Winner ofOccupation double 2007 and candidate for Loft Story in 2009, Gabriel Julien has lived a great journey through the desert. Man of 36 years has sunk into drugs and alcohol, and this, without knowing at the time that he was suffering from bipolarity. After several psychosis and a stay in a psychiatric institute, he decided to educate the people with his project, I’m walking for mental health.
Gabriel, you have touched a lot of people with your recent testimonial on the page Facebook Human above all. Why did you agree to you deliver it as well?
It’s part of the steps for my recovery since I had my diagnosis of bipolar in 2011. It is really important for me to talk about it. I want to remove the question mark that people have when they think of me.
You have received a wave of support after you have shared your experience… How did you react to all this?
There were about 500 comments, all positive! I received a wealth of messages from people who are experiencing mental health issues. I’ve read in hurting the eyes. People need to express themselves. After this wave of support, I wasn’t walking I was floating! I had an army behind me now. I was walking and I felt all this energy!
For a year, you’re walking in the streets of Montreal to raise awareness of the issues of mental illness. You have already traveled more than 1650 km! Why the walk?
I was looking for solutions, a way to inspire people. We give a lot to causes, it’s great, but I hadn’t seen someone do an act of sport to raise awareness of the cause of mental illness. I wanted people and young people can have someone to identify with, something that I didn’t at the beginning of my healing. I had questions about medication, therapy… physical activity is so good for mental health. So, if I can walk and inspire people to do the same, to move and to be active, this is great!
You have made four psychoses because of your bipolar disorder and your use of cocaine and alcohol. Make a psychosis, what is it like?
I am not an expert in that area, but not far off! It is a complete loss with reality. When I was in Mexico, in the midst of a crisis, we had to tie me and transfer me to a clinic so that I regain my senses, before I could make it back in a helicopter. It is important to know that everyone can make a psychosis. When one does not sleep for several days, and that we consume drugs, our body ends up exploding.
Do you feel fragile sometimes?
I’ve taken the habit to listen to me, to sleep well and do sports. The routine is super important, because it removes a lot of stress.
How do you feel about the containment?
I know that, for many people, this is a great period of questioning and anxiety. I still have my follow up with my mental health nurse. We’re in talks since the beginning of the confinement. The routine is super important, and I made sure to keep mine in the containment. When you lose your bearings, this is where everything shifts. Of there the importance of good people around you. Without my family I would be dead.
Do you regret for having participated in reality shows?
It is obvious that it would have been easier, for me, to go through what I have experienced if I had not been known. I am quite a warrior to have fought this before the public. I don’t regret in any way my experience in double Occupancy, but one that I had in the loft, yes. And this is not the issue as such as I put in question by saying that, but rather the circumstances in which I participated. I joined a week after the death of my mother. I was really in denial. I didn’t want to show my vulnerability in front of the other lofteurs, so I made as if nothing had happened, and it jumped in the loft. Really.
Weary you of your ex-addiction and the life of the party?
If I’m bored? Yes! There has been a lot of fun associated with this time period. But with age, one realizes that everything, including the relationships that it builds, it is ephemeral and that, in the end, it’s only fill us with sadness. When consumed, all the emotions are exacerbated, but this is not real life. The upside of this fun is very difficult. It is a battle that will be there all my life. It happens to me occasionally consume alcohol, but there is obviously more of cocaine.
What are the prejudices that people have towards mental health?
The mental health, you miss it every day without realizing it. People suffer in silence. We see the one who is talking all alone in the street, but this is not it. People on anti-depressants more than ever. I have two friends who have committed suicide… And when I walk, sometimes I say to myself: “And if I had been more present?” This is why we need support. Mental health is becoming less taboo, and that makes me happy. The more we talk, the more we will advance.
That withdrawn you from this healing?
My new me allows me to love and help others. It is less stress, less anxiety. My self-esteem, I do try to find it here and there; it is here, with me, now.
- For information, https://gabjulien.com/. In order to cope, he has been able to count on the help of the clinique JAP du CHUM for young adult psychotics.