From NYC to Carlsbad CA a Journey Taken
Hi. My name is Dan Kasperick and I live with a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD, PTSD and I have an addictive personality. My existence before my diagnosis was a Jeckle & Hyde lifestyle. On the one hand I was a golden boy. In high school I was taking AP classes, was a 3 year Varsity letterman in diving and swimming, ASB treasurer, Boys State attendee, Eagle Scout, Fantasy Gaming president, Mock Trial defense attorney, had a job at a local pizza parlor and received thousands of dollars in scholarship money. I was great. At least that was the way my teachers, counselors, principals, priests and parents (of my buddies) thought. On the other hand, I was very sick with a mental illness. Back then they called it “Manic Depression” but I had never received a diagnosis. I was staying out late with friends and used whatever drugs I could get my hands on, spending my time at parties and doing foolish things with absolutely no regrets or fear of repercussions for any of my actions. Growing up in a large Catholic family, I always had a spiritual connection, but that was just one area of my life. After 2 and 1/2 years at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, studying pre-med and in the Honors Program, I dropped out of my studies because I decided I didn’t believe in God. I was 20 years old and decided that if I didn’t believe in God, I should not be at a Catholic University. After deciding to move out of my comfort zone as far as possible I dropped out of college and moved to New York City.
On Easter morning 1987 I found myself on the floor of a bus station in the Big Apple. I had no home, job, money, food, friends, family or God. That was the deepest part of my well. I was almost out of hope. But God was watching over me. I stayed in NYC for 2 years before I went into my first catatonic paralysis. I was hospitalized by my friends in Elmhurst City Hospital Psych Unit and diagnosed with Manic-Depression. My brother flew out from San Diego to bring me back home. After recuperating with my parents and going in and out of Behavioral Health Units, I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies at California State University, San Bernardino.
Fast forward 30 years, I’ve been in 3 major relationships, had 1 marriage and 1 divorce, gained and lost 100 pounds, had a multitude of jobs, experienced many hospitalizations, made 3 suicide attempts but most importantly I have rediscovered Christ. I was determined to be schizo-affective (both schizophrenia and bipolar) after living 12 years mis-diagnosed. My meds changed and so did my life. I now live in my own apartment, have been stable for 8 years with no hospitalizations and my medications have balanced out my symptoms. I have a job as a Peer Support Specialist at a Clubhouse in Oceanside. It’s a gathering place for folks with brain disorders like me. My job is to facilitate groups and build relationships. I’ve held my job there for 4 years. I can relate to so much of what is talked about in session and out. I was selected to be on the Board of Directors of the NAMI North Coastal San Diego a year and a half ago. I am now Director of Consumer Programs. I make IOOV presentations regularly. I speak whenever and wherever I am needed and I enjoy telling a story of hope and dreams come true.
It is amazing to me the majority of people who have never heard of NAMI. Here at North Coastal we’re working to change that. We have a strong Board of Directors and great volunteers and members, all of whom carry the torch of wellness to those we interact with. I have returned home to the Catholic faith and I sing in the Church choir. I’ve made many friends here in Carlsbad and in the outlying San Diego area. On my birthday this year, 35 of my closest friends attended my party. It’s a far cry from the floor of the NY bus station when I was so all alone so many years ago.