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My Bipolar story – by Mark Chandler

Here is my story and why I’m doing this for our industry.

I spend a lot of time talking to people about mental health illness and awareness in the gaming industry nowadays. When I meet someone new, almost every day now, I have to retell my story each and every time. I’ve written this to save those initial 15 minutes of telling my story with each new introduction. The below isn’t complete at all, but it’s pretty good. 

Because of my own mental health illness, I have good days and I have bad days. That’s the best it’s ever going to get for me. So, it’s on a day-to-day basis for meetings, challenges, life.

Mental health issues affect everyone in my family. My sister is Schizophrenic. My little brother has Bipolar type 1 and is Paranoid Schizophrenic. My twin brother has Borderline Personality Disorder and addiction, and I have Bipolar type 2. We have Bipolar from my dad’s side and Schizophrenia and suicide from my mom’s side. I am the lucky one in my family you could say, with just BP2.

After getting extremely sick 5-6 years ago, I started to fall down a hole that I never saw coming until I was on the cusp of taking my own life. What saved me was seeing and talking to my mom one last time. I broke down and told her everything. With suicide running on her side, she was able to tell me that she had been in that position many times when I was young.

That was only 3 years ago and I have been fighting this battle every day since.

I lost my closest cousin in Vancouver to suicide 5 years ago. His father was the first to have Schizophrenia diagnosed that we are aware of. His note simply said he couldn’t take the voices anymore, which was even more devastating as he must have developed it after I left Vancouver. 

My family was shattered when my little brother came back into our lives after disappearing for 10 years. He had refused all medical help, assuming everyone else was sick. This caused me to stop all communication with my parents, effectively living in absolute isolation for 5 years with my own illness, even though I live in downtown Toronto. 

My brother gets committed every 4-5 months and spends 40 days in the hospital while they force meds into him. He gets out and is fine for 2-3 months, then starts to hear voices and conspiracies against him that are not there.

But out of all these struggles, I decided to start talking openly about this journey of healing on Facebook about 4 years ago. I wanted others to know that they are not alone. I felt that I had nothing to lose and that hopefully, I would be able to inspire others to get the help they need.

Due to these posts about my own mental health journey, I had people suddenly reaching out to me and saying that they really appreciate my posts. That they also have a struggle but can’t talk about it for fear of losing their job or missing out on a new one, or health insurance issues. So I saw how much this affects our industry and decided to do something about it.

I’d also had my own experience of illness in the workplace, having to quit because working there had exacerbated it. Combining this with my experience in creating events, it made sense to play to my strengths and create something. When I asked my FB friends whether this was needed, it was a resounding “YES! WE NEED THIS!” So I started working on TIGS almost 3 years ago.

Mental health issues affect everyone in the world. But they significantly affect our industry, due to its demand on people’s time and the intensity of creating something from nothing. No games company is immune from this. 

I currently live on disability and turned 55 this past year. I don’t expect to ever work again – for another company, that is – but I can use this time for the benefit of others like me, and for the industry as a whole.

I have this exact conversation now once every week or so, as more and more people hear about my efforts to help make a positive difference for our industry with mental health.I recently started doing a podcast with prominent members from the gaming community to share their own stories of their struggles with me. My first one was with Mike Wilson of Devolver Digital fame – you can listen to it here.