In this blog I have concentrated on depression, anxiety, and Borderline Personality Disorder. Those are the illnesses that I deal with daily. There are many other different types of mental illnesses. These illnesses are serious, but recovery still is possible. In this week’s interview, Marc Stewart gives us insight into a different type of mental illness. His story is inspiring.

What type of mental illness do you have and what are the symptoms?

My main diagnosis for over the last 30 years has been paranoid schizophrenia, later diagnosed as delusional disorder. It mostly manifests by my overestimating the hostility of other people–even so far as to once believe the FBI and university faculty were conspiring to drive me crazy. This notion was ludicrous, of course, because I am such a good guy. To this day, however, I tend to misanthropy based on my experiences with paranoia.

During a routine blood test, doctors discovered a blood anomaly that they thought might be due to my antipsychotic medication. The blood anomaly turned out to be leukemia. Ironically, my delusions then largely disappeared when the doctors discontinued the medication, but I developed mania associated with bipolar disorder. I became exuberant. My wife would say I was “Marc, only more so.”

What type of help or therapy did you get for your illness?

Fortunately, for most of the course of my illnesses, medication was able to relieve the utmost severity of the symptoms. While delusional, I was still largely able to function in the world. The medication for mania has practically cured my mania. Luckily, I never had the urge to harm anyone other than myself—suicidal ideation being a constant reminder that things aren’t peachy keen. I never seriously tried suicide, but don’t know why not.

Over the years, I have had several therapists who have been helpful for the most part—although I can barely remember what we talked about. My last therapist would listen to me talk for 45 minutes, then would take 15 minutes to tell me that I am fine. Indeed, I was.

When did you realize you had a illness and what did you do when you discovered it?

I first realized that I had paranoid schizophrenia about three weeks after I had been admitted to a big university hospital. I thought I had died and gone to a Sartrean No-Exit hell. I even tried to call the police to report my kidnapping. Accordingly, I quit trying to escape from the psychiatric unit and began to seriously comply with treatment—therapy groups and medication. 

What advice do you give to others struggling with mental illness? 

My advice to others struggling with mental illness is to understand as best they can exactly what their mental illness is. This involves consulting psychiatrists, therapists, other patients with similar and not so similar diagnoses, and relevant books. I have found philosophy and poetry particularly helpful. 

If in recovery, what steps do you take to stay in recovery?

I stay in recovery by religiously taking my medication and applying myself to the business of understanding life. Mental illness can be seen, for example, as a rational response to an irrational world, rather than an irrational response to a sensical world.

How has your family reacted to your illness?

Because I did not have flagrant symptoms, my family largely downplayed my mental illness. I was just “depressed”—depression being less stigma-oriented than psychosis.

     My wife of twelve years is a nurse and has been very supportive of me and a big help in my dealing with mania. We have no children. My parents are dead, but my brother and sister have largely written me off as “crazy” Uncle Marc. Nevertheless, we treat each other civilly.

How does your illness affect your ability to work?

I am retired now but managed to work part-time throughout my mental health problems. I did not live well, but adequately. I spent over twenty years doing peer support in mental health.

What is it like to function in society while struggling with your illness?

I find myself largely able to function in society. Continually, though, I must remind myself of the likelihood of my overestimating the hostility of others and that I am still not normal, whatever normal is. 

What encouraging words do you have for those struggling with mental illness?

Encouraging words for others with mental illness: Mental illness is a long-term disease that is in no way your fault. You will need to accept a certain amount of suffering on account of your illness, but there are a few things you can change. Some of your attempts at adjustment will work, but many will fail. Recovery is a lifelong experiment, but in the end you will probably prevail.

Marc Stewart’s Bio:

Marc Stewart was born and raised in western Pennsylvania. He attended Penn State University and the University of Minnesota where he was active in the Scum of the Earth Club, an artsy organization. He and his wife, both retired, live now in western Pennsylvania.

Give Marc your support by commenting and sharing this post. Please let me know if you would like to be interviewed for my blog post. Your story is important and can help and educate others.



   We all have heroes in our lives. They can be movie stars, parents, or people who performed a courageous act. Heroes are people we cherish deeply and look up to. Then there are people who try to play hero. They go out of their way to get a pat on the back and praise. When you’re struggling with mental illness, you tend to lean on others for support, but what you don’t need them to do is play hero.

   When I was with my ex-boyfriend, he made it a point to tell his friends and family about my mental illness and how helpless I was. The worse my illness became, the more he bragged about how well he was taking care of me. Everyone praised him on what a good person he was for taking care of such a helpless wreck. He even told my therapist about all he was doing for me and how I was ungrateful.

   He took care of everything for me and wouldn’t let me help out. He wouldn’t let me be his partner; instead he wanted to be my hero. He wanted everyone to believe he was my hero. He controlled me like an animal, causing my illness to worsen. He told people I abused him, when in fact, he abused me. All I wanted was him to work with me through my illness, but instead he told me he was going to take care of me on his own.

   I didn’t want him to be my hero. I wanted him to be my partner. It angered me each time he bragged about what he was doing for me. I hated how his family felt sorry for him and told him how wonderful he was. I cringed each time they told me how grateful I should be. He made me feel small, useless, and helpless.

   When I met my husband, he stood at my side and agreed to go to couple therapy to learn how to handle my illness. He comforted me, supported me, and told no one what he did for me. He never asked for a pat on the back; he just did it because he cared. He also allowed me to do things for him. I taught him how to drive and he taught me how to love again. He showed me he needed me as much as I needed him. He never played hero and refused to be called my hero. Instead, he became my partner.

   Together, as a team, we took on my illness and we still do. He allows me to do stuff for myself and for him. We figure out challenges together. We do almost everything together. We are partners.

   Just because somebody is mentally ill doesn’t mean he or she is incapable of doing anything. He or she does not need a hero. Allow him or her to do things for him or herself and you. Show him or her that you will work with him or her to get better. Don’t ask for praise from others. Just be at the person’s side because you love him or her. Don’t play hero; be a partner, a friend, and a supporter.

   I might need a little extra attention and support than my husband does, but I do take care of him, also. We face the complication of my illness,and we take care of our home and other responsibilities together. I also take care of some things on my own with his support. Because he doesn’t try to be my hero, we share our lives with happiness and I dance within the light.



   Often when you’re struggling with a mental illness, you develop many bad coping methods. You come up with the best way you can think of to handle the pain within you. Without guidance, you don’t know of any other ways to handle your inner agony. You might not even realize that your coping technique is hurting you, not helping you. You find yourself using your bad coping method so often that it becomes an instinct. You automatically turn to it during rough times.

   My school years were like a living nightmare. Each day I was put down and tormented by my peers, while I was also dealing with an undiagnosed mental illness. I found going to school unbearable. I didn’t know how to deal with the powerful emotions and the fear of going to school each day. I started imagining bad things happening to me, like getting hit by a car and being unconscious for a month, or falling down and breaking my leg. If I got hurt then I wouldn’t have to go to school.

   I began daydreaming about it during school, in the morning, and before going to bed at night. It got to the point that I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I started wishing my daydreams would come true. My imaginary accidents provided an escape from reality. Getting hurt was the only way I could think of to avoid facing day after day of teasing and internal turmoil. If I got hurt, then everyone would pay special attention to me and maybe some of my classmates would be sorry for what they had done to me.

   I coped with rough times this way so often that this became a habit to me. I couldn’t stop it, even in my adult years. When college and work became stressful, I would automatically imagine getting hurt. When things got rough and I felt like disappearing, I would drift off into my dream world.

   When I told my therapist at that time about my daydreams of getting hurt, she laughed at me. I was confused. Why did she think my daydreams were a joke? Weren’t they serious? I couldn’t stop them. Wasn’t that a problem?

   I left that therapist and found one who took me seriously. She told me I had developed an unhealthy coping technique, and I had done it so long I didn’t know any other way. She told me my daydreams were like self-injury. I cut to relieve my pain and I imagined injuries to escape my inner pain. In a way I was self-injuring my soul. I wanted and dreamed of something bad happening to me, causing inner turmoil. It kept me awake at night, it made me anxious, it became hard to focus on reality, I started making mistakes, and I also started hating myself for wanting to be hurt.

   My therapist told me when the stressful and rough times faced me, to try to picture something happy, like walking on the beach or lying in a field staring up at the sky. She told me when I started to daydream about injury, to tell myself to stop and try to clear my mind. She taught me healthy ways to deal with stress like using relaxation techniques, listing the positive things in my life, and doing hobbies to keep my mind busy.

   Think about the bad coping techniques you have developed. Is there a better coping method? Are your unhealthy ways actually hurting you in the long run? How can you change something you have done for so long? Talk to a therapist who will help you find better ways to deal with your pain and darkness.

   I still struggle with my bad coping methods, but they don’t happen as often and I have learned how to fight them. I have also learned to cope with stressors and life struggles healthily. When I start imagining the worst I stop myself and start focusing on the positive. Because I am able to do this, I dance within the light.



   Many people suffer with mental illness without even knowing it because some symptoms are things all people face from time to time. Many of us have sad days, feel lonely, have negative thoughts, feel hopeless, struggle with expressing feelings, and more. How do we tell if it’s just a natural feeling or mental illness? Sometimes people with mental illness have lived their lives for so long in the hole that they think their darkness is natural.

   For a big part of my childhood and all my teen years, I felt a deep darkness within my soul. I didn’t know how to describe my feelings and thoughts, so I kept them deep within me. This led to breakdowns and angry fits. I thought I was just different and what I was dealing with was who I was. I saw myself as an angry, sad, and lonely person. My mom always told me I saw the glass half empty. I thought it was part of my personality.

   When my cousin died, the hole became deeper. My feelings were out of control. I dipped further into sadness. The feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and lack of energy increased. I had always struggled with sleep, but it suddenly became impossible. I sat up all night drowning in my thoughts. I knew something was wrong with me, but I didn’t know what. I told my family I was fine when I was dying inside. How could I tell them something wasn’t right with me when I didn’t know what it was?

   One day, at college, I went to a table set up with information on mental illness. I knew my grandmother on my mom’s side had mental illness, but I knew very little about it. I picked up a pamphlet on depression. In it I found that I had most of the symptoms. Suddenly everything made sense. I knew at that moment I had been suffering with a mental illness and I needed help. I looked back at my younger years and realized I had been sick for a while.

   I learned that a lot of the symptoms I felt were feelings people have dealt with at one point or another in their lives. The difference is I felt them on a daily basis and all at once. Nothing seemed to ease them. I also learned that for people who have mental illness the darkness, the feelings of worthlessness, and other symptoms were more powerful than what healthy people feel.

   In other words, when you fall down into the hole of darkness and no matter how hard you try you can’t climb up, when sadness blankets your soul, smothering you, when your negative thoughts flood your mind relentlessly and emotions stab your insides over and over again until you’re drained of energy, you have a mental illness. This doesn’t happen once in a while; it happens daily. When nothing can shine the light within your soul, then you know you need help.

   There are many different mental illnesses, but if you notice you have feelings, thoughts, actions that you struggle with on a daily basis and you find it hard or impossible to function, tell someone and find help. Mental illness is treatable, but you must first recognize and accept you have a problem.

   When I learned I have mental illness and recognized the symptoms, I worked hard to reach for recovery. It was a long and difficult path, but it was worth it. Now that I know that I have an illness, I work hard daily to stand tall within the light.



   Many people cry during a dramatic movie. Who didn’t cry when Bambi’s mother or Lassie died? For some, all they have to do is see a person in tears on a T.V. show or movie and they are crying, too.

   But What happens when you’re not watching a movie and the tears come? Like when you’re just talking about something important in your life, or just having a simple conversation with a friend. When you have depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, anxiety or other mental illnesses, the tears come on suddenly. You’re not necessarily crying because you’re sad, but just because of overflowing emotions.

   I probably cry more than most people and most of the time it’s not because I’m sad, but because emotions flood my body. While at work I was telling a customer about my writing and suddenly the tears started falling. I fought to hold them back, but I couldn’t.

   My customer looked at me. “Why are you crying?”

   I wiped my tears. “It’s just allergies.” I couldn’t explain to my customer how powerful my emotions are and how simple things stir them up.

   It’s embarrassing being overwhelmed so much that I cry and it is very difficult to explain. How do I explain I just feel things more strongly than others to the point my eyes water? How do I explain crying when I’m not sad? How do I explain that I’m suddenly hit by powerful emotions and I have no control or that I feel things more intensely than others?

   I went to my doctor’s office one day and I told her about my future appointment with an allergist. My eyes started flooding with tears. My doctor looked at me, “You poor thing. Your eyes are watering badly. I hope they find out what allergies you are suffering with.” I just agreed with her. I couldn’t tell her the truth. It was just easier to let her believe it was allergies. I couldn’t tell her suddenly a waterfall of feelings filled me and I wasn’t sure why.

   Many people become overwhelmed when something really good happens to them. Like when a long lost son returns home, when a new baby is born or when a friend throws you a surprise party, but what about out of the blue when you’re having a simple conversation. The simplest thing can bring tears for me. Why? Because I feel things more deeply and much stronger than others.

   There is no cure to the sudden tears and emotions that overwhelm you. It’s a part of your life and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Feeling things deeply can make you more sensitive to others’ needs and help you to be more compassionate. It doesn’t make you weak; it only strengthens you. Use the tears to reach out to others and show them the true you.

   I’m still learning to stop hiding why I suddenly cry. I’m finding that admitting the truth is helping me reach even further into the light.



   People in our lives have a big influence on us and on our pattern of thinking. We are especially influenced as children. Things said to us by our parents, teachers, peers, and family members can either strengthen us or hurt us. If a parent pushes his or her child to be an over achiever, the child begins to believe if he or she falls short, he or she is a failure. If a kid is told daily by their classmates he or she is a failure, he or she begins to believe he or she is not worth anything. Constant belittling becomes ingrained in the mind and can lead to poor self-esteem and mental illness.

   Throughout my childhood, my classmates and teachers put me down. They called me stupid, retarded, loser, and dummy. My teachers and classmates told me I would never become anything. I’d never be able to hold a job. I started to hate myself. I began to believe what they were saying about me was true. In my mind, I was a loser and stupid. I stopped trying. I didn’t do my homework or study for tests. Why did I need to, anyway? Teachers assigned a student to give me answers on the tests.

   Then I went to high school and the teachers no longer asked students to give me answers on tests. My grades suddenly counted. I was no longer going to be pushed on from grade to grade. I became convinced I had to prove myself to everyone. A low grade meant I was a failure. I spent endless hours studying. I had to find out if what everyone told me through grade school was right. I became obsessed with succeeding. I gave up fun for hours with my head in my books. I criticized myself when I got a low grade and ripped myself apart when I didn’t understand something while doing homework.

   Years of being put down by my peers and teachers haunted me for the rest of my life. I struggled with my self-esteem. I hated how I looked, I thought I wasn’t as smart as everyone else, and I felt worthless. Most of all, I felt like everything I did I had to succeed at or else I was a failure. Even in college, and in the work force, I felt like I had to prove to the world and myself I was not stupid. In college, if I got a low grade, I degraded myself and when I started working and I made a mistake, I put myself down.

   I still struggle with the need to prove myself. I would start writing a book and when I felt it wasn’t good enough I would quit. This time with the help of my husband I have stuck to writing my memoir, but I keep thinking what if I can’t get it published, what if I get it published and I can’t sell it to readers. Then I would be a failure just like they told me I would be throughout school.

   My mental illness increased my negative thoughts. Through therapy I had to learn how to like myself and change my pattern of thinking. I had to work hard to undo the damage my classmates and teachers did to me. My therapist told me to make a list of the things I liked about myself and then make a list of my successes. It took me a long time to fill my lists, but after some hard work I found some good things about myself and I came to the realization I am successful.

   Look back at the bad things you were told as a child and see how it affected your thinking. Find a therapist who can show you a healthier way of thinking. Change your negative thinking to positive and learn to love yourself inside out. Put the past behind you and start over with a new view on life.

   I remind myself daily, I have nothing to prove. I am a success. I want my future book to do well because I want to touch the world with my writing, instead of trying to prove that I am not a failure. I no longer have to prove myself. I have learned to love myself and measure even the small accomplishments in life as an achievement. Because of my new view of myself and my life, I bathe in the light.



   We often think we all can be defined by who is normal and who is not. When we struggle with mental illness, we try to compare ourselves to others who do not have an illness of the mind. We think they are normal and we are not. Sometimes we think we are just freaks who don’t fit in with everyone else. We are thought of differently by those who don’t understand, we are emotional, we cry easily, we react to things differently, we are sometimes up and down and our minds play games with us. We are different.

   When I was ill I asked God, “Why am I not normal? Why can’t I be like everyone else?” Even when I was in school and the kids picked on me, I thought I was not normal because I had a learning disability. I thought the things that made me different made me inferior to others. It was as if I were another species. Being diagnosed with a mental illness increased my negative feelings.

   I looked in the mirror and saw an ugly, messed up wreck. I was different from my family and friends. They knew how to be happy, they enjoyed their lives, they didn’t cry for no reason, they didn’t stay up all night with racing thoughts or burst out in emotional episodes. I felt like an outcast. I could never fit in with everyone else because I was not normal. I felt like God made a mistake when he made me.

   I was always told God does not mess up, but I was convinced he goofed with me. Why else would I have a mental illness? Why else did emotions and thoughts seem to run wild throughout me, ripping me apart? Why else did I feel things so deeply? I could talk about something and tears would start spilling out of my eyes. People would ask and still ask, “Why are you crying?” I can’t tell them it’s because I feel a flood of strong emotions and I can’t control the tears. Why do the tears come even when something is not sad? Is it because I’m not normal?

   My mom told me, “There is no such thing as normal. We are each different and unique in our own ways.”

  Then I realized I wasn’t different because I had an illness, but because God made me to be my own person. Nobody is the same. He made each of us to be an individual. He doesn’t want us all to be alike. That would be boring. My illness was not and is not me. It’s not what sets me apart from everyone else. What makes me the person I am is the kind, loving, caring, and humorous person I am inside.

   So when you start asking why you’re not normal, remember normal doesn’t exist. You are your own person. You don’t fit in a category or in a group. Be proud of who you are. Remember everyone has flaws, different ways, looks, reactions, and so on. Your illness does not make you different or a freak of nature. Your illness is a part of your life, but it’s not you. Dig deep down inside you and discover who you are and how God made you special.

   I know I’m not normal and I now know no one is. I am proud of who I am and I know it’s not my illness that makes me different, but the work of God. He made us each in different shapes, sizes, colors, and with different personalities. We are all unique individuals. We are wild, wacky and a little bit crazy. I thank God for me. Being proud of who I am helps me stand within the light.


My current blog Finding The Light at, has moved to this site. For those of you who have not read  Finding The Light, I write about mental illness and the road to recovery. This blog is based on research I have done while struggling with Major Depression, Anxiety Disorder, Self-injury and Borderline Personality Disorder and my own personal experiences. This blog is also a teaching tool for friends, family members and many others who know someone with mental illness. It also teaches those who do not have an understanding of what mental illness is.