Stigma Fighters: Joe The Sicilian

My name is Joe The Sicilian.  I grew up in a Bipolar family.  My family’s Bipolar Disorder seemed normal to me for much of my life.  The only person who doesn’t have Bipolar Disorder in my family is my mom, who finds it extremely hard to understand the disease.  All of my grandparents had it, my aunts and uncles had it, and my dad had it.  Because of this, I thought cycling through feelings of being happy, then angry, then sad, were normal.  It wasn’t until I became older and realized that I wasn’t function well in society that something was wrong with me.  So, now, at 39 years old, I am a mental health advocate and try to let people know they are not alone as a blogger. I do this by trying to help fellow sufferers and their loved ones to understand themselves and this disease.

Our illness doesn’t define us. We are complex people with feelings that need to be seen as more than just mentally ill.  Mental illness is not a choice, our brains function differently, and when we are forced to suffer stigma and shame by an ignorant society, it compounds the problems and intense emotions we have to deal with every day.

Having a crazy family and not fitting into society has taken its toll on me. I have an extreme awareness of peoples’ character, or lack thereof.  My feelings are extremely intense, and because of this sensitivity, I notice peoples moods and feelings immediately. I am extremely empathetic, which immediately triggers some intense emotion for me. I know what it is like to feel alone and misunderstood.  I cannot hold down a job, I have to distance myself from insensitive people, and have lost many friends as well.  Even though I suffer on a daily basis like this, I want to help others who have the same experiences and feelings that think they are alone or have no one to talk to. It is my new crusade. http://joethesicilian.com/ TO BOLDLY EXPLORE MENTAL ILLNESS LIKE NO ONE HAS DONE BEFORE!

In college, I started to realize I had a problem with the insane structure of society and authority. I was a professional musician in a band and did a lot of drugs, so I was able to avoid having to assimilate into society for a long time.  When the party was over, I could not adjust to anything.  I couldn’t hold down a job, or deal with any sort of authority at all. I was truly lost.

That is when I realized something had to change, and that I needed help.  The journey of self discovery and the pain that society inflicts on mentally ill people had just begun.  Years went by, and I bounced from psychiatrist to psychiatrist, therapist to therapist, and hospital to hospital.  I would work for as long as I could at some meaningless job until I couldn’t anymore and the whole process would repeat itself… over and over, and over again.

Not all disabilities are visible.  Our actions from those disabilities are visible however.  So people shunned me and it got really bad for a while.  I became a huge drug addict and turned my back on life and myself for 2 years.  I was broke, had no job, and lost all of my friends. So I moved back in with my mom and had to make a decision.  I had to think about mental illness in a whole new way.  I had to stop fighting who I was, and not let society tell me who I should be.  I not only had to accept myself, but embrace myself too.  Once I did that, it all became clear to me.  It is my job to reach out and help fellow sufferers.  So that is what I do now.

Imagine a jigsaw puzzle factory.  This particular factory produces only 2 puzzles.  One is a blue puzzle, and one is a green puzzle.  All the puzzle pieces represent people.  The box they are in represents the world they live in.  However, I am a green puzzle piece that somehow got placed in the blue puzzle box.  I have curves and notches like the other puzzle pieces, and I have edges and angles like the other puzzle pieces.  When you put the puzzle together however, there is nowhere for me to fit in the puzzle, because I was supposed to be in the other box with the pieces like me.  This is what it is like to be Bipolar and to have mental illness.  When I look in the mirror I see a person.  I walk and talk like a person.  Other people see me as a person.  However, when it comes time to assimilate and be part of the whole picture, I don’t fit in.  I feel there is a whole other world I am meant to fit into, but I will never find it because that green box has been shipped far away.

It is time to stop making mentally ill people feel this way.  The way to do this is to educate people about mental illness so we can eradicate the stigma that in unfairly thrown upon us.  We also have to reach out to each other and let our fellow suffers know they are not alone.

joecool

My name is Joe The Sicilian, I am a writer and occasionally make YouTube videos. I’m originally from East Detroit, Michigan. It’s called Eastpointe now, but I refuse to accept this. I moved to Kalamazoo, MI where I attended undergraduate school at Western Michigan University, obtaining a BA in English with a minor in Philosophy.  Then I decided it was time to be a grown up and worked a bunch of crappy jobs for a while, none of which worked out. I was a true factotum. I started to write about my life and make some YouTube videos. People liked them so much, they suggested I start this blog too.

You might be wondering who I am and what I’m about.  Well, I am a person that suffers from Bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. So naturally, I’m hilarious. I blog to help people just like me. I want to let people know that they are not alone. I want to give people a voice and let them know that there are people in the world just like them that understand. This blog is also designed to help family and friends of Bipolar people to cope and understand as well.  I will explore the idea that mentally ill people are not just defined by their disease, but also have very complex and positive aspects to their personalities as well.

  • http://www.thesecretslayer.com/ Pearl

    Thanks for sharing! I too am a crazy f*cking mess. I have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and dissociative disorder. I took some big long test to determine if I was bi-polar and it was ruled out but the part you wrote about cycling really struck a cord with me. I am a recovering addict and have always considered my cycling to be black and white thinking. Just this week I nearly quit my job on Tuesday because it was so unbearable and by Friday I am happy as a clam. Life like this is not easy. I feel exhausted just from managing my emotions on a minute by minute basis. Ativan is my only relief. I look forward to reading your blog posts.
    Pearl<3

    • JoetheSicilian

      Aww, Pearl. I understand and I feel for you. I have gone through feelings like that my entire life. I can no longer work as I have had 2 nervous breakdowns and been in the hospital twice now. I have been denied my disability claim, and have to wait a year for my appeal hearing. I am broke and living with my mom for the time being. It is very hard to do… The only message that I know to send out to you and other people like us is that WE ARE NOT ALONE. I blog and chat with fellow sufferers to help them feel connected in some way. You are always welcome to contact me. I will always get back to you. TY for reading, and thank you for being so brave. Hang in there! You are not alone! Namaste-Joe

  • http://thefeveredpen.wordpress.com/ jess.⚓

    I am also extremely empathetic and it affects me.
    I also hate pancakes (Sarah pointed out this supposed flaw of yours, alas I do not think it’s a flaw. Pancakes are nasty.)

    • JoetheSicilian

      TY! I understand how it is to be very empathetic and to hate pancakes… it is a roller coaster of a life to feel strong emotions for other people and also to have to watch those very same people eat pancakes… I feel for them and want to hep, then I am disgusted as they enjoy their pancakes… Bipolar ain’t no joke! TY for reading and commenting. Namaste!

  • http://www.LizBarnett.me/ Liz Barnett

    I’m in #StigmaFighters, too. I have bipolar, OCD, and PTSD. I 100% relate to “When the party was over, I could not adjust to anything.” That’s why I went to grad school to become a college administrator thinking I could extend the party. I was wrong. Very wrong. lol Thanks for sharing your story. And, someday, when I decide to act on my idea to have kind of a hippy farm for a bunch of mentally ill people I want you to be in charge of the music.

    • JoetheSicilian

      Ha! sounds like a great idea to me! TY! Just let me know when you get it all going! TY for reading and commenting. Namaste! We have to stick together! I am here for everyone!

  • http://drmargaretrutherford.com/ Dr. Margaret Rutherford

    As the other commenters have said, bipolar is no joke. And in my experience, it is often accompanied by other “diagnoses”, whether those symptoms are part of another “symptom cluster” or whether they emerged as a potential (irrational) attempt to solve the problem. Like substance abuse. Or even OCD or eating disorder symptoms. (“If I can just get control of my world, maybe it won’t be so crazy…” says your unconscious or maybe even conscious mind…).

    I am impressed you have become a helper to others, Joe. Instead of just giving up. Or drowning in bitterness. People are simply ignorant and scared of what they don’t understand. Not that it’s not hard to be understood. It is. We can all work toward that understanding.

    I read the mom’s interview with you on your website. Am hoping to share it on my own. Really really nice in opinion. Good for you.

    Thank you. You obviously gave me lots to think about.

    • JoetheSicilian

      TY. I have been really depressed lately and haven’t really been keeping up with things. I appreciate your honesty and support. I’m trying to help people as much as I can. Happy Holidays!

      • http://drmargaretrutherford.com/ Dr. Margaret Rutherford

        You are welcome Goethe. That is wonderful that you are trying to help other. Thank you for that.