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“Essentially you’ve ruined your life,” how local man lives, learns with Biopolar 1

Laura Dachenbach

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The Columbus Bar Association is hosting a series of free, public Community Wellness forums beginning this spring, including topics such as “The Science of Happiness,” “Living a Life of Purpose,” “Emotional Intelligence and Wellness,” and “Student Mental Health Issues.” For updates, visit cbalaw.org.

Head space holds a different meaning for Michael Jarosi.

Jarosi seems to keeps an understandable emotional control over the events of his past, where car wrecks and homelessness live. Occasional tears testify to their still-present potency. But Jarosi’s existence is also one of resilience and hope, and his hope is that his story will reduce the loneliness, misunderstandings, and stigma that accompany a path such as his. 

During college, Jarosi was hit by two things. The first was a bolt of lightning. Just after accepting a soccer scholarship to the University of Virginia, Jarosi was on the field when a thunderbolt hit his father. Standing nearby, Jarosi absorbed the current through the metal cleats on his shoes. He was initially rendered unconscious, then experienced a strong sense of vertigo. Jarosi’s father was quickly life-flighted to Grant Hospital and died in the ICU that fall. In a stupor of grief and trauma, Jarosi went through his first three years of college. If campus counseling services were available, he was unaware of them. 

The second was an accident that produced a revelation. During his third summer at college, Jarosi began losing sleep and behaving erratically. The pattern of bizarre behavior escalated until he wrecked his car. Instead of remaining at the scene, he went home and took a nap.

“When people see that, the first assumption is drugs,” said Jarosi. “My soccer coach took me to the emergency room and they did a diagnostic. They checked my heart and my pupils and those didn’t show any signs of illicit drugs. And then they did a blood test […] and there were no drugs in my blood.” 

The doctors concluded that Jarosi had type one bipolar disorder.

The Hurricane Within 

Bipolar disorder, previously known as manic depression, is a mental disorder that causes both clinical depression and phases of escalating hypomania—an elevated mood characterized by sleeplessness, increased energy, intensified emotions, a decreased inhibition, a lessened regard for consequences, and sometimes psychosis. 

Despite the turbulence in his life, Jarosi continued to function in many areas. He finished school with a professor commenting that Jarosi’s final exam was one of the best he’d ever received. After graduating, Jarosi got a job at a consulting firm where he could use his research and Spanish-language skills. He established significant relationships along the way. For a short time, he believed that bipolar disorder was merely a developmental stage that he could leave in the past.  

However, the increasing productivity Jarosi was experiencing was actually an ominous sign of hypomania that once again led to unstable behavior. The series of hospitalizations that punctuated Jarosi’s adult life began their cycle.

“My hospitalizations could have been the result of a loved one persuading me to go to the hospital. Unfortunately, that was very rarely the case. It was generally court-ordered and by force.”

Gradually, Jarosi came to accept he had a chronic and incurable mental condition that had changed what he had believed would be the forward motion of his life and career. The ebb and flow of his life has contained seemingly contradictory events such as escaping from a psychiatric hospital in Alabama where he had been chemically and physically restrained, as well as graduating from Capital Law School. 

Jarosi often uses the metaphor of a hurricane to describe the cycle of mania and depression, and how it can result in a life that is both productive and destructive.

“Whatever you might try to achieve, you might be on a path to achieving it, or you might achieve it. But then it gets wiped out because of the manic episode and the consequences of [that episode]. Essentially you’ve ruined your life. Significant others, relationship, job, finances, everything is destroyed,” said Jarosi. “So when you then become stabilized, you have to decide what you’re going to do. And that can be different things for different people. You have to make the decision as to where you’re going to pick up with your life. You can be very much starting from scratch.”

Journey to Wellness

At one point, Jarosi became homeless, as many people with mental illness do. For no particular reason, he went to Chicago.

“What many people don’t understand about homelessness, especially when it involves substance abuse and mental illness, is that it’s not that people don’t have anywhere to go. It’s that people don’t have anyone anymore,” Jarosi said. “With serious mental illness, family members and friends can simply no longer handle that person because of the toll the illness has taken on relationships.”

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In Chicago, Jarosi was taken in by a Salvation Army shelter and began some of the practices that he continues today to walk the balance. He attended services at the Salvation Army and witnessed the power of spirituality. He became particularly interested in the Old Testament book of Job. He found a counselor who had served 25 years in prison and gave him a new perspective and a message of hope. He began exchanging letters with his wife to heal their relationship. Today they spend time together after dinner each day, listing things they are thankful for.

“I want to do all the things that I can—all the things that are possible—to stay healthy. I try my best to assemble those things in my life. At the same time, none of those things, and the combination of those things is not a silver bullet.”

Jarosi also follows a regimen of appropriate medication, light therapy, fitness training, and equine therapy.

“Horses help me a lot. They’re a different animal; they’re much different than a dog or a cat. They have different instincts. And they can be very, very dangerous animals. But they can also be incredibly compassionate,” said Jarosi. [There is] power that horses have when you trail ride and you go up and down these very, very steep hills in the Appalachians that humans could not get up and down. You feel the power of the horse underneath you and it’s very primal. I enjoy it and it’s
good therapy.”

Fighting the Stigma

The public stigma surrounding mental health issues is an additional layer of weight for a person living with mental health issues. For Jarosi, it has meant that in career situations, he must conceal much of his past, or find different ways to account for time he has lost in treatment.

“There’s also hard evidence if you do a background check,” Jarosi added. “Somebody wants your academic transcripts. They see semesters off, a dive in your grades.”

As part of his wellness journey, Jarosi has undertaken a personal mission of reducing that stigma, starting with the Columbus Bar Association. He has presented his story for continuing legal education credits, encouraging the legal profession to become a profession where workers can be open about mental illness and the work environment can be part of an individual’s supportive network. He’s also working on Thunderstruck, a memoir.

“If I can help the message of stigma and start in the legal profession, there may be a […] trickle down effect where some people who have the ability to make changes will understand the stigma better. I think that’s possible.”

While bipolar disorder is still a relatively unusual diagnosis, Jarosi believes that his experience and message is helpful for anyone coping with the stresses of life, even if they do not have a specific mental disorder.

“Don’t be ashamed of those things and don’t be ashamed of those feelings and those struggles,” Jarosi advises. “Just because something isn’t a diagnosable mental illness doesn’t mean that [issue] is not something a person is struggling with in their life. Mental health services, I think, can be of assistance to people with different issues, not necessarily [just] a diagnosed psychiatric issue.” •


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“It’s a-me, Mario!” Buy tix now for video game-inspired racing in Columbus

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You’ve played Mario Kart and you’ve probably played Beerio Kart, but have you played Mushroom Racing?

This live-action go karting experience is coming to Columbus Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30.

Eventbrite tickets are still on sale.

The $55 experience includes costumes, 20 laps, DJ and after party, games, activities and more.

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If you’ve got your drifting and shell-throwing down to a science, you could win yourself a place in the Mushroom Racing in Las Vegas.

There will be 20 spots in the final with three ways in which racers can win a place on the grid in Las Vegas:

  1. Having the fastest lap time in your city.
  2. Collecting the most stars in your city (Top 3 in the country will go to Vegas!)
  3. A lottery – Every person that purchases a ticket to the event , will be entered into a lottery.

There will also be prizes for collecting the most stars throughout the Mushroom Rally series!

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FREE Boyz II Men concert will bring you down “On Bended Knee”

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One of the most iconic “man bands” of this generation will be gracing us with a FREE concert this summer! It’s far from the “End of the Road” for Boyz II Men, who will be performing live at Columbus Commons on Thursday, August 8.

Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, and Shawn Stockman will be bringing you down “On Bended Knee” with their smash hits from the 90s like “I’ll Make Love To You,” “A Song For Mama,” and “Motownphilly.”

None of those songs sound familiar? Maybe you’ll recognize the latter from this scheme in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia:

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While the tickets are free, you must still acquire them to attend. Early access tickets will be available to Columbus Commons newsletter subscribers on Tuesday, June 25 at 10 AM. A limited number of additional free tickets will be released on Thursday, June 27. Sign up for the Columbus Commons newsletter for early access to tickets at columbuscommons.org.

See below for additional details.

  • Gates will open at 6 PM.
  • Ticketholders will not be permitted to access the park before gates open at 6 PM.
  • Easy and convenient $5 parking for this event is available at the Columbus Commons Main Garage, located at 55 East Rich Street.
  • Food trucks and bars will be available.
  • Folding chairs and blankets are welcome.
  • Coolers and outside alcoholic beverages are not permitted.
  • Free tickets are required for entry.
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I…Declare…an Office Trivia Bar Crawl in Columbus!

Mike Thomas

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Start a new series on Netflix, or re-watch The Office for the 100th time? We already know which option you’ve chosen, so why not put the countless hours you’ve spent with the Dunder Mifflin gang to work?

The “That’s What She Said Trivia Bar Crawl” is the perfect way to face off against other Office Super fans, putting your knowledge of all things Scranton to the test. The crawl will take place over multiple bars on Saturday, June 1, with registration running from 4-6 PM at Park Street Cantina.

This is not a drill! Free Dunder Mifflin souvenir t-shirts will be available for those who sign up early, as well as a souvenir D.M. ID card, lanyard and crawl guide for all participants.

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Food and drink specials – hopefully chili – will also be available to participants as they take on 3 rounds of 25 questions about everyone’s favorite workplace docu-comedy TV show.

“Dundies” and other prizes will be awarded for for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place trivia winners, as well as prizes for the best costumes in individual and group categories.

This event is 21, and please note that you will need a cell phone with data to take part. For more info, visit the event page here.

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