From suicidal to mental health advocate: Central Ohio man tells his story

(WSYX/WTTE)

Gabe Howard had spent every day of his life, thinking about death.

“As far back as I can remember when I was 2-years-old, 3-years-old, 4-years-old I thought about suicide. I thought everybody thought about suicide.” And as the years went on Gabe was what some considered a problem child, so he was treated as if he was just a “bad” kid with behavioral issues. His mom took him to countless therapists but none could provide a diagnosis of an actual illness.

So he just continued with his life on an emotional roller coaster. “I spent lots of money, I stayed up for three days, I was the life of the party, I jumped off a roof once, then I would crash and I would get very very depressed. Then I wouldn’t leave the house for a week, I wouldn’t shower, and I would sit around in my own filth and just wait to die. And then it would it cycle right back and then sometimes, I’d be just fine.”

Then in 2003, at 25-years-old, he had a girlfriend with some basic knowledge of mental illness who recognized the symptoms. As Gabe says, “I pretty much had all of the symptoms of bipolar including psychosis. I had hyper sexuality, I abused drugs and alcohol, I weighed 550 pounds."

During what should have been a romantic weekend away, Gabe’s girlfriend was hit with his moodiness head on. “By the time we got there I was irritable, I was angry, or I would be happy again.” Gabe also explained that she would ask him a basic question and I’d come back with a word salad answer.” For instance, Gabe’s girlfriend would ask what he wanted for dinner, and he would reply, “couch, cookie, light, guy pulling sleeve up, k? In my mind I very clearly said I would like pizza.”

A few days after the weekend away, Gabe’s girlfriend asked the burning question, “She says to me are you planning on killing yourself and I say yes, yes I am.”

She immediately insisted on taking Gabe to the hospital to which he refused, so she had to barter with him – if the doctor said nothing was wrong, she would buy him a fancy dinner.

Gabe thought to himself, “Hey this is a way to get a free steak dinner, anywhere I want, so we got in the car, and drove to the emergency room.”

After Gabe spent a few days in the hospital, he left with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Today, Gabe is a successful author, speaker, and mental health advocate. His mission is to demystify mental illness by teaching people the warning signs.

Gabe also would like people to have easier access, reasonable cost options, and the must-have is a support system.

Separate mental illness from violence

“Thank God for my support system - are you kidding? I would’ve gotten eaten up by the mental health system and spit out whole if I had to both be sick and be an advocate.”

You can learn more on Gabe's website: www.gabehoward.com


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