"I am one of the people that are able to say I have an illness and not look at it as an issue, but as a gift to help others. I would like to take all my experiences I have been through and learn from them and teach others what I have learned from it. I believe this is my role in life. I love doing it."
|Meet Matt Mikolic. Matt is 18 years old and a senior in high school. Matt was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at age 8 and has been through a lot in his young life. He has been blessed to have transformed his life into great success. It is his life goal to use his experiences to help other children who are experiencing the types of things he has struggled with. Matt feels he has been placed on this earth to use his experience to help others and he is devoting his life to purpose. Matt serves on The State of Ohio Transformation Working Group, a cabinet level group who will work to evaluate and improve the state's approach to mental health care.
I first became ill around age 5. My parents noticed a sudden huge change in my personality. I guess when I was young I was really kind and thoughtful. I then became pretty agitated and angry. And all I wanted to do was die. For more than 10 years I just wanted to be out of my pain. Daily life was a struggle. I tried to stay away from people because it was easier that way…I didn't get hurt as much.
I had a lot of trouble in school. I would miss about 60 days of school each school year. The school was good. I was able to not get behind by doing home instruction and having school in the summer. I live in northeast Ohio and we don't have a lot of sunlight. When the days get shorter in the fall I would begin to fall into a bad depression that lasted most of the winter and I would come out of it in spring. So that turns out to be most of the school year. I would start each fall usually with a full school day. But as the light would decrease in September & October I would get more depressed and have less energy for school. They would cut my school day by a few classes. But then by Christmas time usually my day was so short that I wouldn't get enough classes in so we would switch to home instruction for a while. Then in the spring when I would start to come out of the depression I would get back to a more typical school day.
One year my depression was so bad I wasn't able to do anything for 3 months. I just sat and stared and watched movies. I didn't barely talk. I didn't do any school at all those 3 months. I got through that year and my mom and doctor began to talk about what could be done the next fall because they didn't want me to ever get that sick again. So the next two falls I had electroshock treatments. They really helped keep me more stabilized in the winter.
Then a few years ago my entire family started with a new treatment approach that is more wellness oriented. I am now so very well. I used to be worried I wouldn't be able to graduate on time. Now, not only will I graduate on time, but I have a light senior year. Since I was so well this past summer I took 2 summer school courses to get ahead for my senior year because I wanted a light load for senior year and wanted to be able to come in late since I have a hard time getting up in the morning. This year I have a late start to school. I go to school 2nd period, take English class, and then go to my work-study welding job. Over the summer I worked 2 jobs, got my drivers license, bought a car. I have tons of friends. I am always out having fun, making up for some of that lost childhood. I have a great life.
I have decided not to make welding my career. I now know I was given these life experiences to help others and so I am going to going to go to start college in the fall and join in mothers Stepping Stones business to help other kids and families.
I want to be an advocate for kids to help them with their struggles and their lives and to be able to give them the advice and support that's needed to get through the hard times. I want to be able to speak to groups, to schools and teachers to let them know about the illnesses so they can better understand what the kids are going through and ways to communicate with kids when they are not doing well because it can have a big effect on the kids.
I want everyone to know that you CAN be OK. And I will help you. The most important thing is to NEVER GIVE UP.
Giving up was the big thing back then when I was sick.… it's just easier that way. There is a point where I ended up getting comfortable with being depressed, and that was the biggest thing to get out of, that I was comfortable with where I was and how I was living my life. As bad as it was, I wasn't getting hurt that way. It's where I was at for so long that I got used to it and it was something I was comfortable with. Now that I've gotten better it seems that in the end all I should have done was not give up. Giving up is the worst thing you can do when you have depression or any mental health illness. You give up and you tend to make it easier for you to give up again. It's a lot easier to say, "No. Screw it", and not do anything about it. It's just easier to do that, when in turn you're making it harder for yourself to, in the long run, get out of the hole.
I never thought I'd get back in school as I am. I am living proof that you can get better. I am just fortunate that it happened quick enough to where I am starting to get into the bigger life where you need to be on top of your game to make it. This year is my last year in high school. It's a good time for me to just get better. If there is anything I can say, like I said, don't give up. You gotta, anyone out there, you just can't give up. You can get better regardless of what some people say, what people do say…you can get better. You gotta believe it, because it has happened. I've gotten better. A lot of my family has gotten better."
If you, in the beginning, just say, "I'm going to work at this and not give up", you can climb out of that hole a lot faster than what you would if you just give up again and fall again and again and again. If you say you are going to work at it, you can make it up there. It's going to be tough, but the worst thing you can ever do is to give up. As stupid as it sounds, and everybody says that, I've lived it. I'm living proof of it. If you don't give up…you can be happy."
See and hear Matt in the following DVDs: