Keith O’Neil lived with undiagnosed bipolar disorder throughout his NFL career, including his final year with the Indianapolis Colts as they won the Super Bowl in 2006. After his diagnosis, Keith became an advocate, starting the 4th and Forever Foundation, which is dedicated to assisting those living with and affected by mental health conditions, through programs that raise awareness, promote education and fund research to alleviate mental illness. Keith tours the country, speaking to high school students. He shares with us his secret to getting through to them, and the single most frequent question they ask. He also speaks candidly about writing his book and about the people in his life who helped him, both before and after diagnosis.
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Bipolar disorder is a physical disease of the brain affecting the thoughts, feelings, perception, and behavior of the afflicted.
The name “bipolar” stems from the nature of the illness. The moods of a person suffering from bipolar disorder typically range from euphoria to despondence, at times random, or at times triggered by an action or event.
This oscillation between extreme mood states, commonly called “mood swings,” is indeed abnormal and can be dangerous to the life of a person with bipolar disorder.
Bipolars are, at the least, annoying to those close to the them. The mood swings influence the person’s inability to live in the real world and make wise real world decisions. more
Age twenty-nine: I was standing by the fourth-story window of my rented flat in Buenos Aires, as I’d been doing for hours on end in recent days and months, staring sullenly at the ocean of sidewalk below, a seeming resting place of final peace with just a slight shift in weight. . .
Buenos Aires sounds to most people like a romantic vacation destination, but to me, it was a place of retreat, a sign on my failure, a last step, at the end of the earth, on the way to the end of my line.
I had taken a wrong turn somewhere in life, and after a long, winding road, I had finally hit a dead end, four stories up in an apartment overlooking the cracked sidewalks of the San Telmo neighborhood of one of the most storied cities in the world, and I was contemplating my final move. more
The last time I saw my old self, I was 27 years old and living in Boston. I was doing well in graduate school, had a tight circle of friends and was a prolific creative writer. Married to my high-school sweetheart, I had just had my first child. Back then, my best times were twirling my baby girl under the gloaming sky on a Florida beach and flopping on the bed with my husband — feet propped against the wall — and talking. The future seemed wide open.
I don’t think there is a particular point at which I can say I became depressed. My illness was insidious, gradual and inexorable. I had a preview of depressionin high school, when I spent a couple of years wearing all black, rimming my eyes in kohl and sliding against the walls in the hallways, hoping that no one would notice me. But back then I didn’t think it was a very serious problem. more
“I mentioned the ADHD part of my diagnosis to a colleague, and her response was ‘Whatever, you just love taking Adderall.’”
Last winter, I was declined by five health insurance companies. I am 26, do my preventative screenings like clockwork, and have no physical health problems. As my boss told me when I started working at a small start-up a few months ago that has no group health plan: “You’re young and healthy, I assume you’ll have no problems finding a new plan.” I smiled and weakly said, “of course.”
Five applications and four declines later, I anxiously awaited my last and final letter. The verdict came: Declined. Reason: Bipolar II/ADHD.
So there is my secret: Like millions of other Americans, I have a mental illness. more
“At one point I went five nights without sleeping.”
Keith O’Neil wasn’t born on a football field, but he might as well have been. He was a scrapper—six feet tall and 240 pounds. He had speed and hit like a train. He also had pedigree: His dad, Ed O’Neil, was an NFL linebacker from 1974 to 1980, primarily for Detroit.
Still, as physically gifted as he was, O’Neil never quite felt right as a kid. “I had a lot of anxiety,” he says. “I first started feeling things when I was nine, but I was too young to know I shouldn’t be feeling them.” He had no idea what was brewing in him. He pushed through it all with football—high school, college, and eventually the NFL. He played for five years as a part-time linebacker and special teams player for the Cowboys, Colts—winning a Super Bowl ring in 2007—and briefly with the Giants (he retired later in 2007). more
Katie, who has bipolar disorder, describes her experience of hearing voices when she is manic or depressed.
Not everyone realises that some sufferers of Bipolar disorder also have psychotic symptoms. These could include delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations. For me, I hear voices. This happens during periods of extreme moods, so when I’m manic or severely depressed.
During mania, the voices can be comforting. I have many ideas racing through my head during a manic phase, and the voices I hear add to the jumble. They give me ideas and fill me with confidence that then elevates my mood further. I often speak out loud to them and they reply very audibly, as if they were in the room with me. I remember instances when I’d been in my bedroom alone and I would run downstairs extremely excited, like I had just spoken to a friend on the telephone who I hadn’t seen for a while. I’ve had conversations with people where I’ve become distracted or ‘zoned out’ because there is a voice speaking to me. Sometimes I might make a joke that no one understands but me and the voices, or laughed out loud for seemingly no reason. The voices have become my friends and I think I would miss them if they were gone. If my mood becomes very elevated I know they will be there and I look forward to hearing them. more
You will never guess what the fifth and sixth best-selling prescription drugs are in the United States, so I’ll just tell you: Abilify and Seroquel, two powerful antipsychotics. In 2011 alone, they and other antipsychotic drugs were prescribed to 3.1 million Americans at a cost of $18.2 billion, a 13 percent increase over the previous year, according to the market research firm IMS Health.
Those drugs are used to treat such serious psychiatric disorders as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe major depression. But the rates of these disorders have been stable in the adult population for years. So how did these and other antipsychotics get to be so popular? more