Sinclair Ceasar III

@sinclairceasar | contributor
Super Contributor
Sinclair Ceasar III is a mental health speaker and content creator. He has been featured in the London Times, Essence Magazine, and Buzzfeed, and has partnered with global wellness brands like The Mighty and Shine Text.

We Need to Do More to Protect Gay Black Men's Mental Health

We need to do better for our gay Black men. As a straight Black man of faith, I say this as someone who didn’t always believe this. Growing up, having feminine interests deemed me weak or inadequate. The majority of my cousins were girls, so it was nothing for me to pick up a doll and mimic what I saw them doing. I remember wanting an Easy-Bake Oven. I was confused about why it wasn’t OK to have such a marvel on my wish list. And while my many other similar experiences don’t compare to moving through life as an openly gay Black man, I clearly remember the name-calling, put-downs, and othering. It was as if my man-ness and sexuality were always on high alert. My worth was something to be decided on, going beyond my character or however else I showed up. I toed the line, often coming close to a beat down or just outright ousting from friend groups. All this to say, this type of culture still exists to this day. It’s the same ideas and attitudes that shaped Boosie, a rapper, the villain of this story, the one who wished suicide on Lil Nas X in a social media post for everyone to see. Boosie wasn’t afraid of the consequence because he was and is the consequence. He is a representative of voices and beliefs that gatekeep one’s literal right to be alive, have access to proper healthcare, play sports, or be fully employed. Boosie has struck before. Early this year, in July, Boosie took to Instagram to make a threatening rant towards Lil Nas X, on the heels of DaBaby’s disparaging and homophobic comments about people living with HIV and AIDS, which were made during a performance at Rolling Loud. Boosie has been incensed by Lil Nas X, whose public antics aren’t for everyone, myself included, but who still doesn’t deserve the expletive-laden diatribes he’s received from someone who feels threatened by his sexuality. Still, this isn’t just a Boosie thing. It’s an “us” thing. It starts with examining ourselves and the stories we tell ourselves about Black men in the LGBTQIA+ community. For me, part of what fueled much of the bigoted ideologies I’ve done years of work to unlearn is my Christian upbringing. I’ve often reflected on how I subscribe to a faith that says “love thy neighbor” only to see people I’ve looked up to doing the complete opposite. This, too, adds to our culture of violence and discrimination. I’m not perfect and I have so many places where I fall short, but one thing I know to be true is that nothing I believe says that people in the queer community deserve the type of exclusion and harm they receive on a daily basis. Lil Nas X has since, skillfully, used the attacks and controversy for promotion and has received an outpouring of support. But the same isn’t true for the many other gay Black boys and men who are reminded, yet again, that some believe it’s not OK for them to exist. This should serve as another call to us to work even harder on checking our biases, educate ourselves, take note of who we invite and pass on (for any team-related tasks/situations), and hold leaders responsible for the spaces they have yet to create. We must protect all of our brothers, not just some. If we don’t, who will?

How the Recent Episode of 'Insecure' Got Bipolar Grief Right

“Insecure’s” recent episode, “Faulty, Okay?!” shook me when Nathan (Kendrick Sampson) finally confronted his cousin, Thomas, about issues from Nathan’s past (see season three). I was totally in my feelings when Nathan attempted to explain how he’s a totally different person now. He’s stable. He’s trustworthy. Unfortunately, Thomas, nor his wife, Velma, were in a place to move past the sins of Nathan’s past. Nathan was highly unpredictable which inadvertently put their kids in unsafe situations. Thomas left the door open for future discussions, but had already called an Uber. Moments later, Issa comes through for Nathan with support and listens as he shares two poignant sentiments: 1. “I just wanted them to see I got my life together.” After I experienced a major manic episode in 2018, I lost many friends and colleagues in its wake. Though I took time to apologize and make amends, some people could only see me as the unpredictable, risk-taking, life-shattering person I was during that time. One thing that hurt the most was that many of these people knew me for years. They knew my track record of integrity, of being a high-performer, of being a loving and caring person. But, those three months of chaos left their mark on them. While I understand where they’re coming from, that doesn’t lessen the pain of people you trusted, distancing themselves from you because they’re afraid of the “old” you, the you whose brain was hijacked, who never asked for any of that hell. What also hurt was I’d taken responsibility for my actions and the pain I caused, but still it wasn’t enough. I’ve come a long way from the rawness of those hurts, but I’d be lying if I said the bitterness and the anger weren’t still rumbling somewhere beneath the surface. I just want them to know I got my life together. But they’ve blocked me, unfriended me, ended our LinkedIn connections, never reaching out to congratulate our family on the birth of our daughter, or send condolences for those who’ve passed away. 2. “Can’t change how nobody see me.” It’s been a long while since I first publicly shared about my episode. The move was intentional. For starters, I wholeheartedly believe sharing about my mental illness journey helps lift the stigma for others, especially as a Black man. In a recent HuffPost interview, actor Kendrick Sampson (Nathan) shares something similar: “This is one of the things that we live with. There are systems built around targeting our mental health and so, it’s impossible to grow up in this country and not experience trauma and not need to heal from it…We go through life with those issues and often don’t have the tools that we need. It’s just showing us living, it’s not some sensationalized version of mental illness which is what we usually see.” Though we cannot change how the world views us, we can work to help people unlearn their misperceptions about bipolar disorder. Admittedly, I’ve tried and failed to change people’s perspective of me for quite some time. I think many of us do it. We don’t want to be seen as the anxious cousin who comes to visit during the holidays. Or the friend with depression who never wants to go out. But, we cannot change how others see us, though we are multifaceted and more than our diagnoses. That’s the second reason I share my story. I want to have a hand in shaping a new narrative around bipolar disorder, and I’m thankful for shows like “Insecure” that are one step closer to getting these types of portrayals right. I felt the pain and loss Nathan felt when his cousin, Tommy, headed to his Uber, cutting the conversation short, no chance for Nathan to explain his side of things. I know what it feels like to feel dismissed in those instances. To hope for a second chance, but come up with nothing except for the the space between the relationship we had and whatever it will become. I don’t have an easy answer for processing this type of pain. I’m still in it. But, it’s so helpful to know others are going through this too, real or fictional.

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5 Things I'm Unlearning About Bipolar Disorder

I just received an email that both lit me up and concerned me. In it, a colleague expressed how much they appreciate the work I’ve done thus far. They’re looking forward to working on more projects together. It’s clear why that made my day, but I’m thrown off because I don’t view myself the same way. Ever since getting back into the workforce after my bipolar diagnosis, I’ve felt like I’ve always been one step away from losing my job. Not because I’m in any danger of being let go, but because the last time I had a job, l left because of mania. My brain was hijacked and everything was a stressful, consuming blur. Every now and then, I get worried I’ll be back in that place. So much embarrassment and shame followed what was a huge disruption of my life, and since then, I’ve worked to keep all I’ve gained. All my family has recovered. All we continue to build and attain. I reply back to my colleague and thank them. I keep it brief. Classically, I haven’t been good at accepting praise, and I don’t want to burden them with a myriad of reasons of why I’m not as competent or talented as they think I am. At some point, I realize how negative my self-talk is. The truth is — my work has spoken for itself. I’ve been making strides. I am doing well at my job and helping people every day. I smile, inhale and slowly exhale, feeling gratitude for interrupting a shame spiral. Since receiving my diagnosis and working on my healing, there’s been much I’ve worked to unlearn about bipolar disorder. Early on in my journey, I wrote about misconceptions we carry about about the disease. But, honestly, I’m still unpacking my own ingrained falsehoods. As I dig deeper and question my thoughts with “is this true?” (something I learned from a past therapist), I’m able to regulate my emotions and continue designing the life I get to live. Here are five lies I’m unlearning about bipolar disorder: This diagnosis diminishes my professional credibility. Not true. The biggest key factor with being back to working full-time is setting clear and consistent boundaries around my time and energy. A lack of sleep and an unhealthy diet can both set me back. So, I’m careful about not taking work home, removing email from my phone, and leaving work at five o’ clock (plus, I don’t want to be stuck in traffic). I’ve hit some rough spots in the past year, but this didn’t mean I needed to quit the job. I remained honest with my wife and my therapist about my limits, and we worked to regroup and revisit my habits and routines. In some ways, living with this diagnosis has made me even more vigilant of burnout as an employee. It’s impossible to make new friends who will trust me. False. Though, I’m much more intentional about curating my friend group with people whose values align with mine. I don’t drink anymore because of how that would impact my medications. I’m also wanting more fellow fathers in my life, as raising a Black daughter in this world takes a community. These days I’m befriending people who are comfortable with my diagnosis. They rarely make it the topic of conversation unless I bring it up. What’s more important are all the factors surrounding my health, my family life, my career, and supporting them with their challenges. I’ve found people I can celebrate life with, and I’m still adjusting to the fact that I deserve them in my life. I have to put my dreams on hold. Wrong again. There was a time when I had a high follower count across platforms, and had contracts coming in left and right. It’s different now, and that’s OK. I’m thankful that I’ve found ways to do the work of ending mental health stigma, and that I’m pacing myself this time around. My wife and I often talk about what we want our future to look like, and it’s just good to be on a team. We get to dream big, and we’re working on our own un/relearning around what success means. Especially, as we enter into spaces our ancestors often were excluded from. The other shoe will drop and I’ll be right back where I was in 2018. Doesn’t have to be true. I don’t have to have a major episode again. My former psychiatrist told me that, and I’ve been holding onto it. It’s positive and realistic rolled into one, and my habits with taking medication, tracking my mood, and making adjustments to my diet are what keep me stable. I have a strong support system that is OK with holding me accountable and I have an emergency plan in place should things ever start to enter dangerous territory. While the fear of the other shoe dropping is still there, planning has been a great antidote to anxiety. My diagnosis is an embarrassment. Nope, my diagnosis is a gift. It’s a gift as a father, it’s a gift as a husband, and it’s a gift as a Black man. Before it, I didn’t have answers as to why I was so extra all the time. I didn’t have a name for the hypomania I experienced. But now, I’m informed. I get to use my story to help others unlearn shame and feel less alone. As you work to unlearn your own false narratives around bipolar disorder, remember to give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack. There are countless reasons for why we stigmatize this illness, what’s important is that we take the little steps of deconstructing those underlying beliefs. The most important truth is that you get to live a full life with a bipolar diagnosis. You do, your friend living with is does, your loved one does, that celebrity does, anyone and everyone. It doesn’t have to define our lives. Rather, it’s something we can continue to explore, learn from, investigate and treat. There’s more life to be lived.  

5 Things I'm Unlearning About Bipolar Disorder

I just received an email that both lit me up and concerned me. In it, a colleague expressed how much they appreciate the work I’ve done thus far. They’re looking forward to working on more projects together. It’s clear why that made my day, but I’m thrown off because I don’t view myself the same way. Ever since getting back into the workforce after my bipolar diagnosis, I’ve felt like I’ve always been one step away from losing my job. Not because I’m in any danger of being let go, but because the last time I had a job, l left because of mania. My brain was hijacked and everything was a stressful, consuming blur. Every now and then, I get worried I’ll be back in that place. So much embarrassment and shame followed what was a huge disruption of my life, and since then, I’ve worked to keep all I’ve gained. All my family has recovered. All we continue to build and attain. I reply back to my colleague and thank them. I keep it brief. Classically, I haven’t been good at accepting praise, and I don’t want to burden them with a myriad of reasons of why I’m not as competent or talented as they think I am. At some point, I realize how negative my self-talk is. The truth is — my work has spoken for itself. I’ve been making strides. I am doing well at my job and helping people every day. I smile, inhale and slowly exhale, feeling gratitude for interrupting a shame spiral. Since receiving my diagnosis and working on my healing, there’s been much I’ve worked to unlearn about bipolar disorder. Early on in my journey, I wrote about misconceptions we carry about about the disease. But, honestly, I’m still unpacking my own ingrained falsehoods. As I dig deeper and question my thoughts with “is this true?” (something I learned from a past therapist), I’m able to regulate my emotions and continue designing the life I get to live. Here are five lies I’m unlearning about bipolar disorder: This diagnosis diminishes my professional credibility. Not true. The biggest key factor with being back to working full-time is setting clear and consistent boundaries around my time and energy. A lack of sleep and an unhealthy diet can both set me back. So, I’m careful about not taking work home, removing email from my phone, and leaving work at five o’ clock (plus, I don’t want to be stuck in traffic). I’ve hit some rough spots in the past year, but this didn’t mean I needed to quit the job. I remained honest with my wife and my therapist about my limits, and we worked to regroup and revisit my habits and routines. In some ways, living with this diagnosis has made me even more vigilant of burnout as an employee. It’s impossible to make new friends who will trust me. False. Though, I’m much more intentional about curating my friend group with people whose values align with mine. I don’t drink anymore because of how that would impact my medications. I’m also wanting more fellow fathers in my life, as raising a Black daughter in this world takes a community. These days I’m befriending people who are comfortable with my diagnosis. They rarely make it the topic of conversation unless I bring it up. What’s more important are all the factors surrounding my health, my family life, my career, and supporting them with their challenges. I’ve found people I can celebrate life with, and I’m still adjusting to the fact that I deserve them in my life. I have to put my dreams on hold. Wrong again. There was a time when I had a high follower count across platforms, and had contracts coming in left and right. It’s different now, and that’s OK. I’m thankful that I’ve found ways to do the work of ending mental health stigma, and that I’m pacing myself this time around. My wife and I often talk about what we want our future to look like, and it’s just good to be on a team. We get to dream big, and we’re working on our own un/relearning around what success means. Especially, as we enter into spaces our ancestors often were excluded from. The other shoe will drop and I’ll be right back where I was in 2018. Doesn’t have to be true. I don’t have to have a major episode again. My former psychiatrist told me that, and I’ve been holding onto it. It’s positive and realistic rolled into one, and my habits with taking medication, tracking my mood, and making adjustments to my diet are what keep me stable. I have a strong support system that is OK with holding me accountable and I have an emergency plan in place should things ever start to enter dangerous territory. While the fear of the other shoe dropping is still there, planning has been a great antidote to anxiety. My diagnosis is an embarrassment. Nope, my diagnosis is a gift. It’s a gift as a father, it’s a gift as a husband, and it’s a gift as a Black man. Before it, I didn’t have answers as to why I was so extra all the time. I didn’t have a name for the hypomania I experienced. But now, I’m informed. I get to use my story to help others unlearn shame and feel less alone. As you work to unlearn your own false narratives around bipolar disorder, remember to give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack. There are countless reasons for why we stigmatize this illness, what’s important is that we take the little steps of deconstructing those underlying beliefs. The most important truth is that you get to live a full life with a bipolar diagnosis. You do, your friend living with is does, your loved one does, that celebrity does, anyone and everyone. It doesn’t have to define our lives. Rather, it’s something we can continue to explore, learn from, investigate and treat. There’s more life to be lived.  

5 Things I'm Unlearning About Bipolar Disorder

I just received an email that both lit me up and concerned me. In it, a colleague expressed how much they appreciate the work I’ve done thus far. They’re looking forward to working on more projects together. It’s clear why that made my day, but I’m thrown off because I don’t view myself the same way. Ever since getting back into the workforce after my bipolar diagnosis, I’ve felt like I’ve always been one step away from losing my job. Not because I’m in any danger of being let go, but because the last time I had a job, l left because of mania. My brain was hijacked and everything was a stressful, consuming blur. Every now and then, I get worried I’ll be back in that place. So much embarrassment and shame followed what was a huge disruption of my life, and since then, I’ve worked to keep all I’ve gained. All my family has recovered. All we continue to build and attain. I reply back to my colleague and thank them. I keep it brief. Classically, I haven’t been good at accepting praise, and I don’t want to burden them with a myriad of reasons of why I’m not as competent or talented as they think I am. At some point, I realize how negative my self-talk is. The truth is — my work has spoken for itself. I’ve been making strides. I am doing well at my job and helping people every day. I smile, inhale and slowly exhale, feeling gratitude for interrupting a shame spiral. Since receiving my diagnosis and working on my healing, there’s been much I’ve worked to unlearn about bipolar disorder. Early on in my journey, I wrote about misconceptions we carry about about the disease. But, honestly, I’m still unpacking my own ingrained falsehoods. As I dig deeper and question my thoughts with “is this true?” (something I learned from a past therapist), I’m able to regulate my emotions and continue designing the life I get to live. Here are five lies I’m unlearning about bipolar disorder: This diagnosis diminishes my professional credibility. Not true. The biggest key factor with being back to working full-time is setting clear and consistent boundaries around my time and energy. A lack of sleep and an unhealthy diet can both set me back. So, I’m careful about not taking work home, removing email from my phone, and leaving work at five o’ clock (plus, I don’t want to be stuck in traffic). I’ve hit some rough spots in the past year, but this didn’t mean I needed to quit the job. I remained honest with my wife and my therapist about my limits, and we worked to regroup and revisit my habits and routines. In some ways, living with this diagnosis has made me even more vigilant of burnout as an employee. It’s impossible to make new friends who will trust me. False. Though, I’m much more intentional about curating my friend group with people whose values align with mine. I don’t drink anymore because of how that would impact my medications. I’m also wanting more fellow fathers in my life, as raising a Black daughter in this world takes a community. These days I’m befriending people who are comfortable with my diagnosis. They rarely make it the topic of conversation unless I bring it up. What’s more important are all the factors surrounding my health, my family life, my career, and supporting them with their challenges. I’ve found people I can celebrate life with, and I’m still adjusting to the fact that I deserve them in my life. I have to put my dreams on hold. Wrong again. There was a time when I had a high follower count across platforms, and had contracts coming in left and right. It’s different now, and that’s OK. I’m thankful that I’ve found ways to do the work of ending mental health stigma, and that I’m pacing myself this time around. My wife and I often talk about what we want our future to look like, and it’s just good to be on a team. We get to dream big, and we’re working on our own un/relearning around what success means. Especially, as we enter into spaces our ancestors often were excluded from. The other shoe will drop and I’ll be right back where I was in 2018. Doesn’t have to be true. I don’t have to have a major episode again. My former psychiatrist told me that, and I’ve been holding onto it. It’s positive and realistic rolled into one, and my habits with taking medication, tracking my mood, and making adjustments to my diet are what keep me stable. I have a strong support system that is OK with holding me accountable and I have an emergency plan in place should things ever start to enter dangerous territory. While the fear of the other shoe dropping is still there, planning has been a great antidote to anxiety. My diagnosis is an embarrassment. Nope, my diagnosis is a gift. It’s a gift as a father, it’s a gift as a husband, and it’s a gift as a Black man. Before it, I didn’t have answers as to why I was so extra all the time. I didn’t have a name for the hypomania I experienced. But now, I’m informed. I get to use my story to help others unlearn shame and feel less alone. As you work to unlearn your own false narratives around bipolar disorder, remember to give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack. There are countless reasons for why we stigmatize this illness, what’s important is that we take the little steps of deconstructing those underlying beliefs. The most important truth is that you get to live a full life with a bipolar diagnosis. You do, your friend living with is does, your loved one does, that celebrity does, anyone and everyone. It doesn’t have to define our lives. Rather, it’s something we can continue to explore, learn from, investigate and treat. There’s more life to be lived.  

5 Things I'm Unlearning About Bipolar Disorder

I just received an email that both lit me up and concerned me. In it, a colleague expressed how much they appreciate the work I’ve done thus far. They’re looking forward to working on more projects together. It’s clear why that made my day, but I’m thrown off because I don’t view myself the same way. Ever since getting back into the workforce after my bipolar diagnosis, I’ve felt like I’ve always been one step away from losing my job. Not because I’m in any danger of being let go, but because the last time I had a job, l left because of mania. My brain was hijacked and everything was a stressful, consuming blur. Every now and then, I get worried I’ll be back in that place. So much embarrassment and shame followed what was a huge disruption of my life, and since then, I’ve worked to keep all I’ve gained. All my family has recovered. All we continue to build and attain. I reply back to my colleague and thank them. I keep it brief. Classically, I haven’t been good at accepting praise, and I don’t want to burden them with a myriad of reasons of why I’m not as competent or talented as they think I am. At some point, I realize how negative my self-talk is. The truth is — my work has spoken for itself. I’ve been making strides. I am doing well at my job and helping people every day. I smile, inhale and slowly exhale, feeling gratitude for interrupting a shame spiral. Since receiving my diagnosis and working on my healing, there’s been much I’ve worked to unlearn about bipolar disorder. Early on in my journey, I wrote about misconceptions we carry about about the disease. But, honestly, I’m still unpacking my own ingrained falsehoods. As I dig deeper and question my thoughts with “is this true?” (something I learned from a past therapist), I’m able to regulate my emotions and continue designing the life I get to live. Here are five lies I’m unlearning about bipolar disorder: This diagnosis diminishes my professional credibility. Not true. The biggest key factor with being back to working full-time is setting clear and consistent boundaries around my time and energy. A lack of sleep and an unhealthy diet can both set me back. So, I’m careful about not taking work home, removing email from my phone, and leaving work at five o’ clock (plus, I don’t want to be stuck in traffic). I’ve hit some rough spots in the past year, but this didn’t mean I needed to quit the job. I remained honest with my wife and my therapist about my limits, and we worked to regroup and revisit my habits and routines. In some ways, living with this diagnosis has made me even more vigilant of burnout as an employee. It’s impossible to make new friends who will trust me. False. Though, I’m much more intentional about curating my friend group with people whose values align with mine. I don’t drink anymore because of how that would impact my medications. I’m also wanting more fellow fathers in my life, as raising a Black daughter in this world takes a community. These days I’m befriending people who are comfortable with my diagnosis. They rarely make it the topic of conversation unless I bring it up. What’s more important are all the factors surrounding my health, my family life, my career, and supporting them with their challenges. I’ve found people I can celebrate life with, and I’m still adjusting to the fact that I deserve them in my life. I have to put my dreams on hold. Wrong again. There was a time when I had a high follower count across platforms, and had contracts coming in left and right. It’s different now, and that’s OK. I’m thankful that I’ve found ways to do the work of ending mental health stigma, and that I’m pacing myself this time around. My wife and I often talk about what we want our future to look like, and it’s just good to be on a team. We get to dream big, and we’re working on our own un/relearning around what success means. Especially, as we enter into spaces our ancestors often were excluded from. The other shoe will drop and I’ll be right back where I was in 2018. Doesn’t have to be true. I don’t have to have a major episode again. My former psychiatrist told me that, and I’ve been holding onto it. It’s positive and realistic rolled into one, and my habits with taking medication, tracking my mood, and making adjustments to my diet are what keep me stable. I have a strong support system that is OK with holding me accountable and I have an emergency plan in place should things ever start to enter dangerous territory. While the fear of the other shoe dropping is still there, planning has been a great antidote to anxiety. My diagnosis is an embarrassment. Nope, my diagnosis is a gift. It’s a gift as a father, it’s a gift as a husband, and it’s a gift as a Black man. Before it, I didn’t have answers as to why I was so extra all the time. I didn’t have a name for the hypomania I experienced. But now, I’m informed. I get to use my story to help others unlearn shame and feel less alone. As you work to unlearn your own false narratives around bipolar disorder, remember to give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack. There are countless reasons for why we stigmatize this illness, what’s important is that we take the little steps of deconstructing those underlying beliefs. The most important truth is that you get to live a full life with a bipolar diagnosis. You do, your friend living with is does, your loved one does, that celebrity does, anyone and everyone. It doesn’t have to define our lives. Rather, it’s something we can continue to explore, learn from, investigate and treat. There’s more life to be lived.  

5 Things I'm Unlearning About Bipolar Disorder

I just received an email that both lit me up and concerned me. In it, a colleague expressed how much they appreciate the work I’ve done thus far. They’re looking forward to working on more projects together. It’s clear why that made my day, but I’m thrown off because I don’t view myself the same way. Ever since getting back into the workforce after my bipolar diagnosis, I’ve felt like I’ve always been one step away from losing my job. Not because I’m in any danger of being let go, but because the last time I had a job, l left because of mania. My brain was hijacked and everything was a stressful, consuming blur. Every now and then, I get worried I’ll be back in that place. So much embarrassment and shame followed what was a huge disruption of my life, and since then, I’ve worked to keep all I’ve gained. All my family has recovered. All we continue to build and attain. I reply back to my colleague and thank them. I keep it brief. Classically, I haven’t been good at accepting praise, and I don’t want to burden them with a myriad of reasons of why I’m not as competent or talented as they think I am. At some point, I realize how negative my self-talk is. The truth is — my work has spoken for itself. I’ve been making strides. I am doing well at my job and helping people every day. I smile, inhale and slowly exhale, feeling gratitude for interrupting a shame spiral. Since receiving my diagnosis and working on my healing, there’s been much I’ve worked to unlearn about bipolar disorder. Early on in my journey, I wrote about misconceptions we carry about about the disease. But, honestly, I’m still unpacking my own ingrained falsehoods. As I dig deeper and question my thoughts with “is this true?” (something I learned from a past therapist), I’m able to regulate my emotions and continue designing the life I get to live. Here are five lies I’m unlearning about bipolar disorder: This diagnosis diminishes my professional credibility. Not true. The biggest key factor with being back to working full-time is setting clear and consistent boundaries around my time and energy. A lack of sleep and an unhealthy diet can both set me back. So, I’m careful about not taking work home, removing email from my phone, and leaving work at five o’ clock (plus, I don’t want to be stuck in traffic). I’ve hit some rough spots in the past year, but this didn’t mean I needed to quit the job. I remained honest with my wife and my therapist about my limits, and we worked to regroup and revisit my habits and routines. In some ways, living with this diagnosis has made me even more vigilant of burnout as an employee. It’s impossible to make new friends who will trust me. False. Though, I’m much more intentional about curating my friend group with people whose values align with mine. I don’t drink anymore because of how that would impact my medications. I’m also wanting more fellow fathers in my life, as raising a Black daughter in this world takes a community. These days I’m befriending people who are comfortable with my diagnosis. They rarely make it the topic of conversation unless I bring it up. What’s more important are all the factors surrounding my health, my family life, my career, and supporting them with their challenges. I’ve found people I can celebrate life with, and I’m still adjusting to the fact that I deserve them in my life. I have to put my dreams on hold. Wrong again. There was a time when I had a high follower count across platforms, and had contracts coming in left and right. It’s different now, and that’s OK. I’m thankful that I’ve found ways to do the work of ending mental health stigma, and that I’m pacing myself this time around. My wife and I often talk about what we want our future to look like, and it’s just good to be on a team. We get to dream big, and we’re working on our own un/relearning around what success means. Especially, as we enter into spaces our ancestors often were excluded from. The other shoe will drop and I’ll be right back where I was in 2018. Doesn’t have to be true. I don’t have to have a major episode again. My former psychiatrist told me that, and I’ve been holding onto it. It’s positive and realistic rolled into one, and my habits with taking medication, tracking my mood, and making adjustments to my diet are what keep me stable. I have a strong support system that is OK with holding me accountable and I have an emergency plan in place should things ever start to enter dangerous territory. While the fear of the other shoe dropping is still there, planning has been a great antidote to anxiety. My diagnosis is an embarrassment. Nope, my diagnosis is a gift. It’s a gift as a father, it’s a gift as a husband, and it’s a gift as a Black man. Before it, I didn’t have answers as to why I was so extra all the time. I didn’t have a name for the hypomania I experienced. But now, I’m informed. I get to use my story to help others unlearn shame and feel less alone. As you work to unlearn your own false narratives around bipolar disorder, remember to give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack. There are countless reasons for why we stigmatize this illness, what’s important is that we take the little steps of deconstructing those underlying beliefs. The most important truth is that you get to live a full life with a bipolar diagnosis. You do, your friend living with is does, your loved one does, that celebrity does, anyone and everyone. It doesn’t have to define our lives. Rather, it’s something we can continue to explore, learn from, investigate and treat. There’s more life to be lived.  

5 Things I'm Unlearning About Bipolar Disorder

I just received an email that both lit me up and concerned me. In it, a colleague expressed how much they appreciate the work I’ve done thus far. They’re looking forward to working on more projects together. It’s clear why that made my day, but I’m thrown off because I don’t view myself the same way. Ever since getting back into the workforce after my bipolar diagnosis, I’ve felt like I’ve always been one step away from losing my job. Not because I’m in any danger of being let go, but because the last time I had a job, l left because of mania. My brain was hijacked and everything was a stressful, consuming blur. Every now and then, I get worried I’ll be back in that place. So much embarrassment and shame followed what was a huge disruption of my life, and since then, I’ve worked to keep all I’ve gained. All my family has recovered. All we continue to build and attain. I reply back to my colleague and thank them. I keep it brief. Classically, I haven’t been good at accepting praise, and I don’t want to burden them with a myriad of reasons of why I’m not as competent or talented as they think I am. At some point, I realize how negative my self-talk is. The truth is — my work has spoken for itself. I’ve been making strides. I am doing well at my job and helping people every day. I smile, inhale and slowly exhale, feeling gratitude for interrupting a shame spiral. Since receiving my diagnosis and working on my healing, there’s been much I’ve worked to unlearn about bipolar disorder. Early on in my journey, I wrote about misconceptions we carry about about the disease. But, honestly, I’m still unpacking my own ingrained falsehoods. As I dig deeper and question my thoughts with “is this true?” (something I learned from a past therapist), I’m able to regulate my emotions and continue designing the life I get to live. Here are five lies I’m unlearning about bipolar disorder: This diagnosis diminishes my professional credibility. Not true. The biggest key factor with being back to working full-time is setting clear and consistent boundaries around my time and energy. A lack of sleep and an unhealthy diet can both set me back. So, I’m careful about not taking work home, removing email from my phone, and leaving work at five o’ clock (plus, I don’t want to be stuck in traffic). I’ve hit some rough spots in the past year, but this didn’t mean I needed to quit the job. I remained honest with my wife and my therapist about my limits, and we worked to regroup and revisit my habits and routines. In some ways, living with this diagnosis has made me even more vigilant of burnout as an employee. It’s impossible to make new friends who will trust me. False. Though, I’m much more intentional about curating my friend group with people whose values align with mine. I don’t drink anymore because of how that would impact my medications. I’m also wanting more fellow fathers in my life, as raising a Black daughter in this world takes a community. These days I’m befriending people who are comfortable with my diagnosis. They rarely make it the topic of conversation unless I bring it up. What’s more important are all the factors surrounding my health, my family life, my career, and supporting them with their challenges. I’ve found people I can celebrate life with, and I’m still adjusting to the fact that I deserve them in my life. I have to put my dreams on hold. Wrong again. There was a time when I had a high follower count across platforms, and had contracts coming in left and right. It’s different now, and that’s OK. I’m thankful that I’ve found ways to do the work of ending mental health stigma, and that I’m pacing myself this time around. My wife and I often talk about what we want our future to look like, and it’s just good to be on a team. We get to dream big, and we’re working on our own un/relearning around what success means. Especially, as we enter into spaces our ancestors often were excluded from. The other shoe will drop and I’ll be right back where I was in 2018. Doesn’t have to be true. I don’t have to have a major episode again. My former psychiatrist told me that, and I’ve been holding onto it. It’s positive and realistic rolled into one, and my habits with taking medication, tracking my mood, and making adjustments to my diet are what keep me stable. I have a strong support system that is OK with holding me accountable and I have an emergency plan in place should things ever start to enter dangerous territory. While the fear of the other shoe dropping is still there, planning has been a great antidote to anxiety. My diagnosis is an embarrassment. Nope, my diagnosis is a gift. It’s a gift as a father, it’s a gift as a husband, and it’s a gift as a Black man. Before it, I didn’t have answers as to why I was so extra all the time. I didn’t have a name for the hypomania I experienced. But now, I’m informed. I get to use my story to help others unlearn shame and feel less alone. As you work to unlearn your own false narratives around bipolar disorder, remember to give yourself a break and cut yourself some slack. There are countless reasons for why we stigmatize this illness, what’s important is that we take the little steps of deconstructing those underlying beliefs. The most important truth is that you get to live a full life with a bipolar diagnosis. You do, your friend living with is does, your loved one does, that celebrity does, anyone and everyone. It doesn’t have to define our lives. Rather, it’s something we can continue to explore, learn from, investigate and treat. There’s more life to be lived.  

Advice for Job Searching With Bipolar Disorder

A few months from now, every major news outlet will run 24-hour updates about COVID-19 . The entire world will be in lockdown. On the brighter side, LGBTQIA+ candidates and women of color will sweep local and state elections , and DJ D-Nice will bless us with Club Quarantine . But, at the momentum, my priority is clearing snow from the parking spot outside our humble Baltimore abode. We’ve been slow to put away decorations because the holiday season was a light in a time of monumental heartbreak for our family. My wife has been the sole provider, as I’ve recovered from a major manic episode . For a long while, I wasn’t cleared to return to work. But, with time, things began to change. A few nights ago, we made the final decision to move to the southwest. We need a fresh start and want a loving environment in which our daughter can grow and thrive. At the same time, we’re shrouded in uncertainty. Will I actually be able to work full-time again while living with bipolar disorder ? I test-drive Grammarly with hopes that the program will catch errors on my resume and cover letter. Suits and dress shirts are laid out on our living room sofa. On paper, I’m prepared. In reality, I don’t feel ready, nor good enough, to return to being a master’s degree-level professional. All I can think is: Why would anyone hire someone broken like me? What if my new employer finds out I live with bipolar disorder ? What if the stress is too much and I end up in a bad place again? UCLA psychology research assistant and blogger, Brittney Moses, recently tweeted : “Clarity also reduces stress and anxiety for the things within our control. You deserve to have a sense of direction to act in the ultimate best interest.” Here are three ways I gained clarity while job searching with a bipolar diagnosis: 1. I phoned a friend for advice. I contacted trusted mentors and inquired about if/when I should disclose my mental illness during the hiring process. I was told that it was my choice, and advised to play close attention to HR policies. There were pros and cons either way. Eventually, I decided it wouldn’t be meaningful to share about my bipolar diagnosis during the interview process. I was already cleared by my therapist and psychiatrist, and I had been consistently stable for quite some time. What mattered most was having an emergency action plan. So, I worked on this with my wife, and we made sure to: identify symptoms of hypomania , list all medical contacts, and be mindful about my access to funds. 2. I clarified my goals and narrowed my job search. My number one goal was to secure a well-paying job that provided insurance. Furthermore, I wanted to position at a place that provided an adequate amount of paid time off for doctor’s visits and vacation. My non-negotiables: no crisis management, no night or weekend work, and no being on-call. I landed an ideal position and signed on the dotted line. 3. I worked closely with my supervisor. Naturally, I still carried self-doubt and shame. Getting a new job didn’t mean that l was instantly cured. It meant new challenges and opportunities. The reframes my therapist provided me with helped. She encouraged me to ask myself, “Is this true?” whenever I felt myself entering a shame spiral. It helped. What also helped was working to clarify metrics of success with my supervisor. How do I know when I’m doing well in my role? What are indicators that I’m providing quality service to our students? These questions became part of our check-ins. I excelled in the new role. Fast-forward to 2021, and I’m still doing well. Along the way, there was stress, some nights where I ended up working late, and I hit burnout. This time around, however, I knew who to contact for help. I’m intentional about tracking my mood. Sleep is a priority. If I could give advice to anyone preparing to search or currently on a search, it’d be to focus on your skills and not your diagnosis. You get to work as much as the next person does. As long as you’re following your health plan, and have a system of accountability, you can get back to the work that matters. It won’t ever be the same again, but it’ll be better because now, you’re better.