No longer silent: Man with bipolar disorder speaks up about his illness, inspiring others

A few months ago, Logan Noone made a decision that everyone told him would be a terrible idea. He started talking.

In May 2011, Noone was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a psychiatric condition marked by alternating periods of intense depression and good or irritable moods.  While seeking treatment for his mental health at a hospital, his doctors and fellow patients all told him the same thing – don’t tell anyone about your illness.

“They all said, ‘You have to be careful about who you tell, because people may discriminate against you, and it could ruin your career,’” Noone, a 23-year-old Connecticut native who now lives in California, told “And it was really frustrating for me because I thought, ‘Yeah, but they might not.’”

Though he adamantly disagreed with the idea of keeping quiet, Noone ended up taking his physicians’ advice and ultimately kept his condition to himself.

"I’m just a normal guy, and I can still fit in with everyone else.  We all have something wrong with us; no one’s DNA is perfect."

— Logan Noone, on his new attitude towards being bipolar

The silence tore him apart.  For the next six months, he spiraled into one of his worst depressions, feeling nothing but shame for his condition and the life he was leading.

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“I thought it was a flaw; I didn’t think I could be anything successful,” Noone said. “I didn’t have the drive to get better, because I thought I was destined for suicide.”

Then a seemingly small moment would catapult Noone into a completely different phase of his life.  Just two days after moving to California for a job transfer, Noone nonchalantly told his new Craigslist roommates his biggest secret – that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Then something incredible happened.

Nothing changed.

His roommates did not discriminate against him and embraced Noone for who he was.

“I’ve been able to teach them what bipolar disorder is and change their misconceptions about it,” Noone said.  “…They also taught me the lesson that I’m just a normal guy, and I can still fit in with everyone else.  We all have something wrong with us; no one’s DNA is perfect.”

Since then, Noone has purposefully gone against the “keep quiet” mentality, making the choice to step up and speak out about his experience with mental illness.  Having recently been hired by the California Speakers Bureau, Noone travels to different colleges throughout the state, giving speeches about his life story and how people can help erase the stigma surrounding mental illness.  He has since posted a video of his speech on YouTube, which is quickly gathering views and enormous support.

Now, Noone and others are poised on the brink of what they are calling a mental health civil rights movement, aimed at encouraging those with mental illness to break their silence and talk about their experiences as something positive – and not something to hide.

Depression vs. mania

Having grown up with a loving family in Litchfield, Conn., Noone had always been a happy, normal kid.  He would sometimes experience periods of depression and anxiety, but he could always turn it around quickly.

It wasn’t until he studied abroad in Scotland while attending his junior year at the College of the Holy Cross that he started to notice something wasn’t quite right.

“I started to have racing thoughts that were so consuming,” Noone said.  “I couldn’t focus; I had trouble interacting with people.  I didn’t feel like I knew who I was.  It ultimately lead to drinking and self-medicating, which is certainly not healthy.”

Noone questioned everything from the love of his friends and family to his sexuality.  And the thoughts showed no sign of going away, haunting him throughout his junior and senior year – causing him to isolate himself and become extremely anxious.  Then when it came time for his final week of college, a lot of major changes happened all at once.  He had just recently broken up with his girlfriend, was about to walk the stage for graduation and was starting a new job in just a few short weeks.

He said his parents likened it to the ‘Perfect Storm.’

Noone finally decided to speak with his friends about how he had been struggling.  While he was telling them, his mood suddenly started to turn around.  He started to have feelings of euphoria and felt as though he had a ton of energy.  As his friends began their celebrations for senior week, Noone felt excited enough to join in on the fun – but the partying didn’t stop.

“I was having a blast, but I couldn’t turn it off,” Noone said.  “I had a constant, insane amount of energy, and it continued to get worse as I continued to lose sleep.  I started having all these grandiose ideas that I thought could make work.  I thought I could make a billion bucks off of them in a week.  I was calling investors before I had even written anything down, and it even got to the point where I thought people were going to steal them from me, that people were monitoring my email and cellphone.”

It didn’t take long for his friends and family to figure out something was very wrong.  After about a week of not sleeping, Noone himself started to realize he might be suffering from something very serious, and knowing that bipolar disorder ran in his family, it wasn’t hard for him to put the pieces together.

Seeking help

Realizing he needed help, Noone’s family arranged for two psychiatric disease experts to come to their home in order to advise him about what to do next.

They told him he ultimately had three options.  He could do nothing and continue to suffer, schedule an appointment with a therapist (which could ultimately take weeks), or he could do something even more drastic – check into a hospital.

Facts About Bipolar Disorder

- People with bipolar disorder alternate between periods of depression and elation or sometimes mania

- The condition usually begins between the ages of 15 and 25.

- Symptoms of the manic phase can include problems controlling temper, high energy, reckless behavior, and little need for sleep.

- Symptoms of the depression phase can include very low moods, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, isolation, and even thoughts of death and suicide.

“Saying I should go to the hospital was shocking,” Noone said, “but it really only took my five to 10 minutes to make that decision.  I finally just said I should suck it up and, ‘Let’s do this.’”

The experience was rough, but necessary.  Over the next five days, Noone worked with his doctors to figure out the best treatments for moving forward and the right combination of medications that would help control his symptoms. He wasn’t allowed to leave the building until the process was done.

It was during his time at the hospital that Noone learned about the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder and mental illness in general.  Everyone he met said keeping his disorder a secret was the best course of action, as people would ultimately view and treat him differently.  Even his fellow patients at the hospital said talking about their symptoms and struggles was just too risky.

The silence contributed to his worst depression yet, and Noone spent the next six months feeling ashamed of himself and his condition.  But in those last few months, he started to have a change of heart.  His employer, Hanover Insurance, decided to transfer Noone to California for a new position, and he spent five days in a car with his father, thinking about life and letting everything sink in.

Those five days would later change everything.

“During that time period, I thought, ‘I’m not going to live this life anymore,’” Noone said. “‘This is stupid, and I’m not going to be ashamed.’”

Starting a movement

This decision to tell his roommates about his disorder had an unprecedented impact on Noone.  His instincts had been right all along.  Not only was it OK to talk about bipolar disorder, but it was actually therapeutic, inspiring him to turn his life around in a way he had never imagined.

“It started this momentum of happiness in my life,” Noone said. “I started working out, eating better…. I started this last May, and until now I’ve lost 70 pounds.”

Just the simple act of revealing his condition to his roommates motivated Noone to start attending meet-up groups for people with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues.  He began listening to all of their life experiences and learned helpful insights and coping mechanisms he could apply to his own life.

“This was the key to my recovery, because I didn’t feel all alone,” Noone said.  “Five percent of the population has bipolar disorder, and they think that number is grossly underestimated.  So it was really rewarding being able to connect and meet more of them, because that’s how people are going to get inspired to get the help they need.”

Noone’s involvement with the bipolar community ultimately caught the eye of William Taylor from Mental Health America, who runs an event called “Recovery Happens,” a celebration of people with mental illness who have made recoveries in their lives.  Taylor approached Noone about possibly speaking out about his bipolar experience, and Noone was eager to sign up.

Now, Noone is set to travel to different colleges to give speeches about his life story. His first speech at Sierra College in Rockland, Cali., turned out to be a great success and encouraged Noone to go one step further.  Given the response he received, he recorded a separate video of his speech in his kitchen and posted it to YouTube, hoping to better spread the word online.

So far, the response has been overwhelming.

“I’ve been getting messages from people I don’t know, people in different countries,” None said.  “They tell me, ‘I can really relate to this story, and you’ve inspired me to live a healthy life.’”

Besides his speaking engagements and YouTube video, Noone is working to start a non-profit, which strives to create an online community revolving around mental illness pride, as well as a marketing campaign called “Repaint the Picture,” aimed at erasing the misconceptions of mental illness and spreading mental illness pride.  And Noone is not alone in this endeavor.  He has already received substantial interest in starting his own initiative.  Many high-profiled celebrities – such as Carrie Fisher, Linda Hamilton, Russell Brand, Howie Mandal, and Robert Downey Jr., to name a few – have already come out about their struggles with bipolar disorder, spreading knowledge and awareness of the disorder.

Overall, Noone feels the whole mental health community is on the brink of a civil rights movement, in which people with mental illness are about to come out of the shadows and spread their stories for the world to hear.  It is through this effort, he says, that things will inevitably start to change.

“We’re going to try to tell the success stories,” Noone said. “The stories people need to hear. The truth.”

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