My name is Lance Merrick, aka BbqDad. I have bipolar disorder with features of psychosis. I live in Alaska.
For 40 years, I have lived untreated and could not find any relief for my symptoms because I was stubborn and didn’t believe my diagnosis.
All during this time, I had manic episodes come and go where I was extremely high and couldn’t stop talking.
I lost jobs because I couldn’t sit at a desk or stop engaging with other co-workers. I couldn’t stop flirting with one co-worker. She filed a complaint. I found out at my firing.
Mania caused overspending. I spent thousands of dollars on cars, trailers, land, guitars, women and drugs.
I was living life as a rock star. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll was my mantra. This was the delusional psychotic belief I used to excuse my behavior.
I engaged in risky behavior. I had unsafe sex with strangers and had multiple partners. My obsession with sex was called hypersexuality. It was almost uncontrollable and a direct symptom of mania.
I was so outta control that I was caught watching porn at work and lost another job.
Out on the streets
This happened in 2018 and forced me to live in my truck on the streets of Anchorage. I couldn’t afford my apartment with no job.
I survived by standing on the side of the road, playing my guitar and singing for gas money. I had a big gas can next to me that cars passing by would see. A woman in a nearby office building saw me standing there and came down to give me $20 for gas. Some others stopped but most drove past.
Then I met a girl that was living on the streets. She was 25, cute with red hair. She asked if I could light her cigarette. I asked if she wanted to go to a music festival that weekend. She got in the truck and off we went.
Alyssa was an expert at asking for money. We would drive into a gas station and she would get the person next to us to put gas in my truck’s tank. She also knew where to get a sandwich and soup at a local kitchen. I learned several survival skills about living on the streets from her.
When we got to the music festival I backed my truck into the parking lot next to the entrance. This way we could see and be seen. When we weren’t listening to other bands, I was playing and singing on the tailgate of my truck.
People came by to listen and contribute items to my tip jar. Besides money, passersby would donate drugs. LSD, mushrooms, weed, heroin, and crystal meth were dropped in the bucket.
Since I was in full rock star mode I sampled the items. Mostly LSD and mushrooms. Although Alyssa got me to try heroin and meth once. I just couldn’t say no to her. I could tell that if I kept it up, I could get addicted. But trying the drugs to begin with was part of impulsivity and poor risky decisions on my part.
Alyssa and I stayed together surviving in my truck for six months. We made it through the summer and fall until it started snowing.
When it all went downhill
Then one night, I came back from street singing and couldn’t find the truck. I couldn’t find Alyssa. She had the keys to turn the heater on and move the truck if a cop showed up. But now I couldn’t find her, and I was on time when I said I would be back.
I never saw her again.
This was winter time with snow on the ground. 24 hours of darkness. I was majorly depressed. This losing the truck due to betrayal was a trigger.
I was alone on the streets. No truck. No money. I broke down and wept.
I lost it and felt like I was losing my mind.
In my pocket, I had a ball of brown. (heroin) I knew a guy that could give me a needle. In this way I could shoot up and just go to sleep.
This is how my mind was getting me to think that I should just end it all. That is how distraught and alone I felt.
I started walking, to go look for the guy with the needles. As I walked, I thought about my daughters and how they would feel knowing I was gone. I finally realized that I couldn’t leave them.
I went into a business and said I needed to call 911 and get a hold of the police. When the police officer arrived, I told him about the truck and my mental breakdown. I relayed that I was planning to harm myself and was struggling. He agreed to take me to the psych hospital so I could check myself in.
I was admitted to receive treatment. I told them about my bipolar diagnosis but that I was not on any meds.
While I was there I learned that I could get relief from bipolar using:
Music or writing provided me with a respite from my racing thoughts and anxious feelings. It is when I can get off the clock and lose myself in the writing or playing of music. It has become my goto coping skill and passion.
Meditation is a skill I use at night to calm myself down so I can go to sleep. I also meditate listening to the sound of rain in my headphones to prepare for going to work.
Medication consisted of two mood stabilizers to smooth out my extreme highs and lows. The only side effects were some weight gain and feeling flat emotionally. The main thing however is that the meds were working.
I had not had a major manic episode in 3 years.
Then in August of 2021, on my Daddy’s birthday I stayed up all night playing my guitar and writing a song. The next day I was a regular chatterbox. I had triggered a manic episode with the lack of sleep.
In the past, I had manic episodes that lasted 6 months and they got extreme to where I couldn’t hold down a job. I was afraid that I would flip out at work so I called my Doctor. She agreed to up the dosage of my meds to try and combat this new episode.
I was able to keep it together at work for the next 4 days. By the time I got to my weekend the mania had retreated and I was back to my regulated self. I also noticed that I was not having depression which often followed my manic episodes.
What happened to the truck?
While I was in the hospital the police were able to locate my truck. An old friend found out about it, and me living on the streets and said that I could stay in his basement until I got back on my feet. He paid to have my truck towed to his house. It was in need of a new clutch. But that was the only thing wrong, except inside it was a dump from homeless living. There were needles and clothes and trash.
I got the truck repaired and cleaned up with the help of my friend. I currently drive it now, so I was able to get a job in retail. This allowed me to move into my own apartment.
What I am grateful for:
- I am fortunate that the meds I have are working to keep me regulated.
- I have been alcohol and substance abuse free for 3 years now since my hospital treatment. (December 2018)
- I also am celebrating 3 years without thoughts or actions of self-harm
I was stubborn and afraid to admit that I have a problem with bipolar disorder. It kept me from seeking treatment until I was at my lowest point.
If you can relate to my story then you are not alone.
Be the best you can be. Seek treatment. Find support. You can reach out to me on Twitter.
I will leave you with the daily affirmation I tell myself.
I am a vulnerable, charismatic man living in abundance.By BbqDad