charles mcdowell

As an artist, I work on controlled emotion. It can be derived from an outside source or from a dream. Whatever it may be, it leads me toward a journey to appreciate the skills of other artists. As a Las Vegas native, I grew up in an environment that never acknowledged mental illness. In a predominantly black neighborhood, tragedies like suicide were viewed as a sign of weakness. Today, I understand that chemical imbalances in the brain can occur and influence decision making. So the decision to commit suicide becomes a permanent solution for a temporary problem.

As the founder and owner of MYPOLARLIFE, my quest is to empower those who lack clarity as they face mental illness within their community, their family, or themselves. Mental illness is traditionally stigmatized; however, I have found that art allows for a release—it allows me to express my mental state in a positive way and, in turn, reverse the stigma. I use art to harmonize the emotions I feel with the way in which I perceive the world around me, and I want to create a place where others can do the same.

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Elsa Juko-Mcdowell

Everyone has an inner voice—chatter or the conversation that you have with yourself constantly. This is true for anyone. Those who have a mental illness and those who don’t have a mental illness experience this conversation differently. The voice functions for me in one way and in another way for my husband. It took me years to understand why he would throw a plate of food across the room and then soon apologize, ready to go to Blockbuster for a movie. Thinking back, my inner voice was trying to rationalize who this person was.

23 years later, I have a better understanding of Bipolar II and my husband’s behavior. I no longer rationalize situations because first, he manages his own mental health more productively and positively. And second, while we work as a team, I am only responsible for myself and my responses to his behavior.  

As the founder and owner of MYPOLARLIFE, I emphasize that my experience is not a recommendation but a reflection of my true experiences as the spouse of one individual with mental illnesses. The most valuable lesson I provide here is that it takes both individuals in the relationship to accept the illness and to know how they will manage it for themselves. My contribution to MYPOLARLIFE revolves around support—I want to foster a space that allows the spouses, relatives, and friends of those who suffer from mental illnesses to be able to share their experiences too.