Letter to a friend

john ater
7 min readAug 3, 2022

© john ater / february 2021

I debated publishing this because it is so personal and lines out so many of my beliefs about power and energy and all the “woo woo” stuff I have such a hard time accepting. But I do accept and I do believe. I experienced too many instances in my life where the person I needed most suddenly showed up at the exact moment I needed them and I showed up at the exact moment they needed me.

For context, this is a young friend who finished his master’s thesis, defended it successfully, and will graduated in May 2021. He is brilliant, funny, curious, personable, an avid reader, sweet and struggles with mental health issues. When he broke ties with his mother because of her abusive treatment, he began to slide into the dark recesses of his mind. His is a story much like mine and, in relating my story to him, we connected on a deep, deep level. I suspect many of you will related to his struggle.

He was seeing a therapist and psychiatrist when we first me. He told me his mother arranged both since they were friends of hers and she told him her friend, the psychiatrist, diagnosed him with schizophrenia and the psychiatrist thought it best she gave her son the news. The alarm bells range loudly for me given his stories about his mother’s mental torture of him.

Having helped numerous friends seek out professional help and reading up on various mental health issues, I know a lot about mental health diagnoses and he just didn’t fit what I knew about schizophrenia. I suggested he find a new therapist who could recommend a good psychiatrist. He did and within about 20 minutes, he told me, the therapist said he did not present with any signs of schizophrenia and referred him to a psychiatrist she trusted. After his evaluation, the psychiatrist said he was not schizophrenic, that he might be bi-polar and ordered blood work, genetic testing and all the other resources a good psychiatrist employs today.

When the doctor began the family history part of the interview, he shook his head, according to my friend. By the time he finished, the doctor told him it was best if he broke off all communication with his mother, that she was probably very mentally ill and communication with her would only prolong any treatment he and the therapist recommended.

Following all the tests, the doctor diagnosed him as bipolar and started him on a mood stabilizer. As with any psychiatric drug, it takes the brain some time to adjust and side

john ater

author / street photographer / writer / editor / iconoclast / anarchist