If living with a misdiagnosed mental illness for seven years and running through the gauntlet of prescription medications to treat anxiety and depression isn’t enough, having an arrest serve as the catalyst that ultimately leads someone to a correct diagnosis and corresponding effective treatment program has been surreal to say the least.
Add the words “internet,” “sex,” and “minor” to the nature of that arrest and you’re left with nothing short of a mortifying experience.
I’m talking total self-annihilation.
And that’s exactly how I finally learned that I carry Bipolar I.
I’ll save the particulars of the legalities, but would like to clear the air about a few things that are often gross misnomers about operations like the one I fell prey to – situations that are portrayed to the general public by overzealous law enforcement agencies desperate to secure federal funding and sensationalized by media outlets everywhere around the world thanks to the limitless reach of the Internet.
First, I was logged on a public, adult (18+) “romance” chat room when I first interacted with the individual who arbitrarily typed in the number “14” in the instant message box that popped up on my screen. I wasn’t on some “kid” website looking to lure some unsuspecting teenybopper with pigtails to the back of a minivan with a lollipop. Simply put, there was never intent on my part to communicate with a minor whatsoever; let alone the fact that not everyone believes everything they read on a computer screen.
Second, a forensic analysis of two computers, cell phone, 2 external hard drives, and a video camera revealed not a single image or search related to anything even remotely suggestive of child pornography.
Lastly, the suggestions of traveling to meet this fictitious minor – as well as her offer to participate in illegal sexual activity – came at the initial request of an undercover detective playing the role of a self-admitted flirtatious, promiscuous teenage girl; one that, might I add, without solicitation, sent photos to me of herself in a bath tub.
Nevertheless, I own my part in it. At the time, I was a married man and a father to an eighteen month-old little girl. I never should have put myself in the position to attract the attention of another woman. I was wrong. Dead wrong. And, to this day, there’s nothing I’ll ever be able to do to make up for the hurt, embarrassment, and anger I caused sooo many people; the vast majority of whom have by and large disappeared from my life entirely.
It all happened so quickly. On a Tuesday afternoon in December, 2011, I participated in an online conversation from my laptop in the living room of my townhome that went from an initial “hey” to a total stranger to having multiple guns drawn on me by law enforcement agents in a parking lot outside of a Boston Market restaurant across the street from Universal Studios nearly 90 miles away.
Talk about clouded judgement and impulse control.
And about shame.
Over the span of 4 hours, I went from a husband, personable community leader, and the youngest head college baseball coach in the State of Florida to a disgusting, immoral, perverted social outcast – effectively relegated to an eternal future among America’s modern day leper colony, the registered sex offender.
It all happened that fast.
I’ll never forget the preceding four days leading up to that moment. At the time, I was married. My wife and our daughter were out of town, and I was in a full-blown manic state. These periods would happen often, but I was really good at immersing myself in my work in order to combat the highs. This time, however, for whatever reason, was different.
I hadn’t slept in over 96 hours and my appetite was out of control: Each morning, a dozen donuts or box of muffins from Dunks; for lunch, any fast food I could get my hands on; and back at home for dinner, three frozen Tombstone pizzas. Even cooked a fourth one around midnight.
Pretty good nutritional habits for a working professional in competitive collegiate athletics, huh?
How pathetic I must’ve looked to my neighbors running all this trash to the trunk of my car.
And then there was Red Bull – a case of it.
And online adult porn.
Honestly, I don’t even know how many times.
This vicious cycle went on for four days straight.
Then, I was arrested.
After bonding out of jail, in order to have contact with my infant daughter, the court required that I undergo something called a psychosexual evaluation. It consisted of a day’s worth of some pretty invasive and embarrassing testing used to determine an individual’s sexual proclivity. Not surprisingly, the results of my test revealed that my sexual interests were restricted to those well-within the “normal” range for a white, heterosexual male in his early 30s. Hence, I was not deemed a “threat” to minors.
The psychiatrist concluded that, based on the testing, my prior medical records, family history, and demonstrated behavior patterns, I met all the criteria for a Bipolar I diagnosis. He believed that an adverse reaction to the pharmaceutical drug Cymbalta had been triggering these manic episodes of mine; his report going on to reference American Psychiatric Association studies highlighting hypersexuality (and compulsive gambling, which is another unfortunate season of my life) as a documented deleterious side effect for individuals placed specifically on Cymbalta for a misdiagnosed mental illness similar to mine.
Finally, something that at least made some sense of all this madness.
Although this evaluation did nothing to remedy my legal situation – I was still facing up to 30 years in prison for what is ultimately a “thought” crime; it did provide me something that even with seven years’ worth of failed efforts with treatment attempts had remained elusive – understanding.
I wouldn’t wish the circumstances by which I received my Bipolar I diagnosis on anyone; but I cannot imagine living a life battling this demon if it were to have remained nameless and faceless. For me, there’s great comfort in knowing who your opponent is; much easier to develop strategies to manage him successfully. And today, that’s exactly what I’m doing; better now more than ever before.
The rituals that I’ve carved out of this painful life experience have given me clarity and peace of mind, two feelings entirely foreign in the past. Meditation, proper nutrition, strength training, running, yoga, time out in the sun soaking up Vitamin D, and writing have all formed a harmonious combination and effective treatment program. Through acceptance, vulnerability, and authenticity, I am growing closer towards fulfilling my potential as a man;
One, of whom, my five year-old princess can one day be proud.