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Adam Helbling        

Author, Motivational Speaker, Life Coach

Our society has been struggling with how to deal with people with mental health issues now more than ever. There has also been a struggle for a long time on how to incorporate people with disabilities into the workplace. There are professionals who speak on these topics who are highly trained, but have only learned about these issues in a textbook or through observation. I myself have actually lived through losing both my mind and body in the same lifetime. Having to actually live with bipolar disorder and paralysis I can give an audience a first-hand account of both mental illness and physical disability.

I came to The Ohio State University in 2005 on a full ride scholarship. I had a bright future ahead of myself, but even though I felt like I had everything going for me I still fought through periods of depression. In my sophomore year of college I turned to marijuana to cope with my depression. It was the start of a downhill spiral for me. I partied my way through college, but at the same time I was still functional and accomplished a great deal.

In the spring of my junior year in 2008 I was accepted into The SPHINX Senior Class Honorary. Only 24 students out of the entire senior class are chosen each year that best represent The Ohio State University and it is the highest honor that can be accorded as a student there. Euphoria took over and it only grew greater at the end of the summer when I won the Ohio State Waterski Championship.

I came back to Ohio State in the fall where I was reckless and impulsive. After five weeks of not going to class I realized that I had dug myself into a hole that was too big for me to get myself out of. I was $15,000 in debt, I had marijuana growing in my closet, I had gone through a huge drug binge, and I hated what I had become. The anxiety kept me awake for six days straight and I went into full-blown psychosis.

Everything became a sign to me from the title of a book, a picture, some words in a magazine, to even street signs. Ultimately the signs led me to believe that I was the second coming of Jesus Christ. The next morning I woke up in the psych ward in Akron General. I thought cameras were watching my every move and that the entire world was watching. I was put on medications and after 2 1/2 weeks I was released.

I met with my psychiatrist who gave me a bipolar diagnosis. I went through group therapy and other therapies for about a month and then went to drug rehab for three weeks. After paying off my debts I went back to Ohio State, but ultimately fell back into smoking marijuana.

As Captain of The Ohio State Waterski Team I worked hard to recruit new members and train our team. Two years after the psych ward we qualified for Nationals for the first time since 1972. We went on to win our first ever National Championship. This was a team that I built primarily by myself over the course of five years. It was the ultimate highlight of my career, but little did I know was that this would be the last time I would ever get to waterski.

In January 2011 I went off my medications for just five days and went into another full-blown manic episode. I took off on a drive at 3:30 AM with 5 inches of snow on the ground and negative temperatures. Without going into all the details, the drive ended with me running from the police going 120 mph on a flat tire in the snow. A song was playing over the radio and the lyrics went, "I throw my hands up in the air sometimes." So I opened my sunroof and put both hands in the air. Then everything went black.

I flipped five times end over end and landed upside down in a field in the snow. I suffered a spinal cord injury at the C6/C7 vertebrae, collapsed both of my lungs amongst other injuries. I died at the scene, but the paramedics got on site in time to resuscitate me.

I woke up in the ICU in Indianapolis with a breathing tube shoved down my throat unable to talk or move. A week later I got out of the ICU and found out that my spinal cord was still intact. This meant there was a chance that I could walk again. Although with the bipolar left untreated I continued to believe that I was Jesus and there was no doubt in my mind that I wouldn't recover.

After being on proper medication I got my mind back and reality hit me. I realized that I may have to say goodbye to all of my physical passions. That first year I was depressed and suicidal. I thought there was nothing left to live for.

I started to write and reach out to people through Facebook and slowly I realized my purpose. That purpose was to share my story to help others in a positive way. I made people realize what was important in life and not to take the little things in life for granted.

I went back to Ohio State to finish my degree in Civil Engineering. I graduated in June 2012, but I had a different plan for my future. I went on to become a Motivational Speaker and I published my book in February 2014 with the title "Well... I Guess I'm Not Jesus".

I have spoken over 175 times to audiences of all ages and all professions. My life now has a purpose and I see the accident as a blessing rather than a curse. I have found that the best way to help yourself is to help others. I really enjoyed working with high school and college students one-on-one as a life coach. There is no greater feeling than actually watching the transformation in their lives.

I see my story now as a message for prevention and a story of hope that all of us should be happy no matter what our circumstances are. I show people that we all face adversity, but it should always be used as a way to train ourselves to be better in the future. I myself am thankful for all that I went through because now I am happier than I have been in my entire life.

Speech Topics


MENTAL HEALTH

The first signs of bipolar disorder came for me when I was in the sixth grade and I was severely depressed for 2 to 3 months. I had terrible periods of depression like this throughout middle school, high school, and college. It was always wrongly diagnosed as depression. Manic lows with bipolar disorder usually come out early in your life and the highs usually come out in your early to mid 20s. During my first manic high in 2008, I stayed awake for six days straight and I had a psychotic break. I suffered from delusions of grandeur where I truly believed that I was the second coming of Jesus Christ for 2 1/2 weeks in the psych ward at Akron General. I was put on medications and took them religiously until January 2011 when I went off my medications for just five days. The delusions came back and ultimately resulted in a car accident that left me paralyzed from the chest down.There is so much stigma with mental health. In my presentations I show how misunderstood the disorder is. I also show that with proper treatment and the right medications you can go on to live a very fulfilling life. I also show how severe the consequences can be without treatment.

MARIJUANA & DRUG ABUSE

A sign of a manic phase is excessive drug use. In the months leading up to my mental breakdown, I started to experiment with hard drugs. After I took one drug it. it created a mindset where I did not care about what I put into my body. I know firsthand how easy it is for drugs to take over your life. It all started with smoking marijuana as a way to self medicate. During a long period of depression during my sophomore year of college, it seemed like was the easiest way out. It was not until after my accident that I realized how negatively marijuana affected my life. I accomplished so much during my first year in college before I started smoking. I now realize how it affected friendships and my relationship with my family. Marijuana is especially dangerous when you have a mental health disorder. Many people do not understand that marijuana can lead to psychosis with these disorders. People need to know there are other ways to deal with stress. Marijuana seems like an easy way out but during my speeches I show people how negatively it affected my life.

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY

The first year after my accident was the worst year of my life. I thought my life was over, but little did I know how far I would come. Today, it’s impossible to fathom being happier. I promised myself a long time ago, that I would always be happy, even if I could never walk again. Now, I truly cannot remember the last bad day I’ve had. I am so thankful for everything in my life and I do not take anything for granted. My mission is to change one life at a time and in doing so, I have found that the best way to help yourself is to help others. I want to help people realize their true purposes and understand that life’s obstacles cannot prevent them from achieving great things. Not letting things bother me, never complaining, and being optimistic about my future have lead me here. We all face challenges in our lives, but without facing adversity we never learn what we are truly made of.

PHYSICAL DISABILITY

I have a C6/C7 spinal cord injury and I am a quadriplegic. If you could ask me what I miss more than anything it would be not having my independence. I need help getting into bed at night, dressing, and out of bed in the morning. My life has changed drastically since January 2011, but eventually it became my new normal. Having lost both my mind and my body, I would much rather have my mind. I believe that the mind is much more powerful than the body. Of course I can’t do all of the physical things that I used to do like walk or run. I have had to say goodbye to my greatest physical passions. A few months before my accident I led the Ohio State Waterski Team to a National Championship. I no longer think about the physical things that I am missing out on. Most audiences that I speak to are filled with able-bodied individuals. I challenge people to live their life like I would if I were given just one more day to walk again. I take nothing for granted and I want people to leave my speeches realizing how much they have to live for.

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