Mo. man treats mental illness with self-awareness

Monday, May 4, 2009
In this undated handout photo released Thursday, April 30, 2009, shows Jacob Zagorac of Jefferson City, Mo., who was diagnosed at the age of 14 as being bipolar and suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD). After years of other diagnoses including multiple personality disorder and chronic depression, among others, Zagorac is now dedicated to helping others try to resolve issues using a holistic and spiritual approach. (AP Photo/Jefferson City News Tribune)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- When he was 14, Jacob Zagorac was diagnosed as being bipolar and having attention deficit disorder. That was his first mental health diagnosis.

During the next 14 years, nine more would follow.

He was diagnosed with conditions including having multiple-personality disorder, having adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, social anxiety disorder, major, severe and chronic depression, general anxiety disorder and dissociative disorder.

His treatments included 17 medications and six hospital stays over 15 years.

Then, Zagorac said he got tired of being so unhappy and looked for an alternative means of treatment.

"I finally realized I had to take responsibility for my feelings," he said. "I finally realized I needed to get to the root of my problems, which was my negative thinking, which was a direct result of the false, fear-based beliefs I had about life, mainly myself."

He now teaches the self-awareness skills he said changed his life forever.

"The skills I teach in self-awareness, to be happy in life, are much like skills in basketball," he said. "You gain a few and build on them until you can play the game."

Zagorac said he uses love to create happiness and joy in his life.

Through his studies under his mentor Gary van Warmerdam, who founded the self-awareness program, Zagorac found he was stuck in his past.

"I felt not good enough, like I did not deserve to be loved," he said. "I was afraid to love or be loved for fear of rejection."

Through his self-awareness, Zagorac could remove himself from the psychiatric medications he had been endlessly taking.

"For me, I had to choose that I was 100 percent responsible for my perception on life, I didn't need to change my life but the way I thought and through that I was able to successfully take myself off of all the medications I was on."

Zagorac said he knows many people will find his story unbelievable and the fact he took himself off of medications, controversial.

"I am not out to argue, that is not the point. The point is the other methods were not working for me and once I chose to hold myself responsible I was able to return to happiness," he said.

Having studied under Warmerdam, Zagorac felt confident he had found his true path to happiness and decided he wanted to help others going through the same or similar situations.

"It is my chance to give back -- to help people who may feel like I did," he said. "To help anyone, with what the world calls a mental illness, take a look at helping them return to their happiness and freedom they experienced as a child."

Zagorac said he prefers to call "mental illness" emotional suffering.

He said the key component to his recovery, when so many other treatments had not helped, was the ability to truly understand why he believed the lies about himself through the skills of self awareness, a spiritual component, and taking responsibility for his feelings.

"The self-awareness teachings are just so true and near the word of Jesus," he said. "It is like Jesus says, 'You will know the truth and the truth will set you free."'

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