Whereas before I was a mess, with moods all over the place and energy levels in the gutter, for the past four years since I initiated that challenge, I have felt energized, and in control of my life. After I completed the personal challenge, I now eat some refined sugar, and drink some coffee and alcohol again—but with much more moderation than before.
I’m thirty-four now, happy, and completely off all medications. Once my mental issues and moodswings were taken care of, I was able to turn my attention to getting my worklife, career, and finances in order. Over four years, I went from earning just over $8,000 in the worst year of my bipolar, to breaking the six-figure barrier in revenue for the first time last year, in a combination of freelance projects and my own book projects.
(I tell this story of my own journey of financial self-transformation, between the ages of 30-34, in my upcoming book The Education of Millionaires – though I’m not a millionaire—yet!)
Three and a half weeks after the challenge ended, in late May 2008, I went out on my first date with Jena. That first date was epic; we stayed up all night, telling each other our life stories. During the course of that night, I told her my story of struggling with and eventually overcoming bipolar.
Jena shared with me that she had a close friend during her teenage years, a brilliant musician and composer with a bright career ahead of her, who was bipolar. Jena played for me a hauntingly beautiful recording of the friend’s music. Jena told me, with tears, that the friend had not been able to share her full artistic gift to the world; the friend had cut her life off early at 22, through suicide.
When I finished my own story, Jena’s speech slowed down from our excited all-night story telling. She looked me in the eyes. Time around us seemed to slow down. She reached over, held my hand. She looked at me, and said: “I’m glad you made it, Michael.”
A year after that, we were engaged. This past July 2nd, we celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. Neither of us has ever been happier in our entire lives.
I often shed a tear when I contemplate that I came very close to taking my life, only a year before I met the love of my life, who is now my wife.
If you are in the dumps about a mental illness, please do not give up. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I know it may seem hopeless at times—it may seem like a darkness that never ends. But you can get through it. In fact, you might just be at the beginning of the final corner before the road turns to health, freedom and happiness.
Please, do not give up. You can do this.
Michael Ellsberg is the author of The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think, and It’s Not Too Late, which is launching from Penguin/Portfolio in September. It’s a bootstrapper’s guide to investing in your own human capital at any age. Michael sends manifestos, recommendations, tips, and other exclusive content to his private email list, which you can join at www.ellsberg.com. Connect with him on Twitter @MichaelEllsberg and on Facebook.http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelellsberg/2011/07/18/how-i-overcame-bipolar-ii/7/