I first met Dr. Larry Real in 1992, when I was mentally sick and in a lot of emotional trouble. I had already begun to show symptoms of bipolar disorder, and was not sleeping well, no matter when I tried. My mom, Lila, had been part of a family group that was sponsored by AJMI (Alliance for the Jewish Mentally Ill) which later became the Jewish support group, Tikvah. When she saw that I was beginning to lose it, she contacted Larry, who was a co-founder of the group, and he suggested that the three of us meet.
I was very reluctant because I wanted to be left alone, and God only knew what he had planned for me! When we first met, I was zoned out and very fearful. But Larry laid it all out on the line for me: I needed some type of assisted living facility for people with mental illness. I needed to learn how to become independent again and manage my illness, because I did have an illness, whether I wanted to admit it or not. At the end of the meeting Larry said something like, “And you’ll need to learn how to flip a burger again for yourself.” I was always ordering take-out and eating unhealthy foods during my illness.
I have reminded him about that statement over the years and we both always have a good laugh, but it was true. And although I have been out of assisted living and on my own for fifteen years now, I still owe a lot to Larry and my mom for getting me on the road to recovery. I am proud to say that I can now call Larry a friend and colleague and not just another doctor who has passed though my life.