A Bipolar Gamer Confronts His Real Demons By Everyday Health Guest Contributor

By Ben Whitcomb, Special to Everyday Health

My name is Ben Whitcomb. I am a father, a husband, a retired tattoo artist, and many other things. If you are a gamer, you may know me as BPgamer77, the bipolar video game guy from YouTube. (Yes, the BP stands for bipolar.)

That’s right, I said bipolar video game guy. I am a survivor of and live every day with bipolar disorder.

My life has been filled with bad and often hasty decisions, deep dark periods of depression, irritable and energized moments of mania, and paralyzing anxiety. I have had audible and visual hallucinations and blackouts where I can’t remember what I have said or done. I’ve been suicidal and had mood swings I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Yet here I am today, still alive and taking it day by day, me and my monster.

Sleeplessness, Depression, a Breakdown

Originally, my general practitioner diagnosed me with depression and insomnia after I had gone several weeks on very little sleep. I was prescribed sedatives and antidepressants and sent on my way, never really knowing what was lurking just under the surface.

In late 2001 I was in the early stages of what would be a bad separation, and by August I had suffered my first breakdown, triggered by my impending split from my now ex-wife. I wound up admitting myself to a local hospital here in Missouri for attempting to take my life. In the psych ward I was diagnosed as borderline manic-depressive (bipolar disorder wasn’t called bipolar back then).

I served my mandatory 72-hour stay, and with a little stretching of the truth and a higher dosage of the same antidepressant that hadn’t really done much for me, I was released back into the world. Honestly, that’s where I thought it had ended. I took my meds like a good boy and never really thought about the diagnosis very much again.

I should have paid more attention.

Off Meds, Then Deep Into Mood Swings

Like many people who live with bipolar disorder, during a period where things were going great I decided I no longer needed my meds and stopped taking them cold turkey without even contacting my doctor. Yet another bad decision. Life was good for a while. I re-married the woman of my dreams and started a new career in my dream field of tattooing. My wife and I started a family and things were going great. But my monster was growing restless.

By late 2010 my mental health had deteriorated to the point where I was suffering major mood swings on an all-too-regular basis, and that’s when the blackouts started. I would be irritable and manic and then angry for no reason at all, and like a light switch being flipped, I would be in a blackout. Never aware of what I said or did during these times, I realized that I needed help before it cost me the one thing I valued more than anything — my family. This is where my life turned upside down for the better.

At this point, I took to the Internet to find a doctor who could help and thankfully found a reputable psychiatrist close to home. Things were still far from easy. Finding the right cocktail of medications for a bipolar survivor can be quite a challenge in itself. But eventually, together, my doctor and I found a combination of mood stabilizing, anti-anxiety, and anti-psychotic medications that seems to work well for me. I am very grateful to that man and to my family for sticking with me through all of my trials and tribulations. It hasn’t been easy for any of us.

I still suffer from mood swings — bouts of both depression and mania. Social anxiety and the occasional hallucination always liven up the room. My illness cost me my tattooing job. Even with the meds, I couldn’t deal with the anxiety it causes me.

But my bipolar disorder did one very important thing for me: It made me realize that it was okay to need help and helped me find my true calling — trying to help others like me.

Today, I work from home. I create content for my YouTube channel I try to provide entertaining video game commentary and content. Video games have always been a form of therapy for me, and I share that with the world. The main goal of my channel, though, and the most important part, is spreading mental health awareness, putting an end to age-old stigmas and, I hope, saving lives along the way. If my videos reach just one person who needs help at the right time, if I help just one person understand that they are not alone, then it’s all been worth it.

I am BPgamer77, and you are not alone!

Ben Whitcomb is a 37-year-old devoted father and husband. He lives in Missouri with two of his three children, his wife, and the family dog. From home, he creates content for his YouTube channel as BPgamer77, in partnership with the YouTube network Maker GEN/Maker Studios. In his weekly series Mental Health Mondays, he spreads awareness of mental illness to help stop the stigma associated with it, and he shares his message that you are not alone. Follow him onFacebook and Twitter.

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