Recovery is Beautiful | Gabe’s Recovery Story
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Gabe’s Recovery Story

Gabe Howard

 

According to the internet, my friends, and mental health groups, I am a bipolar superhero looking to change the perception of mental illness in a single bound. According to me, I’m a person with knowledge, lived experience, and a knack for getting myself into situations where providing a little context goes a long way.

 I was born with mental illness, hit my crisis point in my mid-twenties, and was diagnosed while in an inpatient psychiatric ward of a local hospital. When I was diagnosed, what I didn’t know about mental illness greatly outweighed what I did know. Even what I did know was almost entirely wrong, thanks to all the fear, stereotypes, and misinformation everywhere.

 It took me many years and many setbacks, but eventually I was able to use therapy, medication, experience, and sheer determination to reach stability. After people found out about my diagnoses, I noticed a change in how they acted and how they treated me.

 People Became Tongue-Tied – People I had known for years suddenly seemed unable to communicate with me.

 They Treated Me as a Scapegoat – People were now able to blame everything on me! Is there a problem? Blame the man with bipolar!

 I Became an Advice Magnet – Before my diagnosis, no one felt the need to give unsolicited advice. Thanks to severe and persistent mental illness, all the advice someone has been holding in is now appropriate for me! Come find me. I want to sit back and listen to you explain to me what I am going through.

 Because of all of the misinformation out there, I honed my ability to explain to people what living with mental illness really means. I am a mental illness mythbuster, replacing their fear with facts.

I have bipolar and anxiety disorders and freely acknowledge this to anyone who cares to know. Does owning my mental illness and sharing it with others help me as much as it helps them? Absolutely. There is an incredible amount of value in being who I am, and being secure enough to share. There is a subtle confidence boost in being called brave, inspirational, or amazing.

 

There is a downside, however. Not everyone feels the same. To many people, admitting to having a mental illness is proof that the mental illness isn’t “under control.” They let stereotype, fear, and personal bias get in the way of seeing me as a person. They see it as something I should be ashamed of.

 I know I am changing the way people see mental illness. I see great value in being open and honest and talking to as many people as I can about what my life is like, about what I have been through and what it took to reach the point where I am now.

 For me, helping others with their recovery is a vital part of my own recovery.

To read more from Gabe, please visit his website at www.gabehoward.com