As a husband and father, Hal Knight believed he needed to take care of everyone.
To your children, "you're supposed to be the hero," he said. To your spouse, “you're supposed to be the guy taking care of everybody.”
Knight, 43, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his 20s, has felt societal pressure as a father and, formerly, as a husband to be a provider — and to be successful. Those expectations also made it difficult for him to talk about his experiences with mental illness.
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The roles he felt he needed to play also influenced some of his decision-making in life. A lawyer, Knight worked five years for Colorado's judicial department before leaving to join a private firm.
But the new workload was immense, Knight said. And he realized the job was not a good fit: “There was no way I could maintain that and be healthy.”
Knight has periodically struggled with depression as a result of his bipolar condition, he said. His earliest recollection of bipolar symptoms date back to 1995, a few years before his diagnosis, when he experienced severe depression and hypomania, a condition marked by symptoms of impulsivity and a heightened mood.
His family helped him get to the hospital in the late 1990s after a period of self-medicating through drugs and alcohol, Knight said, where he was finally diagnosed.
Today he routinely works at maintaining his mental health and is in a stable place — although that took time.
He lives in Centennial and has attended a support group in Highlands Ranch. He still attends another support group through the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Arapahoe/Douglas Counties. Those make a difference, he said.
He's open with his family, including his 5-year-old son, about his mental health.
Taking care of his health and learning to navigate stigmas is not just about him, Knight said. It's part of being a good father, now and in the future, and not something he views as weakness.
“When he gets older, if he has mental health issues,” Knight said of his son, “I want to be ready for that.”