By the time Grayson was in pre-school, parents were refusing to let their kids play with him. Aggressive and violent, he would fight, scream and in his words, “I didn’t want to get along with anybody and I didn’t want to be the normal kid and I didn’t want to do the normal things.”
Kicked out of every school he attended from kindergarten through high school he eventually dropped out and attained his GED. His real accomplishment has been his intense involvement in therapy and recovery and that journey continues.
After years of misdiagnosis and frustration he was finally diagnosed with bi-polar disorder at 16 and entered into a series of treatment centers. None seemed to help until he began dialectical behavior therapy. Based on Buddhist meditation, it combines cognitive behavior techniques with concepts of self acceptance
He says bi-polar disorder “is very sneaky,” masking itself in actions that were misdiagnosed and cycling in and out of intensity. Teachers at school would tell his mother he was charming at the beginning of the school year but she knew that it was only a matter of time before his disease erupted into violence. His record of suspensions a testament to the power of the illness.
Grayson has attacked his mental illness through a combination of therapy, medicine and his own coping mechanisms which he employs at moments when he feels his illness “sneaking” up on him. Digging into creativity, he constructs collages and writes in his journal as a distraction from the desperation of the illness. Writing lists of pros and cons, what is good and bad in a situation, helps him maintain his equilibrium and get past dark episodes.
An adventurous athlete he combines his love for skating and dirt bikes as another means of coping when his anger is overwhelming and is currently learning motorcycle maintenance, hoping to turn his passion into a career.
The negatives of his illness are frightening and his family and personal relationships have seen turmoil. “You don’t know what you’re going to do and you don’t know what you’re going to say and you don’t know if you’re going to get beat up because your going to say this or if you’re gonna lose a friend because you’re going to say this. It’s scary.”
Because of his dedication to treatment and his acceptance and understanding of his condition, the past year has seen major improvements. He has made friends with others he has met in therapy, building the strong bonds of people who have shared a common enemy.
“I really want to reach out to young kids with illnesses and their families and even older kids. I know doctors and counselors make everything seem scary and nerve wracking and it’s really not. I mean, once you get the correct diagnosis life gets a lot easier, it gets back to normal, it gets fun again and you can enjoy your life.”
Grayson sees lessons in a life that has created something of a road map through harrowing terrain. His experiences, the trial and error of therapy and drugs and the constant fight to build a successful life have left him with a wisdom he wants to share. “What I want everybody to know is: you’re not alone. There’s thousands and thousands of people out there struggling with the same disorder and the same thing as you. I know in my case a lot of famous people have suffered from bi-polar disorder, a lot of very inspirational people and a lot of very successful people. And I know that it may sound crazy—because we are crazy!— but in a way we are different, in a way we are unique and we need to keep in touch with ourselves and make sure we let them know that we’re someone special and that we can get through it.”
The future holds a promise wrought from the pain of his past. ”You actually get a second life and it’s kind of like a rebirth after you get diagnosed. And I just want everybody to know that it’s not the end if you are diagnosed with something. It’s not the end it’s just a new beginning, it’s a new place to start from and life is a lesson and life is a journey and you just have to take from it what you can get.”