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Deconstructing Stigma: A Chat About Bipolar Disorder with Joe Fusaro

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Joe Fusaro joins us to talk about the incredible initiative he is a part of with McLean Hospital: Deconstructing Stigma. Since elementary school, Joe has had trouble with something that comes so naturally to most people—sleep. Despite his sleep patterns, good grades always came easily to Joe. He played music and was good at sports. Yet Joe frequently felt anxious. Just days after he started college, the 9/11 attacks happened and placed a cloud over daily life. One night, Joe felt unmotivated to do schoolwork, and a friend introduced him to the drug Adderall. It was the start of a decade-long love/hate relationship with medication. The drugs would help for a year or so, then the upper and downers would impact Joe’s sleep. He’d have major depressive episodes and wind up in detox and the hospital. The cycle would repeat again and again. Making matters worse, Joe began having  psychotic episodes, talking to himself about spaceships and someone trying to kill him. Doctors prescribed more medication.

It was 2013 when Joe decided there must be another way. He found a new doctor who taught him meditation techniques and proper nutrition and referred him to an herbalist to help manage his symptoms. Joe repaired relationships with friends and family. He wanted to give back and looked to the diary entries he made over the years as a possible way to help others.

Joe has published three books of insight and poetry about his illness, with part of the proceeds going to mental health organizations. He still sees a psychiatrist regularly. Someday, he wants to work with kids with learning disabilities or mental health issues.

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