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The Realities of Bipolar Disorder

By Martin Gromulat, Vice President Board Director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health), founder of Mental Health Advocacy and Resilience

"Martin Gromulat, is a privileged, educated, white middle-class male attorney and advocate who lives in Westchester, New York. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, formerly called manic depression, which is a mental illness that causes extreme mood swings including emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression). In 2014, Martin suffered a severe Bipolar psychotic manic episode with Anosognosia; he was unaware that he was psychotic. Anosognosia is a common symptom of certain mental illnesses, and perhaps the most difficult to understand for those who have never experienced it. When a concerned neighbor saw Martin gleefully running around the neighborhood with grandiose delusions, she called the Police for a Wellness check.* Grandiosity is an unrealistic and disproportionate feeling of power and elevated self-esteem where the person feels unstoppable. Martin described his grandiose hallucinations as a larger-than-life feeling of superiority and invulnerability; he felt on top of the world, and his delusions made him think he could do anything. This sudden and intensified energy is often confusing for loved ones because it is unexpected and incomprehensible. * A Wellness check is when the Police stop by a person’s home to make sure they are all right. This essential law enforcement procedure is an important tool for building safe communities. Wellness checks were once only associated with the elderly, but are also a critical tool when interacting with someone who is experiencing a Severe Mental Illness Crisis. With the recent increase in suicides, the Police are doing checks more frequently, especially because additional people are at risk of taking their lives. When several Police Officers appeared at Martin’s door in an upscale neighborhood for their Wellness check, he was home alone with his three Rhodesian Ridgeback rescues. The Officers came to realize very quickly that because he was in the throes of a Mental Health Crisis, a Mental Health Response was urgently needed. The Officers told Martin that a Mental Health Crisis Team was en route to take him to the Hospital for a Psychiatric Evaluation. Unfortunately, several minutes later, the Special Weapons and Tactics Team (SWAT) approached his front door with a Battering Ram. Somehow, amid the mayhem, Martin realized that he was very sick, surrendered peacefully, and was arrested. He spent 3 months in jail and weeks enduring the Torture and Hell of Solitary Confinement.

Today, Martin is a Certified Peer Specialist and Mental Health Advocate with NAMI NYS who regularly shares his lived experiences with others. He got lucky, in part, because his family and some friends did not abandon him but, instead, supported him throughout his ordeal, and in his ongoing Recovery Journey. But for many others, support is nonexistent. This must change and is one of the reasons why I support the new #988 Mental Health Crisis Line: a mental health response to a mental health crisis."

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