next Time,
*For the record, I know it's supposed to be spelled bipolar, not BiPolar, but I capitalize it like that out of respect for the power of the thing... as it demands attention itself.
**For whatever reason, BiPolar Disorder often doesn't fully manifest in those with the condition until their early to mid twenties.