By Keith O'Neil


I will be the first to admit that I can be a very lazy person, ask anyone who knows me well.  Yet, if I want something bad enough, I work hard to get it.  The NFL was no exception.  During my junior year at Northern Arizona University I made up my mind that I wanted to play in the NFL. I moved everything aside, dedicated myself and made the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent two years later.

Following my diagnosis with bipolar disorder I found myself in a similar situation.  I wanted something bad, something I had to work hard for.  I wanted to be well again. However, finding wellness was a far bigger challenge than making any NFL roster.  I realized that the NFL was just a job, something I knew would end, something temporary.  Finding wellness on the other hand would last a lifetime and it became my number one priority.

There is no cure for bipolar disorder but there are ways to live a happy healthy life and like my goal of playing in the NFL you have to be willing to put in the time and dedication.  As with many things it will be more difficult for some than others.  It took me about three years from when I was diagnosed until I found wellness and I still work at it daily.

Below is a list of some advice that may help you if you are battling bipolar disorder or another mental illness.  These steps helped me beat bipolar and I hope they may help you as well.  Please note I am not a doctor or therapist and what follows are some of the things that have helped me:


  1. Find a higher power, they take many forms.  Jesus Christ was mine during the darkest times of my life.
  2. Find a doctor you can relate with.  Different doctors work better for some than others.  Choose wisely and always get a second opinion.
  3. Find a therapist and talk their ear off. It’s nice to talk with someone who understands and is familiar with your illness.
  4. Take your medications and know them well.  Know how your medications interact with other medications; know how your medications interact with you and your illness.  Medication is important and key to recovery, it is important to know how they work.
  5. Don’t be afraid to share with someone that you have a mental illness. Chances are they have one too or know someone who does.  This will allow you to vent. It’s nice to "get it out", holding it all in seems to make things worse.
  6. Study your illness.  In the long run it will pay off.
  7. Get out of the house.  Call friends and family, visit with them, and try your best to stay social even if it’s the last thing you want to do.
  8. Exercise.  Easier said than done, I know.  Even a walk will do.
  9. Eat three meals a day and drink plenty of water.  Stay healthy.
  10. Remain in the present.  Do not worry about the past or the future.