Steven Manning: Delivered from hell of depression to a heavenly daily existence of peace

| September 24, 2014
Steven Manning was recently featured in USA Today and Arise TV storiesplained Manning. “Since my very first visit, I felt focusing on unemployment and mental health. (Photo: Bryan Rozier)

Steven Manning was recently featured in USA Today and Arise TV stories explained Manning. “Since my very first visit, I felt focusing on unemployment and mental health. (Photo: Bryant Rozier)

By Bryant Rozier

Special to Frost Illustrated

Steven Manning—a self-described proud Portage Junior High School Ram—was recently interviewed by Arise TV in New York City.

Launched in 2013, Arise is an up-and-coming 24-hour news and entertainment channel that competes with CNN, the BBC and Fox News.

An Arise producer learned about Manning from a USA Today article that outlined the pervasiveness of unemployment in the mental health community. Our man Steven served as the article’s exception; he started his own video production company, after surviving deep depression and bipolar disorder.

Steven was so low at one point, he tried committing suicide (one of multiple attempts) by taking 85 anti-depressant pills. He tried to drink Clorox, but said he didn’t like the taste so he spit it out. Homeless for two weeks, he slept in the back of a Greyhound Bus one night, because the driver, whom he met in a bar, took pity on him.

Manning was led out of the hell by Carriage House, a member of the Clubhouse International Movement that operates community-based centers to help steer the mentally ill towards hope and life-enriching opportunities.

Fountain House/Clubhouse International recently won an interna- tional humanitarian award. Manning, a Clubhouse International board member, met actress Glenn Close at the event where she spoke. (courtesy photo)

Fountain House/Clubhouse International recently won an international humanitarian award. Manning, a Clubhouse International board member, met actress Glenn Close at the event where she spoke. (courtesy photo)

Fountain House/Clubhouse International was this year’s recipient of the Conrad N. Hilton International Humanitarian Prize for alleviating human suffering. Manning, a Clubhouse International board member, was present. He met actress Glenn Close, who spoke at the event. This all happened the same week as his Arise TV sit-down.

Steven today is at peace—especially in New York.

“I’ve been there like 10 times in 2 yrs. When I got there, it was almost like I was home,” explained Manning. “Since my very first visit, I felt safe, I felt great.”

Peace after war. Light after the dark. That’s been Steven’s life. It was the story of his late parents, Etta and Willie, who constantly fought and divorced when Steven was 10. The happy ending? After 25 years apart, his parents remarried.

“They were good parents. My dad ended up changing his life after he remarried,” said Manning.

Etta raised her seven children by herself, working full-time at the state developmental center. Willie, a 40-year factory lifer, wielded full-time at Fruehauf Truck and Trailer. Their kids inherited their strong work ethics. All of them have full-time jobs today; some (back in the day) held down several jobs at once.

Out of three brothers and three sisters, Steven was the first in his family to attend college; it’s now kind of a tradition.

“My oldest nephew’s youngest daughter is now a freshman at the University of Southern Indiana. Several of my other nieces and nephews have been to college,” said Manning.

There are pastors in the family. A physician assistant. A fireman. Our man Steven received his Masters in Education from IPFW last year.

Manning became a Christian his freshman year at IU Bloomington, leading to his involvement with Campus Crusade. As he had since Portage Junior High School, he played the trumpet in the band, and for an elite group of musicians pulled from the band that played for special occasions. He graduated in 1981 with a Radio, Television and Film bachelor’s degree.

WBCL Christian Radio hired the graduate as a new reporter. The station had acquired a good rep for news, thanks to talk show host Char Binkly, funny morning man Jeff Carlson and veteran Jim Schweickart.

“They were local media giants. It was intimidating for me to work at a station where everybody’s skills were sharpened,” described Manning. “I struggled in my career there. I really didn’t consider myself a competent writer or reporter.”

He started to drink; it’s called liquid courage for a reason. Success at WBCL couldn’t stop the doubt. And, the Associated Press buying a couple of his news stories—kind of a big deal—did nothing to help.

“I would come home from work and chug a half-gallon of vodka. Wipe out, wake up the morning, drive to work still drunk,” said Manning.

One day, he broke. He walked into Char Binkly’s office and told her, “I can’t do this anymore.” Steven Manning was the station’s first African American news director when he quit.

“Funny thing is, I drink now socially. But, there’s a limit: two drinks. Even when I feel the sensation of being tipsy, I stop. I don’t drink a whole lot, don’t have alcohol in my refrigerator right now. I don’t buy it regularly. But back when I drank, I didn’t really like the taste of it, I liked what it did to me. Now, I like the taste, but I don’t like the effect when you drink heavily. But I have to remind myself to really watch it,” said Manning.

Steven didn’t really feel capable about his storytelling until about 2008.

“After my mom passed away, things got better. She left me some of that,” he explained.

Like his mom (or, maybe, channeling his mom), Manning worked at the state development center, after WBCL.

“Going from a high-profile job to working with mentally-disabled kids was devastating, but it was really good for me, to work with a different kind of coworker,” he said.

Eventually, he landed his dream gig, program director for Public Access TV. He did every job. Won awards. Manning got paid to find his voice.

That was around 2001; an emerging bipolar disorder asserted itself.

“I would wake up in the morning, and my hand would be shaking. I lost my appetite,” he related.

He was hospitalized; his friends and families started to notice. Some of them looked away, stayed away.

“They didn’t want to have anything to do with me, or maybe they didn’t know how to interact with me,” said Manning.

Manning left Public Access for what he thought was a better opportunity. He was hired by a company (who shall remain nameless) to be their media person, but was fired after only four days.  Steven was given empty work: moving boxes down a flight of stairs, that kind of stuff. A list of complaints against his character—against his inherited work ethic—was read to him. This did his instability no favors.

With no job, no money for rent, Steven got bounced from his apartment. His first homeless night was the Greyhound adventure. There was the night at the Mission on Superior, a night with a friend who egregiously opposed Steven’s smoking, a night at an older, vacant apartment (not the one that kicked him out), accessed by a key he never gave back.

One lady, while Steven waited for help in an agency’s lobby, just gave him $50 because the Lord asked her.

“With biploar disorder, you go from one extreme to another. You feel depressed then you feel like you’re on the top of the world. Some people go on spending binges. I actually did constructive stuff sometimes,” he said.

Like a play. Steven auditioned for Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, while manic from bipolar—while homeless.

“The director  points to me and goes ‘that’s the kind of person I want for the musical’,” remembers Manning, who performed upbeat and bright for 25 sold-out shows.

A short stay at Park Center led to his entry into Carriage House.

“The clubhouse movement fulfills a lot of needs in people’s lives, even for [those] who come from a dysfunctional family,” explained Manning. “It’s set-up in a structural way, you are loved unconditionally, it’s a family setting. You are encouraged to go back to school, to go to work. There was always these positive things going on. I think I’ve benefited from it, more than a rehab from a mental illness.”

Manning said Andy Wilson, Carriage House executive director, “is like my best friend, my brother, my father—all of those things.”

Wilson started Carriage House’s in-house video production studio (CHAV), to produce a weekly morning announcement show. Steven was the boss.

The consistency and the structure provided by Carriage House repaired Manning. The productions caught the attention of Park Center, who then hired Steven to produce in-house training videos; Director Wilson encouraged it, and the rest of the jobs that followed.

Manning’s rehab continued. He started to speak about his life at events, growing a reputation in the clubhouse movement world-wide. He was even invited to Sweden to speak, his first time in Europe.

With so many clients under this belt, Manning created Manning Video Productions, LLC. The CEO, who thinks in forward thoughts, with hands that no longer shake, currently has around eight clients.

Because of the Carriage House, because of affection shown by his church, Love Church and former senior pastor Phil Mortensen, because of the help from his therapist, “I wouldn’t be here,” said Manning.

One day, Manning asked Andy Wilson if he was spending too much time at the Carriage House; it is their job to help client’s repair their lives, and Steven had certainly done that. Andy agreed. Maybe it was time for Steven to go. He showed Manning the movie “Good Will Hunting,” the story of a janitor, with a troubled past and hidden talents, who realizes his full potential with the help of a therapist, played by the late actor (and suicide victim) Robin Williams.

In the movie, the janitor with the hidden talent isn’t home when a buddy, who isn’t as talented, shows up to drive them both to a dead-end job. He leaves a note for his therapist, about how he had to leave because he had to go and see about a girl. Andy always envisioned a similar scenario playing out.

One day, Director Wilson walked into an empty audio visual room. A note was left on his desk from Steven:

“I could write so much more, but I’m off to get my life back.”

Manning was told that Wilson cried.

Steven’s office is now at the Destination: Your Future facility on the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center (NIIC) Park Campus.

“Everything that happened—Carriage House, the church, the great counseling—came together to produce who I am right now. Very confident, feeling very successful, very creative, with a balanced life. I’m not perfect, but I still struggle,” explained Manning.

“What happened in the past, since 2002, every aspect of it, it was almost like my life was torn down and built back up again, but this time in the right way.”

Steven is available to speak to church groups, civic organizations, youth groups, and other organizations, about his story of success, tragedy and hope. Call him for any inspirational speaking, or any video needs, at (260) 247-2517, or email him at ManningVideoProductions@gmail.com.

Information on Carriage House can be found at www.fortwayneclubhouse.org. Their phone number is (260) 423-4301.

Arise TV Interview

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Category: Features, Health, Local, National, Videos

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