June 30, 2016 is a day that will forever live in infamy in the life of New York-based model and Columbia University student Krit McClean. That’s the day he boarded to F train, got off at Times Square, then climbed on top of the TKTS booth and got butt naked.
“As I stared at the towering ads of Times Square, they started to send me subliminal messages,” 21-year-old McClean recalls in an article published by the New York Post. “‘Express Yourself,’ read the billboard for Express jeans. I obeyed. I immediately took off my clothes.”
McClean then proceeded to collect “old gum, cigarette butts and coins — and ate it all. It was my way of disposing of the garbage.”
Soon police arrived. McClean fended them off by chanting Kanye West lyrics and shouting “Donald Trump!”
“I wasn’t really thinking; phrases were just coming out,” he recalls.
As police advanced the TKTS booth, McClean decided his only method of escape was to leap from atop the 18-foot booth to the pavement below.
“I hit the ground, but I felt no pain,” he says. “It felt like I was no longer inside my body. I pretended to be dead.”
He was quickly injected with a tranquilizer and taken to Bellevue Hospital.
McClean was in the throes of a manic episode. It had started about a week earlier when he quit smoking marijuana.
“I was working on an extensive project for the fashion magazine VMan the week I had my breakdown,” he says. “I wanted to be at my best, so I quit smoking marijuana. Not until after what happened did I realize I had been self-medicating for years.”
When McClean awoke in the hospital, he was shackled to his bed. He was the talk of the Internet. A day later, his naked photo would be on the cover of the New York Post with he headline “Ball Drop in Times Square.”
After spending time in the hospital’s psychiatric ward, McClean says he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He now takes medication and attends weekly therapy sessions, but he says he still has work to do.
“I’m still trying to fix the damage in other parts of my life,” he writes. “Ford Models no longer represents me. Columbia is holding a disciplinary hearing. I faced criminal charges in court. Most reactions have been punitive and don’t come from a place of understanding of mental illness.”
McClean concludes his essay with a call for more empathy in the world:
“We can all relate to being judged and misunderstood. We have all at some point been the ‘weird’ one, whether in the classroom, gym or office. But if we approach each other with empathy, openness and sensitivity instead of judgment, we might just learn from one another.”
h/t: New York Post