Emory University
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Listening to the patient

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The songs on Tony Graham's debut album fluctuate between a sad, wailing trumpet and playful vocals with warm guitar tones. With tracks titled "Manic Depression," "Peace from the Battles," and "Hypomania," Graham's album highlights the musician's personal experiences with bipolar disorder. Graham brought these experiences to a psychiatry panel discussion on this topic at Emory last spring. The goal was to give insight into the disease to both care providers and families of those with bipolar disorder.

Graham has wrestled with depression and thoughts of suicide since junior high. But when he reached his 30s, stressful life experiences—a demanding career in the competitive car industry, a divorce, and moving between Miami and Atlanta—triggered more frequent and consistent episodes of depression and suicidal thoughts. At times, he would unexpectedly flip into a manic period "for days on end," a double-edged sword that allowed him to endure the long hours required by his job but added more stress.

After three hospitalizations, Graham was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder 2, a condition marked by moods that cycle between high and low, but the mania highs stop short of full manic episodes and depressive episodes are common.

A patient of Emory psychiatrist Jeffrey Rakofsky since 2010, Graham has kept a balance with the help of psychotherapy, medication, music, and his children. Rather than stay quiet about his struggles with mental illness, Graham is speaking out about his condition and using his first album, Mood Swings, to reduce the stigma often associated with bipolar disorder "one note at a time."—Cole Youngner

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

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