The main reason I am writing this story is because I have struggled to find strong resources for gay men of color who are living with mental health disorders. I hope that this can serve as an inspiration to those who may encounter even more discrimination because of their minority status. I recently graduated from Georgetown University and it has been one of the happiest moments in my life. I never thought I would be in this position once I was diagnosed with Bipolar and struggled with severe manic symptoms. My diagnosis occurred during the summer after my freshman year and I was forced to take a medical leave of absence. This medical leave was a difficult time in my life because I felt that missing a semester was going to crush my entire college career. Yet, I now realize that the medical leave of absence was a defining moment in my life. I got closer with my family and I learned a valuable lesson: the importance of relaxation.
As a college student, I found it hard to open up to people about my disability; it was a second “coming out” process. Thankfully, every time I “came out” as bipolar, people were very welcoming and opened up about how mental disabilities have affected their lives, whether it was themselves or a family member. Georgetown became an even greater challenge when I had to manage my bipolar. It was a different ball game because I never knew what lay ahead. I was used to taking a full load of courses, but that had to gradually change. I had to withdraw from various classes because at times it became difficult to manage. In certain occasions I was stable throughout the majority of the semester, and then I would relapse, which created more challenges to finish my classes. Many times I had to ask for extensions, which at times felt embarrassing because I had to open up to certain professors to tell them I had a medical excuse. It would frustrate some professors, but many of them were supportive and accepted me for my flaws. Sometimes I didn’t receive the grades I wanted, but I recognized that I gave it my all with the circumstances given to me.
After I took a Global Mental Health class, I learned that the stigma was even greater for minorities. This class was the first time I publicly stated that I was bipolar. When I mentioned this in class I was apprehensive, but after I spoke about my experiences I became at ease with the situation. Throughout my Georgetown career I had supportive people in my life. I would like to thank my Dean, professors, friends, family members and best friend for supporting me through this process. Even though I know it will be a struggle for the rest of my life…“it can only get better.”