How We Deal With It

“There are people like you that can’t go outside,
they fear that life will just pass them by,
but if you take a step in the pouring rain,
you’ll begin to see that you can share your pain,
and maybe you can change someone’s life and help them see
there will be brighter days.”
Brighter Days


…as told by Mike:

I never really understood what it really meant to be depressed until I had a manic episode in the fall of 2015.  I experienced not sleeping for two weeks, and yet, being completely filled by creative energy!  Little did I know that this energy was merely a deterrent from what was going on in my personal life.  My previous musical project to which I was working on for a few years had failed due to my own insecurities and pride.  This in turn spilled into my social life and I was in the midst of decisions that caused me to feel like I was in a fork in the road – decisions that would reflect upon my character… and yet had I just had some sleep things wouldn’t have felt so disproportionate in my mind.  I felt trapped, and that no one understood what I was going through.

Despite the real issues, in my state of mind I felt like I was on top of the world.  Every time I grabbed the guitar or sat at the piano, it was like a beam of light just pulsed into my being, and out came a song – lyrics, progression, melody, orchestral arrangements… all at once!  I literally had complete musical works pouring out of me and all I could do was just thank God for these magical powers that I was able to tap into.

Now then, I’m sure you’re thinking, well that doesn’t sound too bad, does it?  Well, now comes the part where I must be much more personal in order to show you the signs of what Manic Depression looks like.

I believed, truly, that I had powers.  Some people experience these powers through numbers, patterns, or other intellectual connections of consciousness, but it’s really wonderfully scary when it’s Art.  The thing about being a musician is that you work so diligently, day and night, in perfecting your craft, so when you actually think you’ve perfected it, you want to do it more and more.  It becomes an addiction, and that you have to keep playing your creation over and over within the time-space continuum because music happens in the present, and is gone the moment after.

I believed, truly, that my powers derived from a lady I was close with at the time.  She was my Muse, my inspiration, and the more I talked with her, the more I was able to write.  The more I wrote, the less I slept.  The less I slept… well, the more I believed that my powers came from her.  In the span of two weeks, I covered up my feelings of what had happened with my musical project that had meant so much to me with these disproportioned emotions for this woman, along with my belief that I had these incredible powers.

Eventually, the jig was up.  I confessed my feelings to this woman (which was completely out of character of normal sleep scheduled Mike) but I was hellbent on keeping my powers a secret, as well as my not sleeping.  Though she did not have the same feelings for me, I didn’t care – she was my Muse and I knew if I had just shown her all the wonderful work I did, rather, what she inspired me to do, that she would see that I meant business.  Needless to say, I was losing my mind.

I decided I was going to write this woman a letter, detailing everything that had happened in the past two weeks… So I did.  It was about 100 pages long.  After it was finished, I reviewed it just to make sure every detail was there, I noticed something at the very end of the letter… There was something positively wrong with me.  It was like reading something from someone I never knew, yet, I knew it was me… but it wasn’t me.  I finally looked in the mirror, and saw someone else looking back at me.

Instantly the build up of a two-week long high of highs came crashing down, to a pain inside of me that felt excruciating.  The guilt and anguish from my actions finally took hold in an extreme and accentuated rate I felt like I had wasted my life, and that all I was capable of doing was to cause other people pain.  I wish I never had moved to Seattle, or even pursued music.  In my mind, I was the scum of the Earth – completely unworthy of being friends with anyone that was decent… I wish I had never been born.

Luckily, I had my friends.  My roommates comforted me as my mind broke open.  I called my Aunt, who had experience in dealing with mental health, and she gave me exactly what I needed to get my head in check.  “You’re going to be okay – I understand what you’re going through, and it’s going to be okay.”  Now it seems like such a simple thing to say, but there was a truth to what she said – she really did understand.

My aunt called my mother and they agreed that I should come back to CA to get my bearings back.  Now, what I didn’t realize at the time was that going back to the place I moved on from was not the ideal plan for my mind.  Soon after I got home, I was very discontented, and very hostile.  I was able to get some sleep, but one nights good rest was only a small remedy for my two weeks of an insomniac rollercoaster of highs and lows.  After a couple days, words were said and harsh feelings surfaced.  I decided to put a gap in my relationship with my family so that no further harm would be done to our relationship.

During this time, I heard daily from my former bandmate, Ethan Campbell, who also had experience with mental health and I was able to confess everything that happened with me to him.  He, like my Aunt, said, “you’re going to be okay – I understand what you’re going through, and it’s going to be okay.”  He, like my Aunt, really did understand.  I also heard from my old friend, Andreana Argene, who also helped me handle my anxiety, to which I am forever grateful.

I hit the road visiting different close friends and family throughout southern California, visiting places that were familiar, and places I had never been – wherever the wind took me.  Each of those close friends providing pieces of my past that reenforced my own memory of my good nature, and the change of scenery provided relief to my anxiety.  After a couple weeks, my dear friend, Daniel Mullikin, helped me come back to Seattle with both feet on the ground.

After my return, it took a little while to adjust back to life.  I had parking tickets on my car and a notice saying it would be towed – apparently cars must be moved every 72 hours in my neighborhood.  So, I sold that car, resulting in driving my minivan that my folks gave me to haul gear for a band that was no longer together.  Despite not feeling 100% care-free Mike Jauregui, I stayed focused on eating healthy and exercising – providing my body and mind with the proper nutrition to give myself the best fighting chance to start feeling better.

I soon found a book by called, The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, and it helped me tremendously – from writing down my thoughts that I have first thing in the morning, to planning alone time doing things I enjoy, I learned a lot of things that helped me understand myself, and my art.  After a few weeks, my friend Ethan called me up, and asked if we could jam again.  So, we did.

We set up the amps, our PA towers, drum set, and then… the power went out due to the winter storm that had been passing through.  Though we got a bit disappointed, we decided to continue acoustically, because we just needed to play some music.  So we lit up some candles in his living room, in his house by the lake, and we played the tunes I wrote during my time of mania just a couple months prior.  After playing through them, and the addition of Ethan’s harmonies and creative interpretations of my tunes, we had something very special, and we both knew it.  We were in our glory singing these uplifting songs that were so welcomed after everything we had been through together… and that’s when we decided that this was something we needed to tell others about.

Since then, I make sure I get some sleep – life is much simpler when you’re well rested!  I became closer with my pals that I play music with in the Seattle Rock Orchestra ensembles and have continued teaching my students regularly, trying my best to set a good example for them.  Time also healed much of the relationship with my family, but I think it’s more because they are awesome and understood that I was not myself. I am grateful for my experience with mania, otherwise there would be no Manifide… but I try to keep my wits about me now… I know my limits, and yet, I also know how far I can go.  So now I am content with that knowledge, and I hope to use it wisely in the future.

 

As told by Ethan…

Mental illness, though seen typically in a negative fashion, can be worked into a positive light for others.  Through certain experiences I have undergone in dealing with my own struggles with mental disabilities, I would like to share the lessons I’ve learned to shed some light on how to positively work with yourself.  I have suffered from depression as a child, teenager, and into adulthood.  I was diagnosed as having a mental illness called schizo-affective disorder, which is a mixture of depression and schizophrenia.  Dealing with this mental/personality disorder includes auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, manic highs and lows, and manic episodes-quite a challenge especially when you’re in the middle of an “episode.”

It is not easy on the individual suffering or the family watching the individual suffer through manic episodes as they are called.  In my family we just call them “episodes.”  In a manic episode, or “episode,” they are all different.  They may have similarities in feeling and emotions, but each one has been different-from the feeling of someone is after me, to feeling that I need to do harm to myself or others.  They are very scary.  At any given time; you could go from being in control to having no control.  Auditory hallucinations are a regular for me from internal voices telling me to do harm, do good, uplift, deflate-anything you could imagine.  The other day I had a voice that told me to do what I was doing that I was on the right path and succeeding in life.  That is a good day for me-that is a good voice.  It sounds odd, but to have a voice tell you something like that after having voices telling you that you are worthless, that you won’t amount to anything, is a blessing in disguise.

Vivid memories of past events kept me up at night for days on end.  Sleeplessness or insomnia, taking Ambien or over the counter sleep aids, and almost overdosing have led to episodes.  One night in particular, a night before a band practice and after weeks of not sleeping, I was still not falling asleep, I ended up taking at least two, maybe three pills of Tylenol PM.  Food has always been an issue for me, meaning, I don’t eat when I have sleeplessness.  I ended up taking three pills that night before I went to bed.  I was still not able to sleep so I took a fourth pill at 2 or 3 am and a fifth pill at 4 am.  By the time band practice rolled around I had gotten maybe 45 minutes of sleep, taken 5 sleeping pills and was having a cup of coffee or two before heading out to band practice.  When I arrived at band practice I had no sense of reality or motivation to practice.  I ended up breaking out into tears and apologizing to my guitarist.  As I was crying, I distinctly remember seeing diamond shaped shadows under his eyes and feeling that he was mad at me about the way that I was acting and behaving.  I was in the middle of school, in the middle of playing in the band Crosswave, and smack dab in the middle of a manic episode.  I ended up inflicting harm on myself.  Fortunately, someone helped me get to the hospital where I received the help and support of nurses and doctors that gave me coping skills to deal with what I was going through.

How do I deal with depression and mental illness now?  After years of dealing with my mental illness I have found these steps to be helpful:  1) Sleep is vital– get on a regular sleeping schedule.  2) Seek counsel– either from a counselor, psychologist, and/or psychiatrist.  3) Stay on your medication– if you are ready to get off of your medication through the help of your doctor, listen to them, and ween yourself off the medication.  Other than that stay on your medication.  4) Eat healthy and regularly– don’t skip meals even if you are not hungry.  At least eat a little something.  5) Keep a routine– routine may seem boring, but it is very important to your health success and daily living.  6) Vitamin D (especially in the Northwest)- vitamin D is very important because we don’t get as much sun as we would want.  Vitamin D made a huge difference to me in mood, physical appearance, and mental alertness.  7) The most important step is the way you treat yourself.  Internally your conscious or voices inside of your head that you cannot control, may call you names, degrade you, tell you that you are worthless-those voices need to stop.  You need to talk nicely to yourself- positive attitude and uplifting ideas really do play a big part in the healing process, and your outlook on life will be different.  This does not happen overnight…it has been years of therapy and counsel and I still find myself saying negative things to myself.  When that happens I try to stop myself and recognize that I can treat myself better.

I am hoping with the brighter days project, we can start a foundation going toward brain chemistry research and mental illness research.  If I never find out what is going on in my head, at least we can do research to figure out what is going on inside of our future sons’ and daughters’ heads.  People with mental illnesses are out there- we are scared, we are worried, and we don’t have many people to talk to about this issue.  It is a scary topic.  Some of the most horrific events of late have been related to mental illness, but also some of the most beautiful success stories have been told.  Everyone can have an initial fight and an urge to never give up.  Keep fighting the good fight, make it through one more day.  Struggling with depression, schizophrenia, insomnia, and PTSD are serious issues and serious topics that all need special attention in their own way.  I write, I read, I walk, I found the right medication, and I take my medications. I talk to friends, and as of late, I talk to my counselor about what is going on in my life- about my music, about my social groups, my goals, and aspirations.  I make goals– I achieve small goals that build up to a big goal.  I chip away at a project if I have to.  Sometimes you don’t hit a homerun or grand slam, but you get up to hit.  Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss, but the goal is to keep swinging. Even though somethings seem unfair, bleak, or unachievable, if you stick with it and find your way to accomplish it, it can be achieved.