Today, Sebastian Gorczynski’s life is going relatively smoothly. True, the West Hartford toolmaker is recovering from ACL surgery when we speak. But the agita and chaos that surrounded much of his life in his early 20s seems to be in his rear-view mirror. 

Some of Gorczynski’s challenges began when he was 20 and his then-girlfriend had a child. Neither of them, he says, was really ready for that or to commit to the relationship. “Going from dealing with that at such a young age was hard on me,” he says. “I was not ready to be a dad at all. How do you balance work life, home life and personal life? How do you still get to have a life and enjoy yourself at the age of 20? I couldn’t even go to the bar legally. How do you spend time with the child and deal with it with her and her mother?”

The stress from this and other things led to mental health problems. “Right after the kid was born, I started to lose it,” he says. “I was struggling with do I even want to keep living this way?”

Ultimately, Gorczynski was diagnosed with bipolar 2 and given medication. “But I didn’t like how I felt on the drugs so I stopped taking them,” he says. What helped most was being in therapy. “I was on the verge of ‘I don’t care what I do, if it kills me, good,’” he says. “[The therapist] helped a lot. A lot of people around me were telling me what to do but I didn’t like what people were telling me to do so I did my own thing. She was there with a non-biased view.”

Today things are smoother. In addition to therapy, Gorczynski relies on two of his passions — snowboarding and skateboarding — to keep him centered. While he has had to deal with some stigma around these pastimes (“are you going to grow up anytime soon?” is a common question), he says the peace of mind they give him has been worth it. 

The most important thing for recovery, he says, is to find a way to focus energy on something that’s not going to mess with your head. “If I catch myself getting bored, I find my mind wandering,” Gorczynski says. “If I do a task, that helps a lot, even if it’s just reorganizing my garage and cleaning out my tool box. You’ve done something, kept away the negative in your head.”

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He encourages people who are struggling to find a pastime and hobby they love and keep going with it. “It doesn’t matter what it is,” he says. “We are in charge of our own lives so if you find yourself going down that hole, first pull yourself up by your bootstraps and then do something else.”

Initially Gorczynski didn’t want to share his story. “I keep things private. I don’t like to spill my guts. I don’t want people to feel bad for me or uncomfortable around me,” he says.

But he hopes sharing his struggles can help others. “I think telling stories and hearing other people’s hardships helps other people too,” he says. 

His own story is proof that working on it, and whatever the “it” is can make a big difference. “Just understanding that life is tough and you have to find ways to deal with it in whatever works best for you is a great place to start.”