Battling Mental Health Stigma
‘I wish Campfire was there 10 years ago when I was diagnosed bipolar’
Photo credit: Facebook page of Daniel Pourasghar, cofounder of Campfire, an online support platform for people who desire to connect and grow with others experiencing mental health issues.
‘I wish Campfire was there 10 years ago when I was diagnosed bipolar’
Opinion Apr 20, 2018

Mental illnesses do not discriminate. Though a combination of factors is responsible for causing a mental illness, often, the afflicted person has little control over one or more of them. So, instead of living with the pain, it is important to allow the suffering to empower you to grow into your highest self. The key to recovery lies in looking at every obstacle as an opportunity that you can turn into a stepping stone, sooner or later.

The fear of being judged or rejected convinced Daniel Pourasghar 10 years ago to keep his diagnosis of bipolar disorder hidden. While working for Airbnb, he managed to live quietly with his loneliness for years. Though he always had an inner desire to connect with people who were experiencing or had experienced life in similar ways, he could never gather the courage to do anything about it for long. Fortunately, the day he did, his life changed thereafter. He founded Campfire, an online support platform for people who desire to connect and grow with others experiencing similar struggles or in recovery.

In a recent interview with Forbes, elaborating on the past and the current state of his health, Pourasghar gave insights into his experiences, the driving force behind his self-confidence and the best advice he had received ever. “I thought I could protect myself from those things by keeping it a secret. Yet instead I felt loneliness and shame because I believed a part of me had to stay in hiding,” he said, adding, “Over the years, through plenty of highs and lows, I’ve learned how to manage my condition and live a balanced life. What remained difficult was talking about it, which is what I decided to change.”

Every experience counts

Pourasghar feels that Campfire is the platform he wishes he could have had 10 years ago when he learnt he was bipolar. Detailing why he feels so, he said, “For most of my adult life, I kept my illness a big secret due to shame and fear of judgment. I didn’t know how to connect with people. And when I did and it felt comforting to know that I’m not the only one… With Campfire, we’re addressing exactly these needs by creating a space for people to connect around a common experience.”

Asked how his experience with bipolar disorder makes it challenging for him to run Campfire, an enthused Pourasghar answered, “Being a founder already comes with a lot of highs and lows and navigating these with bipolar can also be challenging at times. On the upside, I get to work on solving my own problem and that gives me the fuel I need to keep going. I’m glad to have my cofounder Benjamin by my side who is a mood stabilizer in human form. Further, a strong support network and a healthy lifestyle keep me going.”

The most inspiring thing about Pourasghar and his journey to recovery is his belief that every experience counts. Cherishing his association with Airbnb, he elaborated an incident: “I was about to take on more responsibility on my team, but self-doubt kept creeping in. I asked Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia for his advice: ‘Are you sure I’m ready for this?’ His response was simple, ‘Who else is gonna do it?’” Before starting Campfire, he wasn’t sure if it was the right decision. However, Joe’s advice was etched in his mind, which motivated him to have faith in himself and believe that he was uniquely positioned to create it. He still thanks Joe for helping him become what he is today.

A shift in perspective can make the difference

Pourasghar urges people with mental health issues to take the first step toward recovery by finding the support they yearn for. “Please understand that this is not your fault. Don’t blame yourself. We don’t tend to talk about mental health in our society, which makes this an isolating experience, but realize that you are not alone. There are millions out there with stories similar to yours,” he advises.

We couldn’t agree more. Indeed, a shift in outlook to things can either make it half empty or half full for you. Undoubtedly, building the right perspective and having faith in own abilities take time. However, one should keep persevering. That too not alone but with the support of his/her loved ones as well as people who are fighting similar battles.


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