Bipolar in the Bay

This is the powerful bipolar disorder story of “ordinary guy” Robert Villanueva.

Robert “Coach V” Villanueva grew up in East Bay of San Francisco amidst undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Seeking a better life away from a dysfunctional home, Robert left home at 15 and became a school wrestling coach and garbageman before experiencing his darkest moments with depression and mania. At the brink of despair, Robert found solace among other patients and a glimmer of hope that would change his life forever.

Now a grandparent, international mental health advocate, and bipolar disorder researcher, Robert shares his story to offer hope to others on their journey to recovery.

Hosted by Dr. Erin Michalak.

Chapters & Timestamps

00:00 Introduction
01:55 First Symptoms
06:01 Darkest Days: Leaving Home & Ending It
09:40 Hospital “First Time That I Was Ever Taken Care Of”
12:49 The Hardest Phone Call 15:55 Learning to Accept Bipolar Disorder
18:35 “I Don’t Want to Live in Fear”
21:33 Telling My Story Through Advocacy
23:39 It Is Possible To Manage Bipolar Disorder
26:20 Thank Yous & Family
30:03 “They Believed in Me”

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Robert Villanueva, based in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, is an international mental health advocate, speaker and mentor in arena of lived experience of bipolar disorder. His advocacy journey began over 25 years ago when he received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, prompting him to confront the stigma surrounding mental illness. Robert collaborates with researchers, academics, and policymakers both in the United States and globally, providing insights drawn from his own journey and representing the often-overlooked voices of the “ordinary” population affected by mental health conditions. His unique perspective as someone without a formal education has enabled him to bridge the gap between the academic world and the everyday experiences of individuals living with bipolar disorder. He has served as a “Trainer of Trainers” with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and currently chairs the lived experience advisory board for the “Healthy Lifestyles with Bipolar Disorder” research study at the University of California, Berkeley.


National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness by Stephen Hinshaw (Amazon)
The Mark of Shame: Stigma of Mental Illness and an Agenda for Change (Amazon)

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