Featured Guest Blogger

Why A Pre-Med Student With Bipolar Disorder Posted on YouTube Against Medical Advice

{Logan’s transformation leading up to disclosure of his mental illness}

I recall browsing through Logan Noone’s Instagram last year, taking note of his scenic photos of the great outdoors and noticing the huge smile on his face pictured standing on snowy slopes or sitting among friends at sporting events.  His profile stated he was a mental health advocate, and other than that, my assumptions of him were based on his seemingly happy and active lifestyle.  Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I received a thoughtfully edited email from Logan informing me of his status as a non-traditional pre-medical student in pursuit of a career in medicine, particularly Psychiatry.  What stood out and impressed me the most about Logan was his tenacity — little did I know that behind his picturesque Instagram posts was a man who battled and has since gained control of his bipolar disorder.  After watching his viral YouTube video about recovering from bipolar disorder, I knew that he’d make a valuable asset to the medical community to advocate for change and reduce stigma, especially since the culture of the medical field tends to discourage such disclosures of having mental illness.  Therefore, I’m excited to have Logan contribute to my blog as he discusses his motivation to become a physician and how the school shooting at Sandy Hook influenced his decision to go public with his diagnosis.

__________________________________________

There is an old story about a blind man heading towards a well, and there’s a guy who’s watching. If the blind man falls into the well, who gets the blame? If you’re watching something you can prevent, you’ve got to do something.”

              – Manoj Bhargava

It’s February of 2013, about two months after the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  The total fatalities are still hard to swallow: 20 children, 6 staff members, and the mother of the shooter were found dead on December 14, 2012.  The entire world was shaken and struggling to find a reason for this senseless tragedy.  The storyline seemed all too familiar: a person suffering from mental illness committed horrific gun violence.

Now, let’s rewind the clock about 8 months.  I was 22 years old and newly graduated from college.  While the rest of my classmates were celebrating after graduating or starting up a new job, I found myself in the emergency psychiatric ward.  Two years of severe mood swings, alcohol abuse, insomnia, anxiety, and a breakup culminated in my first manic episode.  I found myself overwhelmed with euphoric feelings, rapid speech and grandiose thoughts.  This feeling continued to evolve over the course of 5 days with no sleep, paranoia, and auditory hallucinations.

I displayed the basic symptoms of bipolar disorder.  Also, considering my family’s history of the disorder, it was pretty easy for my psychiatrist to diagnose me with Bipolar Disorder Type 1.  The medical staff outlined how I would have to live my life with the support of medication, therapy, and support systems.  However, the medical staff also indicated I needed to be cautious whom I disclose my bipolar disorder to.  “People’s opinions could change when they find out you have bipolar disorder. It could hurt your employment, housing, or social life.”

Fast forward back to February 2013.  I hardly told anyone about my mental illness, I was insecure and utterly hopeless.  Images of the Sandy Hook shooting were everywhere.  It seemed like the public stigma towards mental illness literally could not get any more intense.

To understand my struggle, consider that I grew up about 40 minutes north of Sandy Hook elementary.  My mom is an elementary art teacher, and my father served on the public school board in our town for nearly a decade.  I knew I could never commit a crime like Sandy Hook.  But, because of this tragedy and other similar shootings, the public perceived my mental illness as a threat.

People with mental illness can recover, and they are more often victims of violence rather than the perpetrators.  If I continued to remain silent about my mental illness, there was no way I could expect the stigma surrounding mental illness to change.  I knew that I had to help repaint society’s poorly painted picture of mental illness and lead by example.

Living openly with my mental illness would require bravery, or so I thought.  During February of 2013, I finally joined a mental illness speaker’s bureau and shared my Bipolar Disorder Recovery Video online. I quickly realized my expectations for being publicly open about my mental illness were different from reality.  Saying that I received an overwhelming amount of positive support would be an understatement.  Within two weeks, the video had over 15,000 views.  The video was shared by many of my friends, reposted on numerous mental health websites, and featured on Fox News.  I connected with old friends and even new people from all over the world.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support I had received from my disclosure.  Perhaps people are more accepting of mental illness than I expected.  I originally thought being open about my mental illness would require a courageous effort.  I was wrong.

Being open about my bipolar disorder is simply a logical and honest choice.  1 in 4 adults suffer from some type of mental illness.  It’s only logical that our society start to recognize and accept that we all will be personally impacted by mental illness in our own life or through someone we love.  The mere statistics prove that there is an incredible amount of people just like you in the world.

I’d be lying if I said living openly with my mental illness was all “smooth sailing.”  Of course, I’ve met people that aren’t supportive of mental illness or its treatment.  Numerous times, I’ve had people tell me mental illness isn’t real, or my medication will simply turn me into a zombie.  I’ve even been congratulated that I am not violent because of my bipolar disorder.  Um, thanks…

But I don’t let these negative incidents regret my decision.  When I first encountered these opinions, I was furious and insulted.  But now, 3 years after my disclosure, I’ve grown wiser in my demeanor.  It would be naïve of me to think that a social change could occur without a few bumps in the road.  Now, rather than be upset by ignorance, I get motivated by it, and do my best to change opinions through a healthy and respectful dialogue.

My openness has changed what I want out of my career.  I found that simply acknowledging my mental illness allowed others to feel comfortable talking to me about their mental health challenges.  There is no better reward than knowing that you helped someone also fight mental health stigma, pursue professional help, or better yet, stop them from hurting themselves.

Shortly after disclosing my mental illness, I decided I wanted to work in the mental health industry in some capacity.  I felt I could make the biggest contributions to mental health if I help improve the scientific understanding of our brains and mental illness.  Frustrated by my own personal experiences with psychiatrists, I want to be a psychiatrist that could connect with their patients in a more natural manner and help inspire them to tackle stigma head on as well.  With that in mind, I am currently preparing to apply to medical school in 2016.

Being open about my mental illness helped me find my own inspiration, passion, and drive.  I couldn’t simply be a bystander to a problem I knew I could help fix.  That’s my style.

For more info on Logan Noone, check out his YouTube Videos below.  You can also find him on Instagram.

Bipolar Disorder Recovery Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvdrFowzG94
Sacramento NAMI Walk Speech 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRKQSyPYIEE

4 thoughts on “Why A Pre-Med Student With Bipolar Disorder Posted on YouTube Against Medical Advice

  1. This is a wonderful and inspiring post & YouTube video. Logan will be a fantastic psychiatrist because he’ll have not just the know-how but true empathy. I’ve always stated that I’d rather see a psychiatrist who has bipolar disorder than one who doesn’t have it – although Dr. Manipod, you & Dr. Itzkoff are exceptions to that rule.

    Thanks so much, you guys, for sharing this here! :)))

    • Dyane — thanks for making me an exception! I may not have bipolar disorder but I’m interested in all of your experiences to better understand…which is why I’m thankful for you and everyone I’ve met here for being so open about it! And yes, Logan is going to make an excellent doctor!

    • This post is inspiring. Just like many addicts I know go into addiction treatment to help other addicts, so people with mental health diagnoses can do so much to help others with mental health problems. I have also gone public with my mental health problems and addictions, with no regrets so far! http://bit.ly/1ER5cLY

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