Justin Babb Portrait Drinking Coffee

Justin Babb - Brave Faces Portrait Gallery

I’ve lived in Redding for eight years after growing up in the Bay Area, and I work in information technology. I like DJing, cooking, stand-up comedy and pursuing my hobbies.

I’m pretty private about the fact I was diagnosed with Bipolar II about five years ago. I don’t want to be seen as that 'depressed guy' or as a drain on people. That’s a personal stigma I’m trying to break. At the time of my diagnosis, I had a good job, I had a car and a place to live, but I was still depressed and struggling immensely. People can have a mental illness and be incredibly functional. When I’m in a manic stage, I can appear to be accomplishing a lot."
 

Justin Babb

"People with Bipolar II tend to lean more on the depressive side than the manic. Looking back, I realize now I was having depressive episodes with suicidal thoughts at 14. I was isolating, playing a lot of video games and overeating to comfort myself.

The depression subsided as I grew into adulthood. But a week before I was supposed to go to Southern Oregon University, I packed up my car and moved to Las Vegas on a whim to pursue playing poker professionally. Now I recognize that everything I experienced at that time - the rash decision making, the rapid thoughts and the insomnia - were part of a manic phase.” 


Justin at the coffee shop

When I ran out of money in Vegas, I moved back here, got a job at Shasta College and started a successful community fundraising project called Redding Soup. Yet I was creeping back into depression, I was drinking a lot and I was feeling suicidal again. Around that time, I saw the Brave Faces speakers present at the college, and after hearing people share their experiences with mental illness I decided to reach out.

I experienced a recent manic episode and decided to leave without informing anyone where I was headed. I was a missing person for six days. This experience taught me to use the tools that I have developed, use my support when I need it and that I need a stronger plan for maintaining my mental health."
 

Justin Babb reading paper

"I’ve always been an independent person, and it was a very difficult step to ask for help. I started seeing a therapist, but after a setback she suggested I see a psychiatrist.  At this point, I had quit drinking for 30 days and after a long question and answer period, the psychiatrist told me, 'I think I can diagnose you as Bipolar II today.' 
 
While it was a relief, the doctor gave me a prescription, set my next appointment and that was it. So I checked out a bunch of books from the library on Bipolar and just read everything I could. Now that I’m educated, I can see the symptoms, know the signs and assess whether the Bipolar is affecting my decisions and emotions. I’m incredibly fortunate to have figured this out when I was 26. So many people live a long time without ever knowing, and they suffer unnecessarily."


Justin DJs at Library Park in Redding

"Starting medication was a weird experience. I went through this period questioning whether I was still my true self. I consider myself lucky because the first medication I tried for Bipolar seemed to work. One of the most amazing benefits of my diagnosis has been getting regular sleep with just one pill, Lamictal. Before, I was sleeping three to four hours a night. For me, all of these issues had become my normal. I remember my psychiatrist saying, 'Justin, there’s no reason for you to suffer.'” 


Justin by the Shasta Humanity Project Tiny House Prototype

(Above: Justin stands by the Shasta Humanity Project's tiny house prototype. The non-profit is seeking to create a tiny house village for people who are experiencing homelessness.) 

"Recently, I had tough period accessing proper medication. I slipped deeper into my illness because I didn't realize how much the medication was actually helping. With community support and getting back on track, I now see how much of a difference I can make in the community.

Since I stopped drinking, I started going to a recovery program. It’s great being around people who are trying to improve themselves and who are open and honest. Today, I am finishing a degree in Organizational Leadership at Simpson University, and I’m helping the Shasta Humanity Project build a tiny house community for the homeless. I am starting to put all the pieces back in place, and now I can focus on getting better and not repeating the past."