This morning as I was going through reading my daily blog post, and I was suddenly empowered by how much support there is out there for people that have a mental illness. Back in the 1980's when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, support groups were confined to going to a local meeting and sometimes with this disorder you are not always able to physically make it there. While those meetings are valuable and needed, it is encouraging to find new ways to interact with others immediately and read about their own struggles and success. I am still amazed at how social media sites can actually be the newest form of support. The best part of it is when you are depressed you may not feel like getting out of the house at that moment but by making these connections before you have an episode you already have a nice network to reach out to for help. I believe if everyone that has bipolar disorder or a mental illness had some type of support they would be much more successful in staying stable and reaching out for help. I know when I first heard of twitter I was not quick to sign up for an account because I thought it was just a place for status updates. I had no idea how valuable it would be to connect with others that have similar experiences and struggles. I would encourage you today if you have a mental illness to find some type of support. It can be as easy as logging into http://www.nami.org/ and posting comments on the message boards when you have questions or just need someone to listen. I think not feeling alone is key and an essential part in living a stable life and surviving with a mental illness.
My long journey with a mental illness has also made me a strong advocate of fighting stigma associated with bipolar disorder and mental illness. I have channeled my disdain for society's misconceptions and partnered with NAMI at http://www.nami.org/ and joined their stigma alerts. I have found new empowerment by writing to Senators and Representatives as well as people in the media. I would encourage anyone that wants to fight this stigma to join the stigma busters and educate the world that Bipolar Disorder as well as all mental illnesses are genetic conditions that require medical treatment and most people can live very functional lives with the right treatment. I am proof that the treatment does work . To take action go to http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=fight_stigma and sign up to educate and stop these misconceptions about bipolar disorder.