Let the conversation begin.
I’m Bryan Tillett. I am diagnosed Bipolar I with severe anxiety and depression. I have struggled with not only mental illness but also addiction. While one never recovers, I now manage my diseases and mentor for Hope Xchange in our HOPE for Bipolars peer mentoring program. I consider my contribution to the first part of this chronicles by our mentoring team as a mini “chronicles of intoxication.” Over several posts, I share my own personal struggle with addiction and bipolar disorder, a story I have told very few to this degree, and I do so to raise not only awareness but also in the memory of all those we have lost to both drug abuse and this killer brain disease, which takes up to 50% of those who die by suicide each year in this country.
My Story Begins As Punching Bag At Age of 10
I moved to Pungo, Virginia when I was 10 years old. At first, I made friends quickly, but soon what appeared to be a seamless transition from city to country life turned into a nightmare. I was different compared to the other kids in the neighborhood. I dressed differently, listened to different music and spoke differently.
Shortly after moving in, I became the neighborhood punching bag. One after the other, the kids in the neighborhood began to bully me. Sadly, it would last for years. It would be seven years before I began to make friends again.
This isolation from the age of 10 to my late teens destroyed my self-esteem and confidence. It fueled my mental illness like gasoline to a forest fire. It wasn’t until another four years had passed that I would meet anyone close to home that I could talk to. Living in the country causes one to feel so isolated from the world. This only added to my confusion with life and distanced me from my peers.
At High School, I Just Could Not Run Away From Kids Attacking Me Fast Enough
As high school started, I thought it would be a new beginning. I meet a girl that lived close to my parents, a cute red-head with an electric personality. I had never met anyone like her, but then again, I had spent much of the last four years alone.
Unfortunately, however, high school was not a fresh start. It was the beginning of even a darker and tortuous period in my life. I was attacked daily. Normally it was a group of three to four versus me. The one hour bus ride to school was just an opportunity for the kids to catch me. I was viciously beaten daily and kicked off the bus at least once a month for fighting. I would get off the bus and have to run home while being chased by four or more kids trying to attack me. If they caught me they would beat on me for awhile until they grew tired. Some days, I just could not run fast enough.
The cute redhead I mentioned had taken some interest in me for some reason; and, soon we were inseparable. We were both outsiders new to the country life. After growing up in the city, we liked rap music and didn’t have an interest in country music. For a few years, we dated and things started to resemble normalcy in my life, minus the still consistent beatings from the neighborhood kids.
My Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Spun Out of Control
Then my sophomore year came, and things changed for me. I so desperately wanted to belong and no longer be an outcast. I broke up with my girlfriend, although we still hung out, and attempted to meet other girls at school. I started to smoke and drink daily.
My bipolar was out of control and my mood swings were violent and extremely severe. I would go from grandiose highs, where I would spend my nights drinking and talking to friends, to very dark depression where I would isolate myself from everyone I knew.
The alcohol made the mania exciting and cleared my cloudy mind, helping me to begin the practice of writing. I would spend hours on my computer at night writing stories, but usually I would finish one and feel this immense feeling of guilt and embarrassment wash down my body. The only thing that made the emotions settle was deleting all that I had written.
Feeling Numb, Lonely and Isolated, I Wanted to Die
Laying there one blistering hot night in my room, finally it had cooled down, but I didn’t care honestly. I had been depressed for days, and just didn’t want to feel it anymore. I didn’t want to feel anything anymore. I remember feeling numb, feeling so lonely, and isolated from the world.
It was going on 2 AM and I still could not sleep. I snuck downstairs and grabbed four of my dad’s beers from the fridge and headed back upstairs. The beers only lasted a few minutes, but they eased some of the emotions I was feeling. I don’t remember how the idea came about, but soon an idea filled my mind. The idea was to die.
I was so depressed and numb at that time that any idea that possibly would ease the pain of depression seemed like an option. I laid there for another half an hour, debating it in my head. I had the means to execute this idea. In the corner of my room stood a gun cabinet with a shotgun in it. That was not the issue however. It all came down to the fact that I was too depressed to move.
Fighting Through Pain and Anguish to Get to Realization Mental Illness Made Me Feel This Way
Slowly I stood up out of the bed, and moved across the room, opening the cabinet and removing the gun. I took a few steps back and sat on the bed with the gun laid across my lap, looking at it and shaking my head. At that moment I began to cry. It was the first emotion I had been able to express in weeks.
I sat there crying for roughly an hour and, as the minutes went on, I cried harder and harder. I knew then that I was sick, that there was something wrong with me. These thoughts fueled my desire to end my pain and the emptiness that filled my life.
After about an hour of sitting there, moving the gun around loading and unloading it, I stood up and placed the gun back into the cabinet. It was then where I began to really bawl my eyes out. As I moved across the room to the bed, I started to feel tired, and exhausted. It was the same feeling I had experienced for weeks, but now I was even more exhausted. I laid down and quickly fell asleep.
I Have Lived 1,000 Bad Days But Not One Day Worth Not Having A Tomorrow
To Be Continued ...