Meet Malik is part of the 1,000 Journeys Project, in which we aim to collect 1,000 narratives of people's experience with mental health. Our team of designers artistically render representations of the participant’s journey. 


So tell me where your story begins.

Not sure exactly where it all began, but at some point in middle school, elementary school, I was getting sick very frequently. As I got older, there were signs of anxiety that sort of emerged that were not easy to recognize at the time. So for example, in the mornings before school, I would get sick. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school when my anxiety had become so bad that we started to recognize it as anxiety. I reluctantly went to a psychiatrist. Being Middle Eastern, anxiety is not a thing you can really talk about. You just talk about it as 'stress.'

I remember the first time I took my medication. I took like half a dose, and it was raining outside. It was a warm night and raining. I walked outside right after I had taken it, and I just kind of walked around barefoot in the grass, and it was the most at peace I’d felt in like a very long time.


I was starting to feel like myself again.


During my junior year of high school, my doctor decided to give me an antidepressant. I was always a good student in school. I wasn’t perfect, but I did my work. I was in AP classes. So I was considered to be a high-functioning person. But that year, I just got incredibly manic. No one recognized my mania because I was successful with what I was doing.

Antidepressants can trigger mania in people with bipolar. So that’s pretty much how we figured out I was bipolar. After a while, my doctor took me off the antidepressant and I haven’t felt mania since.


The psychiatrist's actual note describing the plan to decrease Malik's antidepressant dosage.


I frequently talk about how much I miss my mania. My mania powered me through so many things. It gave me so much energy. I was always under the suspicion that I could channel that manic energy into positive things. But… in hindsight, it was just like… reckless things that could’ve been approached more reasonably. More logically.


Malik described how in the background, his mania seemed to drive his life, including his successes.

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I was dating this girl for a few months. Everything was going really well. But I didn’t realize at the time that you couldn’t tell people that you were bipolar. And so… I casually mentioned it when we were in the car. And… she was like… can you please stop the car. I stopped the car and she literally said nothing, got out, and started running. Like, running home...


This video is a simulation of a real conversation between Malik and a friend following the incident.

He added:

...but I don’t know that I blame her. For the most part I think society has already made up its mind about what bipolar is, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done to change that. 

An example of how the media closely links bipolar disorder and violent acts.


We asked Malik if he had any advice for his younger self about learning to deal with bipolar:

Okay so I need to be honest here, the first piece of advice - stay in the closet. This advice obviously isn’t for everyone - but people should know it’s okay to ‘come out’ on their own terms, when they are ready. We are more than this illness - and it is important that we see this ourselves. That we look at ourselves and say 'okay, this is what I want out of life,' and to not have to worry about the unintended consequences being out can have on whatever quest we choose. Like say I one day become the CEO of an incredibly successful company. Can you imagine what the stock prices would look like the day I decided to publicly come out?

Malik shared some of his feelings on living life with his bipolar and how it has impacted him physically, mentally, and emotionally.

So I think I struggle a lot with like the idea that people might be able to see that I'm bipolar - like sometimes people see the fatigue in my face and are like 'you okay?' … and I can't exactly say 'well I'm bipolar this is just how I am sometimes'. So I usually say 'I'm just tired'. Which is true…I guess I'm pretty much tired all the time.

I don't want to just survive, I want to thrive.

Yeah so I feel like I've tried everything - therapy, meds, diet changes, apps… the meds keep me stable, but for me it's like I don't want to just be stable - I want to be more than just stable. I want to really thrive. So far, the thing that has helped me the most is just my experience being bipolar. I kinda just got better at dealing with it through experience. A lot of times I'm just experimenting with my bipolar, guessing what works and what doesn't work or trying to figure out why something happened or didn't happen. 


Want to hear more about Malik's story? Check out his personal narrative in the link below. You can also learn more about the 1,000 Journeys Project and sign-up to be interviewed about your own mental health journey. Your journey can help us to open the conversation about mental health and the information you provide will support entrepreneurs in developing useful mental health products and services.