You got to die before you can really live.

April 1, 2007

You got to die before you can really live.


Ted Burnett

Several weeks ago over dinner, my mother and I had a heated discussion about her concerns for me since my latest manic episode. In every previous phone call or get together, I could hear the tension in her voice and see strain on her face, which made for an all around uneasiness for both of us. It was an unspoken topic of conversation but plainly bled into every word uttered by either one of us.

While voices were elevated I blurted out to her, “I am living on borrowed time.” After all, since being diagnosed manic with psychotic features at age 32, I had been arrested twice and taken to Mobile County Metro Jail and spent another night in Apalachicola, FL. In every detainment, I was subsequently hospitalized for psychiatric reasons staying at one hospital in Tallahassee for seven days. My longest treatment was for four weeks at Baypoint serving as a bridge before going onto Searcy Hospital for an additional two weeks.

In one of my arrests, 50,000 volts from a Tazerâ electrocuted me with up to five rapid pulses over several minutes, in all, on my front lawn in plain horror of friends and neighbors. At the time, the Tazer® was making national news over questions about its safety. Several attempted apprehensions by law enforcement around the country resulted in heart attacks and/or deaths. Only hours earlier, I fired six shots from my pistol at a portable radio inside my house. In my confused state, I almost turned the gun on myself. Why did I survive?

In my latest episode, I was choked unconscious and drug out of my car after the police officer had to violently beat his way through a back window turning the glass into a million little pieces. Later that same night, I was assaulted by a corrections officer inside the dayroom at the Metro Jail who struck me in the face busting open my chin, destroying my two front teeth in the process while wearing a large ring on his closed fist and knocking me out cold for several minutes. I awoke to find myself sitting in “my” already occupied cell with a blood red covered chest and soaked boxer shorts.

By comparison, during all of my teenage and twenty something years, I was arrested only once for underage drinking in high school. There were some other close calls but they were just that, close. My only crime, in all this chaos, is having a mental illness or two.

This disease has repeatedly tried to kill me so many times. It has killed many relationships including a young marriage, with my in-laws, my once proud reputation in my personal, professional and now school life, cost me at least one job, possibly two and a seat on a board of a non-profit, a few neighbors, some old school friends and has now gotten me suspended from graduate school. It has sent me on wild goose chases across Dixieland.

A depression settled in over my life for more than two years always with ever-present thoughts of suicide. Either, by driving my car to one of Mobile’s three tall bridges and jumping off to end it all or retrieving a gun from somewhere, somebody and visiting a favorite local state park located along the river’s edge to discharge a single round. My spirit has been in the fight of its life and has endured it all.

At the end of my drinking career as a teenager, I pictured my funeral in my mind. I could vividly see my casket parked at the front of the church and my classmates standing side-by-side several pews deep overlooking it. They all said what a great person I was, but I didn’t believe a single word of it. I was bankrupted mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I was a walking dead man.

Bipolar has been another slow death. All sorts of myths about relationships, careers and life have had to die and be shed for me to continue grow and live. The pain was great, but it was only temporary. The storm is passing, the sun has reemerged from behind the clouds and a rainbow is now visible. I feel happy and free. You got to die before you can really live.


Copyright © 2007, 2010. All Rights Reserved. “You got to die before you can really live.” by Ted Burnett.

I am available for speaking, consulting and political advising. My other essays can be viewed at my blog – I can be contacted via email at – My biography can be viewed at

I'm an American thought leader and pioneer on the subjects of human, organizational and societal development and health. I write about the role that integrity, dignity, sanity play, as well as, on the topics of spirituality, faith, freedom, happiness, problem solving and risk taking. I produce and deliver original, world-class commentaries on business, political, social and spiritual matters to a global audience of world leaders, chief executives and key decision makers, top faculty and notables in the fields of academia, banking, business, foundations, government (including heads of state, lawmakers and governors), healthcare, media, non-profits and policy institutes. Website: