A First-Person Account by Gabriel Julien
I did a lot of drugs when I was a teen, and it made my mental health fragile. In 2007, I was on the French language TV reality show Occupation Double. In 2009, I was called in to do another reality show, Loft Story (an adaptation of Big Brother).
One week before Loft Story began, my mother died. I decided to go on the show anyway, but it wasn’t a good place for me to be. I left the loft after three days. I had started to lose contact with reality.
When I found myself all alone, my mental state began to deteriorate. I wasn’t sure if I was still in the loft or not. I was suffering from a psychosis. In this state, the brain gets really hyperactive and makes links that make no rational sense… It’s really exhausting. I ended up in hospital.
Afterward, I slowly went back to leading a normal life. But I started to consume a lot of alcohol. In 2011, I went on a trip to Mexico with a group of very party-animal-type Quebecers. While in Mexico I suffered a toxic psychosis (when a substance like alcohol or drugs causes you to lose touch with reality).
They locked me up in a touristy prison. Alone in my cell, isolated, I was psychotic for three weeks.
I suffered auditory and visual hallucinations. I became convinced that they wanted to eliminate me by shooting me. I hid in my cell and lost all notion of time.
My aunt and uncle ended up getting an air service ambulance to me, and I was transported to a hospital to receive psychiatric care. I was committed to that clinic for a good month and a half. I was diagnosed as bipolar, and I was discharged.
After that, a clinic for psychotic young adults took me in. They had sports workshops, culinary activities in the kitchen, and cognitive behavior therapy. It was really helpful, but I started consuming alcohol again… I hadn’t yet learned my lesson.
I suffered four more psychotic episodes. It was after the fourth one, which was especially difficult for me, that I decided to make some personal choices.
I haven’t suffered any new psychoses for five years. When I feel that things are getting away from me, I know how to ease myself back down to earth. The best advice I can give is to find points of reference. For example, find places and people that give you a sense of security.
These days, what keeps me going is a desire to help others. In May of 2019 I began walking the streets of Montreal to raise awareness of mental health issues and the importance of staying in motion. I am also taking a course to become a professional trainer. I would love to train people who have mental health issues, and contribute to their recovery.