Ronald's Story

Be Vocal aims to bring mental health to the forefront by spotlighting real people living with mental health conditions and showcasing their unique stories. By shining a light on people’s experiences, we can help create connections, challenge stereotypes and empower others to speak up and get the help they need.

Here is Ronald’s story. He’s a husband, a friend and a Juilliard-trained conductor who has won several of the highest awards a conductor can receive. He’s also living with bipolar disorder. His diagnosis has challenged him, but it has also empowered him. Hear more from Ronald as he shares his story below, and visit The Be Vocal Collection to see more stories like his.

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What do you remember about first being diagnosed with bipolar disorder?
My challenges began well before I was first diagnosed and it wasn’t until many years after my formal diagnosis that I had a real handle on what I was experiencing.
As a child, my father took me to a psychiatrist, who told me I just had “bad nerves” and that there was nothing I could do about it. I felt doomed. This was in the 1960s – the field of psychiatry wasn’t as advanced as it is now. It seemed that this was just the way life was going to be for me.
So by the time I was formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder about 30 years later, it came as a surprise that there was a name for what I was experiencing. But it wasn’t until much later that I came to terms with my diagnosis.
What changed to help you come to terms with your diagnosis and get the help you needed?
I had many psychiatrists. It’s hard to find a match. Eventually I found a psychiatrist in the small town where I was living who I was able to develop a wonderful partnership with. After talking to him, he helped me understand that I needed a consistent regimen. I trusted him. So when he recommended the regimen, I trusted him in our partnership.
What would you want someone recently diagnosed with a mental health condition to know?
You’re not alone. There are ways to manage your condition. It’s not easy – but it’s worth it.
woman talking to man

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If someone else living with a mental health condition wanted to understand your approach to living well, what would you say?
For me, my support team includes my wife, who truly loves me and is wholly committed to my mental health. It also includes my psychiatrist, who I have a committed partnership with. And lastly it includes my orchestra, which is very much a part of my wellness team.
woman talking to man

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Can you tell us more about the Me2/Orchestra and what motivated you to start the organization?
Over the years, I faced stigma in various ways because of my diagnosis with bipolar disorder. I was even fired from a job after they found out about my diagnosis.
My wife and I started the Me2/Orchestra with the idea of creating music for mental health to fight stigma. It’s the world's only classical music organization for individuals living with mental health conditions and the people who support them. Our mission is to erase the stigma surrounding mental health conditions, including addiction, through supportive classical music ensembles and inspiring performances.
I started very small, just with my desire to heal myself – and that turned into healing others. We now perform throughout the year in traditional music venues as well as prisons, rehabilitation centers and hospitals – bringing beautiful music to people who rarely get to experience any beauty.
man talking to woman in orchestra

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What message do you hope people take away from the Me2/Orchestra?
My hope is that we can continue to send the message that people living with mental health conditions can do something meaningful and create something beautiful – something that heals people.
What does being vocal mean to you?
To me it means expressing yourself and who you are. This is true whether you’re living with a mental health condition or not. In general, it’s a better way to live.
Is there anything else you want people to know or understand?
You should never, ever give up on anyone – including yourself.
man talking to woman in orchestra

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