Real Chat with Joseph Fusaro
PROJECT 375: When you wake up in the morning do you know what kind of a day you will have?
Joseph Fusaro: I do not, and I have learned to accept that I cannot change the things that happen around me. For instance, I cannot control the weather. I certainly cannot help what happens in the news. I cannot help if friends or family are having a terrible day. I do find that when I remember to be open, accepting, and willing to learn I have better days than when I start off complaining or judging. I try to write down something I am grateful for, or what I would like to achieve in the in the morning.
PROJECT 375: What is your earliest memory of living with mental illness?
Joseph Fusaro: I can remember not being able to sleep on school nights as far back as elementary school. This made it very hard for me to stay focused throughout the day. I definitely had insomnia, and I believe the lack of sleep caused some ADHD and depression.
PROJECT 375: How old were you?
Joseph Fusaro: I was 7 or so.
PROJECT 375: If you could go back what would you tell your younger self about your future self?
Joseph Fusaro: I would have told my younger self to stick with the arts despite pressures to be an athlete or a business major. I would have done a lot of things different in high school and college. I do not regret doing the things I did because I learned a lot about myself, however I would have concentrated more on writing and music. Like most teens I felt the pressure to live up to what others wanted or expected, and I may have sacrificed some time doing the things that really made me happy. Either way I would tell that young me, in the future you are going to scare the heck out of yourself, but then you are going to be real proud of the way you pull yourself back together.
PROJECT 375: What is your diagnosis?
Joseph Fusaro: I have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, ADHD, and schizoaffective. I think we finally found the right diagnosis a few years back. I am Bipolar 1.
PROJECT 375: What would you like to say to kids much younger than you with the same diagnosis?
Joseph Fusaro: First and foremost, accept it and own it. Do not let it stop you from doing the things that you want to do. I had poor guidance in college and I regret that I could not keep up with the coursework and I never graduated. There are ways for you to get help in college. There are ways that you can be exactly what you want to be. You may have to be persistent but you can still be anything that you work hard for and believe you can do. I would also say that you may have to change a lot of things about your lifestyle. In addition to medication, you will probably want to eat healthier than the average kid. You should definitely stay physically active and do breathing exercises or meditation. Most importantly, you need at least 8 hours of sleep every night. I know these are tall orders for a child but it will help tremendously.
PROJECT 375: What is your favorite extracurricular activity?
Joseph Fusaro: I wish I could still say it was playing guitar, but that has taken a back seat to writing since I started my poetry book and blogging about mental health. Writing has been the one consistent thing in my life since I was about 14 years old. I love to journal, write songs, poetry, articles, dialogue. Recently I have acquired a healthy addiction to walking as well.
PROJECT 375: What is one thing you want people to know?
Joseph Fusaro: I want people to know that there is hope for a positive and productive future after mental illness. Yes, it is hard. Medication is hard. Depression is hard. Mania is confusing. Anxiety is overwhelming. Once I promised myself that I wanted to get better and I wanted to show friends and family the real me, things slowly start to come together.