Justin Shoemaker, a sophomore studying communication, was devastated when he had to leave early from his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Paraguay.
He came home and was then diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
“At first, I felt like I had to live my life in one of two extremes: depressed or manic. I felt restricted all of a sudden.”Justin Shoemaker
“At first, I felt like I had to live my life in one of two extremes: depressed or manic,” Justin Shoemaker said. “I felt restricted all of a sudden.”
He said he had grown up with an active lifestyle and did not know how this would change things.
Justin Shoemaker said he knew he wanted to help those who struggled with similar obstacles.
“Finally, in May, I remembered the purpose that got me by when I was first struggling: that I wanted to get better so I could help other people get better,” Justin Shoemaker said.
That motivation to help others sparked his interest in creating Tripolar, a blog about a third way of living life.
According to dbsalliance.org, bipolar disorder affects 5.7 million adults in America every year.
“That is 5.7 million people who I could potentially reach along with other people who deal with their own struggles,” Justin Shoemaker said.
He said he wants to be able to touch the lives of many people.
“I want to give these people an example to follow, showing them that anything is possible,” Justin Shoemaker said. “They can go for their dreams even if they struggle with these things.”
According to tripolar.org, “Tripolar = (bipolar disorder – the belief that it is a limitation) + the life i want to live.”
Justin Shoemaker created Tripolar in May this year and jumpstarted the idea that mental illnesses can be a positive way of living rather than a negative one.
“Everything I found (online about mental illness) was incredibly, ironically depressing,” he said. “They talk about so much of the bad, where I’ve been learning to really appreciate it.”
He said he is grateful that through his mental illness he has the opportunity to connect with people and change the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
Justin Shoemaker’s mom, Denise Shoemaker, said he is not afraid to let those around him know he struggles with bipolar disorder.
“That is not typical for Justin. He always cared what people thought and wanted not to be judged. Now he shares his story in hopes of letting others break free.”Denise Shoemaker
“That is not typical for Justin,” Denise Shoemaker said. “He always cared what people thought and wanted not to be judged. Now he shares his story in hopes of letting others break free.”
Denise Shoemaker said she thinks what sparked her son’s motivation to let others know what he was struggling with was he wanted other young missionaries to know it is okay to come home from a mission early and not to beat themselves up about it.
“Our youth, boys especially, have been taught since they were in Primary about serving a mission,” Denise Shoemaker said.
She said this may be why many people who come home early suffer with mental illnesses like her son has.
“The world of mental illness is a very depressing place,” Justin Shoemaker said. “There isn’t a voice out there that is giving a happy or uplifting message.”
Once he saw the negativity surrounding mental illness online, he decided to add more positivity by creating a blog that talks about overcoming mental illnesses.
“I identified a passion that I have, which is traveling, and then I identified the ways that I know how to tell stories,” Justin Shoemaker said.
When he travels, he books speaking events to share his story with those in different places who are struggling with mental illnesses.
“I do all of these things with the intent of inspiring different people whether with mental illness or without to show them it is possible to do these things having what most people would say is a limitation,” Justin Shoemaker said.
He said it is important to find purpose in life.
“You gotta get up and do something,” Justin Shoemaker said. “Find some purpose, and if you can’t find it in what you are doing now, you need to change something.”
“I do all of these things with the intent of inspiring different people whether with mental illness or without to show them it is possible to do these things having what most people would say is a limitation.”Justin Shoemaker