I’d never been to The Capital Grille. I’d been to nice steak houses before, but this felt like a big deal. At least it should have. I was too busy freaking out because my wife wasn’t responding to one of my texts. That’s when I knew I hit rock bottom. That mental illness had taken full control. Ruining a $50 steak will make you realize that.
I hit my rock bottom in the middle of WordCamp Orlando 2016. Sitting across from the wonderful Mike Hansen, sharing the best mashed potatoes I’d ever had, I was miserable. Not because Mike was bad company, but because I was so inside my head that I couldn’t control my thoughts. Dark thoughts. Suicidal thoughts. I was a mess, but Mike and the rest of the crew from BlueHost tried to keep me calm and engaged in conversation. I kept apologizing, but they stuck with me. It was pretty obvious I wasn’t okay, and they did their best. That’s what WordPress is. When you hear about “the community,” that’s what we’re really talking about.
The next day, I was originally scheduled to speak, but had already backed out. As an organizer of the event, I felt awful. I know how much of a pain it is to rearrange the schedule last-minute because I’m the one, at least for the past 3 years, has made Orlando’s schedule. But the team rallied around me.
They knew I wasn’t okay, and supported me without me needing to ask.
But then something amazing happened.
In the confusion of rescheduling speakers – caused by Hurricane Matthew, not Hurricane Mental Illness – a replacement speaker for one of our workshops had never actually been notified that he was speaking and didn’t show. Whoops. Even though I’d planned to just lay low in the developer workshop all day, as soon as I got word that a replacement was needed, I grabbed my laptop and headed to the next room. I don’t remember much of what I said, but I gave a talk on themes completely off the top of my head. And then it hit me. I know what I’m doing. I can do this. I’m going to be okay.
Road To Recovery
The next day, I went to see my doctor. I was diagnosed as bipolar. The dragon I’d been fighting for 15 years finally had a name. Two prescriptions later and I was on the road to recovery. I’m still on it, but WordPress is helping drive the engine.
Since WordCamp Orlando, my business has taken off. I’ve started and completed more projects in the past 3 months than I did the entire rest of 2016. And all of that was possible because of the support I received that weekend. When we talk about how wonderful the WordPress community really is, we mean it. It saves lives.
There’s a lot more to my story – coming out as non-binary, a shuttering business partnership to salvage a great friendship – but I don’t want to ramble.
It’s time to pay the support I received forward.
We all need someone to listen. Someone to remind us that it gets better. That we will make it to tomorrow.
If you’re struggling, drop me a line on Twitter or send an email. I’ll be waiting on the other end to lend an ear and a helping hand.