Bulletproof and Mental Health–Justin Peck

Challenge Accepted -Justin Peck in racing jacked and cap. Background image of Peck riding in airborne truck over dirt track.

To say Justin Peck lives life at full-throttle would be inadequate. Yes, he’s a champion off-road motorcycle and race truck driver; yes, he’s a serial entrepreneur with numerous businesses including his own racing team; and yes, he outworks just about everyone on and off the track. But perhaps among his more noteworthy achievements is his openness navigating the perilous terrain of mental illness, which he documents in his recently released memoir, Bulletproof. Humble and well-spoken, Peck talked with ABILITY’s Lia Martirosyan about his remarkable journey, his penchant to do good, and what he loves most in the world.

Lia Martirosyan: When did you first notice your symptoms?

Justin Peck: For the bipolar side of things?

Martirosyan: Yes.

Peck: The symptoms started when I was roughly 13, but I didn’t understand what they were back then. Thirty years ago, you were never quite sure exactly what was going on. As I got older and started realizing what was going on with the way my mind was working, I can look back and say that 13 was my first manic phase. But I do know that prior to that—ages eight, nine, ten—I was still that goofy kid who didn’t have much of a social life and was awkward. I knew my brain was just a little off.

Martirosyan: So you had a gut feeling something going on?

Peck: Yeah.

Martirosyan: Interesting. How does it affect your daily life?

Peck: Right now, the impact on my daily life is probably more positive than negative. It took me a long time to ultimately understand it, realize what it was and put a name to it. Daily life can be hard. I think that sometimes the people who are broken the most evolve the most. The disorder has made me who I am today. Dealing with it on a day-to-day basis consists of getting out of bed first thing in the morning. Once my feet hit the ground and I get showered, cleaned and out the door to start my day, things typically work well. But it really is the first five minutes after I open my eyes in the morning that’s the biggest struggle.

Martirosyan: Do you have a medical regimen?

Peck: Oh, yeah. I have to take meds. I wish I didn’t, of course. I think any bipolar person will tell you they hate taking their meds. I hate taking them because it ensures I don’t have a manic phase. A manic phase is something I like. So I do take meds to control that part. And then my racing helmet is part of my medication regimen as well. There’s something about being able to take my helmet and put it over my face right before I race that takes away the outside chaos and keeps me focused. It’s pretty amazing.

Martirosyan: That sounds amazing. I’ve read about people who stop taking their meds when they feel better, and they’re feeling better because of the meds. What’s your take?

Peck: Oh, I do it all the time. (laughs) I guess it’s one of those things I shouldn’t admit. What happens is, you take your meds, and the reason why you start the medication is because you’re at the low spot. You’re where suicide seems like an option, or where you can’t get out of bed for months at a time, and your friends and family look at you and say, “Look, things have to change.” Change always happens at the hardest times of our lives, right? ...
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