Yousef Erakat was told he'd never succeed
Erakat has over 12 million YouTube followers
He's starring in his first Tyler Perry movie
Yousef Erakat is the kind of person who just makes you laugh. The YouTube digital artist has a spark about him; his online pranks spur laughter from his growing audience.
But beneath that joyful exterior, Erakat struggled with bipolar disorder and depression.
His condition can cause extreme mood swings, from manic emotional highs to the lowest of depressions. Bipolar disorder can be extremely serious. But it can be treated with therapy and medication.
The 26-year-old was the youngest of four and was born to Palestinian immigrants. He grew up in a loving home and was surrounded by a supportive family.
Erakat first realized he had a problem while attending San Jose State University.
On Friday nights he noticed that everyone was going to parties, drinking and having fun. He was in his room crying to himself and writing poems.
“I was so eager to try and fix myself. I ran to the doctors and hopped on medication thinking that was going to be a quick fix. It took me years to understand that the actual journey was going to happen deep within myself,” he said.
At the same time, the YouTube artist was looking for new ways to get noticed by the industry in Hollywood.
“I went to the dean at San Jose State University and told her that I was going to create a YouTube channel. She told me that it was the worst decision that I could make for my acting career because no director in Hollywood was going to take me serious,” he said.
The advisor was wrong. In five years, Erakat gained more than 12 million viewers on his YouTube channel fouseyTUBE.
“When I first started my YouTube channel in 2011, I would re-enact what it was like to live in a Middle Eastern household. I would dress up as my mom, my dad, my brother, my grandmother, my sister. How I got my idea was basically from my childhood. I would literally encompass every little thing that I saw, at family gatherings, at weddings, and I would bring them to life in a YouTube video,” he said.
But as Erakat’s YouTube following grew, his depression got worse.
The prankster decided it was time to get serious with his audience and with himself.
In 2015, he opened up on his vlog channel DOSEofFOUSEY about his private struggle.
“I just decided to be completely open with them and to tell them the struggles that I go through, and surprisingly it was the best decision I ever made in my career,” he said.
He also described his physical transformation.
“I woke up, and I was 236 pounds. I was unhappy with what I looked like. I was eating junk food. I was unhappy with what I felt like on the inside. I was living with depression and bipolar,” he said.
Erakat went to rehab, began a 90-day workout program and lost 49 pounds. He ended up in the best shape of his life.
“I was working out, and I was listening to motivational videos. I was pumping myself with positive aspiration and positive philosophy of life. I started to wake up early. I was forcing myself to do the stuff that I didn’t want to do.”
His battle with depression will last the rest of his life, he said.
But right now, there’s no doubt he’s winning.
“Just because you have a mental disorder, it doesn’t mean that you are limited in your success in life. It doesn’t mean that you are restricted in receiving the blessings of life. So don’t sell yourself short. You can get through it,” he said.
The California native recently starred in a horror zombie series called “YouTube Red’s Fight of the Living Dead.” He also has a role opposite Tyler Perry in the latest Madea installment, “Boo! A Madea Halloween” releasing later this month.
“I am proof that nothing can stop you.”