I Got Where I Am Today Despite Being Seriously Mentally Ill (SMI)

I’m not a big fan of labels

Jason Weiland
4 min readMar 20


SMI was a label they assigned me in the hospital. I could see it all over my chart sitting on the doctor’s desk, which was always at least 2 times thicker than everyone else’s. It was full of evaluations, mental tests, blood workups, and therapy notes.

There was a big sticker on the corner of my file that said SMI in red writing. There was a black circle around it. It could have almost passed as a band sticker if I didn’t know what it was. It was to make filing easier without making my whole chart red and scaring the bejesus out of me.

I asked one time if I could get one of those stickers to put in my journal, but the head psychiatrist nixed the idea because she felt it was in bad taste.

I generally don’t tell people I am SMI unless I am talking or writing about how far I’ve come since the time when a sticker defined who I was. I don’t feel that way anymore, but back then it served to highlight just how sick and broken I was. I embraced SMI and let it tell me what I could and could not do with my life. I gave up on much before I even got started because doctors told me that people like me don’t make successes of themselves.

If I had allowed myself to stay sick and weak, I might have kept that SMI mindset forever. I might have stayed in my room, stayed in my lane, and just been a good patient and took my meds every day. That would have made the doctors happy, but I would have remained miserable.

So, after a few years of just existing, I decided to change. I was going to beat the psychosis, depression, and anxiety. I was no longer going to take the easy road.

I wouldn’t suggest anyone else do it, but I experimented with my medications and used cannabis to ease my anxiety before everyone was saying it was a good idea and before it was legal. I was trying different ways of eating and exercising. I was taking high-dose supplements of vitamins B, C, and D. I tried meditation, mindfulness, and every other trick I read in the self-help books.

Finally, I just decided I would work on improving just a small bit each day. Even if I only changed one thing, at least I made my improvement and was a success.

I had setbacks. In May 2015 I tried to kill myself, and almost did. But my kidneys and liver proved to be just as stubborn as I was. That suicide attempt was the last puzzle piece and from then on, I improved faster.

Again in 2022, I almost died, this time from a heart attack, but I am a stubborn bastard, and my arteries held up after I got a stent.

This past year, I made leaps and bound of progress. Maybe it was almost dying, but I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started on the path of improvement.

2023 is my year. I‘m finally going to get my undergrad and start my master’s degree. I am learning about technology and AI and plan to be an expert in a few years. I am working on getting my body in shape, and although I haven’t put as much effort into it, I will. I want to live a long happy life and need a healthy body to do it.

This is the year I finally break through, and although it's sad I had to wait until I was 54, it’s good because I am still young enough to live with the realization that no matter what happens, I am already a success.

If I look at where I started and where I am now, I can see the long road I’ve traveled. I can see the hurdles and the bumps in the road. Despite being SMI and almost spending the rest of my life in a hospital, I changed.

I may not be cured, or better, but at least I can manage to do what I have to do every day to be a success — at least a success in my eyes.

I decided what my version of success would look like and I figured out how to get it. I worked every day and I found myself here, in a place I never thought I would see.

You can find your place of success if you want it bad enough. If I can do it, anyone can.



Jason Weiland

Mental Health, Tech, and personal essays from a guy who never tires of writing about his life - jasonweiland.substack.com