"I thought it was normal. I thought entertaining the world, making them laugh, and holding all the pain inside was normal.
That's how it's supposed to be, right? That was my 'normal,' but that's not really how it was supposed to be. As Judy Garland once said: 'We cast away priceless time in dreams, born of imagination, fed upon illusion and put to death by reality.' That has always stuck with me as I spent so much time hiding who I was because I thought the world wouldn't understand.
I wasted so much time. My struggle with mental illness was one that I didn't know I was fighting until college. When I was in high school, I tried not to let anyone down and when I did, I thought I really hurt people. In doing so, I thought I needed to punish myself through self-harm and cutting myself. I thought that was normal.
College saw me try to drown my sorrows with booze. I had a bottle of Wild Turkey every two days, and it wasn't just on stage anymore. I was putting on the mask just to get out the door. I was the funny one, the loud one, the entertainer. To this day, I feel this is my purpose and only now have I found the beauty and joy in it, but before, it was my heart shattering right in front of people and no one knew.
This all came to a head when l was a college sophomore and one night, during a party that I was hosting, I decided my show needed to end. I was done being on this earth.
I kissed my girlfriend, told her I would be right back--knowing it was a lie--and walked away. I went to my friend's room, grabbed his revolver, and walked back through the crowded room with the gun in my coat so no one would see. Got to my room, sat down, and poured myself one final drink.
I took my drink, put the gun under my chin, and pulled the trigger.
The gun jammed.
So, I pulled again...and again...and again. Four times in total. Nothing. I then threw the gun on the ground and it finally went off.
My friend came in, saw the gun, then me, and said nothing...just hugged me and sat with me all night.
The next day, it was time to learn what was going on. I learned I have Bipolar disorder and suffer from depression. I sought help and focused on my health in all aspects: mentally, physically, and emotionally.
I learned I wasn't alone. I found those like me. I talked, I listened, I learned.
I wanted to help those who could be suffering like me to make sure that no one feels the way I did that day. I would do all I could to help those struggling and in need. For more than a decade, I have been working to spread the word about mental health and suicide prevention.
Charlie Chaplin's most famous song, 'Smile,' was a metaphor for my life for so long and still is for so many others.
My battle is still every day in some regard. It's a struggle, but 'you'll find that life is still worthwhile...if you just smile.'
Remember you're not alone. And you never will be."