In 1995, Allan was teaching English in Japan enveloped by a culture he adored and well on his way to achieving his dream of being a completely fluent Japanese speaker.
His carefully laid out plans were derailed at the tail end of the year when he experienced his first psychotic manic episode at the age of twenty-five. His family had to travel to Japan to bring him home to Calgary, Canada.
After spending 3 months on the psych ward, Allan was discharged from the hospital. Returning to Japan was no longer an option because he lost his job due to his lengthy absence. The possibility of getting a new job in Japan was impossible too because any contacts he had there were lost because of how he left so abruptly and the nature of the reason he left.
Once discharged, Allan was heavily medicated and suffered from severe symptoms of a depressive episode. He had to figure out a new life path which included the adversity of dealing with the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.
Just like many who have the illness, Allan struggled with having periods of wellness with his acute symptoms in remission interrupted by two more manic episodes and several lengthy depressive episodes.
Allan feels very fortunate that during one of his severe depressive episodes he had reached the point where he had lost all hope. This extremely dark place led to a referral to join a support group that would radically change his life.
In 2008, Allan went to his first OBAD, the Organization for Bipolar Affective Disorder, peer support meeting. He was extremely exhausted and he felt like he was just a shell of existence. He could not find the energy even to keep his head up to make eye contact with anyone in the room.
As the meeting progressed, he heard several stories from compassionate people who described the unique suffering he was going through in great detail. Everyone nodded their head in agreement when he described his symptoms. They in turn told him their stories about how they have learned to live with the illness and still have a meaningful life.
Peer support has changed Allan’s perspective on what it means to have the illness and it has played an integral part of his wellness plan. Although there have been hiccups along the way, Allan has been able to maintain a fulfilling and positive life because of the support of his peers, his amazing psychiatrist (and no, she is not accepting new patients) and by leading a balanced lifestyle to the best of his abilities.
In 2012, Allan became one of the group facilitators for OBAD. His experience from leading the group has given him invaluable insights on his own lived experience, the nature of the illness and stigma.
He has recently discovered a passion for writing and public speaking. He has had two of his short stories, “The Battle Cry of the Slug” and “The Slugs Strike Back”, published in the Kerby News, the largest publication for people who are 55+ in the Calgary area.
He is also working on a memoir in the hope of sharing his journey so that others can learn from his experience. He has given talks for Junior High School students and was interviewed at a local church where he was very well received. He hopes to have more writing and public speaking opportunities to raise awareness and understanding of bipolar disorder.
Allan continues to facilitate peer support groups which has brought meaning to the adversity he has faced as a result of having Bipolar Disorder. He has created the right balance of work, volunteer work and social supports that honour his limitations.