My name is Hugh. Six years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 1 with psychosis. I have had a very long journey with my mental illness, most of it very difficult. But I am finding a bright light at the end of the tunnel.
I had something of an idyllic childhood growing up in Calgary and a happy adolescence, culminating in a trip around Europe with my best friends at the time, before I attended theatre school.
At the National Theatre School of Canada, an intense time for me, I fostered wonderful relationships with a beautiful and loving ensemble of twelve friends I went through the acting program with. But in my second year my life fell into a darkness - an unbelievable existential nightmare from which I thought there would be no escape. I don’t know how to explain it other than that. Although my friendships were faltering, I seemed to be getting back on track in third year, even managing to play Romeo at the National Arts Centre in a co-production with our school. Then suddenly came an intense mania, a psychotic breakdown which landed me in the mental hospital, which was soon crushed by heavy doses of sedative medication. Somehow through the grace of NTS’ incredibly generous then-artistic director, Sherry Bie, once I was medicated back to functionality and though miserable I was granted the opportunity to complete my acting diploma, and graduated that year. But my illness was not over.
Two years later, after studying at Mount Allison in Asian Studies for a year, and then living in Toronto for a year to devote myself to yoga I decided to come off my meds cold turkey, because I felt I was open enough and healthy enough to withstand the intense perceptions brought on by mania and have a healthy life; unfortunately what came about was an off-and-on manic for a period of about five months. It was a harrowing experience. I bounced in and out of mental hospitals all across Canada, stalked a young woman (who would, amazingly, go on to become a close friend of mine) and damaged my relationships with some of my actor friends. And again, in the summer of 2015 I came off my meds cold turkey, became involved in some very dangerous personal situations and wound up in the hospital in Burnaby. Then in January of 2016 I was taken into the hospital inappropriately from the comfort of my own home which inducing a manic experience that turned out to be the worst two weeks of my life, including even being locked in a quiet room and forcibly sedated.
A year after that experience I have found a medication and dosage that seems to work for me. I do not get side effects. I sleep well. I have energy. I feel creative. I have found a very helpful mental illness support group. I am often very happy, and my life is filled with a special kind of ecstasy from having known the depths of a kind of energetic torment and transmuting it into love. And suddenly, it seems that the relationships with others I have always wanted are suddenly on the table. By far the most important aspect of my healing, perhaps the only aspect, has been my meditation and spirituality and I am open to the possibility that one day my meditative healing will have absolved me from all need for medication.
I have been a UBC student since 2014, and have greatly enjoyed studying Asian Studies in my time here. Right now I am taking an introduction to the Sanskrit language. I do not think my path will involve completing a full degree here, as other directions have started developing in my life, but I am happy to have been welcomed into its academic environment, and very happy to have found a place for supportive friendship and thoughtful discussion around some of these issues in The Tipping Point. Thank you!