The computer in the corner of the bedroom is the center of his world.
It's where 15-year-old Ben is in control. He is a masterful player in "World of Warcraft," an online role-playing game.
Here, his enemies can be slain with the click of a mouse. Not so in real life. Bipolar disorder is the nemesis he battles with therapy, lithium, the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel and the anti-convulsant lamotrigine.
Foot-size holes patched with white plaster on his blue bedroom wall are reminders of the struggle. Things are better now; he hasn't punched a hole in the wall in a couple of years, he says.
Ben wants people to have a better understanding of mental illness.
He was diagnosed at age 9. By fifth grade, he threatened to hurt himself. Bipolar disorder heightens all of his emotions -- except happiness, he says.
"When I'm angry, even angry about a valid thing to be angry about, I'm more than I should be," he says. "I'm more sad than I should be. Every emotion is easier to come into."
His anger has driven people away -- even the closest of friends.
He doesn't realize what he has said or done until it's over and "everybody is hurt and the harm has been done," Ben says. Then he thinks erasing the cause of the harm -- hurting himself -- would make everything better, "like erasing a virus from a computer."
He has had four terrifying ambulance rides to hospitals in Northern California: "They strap you down because they're afraid you'll grab needles and hurt yourself."
A sophomore at a Clovis high school, he spends all but one hour in a class for students with special needs. He doesn't tell anyone. He used to ride a "short bus" that was identifiable as a special education bus. "I would be made fun of every day."
Now he rides a bike to school.
He has missed out on sports and friends, but life is OK, he says. He has a B-plus grade-point average, and he is taking online courses to be able to drive a car.
"So I'm happy," he says, somewhat hesitatingly. "But you know, something might happen."
Audio clipsBen talks about school
Ben talks about how the anger can take control
Ben talks about how his illness drives his friends away