Keaton Leikam was 20 years old on May 22nd, 2009. He had no debt, a good credit score, and was even considering buying a house. He seemed happy. But, burying feelings due to pervasive societal messaging about mental illness, he ignored how massive his mental dysfunction had grown. Those days, in a state of mania, he racked up $3,000 in debt. The mania turned to depression, and the buried dam of emotion finally broke; Keaton attempted suicide, surviving only because a friend called an ambulance.
Keaton was hospitalized for the 4 days following the attempt. During his time in the intensive care unit, Keaton began to wrestle with emotions he’d thought long gone. He was checked into an inpatient psychiatric unit. On one hand, there were the feelings of regret. What would happen to him now? What was wrong with him? How could he fix it? And would anyone understand?
His experiences during this first time in inpatient care — and subsequent times, when he met doctors and caregivers who exercised compassion and understanding — inspired the beginnings of You Don’t Fight Alone.
You Don’t Fight Alone is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping those with mental illness — to tell those who are scared as Keaton was that this isn’t the end; that instead, it could be a new beginning. You Don’t Fight Alone is an organization of support, comfort, and camaraderie, with the goal of reducing stigma around mental illness.
To Keaton, it’s important for everyone to know that many people live with mental illness and enjoy success on their terms. They manage their condition in their day-to-day lives so well that you might never know of their inner demons. Keaton himself is one of those people- if you talked to him today, you likely would not know that he suffers from bipolar disorder unless he told you himself. But he didn’t start like that- it took years of trial and error, of eventual self-acceptance, and of support.
This is the beginning of Keaton Leikam’s story. A successful software developer. A man who lives with bipolar disorder. An everyday person who is there with you.