Jakob was at the top of his game as a celebrated graphic designer in the advertising world. Ideas and award-winning record covers churned out, and in his mania, he was soaring higher and higher.
Jakob grew up in a Danish provincial suburb. He was one of those kids who like to draw, and his drawings earned him praise. His skills continued to improve because he could concentrate for hours on end. Just graduated as a commercial and graphic artist, 23 years old, Jakob longed to get away. By a stroke of luck, he landed a job at a Copenhagen advertising agency with clients in the music business. The agency had plenty of work. So much, in fact, that he ended up sleeping there on a mattress on the floor.
Four years after moving to the city, Jakob became creative director at his own agency. Assignments kept pouring in. Jakob’s workday began at 11 a.m. and stretched until 1 a.m. the next morning. When you work so much, you also deserve to party, he reasoned. And Jakob could always start a party with his disco ball, smoke machine and colorful group of friends.
Later, Jakob was puzzled that nobody stopped to wonder what was going on. Maybe he overheard their warnings? Perhaps they said nothing because he was always overflowing with energy? “Because I did feel fantastic. I’m the chosen one!”
Jakob moved into his office in 2001. “That’s probably the time when things began to fall apart,” he says, “because I started to stay awake for several days at a time, working.” One night he was scribbling down ideas, faster and faster, and suddenly he exploded inside. “There was this FLASH and I had a vision. Everything that we were doing was totally passé. And I knew what we needed to do. We had to reform the entire music industry – no, the entire entertainment industry – and I saw how things would be in six or seven years, I saw it so clearly.” “My mania kept soaring because I couldn't talk to anyone. I felt quite lost, and yet everything was so beautiful.”
Some time later, his father asked him how he was doing. Not very well, Jakob told him. Should his father come and get him? Yes. And then Jakob fell silent. He moved into his parents’ basement and tried to get his life together. Jakob describes these years as a long, downward spiral. Eventually, his parents went so far as to try and get him committed to a psychiatric hospital.
But when he was finally ready to leave the hospital, his past was waiting for him on the outside – and eager to catch up. One night, Jakob discovered that he was trying to figure out the most rational way to commit suicide; this time, he caught himself and was voluntarily admitted to the hospital for depression.
Jakob has now lived with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder since 2003, the same year he went bankrupt. The realization that he would never return to his old life came slowly. “I was Mr. Rock’n Roll when I lived in Copenhagen, and continued to be so for a long time in my own mind.” For an extended period, he believed he was sad, not sick. Accepting his illness with the help of the Mood Disorders Clinic is a process that has taken years.