Zak’s Story

By: Zak Threadgill

For years I hid my Bipolar Disorder because I thought people would think I’m crazy. Years of growth however taught me I had a gift. People often mistake me as a talented musician or athlete but I possess none; instead, my ‘disorder’ allows me to grind until I appear talented.

While much of my past is dark, the future remains bright. My disorder began to manifest when I was 17 years old and I suffered crippling depression. Eventually, the path led me to the false belief that suicide was the only way out. My brother found me as I was downing pills and I woke up in the hospital.

At the time, I was a wrestler ranked 8th in the state of Minnesota. After the suicide attempt, drugs became my new coping mechanism. I tried nearly everything there was, including many drugs that either killed or destroyed the lives of my friends. Sports kept me somewhat grounded but the dope is what kept me numb to the pain.
I figured college would be a fresh start but it turned into the start of a new cycle. New friends, more depression, more drugs. There was some light to be found however.

One turning point in my life came from a public speaking class while studying Communications in college. I gave a speech about my disorder and my favorite sport: rugby. No matter the circumstances or what I felt off the pitch, the game was all that mattered. For 80 minutes a week I was free and I lived for it. I played with all my heart and made every tackle as if it would be my last. I looked my classmates in eyes and testified, “I would rather die free on the pitch, than live the rest of my life a slave to my disorder.” Silence. “For this reason, I’ll play until my body is physically unable to do so and I am carried off the pitch.” The words I lived by.

What I didn’t know at the time was that a classmate was going through a similar struggle. She was suffering from severer depression and was planning on ending her own life the same day of my speech. That night, she checked herself into the hospital and sought help.

That was when I decided I was done hiding.

Fast forward to the following spring, the ‘words I lived by,’ became actualized. While playing in a rugby tournament, I blew out both knees at the same time and collapsed after I tried to stand. I watched from midfield as my teammates put in the go ahead score to win the game (in rugby, play doesn’t stop for injuries). After the game ended I was carried off the pitch by my teammates. I knew my time had come and it was a sign to do something else.

While allowing my injuries to heal I started producing music at the age of 21. After 3 years of production I eventually found that I loved writing songs as well.

I’m 25 now and am working on my first rap album, ‘Making a Man,’ which chronicles my struggle with Bipolar Disorder. I’m also currently working on a motivational speech about my journey and what I’ve learned from my disorder. I’ve made many mistakes in my life, which I wish to help others avoid. For this reason, I’ve decided to devote my life to mental health awareness through my music and speeches. Life is like poker, nobody chooses the cards we are dealt but the way we play the hand is our choice.

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