Casey

My soul aches for how misunderstood my brother was. If I can help another family cope and communicate efficiently before Bipolar gets out of control, I want to. Standing up for my brother, who doesn't have a voice anymore, drives me daily. My brother was screaming on the inside and attempted to do whatever it took to feel normal. Not many people saw that vulnerable side of him, but I did. His pendulum swing was drastic. For so long with his misdiagnosis, he was misunderstood...and prescribed meds that were completely counter-productive. Blake just wanted to feel normal and be loved...because he loved. He loved life. Loved laughing. Loved living on the edge. He loved. The meds that he was prescribed just masked the symptoms and slowly seemed to suffocate him and dim his light. At one time, doctors had prescribed 13 different medicines. Blake was a fighter, though. Summer 2013, Blake got properly diagnosed as Bipolar from Vanderbilt. Within days of removing himself of the unnecessary medicine, I got my old brother back. The brother I grew up with. His eyes were bluer than ever. His deep belly laugh was back. He was alive. Seeing the HUGE impact that a proper diagnosis made on Blake's life is what I yearn for others to experience. Bipolar is not an illness for one person to carry. It's a family illness. I want to save a family from the raw, painful grief we experienced on Blake's road to the proper diagnosis. There IS hope.

Fran

It would be hard for me to start anywhere but from the beginning... Blake and I's beginning was what fairy tales are made of... high school sweethearts, Prom King & Queen, college sweethearts, married right after graduation in '05 from APSU, our sweet Chloe was born a year later and we completed our family when Carter joined just a few years later. I say all of that to say, I would never have thought something like bipolar could take over our lives. I can truly see now that it has always been there, we just did not know how to identify it. That would be the one message I hope our Family can convey... it can happen to anyone and it affects everyone. I don't think many could name a more loving, compassionate, or kind-hearted man than Blake. He touched so many lives just by being himself... always there to lend a hand and listen and rarely, if ever, asked for anything in return. Blake — he was everyone's friend and my first and only true love. He cared for me far more than he ever cared for himself. That may have been his tragic flaw. I wish he would have had some of that same compassion for himself. If we can help just one family help their loved one at all by sharing Blake's story it will be worth it. Blake leaves behind such a strong legacy... our two beautiful children — Chloe and Carter, his sister, his niece, and of course, his Mom and Dad, who he loved more than anything. Bipolar destroyed my family... It is real. Everyone is scared to talk about it, but it affects so many directly and indirectly. I know that our home was turned upside down for years because Blake was struggling so desperately and to cope with the pain he turned to things that only masked the real issue and only gave temporary relief. We tried for years to help Blake with all the wrong things — rehab, medication — we were only able to finally address the real issue the last few months of Blake's life. I am so thankful that God gave us back the real Blake... even thought it was only for a few short months. He was clearer than ever, had direction and purpose, and was back to being the loving, funny, blue-eyed man I married. I am so saddened that Blake was torn from my life; I pray that this reaches someone who is struggling whether it be a family member or that person themselves. Blake would never have left us if he would have had a choice. We all know and wholeheartedly believe that.
Blake and Don Jenkins

Don

We loved Blake from the moment we decided to have another child. He was always a warm, friendly, entertaining youngster and this continued into adulthood. Blake was misdiagnosed as ADD and was treated for this for 10 years. He was given more and more medicine. No one found the root cause. They just threw medicine at it. Bipolar is evidently hard to diagnose and is a devastating disease. Yes, disease. If not diagnosed and treated properly it can be fatal. We miss our son so much. All the good times we had and all that were to come have been tragically put on hold. Everywhere I look is a memory of Blake. The most frustrating part of trying to help Blake get well was the fact that we tried numerous programs and he only got worse. Blake wrote me a father’s day card and said that all he wanted was to become normal again and he would make up for any problems he had caused his family when cured. Blake nor we knew what was wrong. That’s all any of us wanted. Vanderbilt dual diagnosis clinic discovered Blake’s problem and we thought he had been cured. We had our son back!! But a few months later Bipolar again reared its ugly head and we weren’t prepared for it since everything had been going so well. We lost our son except for the memories of what an incredible person he was. We hope we can raise an awareness of Bipolar. I must confess I had no idea what it was. Even after I googled it I really didn’t fully understand the difficulty of treating this disease. We hope that Blake’s struggle will not go in vain and others can be shepherded down the right path to recovery.