Today I’m so excited to introduce you to a inspirational man who in his own words is “Living well with mental illness”. His name is Robert Villanueva, a National Trainer of Trainers for NAMI and the West Coast Regional Director of LETS (Lets Erase The Stigma). The first time I saw Robert was in a YouTube video for “In Our Own Voice”, where he shared some thoughtful questions about the stigma in society and how those living with mental illness are affected. He also gave a face of an adult who was living with Bipolar Disorder when at the time I didn’t know what that would look like other than images of famous people having public meltdowns. For me it was very encouraging and gave me so much hope for my son.
I grew up in the East Bay and attended Castro Valley High School. Home was very ruff but I had some great teachers and coaches along the way. After graduating, going to college was a distant dream, due to unstable parents and the need to move forward in my life. I chose to coach wrestling and found a job as a garbage man... fast forward to my early to mid-twenties, as stated in the magazine “One in Four ” published in the UK, I would be considered an all American guy. Good husband, loving step-dad, coach, in great physical shape and all around friendly guy.
When did you first experience symptoms?
At the age of twenty-eight is when they started to disrupt my life. Looking back, I am sure I experienced bouts of depression and manic episodes. Being a father, husband, active member of society, the symptoms started affecting all aspects of my life. My family suffered the most during those years. I missed work, was not as loving and emotionally unavailable to my wife and kid.
What mental illness have you been diagnosed with?
How do you manage your illness?
Did you always know that something wasn’t right or did it come out of nowhere?
Do you have a family history of mental illness?
As a man, what unique struggle did you face in coping with your illness and getting treatment?
How do you get support today?
Obviously you’ve gone public with your illness, but do you tell everyone?
Do you have any regrets with going public?
Have you yourself faced any challenges with the stigma of mental illness?
What have you learned through your journey?
What advice can you give parents who are raising kids with mental illness?
Thank you again for giving me a platform to open much needed conversations about mental illness.
I wish you the best of health to you and your family.