“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I spent my 23rd birthday in a psychiatric hospital.  Family and friends reassured me during visiting hours, but I was still terrified by my diagnosis—bipolar disorder—an incurable condition that felt like a death sentence.      

Looking back, the symptoms were clear.  Leading up to my college graduation, I embarked on a mental roller coaster.  Debilitating depression flipped to supernatural elation and back.  I had lost my mind.  

Doctors advised I forgo my pending consulting offer.  Stress, travel, and long hours could trigger another episode.  Medication may not work.  After months of medical leave, I was stuck.  I nearly abandoned my career aspirations and my desire to live an independent, adventure-filled life. 

I listened to my loved ones who believed in me, the real me, and encouraged me to take a chance.  I moved cross-country to start my job.  I struggled, but I survived and eventually I started to believe in myself.    

Life will throw me all sorts of challenges, but I will not be paralyzed by fear because I will lean on those I trust for support.  In return, I commit myself to show others that mental illness is not a death sentence, but rather a surmountable obstacle on life’s roller coaster.

— Joe Coleman