Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mental illness does not discriminate

The Presidential election is over and I am thrilled that President Obama and Vice President Biden will stay in office.  There are many reasons I voted for them but the largest reason is because of their views on health care for people living with a mental illness.  I found an article that sealed my vote that was presented by The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said and I quote " The Election is over. Prior to the election, the National Council for Suicide Prevention sent out a survey to four presidential campaigns. Only one campaign responded, the other three did not. The response from the Obama campaign is linked here:   When the other Candidates did not even answer the questions it speaks volumes on who has cared about the mentally ill and their health care and also what they propose to do in the future.

It cannot not stop here because there is so much work that still needs to be done.  Write your Senators and Representatives often about the the importance of everyone having access to mental health care.  Write The President yourself to keep our voice in the Government's ear.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI has a great site to keep you informed and tell you how to contact congress on important issues.  Representative Patrick J. Kennedy and Actress Glenn Close do amazing work for awareness, research and support for  people living with a mental illness.  Please take some time and check out Representative Patrick Kennedy's work with mental illness at One Mind for Research and the work Actress Glenn Close does with hers at Bring Change 2 Mind. It is so important that we all work together on this issue no matter what Political Party you belong to.  Mental illness does not discriminate and neither can we anymore.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Suicide prevention awareness is key

Suicide Prevention week has been a very insightful week and it's purpose is very important.  There are so many wonderful groups that are dedicated to help spread the word about how many people are at risk each day and also how to get them the help they need.  There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness and this many times keeps people from getting help.  I have personally worked with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention  I have joined one of their walks to raise money and it was something that has stuck with me.  The majority of the people I walked with that day were mostly family and friends that had lost someone to suicide.

These walks put perspective and enlightenment to myself about how suicide affects the family and the friends that have lost someone to suicide. They walked for the family and friends they lost to bring awareness and raise funds to help others that are suicidal and prevent others from experiencing the pain and loss they felt.  I believe their stories help me when I am to that point of suicidal thoughts to get help immediately.  I have mentioned many times that I have a wonderful support system that gets me though those dark moments.

I have been treated for Bipolar Disorder for almost 25 years and I thought after I was placed on medicine that I would never have those feelings again.  However just a year later and many times throughout my battle to stay stable I have had many times of some very strong suicidal thoughts and a few suicide attempts.  I will only tell you the one attempt  that I was very close to actually ending my life.  It was a time in my life that was probably the most stressful and dark times that I remember.  I was married to an extremely abusive man and working at a highly stressful job.  My medicine seemed to also be causing  a lot of bad side effects as well.  It was the perfect storm to push me into the darkness I was in that day.  I took my cat's walking leash and tied it around my neck then took a bar stool and stood on it and secured the other end of the leash to the ceiling.  As I was standing on the stool crying and about to kick the stool out from under my feet. Then my two cats came running into the room and were meowing non-stop almost saying please stop and it was those meows that woke me up a bit and I remember seeing a  picture in my head of the pain I would cause my families and because of those almost crying meows I untied the leash and stepped off the stool.  I then called for help.  That is why having support for people in crisis is vital.  Since that day I have had quite a few days of dark suicide thoughts that can be so overwhelming.  Family support and having someone to talk to during that dark time has gotten me to my 40th birthday and I hope many more.  While I do know that it probably won't be the last time I feel that way it is comforting to know how to get help.

That is why it is so important to bring awareness to a huge threat of suicide that kills too many each year.  I know this year along I have heard too many stories of very young children committing suicide mostly due to bullying.   So many people each year experience both clinical depression as well as environmental depression.  There are so many misconceptions of those that commit suicide and I would like to clear that up.  People do not kill themselves because they are selfish. seeking attention, or they are cowards.   These were never a part of my suicide thoughts or how I was feeling.  When you are suicidal your brain is not logical and you just want the incredible pain to stop.  Those voices in my head  were just so overwhelming I wanted it to just stop.   In my case sometimes I felt like I was a burden to my family and I thought I would be doing them a favor.  So I  urge anyone that has mental illness or may have environmental depression to set up a support team and plan when and if it turns to those suicide thoughts or plans.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

United We Stand, Divided we fall

Today is September 11, 2012 and it's been eleven years since that day that terrorist attacked our country and changed America forever.  I am currently watching stories of the survivors that made it out of the towers.  I am overcome with emotions on just how many tales of heroism are being told.  I have always thought that over the years but this year it seems a bit different to me. 

I want to remember all those that died that day on September 11, 2001. There were so many that rushed toward the buildings or back inside to help others and gave their life for so many. I want to thank all the brave Police Officers, Firefighters, medical personnel, city workers, and volunteers that cared more about others that day and risked their health that day and many days after that horrible event.  I know there are some that have lost their life since then because of working in the debris.  They also sacrificed their life to help others in need.  I want to remember and thank all those soldiers that went overseas to fight for my freedom. I know many died to protect this country, our freedom and safety and many returned injured.  My gratitude is not enough for all they do for us on a daily basis. 

I remember right after that day that people were banning together and doing anything they could to help each other during this crisis.  There were so many people that day that put others ahead of themselves and banned together to get them out of the disaster.  There were so many that gave their life that day to save someone they had probably never met before that day.  We were united we stand.  This always seem to be the case during any event that involves a tragedy. During a lot of huge shocking events there are so many stories of people that helped others and put themselves last.  I saw this bravery during the recent shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.  I remember brave acts during the shooting that happened at Virginia Tech.  There were great stories of the community helping each other during Katrina.  There have been many tornadoes over my life in my own community that show how many people care and want to help as much as they can. 

This has reminded me of that sense of community again that seems a little lost at this point in our country.  During this election year there seems to be such a sense of division.  I am guilty myself of being part of the division and taking sides.  So I am humbled myself today and reminded that I need to strive harder to be a better person.   There is one thing during tragedy that seems to always be a common thread. Race, religious beliefs,  sexual orientation, disabilities, or income levels have no affect on how we treat each other during this time of need.  I know it is a hard thing to keep up during everyday life as we go about our daily routines, but it is the stories from 9-11 being retold today that  has made me want to strive to do better.   I fight for the advocacy of mental health rights and to fight the stigma against those with mental illness so I should try to remember that myself when talking about other things and times in my life.   Americans do not agree on many things but I hope we can put those differences down and try to see people in the same light as we might if we were in a tragedy with them.

With our country facing so many hardships I do think working together with others in America will help put us in the right direction.   There are so many charitable organizations that do this on a daily basis and never think twice about it.   I am moved on a daily basis when CEO's and others take less pay so that their staff can keep their jobs.  It is that type of thinking and behavior that keeps this country the wonderful place that it is.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Rep Paul Ryan will hurt Medicare

Normally I try to leave politics out of my blog but after US Representative Paul Ryan's speech last week I feel compelled to write my thoughts on his future plans for  Medicare and Medicaid.   His speech last week was full of lies that can be proven but I will leave most of that to true political writers. I will link what he calls the "Ryan Plan" at the end of my post.   I never really pick sides in elections.  I don't consider myself a Republican nor a Democrat.  I am an independent.  My votes in elections in the past have always centered around who I think can protect social programs, Medicare and mental health care.  Those candidates are normally democrats but I always listen to the other side as well.   The Republicans notoriously have their interest into big business, tax cuts for the rich, and they want to get rid of as many social programs as possible to throw more money into defense spending.   I'm trying to keep my blog about mental illness and especially my experience of bipolar disorder.  But I feel people like Mr. Paul Ryan are very dangerous to social programs that help people living with mental illness and hopefully people are checking his facts right now to see how much he is lying about what he really intends to do for Medicare in the future.  Last week he told us he would be there to protect Medicare when really he just wants to destroy it.  I hope everyone that heard his speech will do some research and look into what he really stands for.  He keeps talking about the very poor but he seems to want to hurt them more than help them.   They do not stand up for  social programs or people that are in desperate need of mental health care. They feel that they are hand outs and that makes me very sad that they want to destroy them.

My parents always taught me to thank God for my blessings and to give back to others hurting in my community.  I have always done that as much as possible until I had to apply for benefits.  It was never something I wanted to have to do.  I was thankful there was a safety net to catch me.  It seemed only a week ago at the RNC last week that they keep referring to the programs and the benefits I receive as "entitlements"  I know America stands for free speech and he can believe and do whatever he wants.  However I don't appreciate him standing out there and telling a bunch lies and says he will protect  Medicare.  If he wants to cut Medicare and make it about a voucher program in the future then he should be honest about it and tell us that is what he intends to do.  My only goal here is that I want people to be informed.  I will never tell you who to vote for in this election and I just want you to make sure you know who you are voting for and what their plans are for our country.  Mental health awareness of mental health programs is so important in this country and I find it harsh that no one wants to address these issues.  I am still confused as to why they cover less mental health benefits but that is another fight and article.   I'm not saying either party has it right but the Republicans right now really scare me on the way they think about people in my situation.  I was born with bipolar disorder and despite that I went to college and I did work as long as I could to contribute to my country.   I'm not a lazy person and a person that would love to go back to work, but unfortunately I have an illness that normally won't let me keep a job for longer than nine months to a year because of break downs and employers just can't accept that so I had to rely on disability benefits.  I would gladly go back to work but in this tough economy I am sure an employer could find a worker that would be more stable.  I was always a very hard worker and always did very well but the stress would throw my condition out of whack.  I even tried to get many many part time jobs but they all told me I was over qualified and would not hire me. 

It find it ironic that a man that lost his father at age 16 and received Social Security benefits during that tough time now wants to change Medicare and Social Security as we know it.  I believe Mr. Ryan should of received those benefits because I believe that's what our country is all about.   Reaching out and helping others in great need when things are tough    I find it hurtful that a man that received benefits from government from social security is now trying to take that from us and shut the door behind him.  I guess he received his benefits so too bad for the rest of us.  I never intended for my life to be like this and to be on Social Security disability benefits.   I studied hard,  I went to college and I worked for many years and I've paid into the system.  I've always been the type of person that donated to charities and help people in my community so I do not understand this type of logic as a Christian.  I wish I never had to receive social security benefits because I would love to work.  However, I am very thankful for my social security benefits that helped me and my husband get through the tough times and medicare helped me with my health care.   My husband was let go from his company during the Bush Administration because of financial cuts and it was a long hard two years but with the help of my benefits, his unemployment benefits that President Obama did extend and extra money from my parents we made it through and are now saving money and giving back to our community and economy.    My husband finally found a great job and is happily employed.  Mr. Ryan was given an  opportunity to help him in a rough time and now he wants to shut it down for everyone else. I normally take what politicians say with a grain of salt because they don't always tell the truth but Mr. Ryan blatantly lied to America.  He is saying he is going to protect Medicare and social programs and help the poor when in fact his plan does everything to destroy the help so many in our country need.  He has changes for Medicaid as well.   Mental health care has always been a tough fight but as of right now people can get insurance they need to get their treatments.  Mr Ryan plans to change that if he is elected.

My Mom and Dad were hard working Americans all their life.  My father is even a Vietnam Veteran. He served his country and now there are people that want to deny him and my mom benefits because they call these "enttilements'.  My parents are not entitled one bit.  They worked hard, paid into the system and helped their country.  They are receiving benefits they earned.  My Mom and Dad give back to their community so taking benefits from seniors and the disabled is just plain wrong.  My Mom and Dad raised me to strive to be anyone I wanted to be  and do anything I wanted for a career.   Their biggest dream was to send both of their kids to College and give them the best opportunities.  My brother and I both have degrees and I am thankful I had such wonderful parents to support me all of these years.   I know the system needs some revisions but voucher plans are not the way to fix it.  I know I have a vested interest in this but I am not concerned with my welfare as much as others because I have always had extra help.  I am speaking up for those people that do not have health care for their mental illness.  There are so many people out there that think these people do not deserve help but I have spent the past year talking to so many that live with a mental illness.  I cannot tell you how many stories I have heard where people lose their jobs because of the mental illness, lose their health care and then become homeless without health care on their on with no hope.  As many know very few people stick around when you have a mental illness so some do not have help at all from family or friends.  Thankfully the new health care reform has provided these people with the care they need and it should not be a privilege but a right in this country.  You should never have to go without medical treatment because you cannot afford it and you should never go bankrupt to save your life or someone in your family's life.  There are no easy solutions to these problems but I do know that President Obama's programs helped my family when we needed it and I do not believe Mr Ryan or Gov. Romney will help us and will probably make things worse.  Mr Romney cannot decide what he really believes in or where he stands.  His views change when the wind blows.  Mr Ryan's plan is a very radical plan that will hurt those that need it the most.   You can read about the plan at  So my question is to anyone out there that have loved ones that will be effected by these changes to read more, look at other few points and decide which plan is better for you and the mental health community.  I hope everyone votes and speaks up for our community no matter which party you stand with.  My only goal is to try to inform from the best of my knowledge and help those that might not have a voice right now.   If you need to find out where to register to vote you can go to  I do not agree with all of President Obama's  views and stances but I feel he cares about my community and those that need help with mental health care.   He recently approved more mental health care benefits for those brave soldiers returning from war and that is the least we can do.  They have fought for our country and our freedoms and it is the least we can do to help them in any way we can.  So thank you President Obama for making sure they will receive the extra benefits they need at this tough time.  So my vote for the 2012 Presidential election is clear now after looking over so much data and I hope I have helped you at least be a little more informed or at least want to find out the information for yourself.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The face of mental illness

What does the face of mental illness look like?  Look at these pictures and see if you can tell which person has the mental illness.

You probably can't decide who has a mental illness because they all look like someone you know or not like the stereotype that society has portrayed for years.  They could be your best friend, they could be your next-door neighbor and even a family member.  The point is that you can't see mental illness so let's stop treating everybody differently when we find out they have a mental illness.

According to movies, society and the media, mental illness looks something like this.

These images are both false and do not represent the average person with mental illness.  In the news recently there have been talks of the shooter in Colorado that may have a mental illness and even if he does his actions are very rare and an extreme case.  I know he has hurt so many and it breaks my heart.  I go the movie theater quite often and had planned to see that very movie the next night.    I have no idea if he has a mental illness and that is not for me to decide or for anyone else to at this point unless they are part of judicial system.   I do not really want to talk about him other than because of what he did a lot of people are getting the wrong idea about mental illness.   The majority of people that live with mental illness will never harm another person on the planet.  People with mental illness actually are more prone to kill themselves than anybody else.  Everyone needs to know that mental illness is a chemical imbalance in the brain and the person was born with it and it is not their fault.   It is not easy living with a mental illness and it takes daily work to stay stable.  The majority of us try everything we can to stay as healthy as possible.  There is treatment out there however but medicine and therapy do not always work one hundred percent of the time.  

I heard on a show the other night that it is the responsibility of the person with mental illness to be in charge of their care.  While I agree with that to a point. I know even when I take my medicine as prescribed I may still go into a manic or depressed state and my reality is not logical and I will not listen to reason.  That is why I have a support system in place when my logic and reason do not make sense.   I have never been dangerous to anyone other than myself.   Medicine tends to stop working even when you take them from time to time.  That's why it's so important to have some type of support in your life.  You need someone out there that when you get to that point that you're out on the ledge that can pull you back in from the darkness. I have spoken to many people with mental illness and some family members are not that supportive and neither are their friends.  That's why I urge anyone living with a mental illness to seek out some type of support online or in your local town.   It really does help to have someone to talk to that knows what you're really going through and can help you get through those rough days.  I wish everyone would quit judging people with a mental illness and stop automatically assuming that we are dangerous and someone to fear.  I know most people were extremely shocked and surprised when I told them I had a mental illness.  Treating mental illness is no different than treating any other health problems.  It is something that you were born with and it is no ones fault.  It can just be a bit tougher to get the medications at the right level.   Just this past week I got really depressed out of no where and it was my support team that got me back on track.

Now look at these pictures and tell me which one has a mental illness. 


These celebrities Demi Lovato and Catherine Zeta-Jones had no signs in their public life and by looking at them you would never know they had a mental illness.  They are both very talented women and they both have been so open about having Bipolar Disorder.   So today let's change the face of mental illness.  The majority of people that live with a mental illness look just like people in the crowd and not someone that has dyed orange hair and destroys lives.   That is why it is so important that we fight the stigma associated with mental illness even when something as tragic as what happened in Colorado, Arizona, and at Virginia Tech.  As I mentioned these were all extreme cases and for most of them someone saw warning signs of problems and failed to step in and pull them off that ledge.    There also needs to be a change in health care that would cover more people's mental health treatment.  I know it still upsets me that even though I have great insurance that it does not cover as much for my treatment of Bipolar Disorder as it does for my arthritis treatments.   I do not see the difference and it is time that insurance companies stop treating them differently as well.  I know so many that have mental illness that cannot afford treatment.  So if you are reading this, try to think of ways you can help out someone with a mental illness, help change health care, and fight the stigma associated with mental illness.  The more we stand united the better chance we have to succeed.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

One day at a time

I wish I could tell you that living with bipolar disorder or or any mental illness was easy when you're in treatment. The fact is that in my 23 years, nothing about it has been easy. It's been tough, it's been hard, it's been messy. I have lost so many things because of it. I have lost friends, boyfriends, and I have lost my career. So yes I wish I could sit here today and tell you that having bipolar disorder was going to be an easy road once you're in treatment, but that would be lying and I need to tell you the truth about it. I do not want to discourage anyone from getting help, but I do want to let everyone know what they can expect once in treatment. Being diagnosed at 16 I thought I had found out what was "wrong" with me and they can finally treat me. I thought by taking my medication and going to therapy would be all that I had to do to live a fairly normal life. But after that day there was nothing normal about my life ever again. I'm not writing this for a pity party and I never want anyone to feel sorry for me or treat me differently because I have bipolar disorder. I am just trying to show the family and friends and others that have bipolar disorder what they might experience when they leave the doctors office or hospital. I know I had no idea and it would of been helpful to know some of these things. If you're diagnosed with bipolar disorder after you've received your medical treatment then you will want to find support. Support has kept me going for 23 years. Without the support of others I wouldn't be alive today. I am one of the lucky ones because my family has always supported me throughout my entire battles with this illness. Sure my family did not understand it at first but they did what they could to try to understand it and help me. They've always done everthing in their power to try to be there for me and help me get through my mood swings. Many doctors will tell you with the right medication and treatment you can live a normal life. Well I do not think that's entirely true and I wanted to let people know that it takes much more than the medication to manage this illness. I know everyone is completely different that has this disorder, so you have to do what works best for you and only time will let you know what that will be. You need to know that medication that works today might stop working in a year or two. I have taken so many combinations of medication over the years and each time it is a big adjustment. You need to know even with medication you will still have mood swings because balancing serotonin is not an exact science and there is no way at this time to measure it. That is why a support system is key because during those bad days you will need help to get through them. Support can even be found on the Internet. In fact that is one of the best places I have found to talk to others that know how I feel. I have some people in my life that think by just taking the medication it will "fix" everything. So everyone that has someone in their life with a mental illness needs to know that this is not the case. It does help and it is needed but it is a day to day struggle. The best things for people to do that support someone with a mental illness is to just encourage them and not judge them. Most of all they need to know it is no one's fault that they have this illness. There is no cure for bipolar disorder so it is a lifelong illness that has to be managed with proper treatment. At this point in my life I try to take it day by day and pat myself on the back for even the smallest things that I was able to complete that day. When I get into bed each night I give myself a huge pat on my back. I know that might seem strange but it means I have fought my illness another day and I have survived.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Changing my Blogspot Address

Please note my blog is in the process of changing from to   The old will link will work but please make a note of the new address.

Thanks for reading my blog.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I heard the words today Don't Ask, Don't tell today on a news program and I started thinking about sometimes I feel that way about having bipolar disorder.  I have gone through many phases of being transparent about my illness and I am still not sure where I stand with it.  While I sit here and write a blog about informing others about this illness and fighting stigma, I sometimes feel like a hypocrite.  I still find it very hard to tell others that I meet or have been in my life for years that I do in fact have bipolar disorder.  My journey of deciding on whether or not to disclose my illness started soon after I was diagnosed.  I remember feeling so free and feeling some relief of finding out what was "wrong" with me.  I went back to my high school and I told many people and it turns out it freaked out most people and others just didn't know how to react to the news.  I had a lot of friends that turned their back on me because honestly they did not want to be around it.  It was almost like it was contagious and they did not want to get it.  I did have a select few that stuck by me and never treated me differently.  At that time I was still very young and I thought once I went to college things might be different.  Well things did not change there either and sometimes I think it was worse.  I was in a sorority and I told one of my dear friends about it in confidence I thought but turns out she told a lot of people and after that things were never the same.  People just treat you differently after they find out you have it. 

Soon after this I became quite the actress and no one around me knew that I had Bipolar Disorder and most to this day tell me they would never think I did have it.  I soon moved to Atlanta after college with a fresh start of no one knowing about my "secret".  Well this worked out great for the first two years.  After two years of working at that company things changed drastically.  The company was being sold to a bigger company and everyone was afraid of losing their jobs.  I know the stress took it's toll on me.  I was getting very little sleep and barely eating anything.  This just is the perfect storm to have a manic attack.  I did fairly well for awhile but I made the huge mistake of telling a close co-worker who was the Vice President at the time that I had the disorder and I needed some support during this time.  Well turns out the next day she ran to the CEO and told her about me after she told me I could trust her and she would tell no one.  I think she was trying to get me fired because every one's job was on the line at that time.  However the very cool thing about that potential ugly situation was that the CEO actually had bipolar disorder and she totally understood.   I never knew she had it either.  That just proves you never know who around you has a mental illness.  She gave me a week off and gave me the name of her psychiatrist.  Turns out I was one of the few people the new company kept and that vice president was fired.   After I returned to work, things were a little weird at first but when I met the management of the new company and the workers they were great to me.  Granted none of them knew either and never found out.  I worked there for another six months or so but I was really missing my home and had lost a lot of my support.  The company even offered me 3 months off to go home with pay to reconsider to come back at the end of summer but I knew my time there had come to an end and I did not feel right taking the money when I knew I was never going to return.  It still made me feel good about myself though because they did not want to lose me.  They never found out I had a mental illness though and I think I was glad about that at the time.   I left Atlanta and moved back to a city near my hometown.  I thought being closer to my family would help me stay stable.  Turns out it was the right thing to do because my Mom can come over quickly to help me if I am having a bad episode.   

So I started a new job and everything was bright and shiny again.  I made new friends and had some great co-workers.  I went almost a year with little trouble but I was handed a former employees work load in addition to my own and I got overwhelmed.  They never replaced her and I took on two jobs at this time.  I have always had this bad habit of never being able to say no.   Finally things got so bad and I could feel myself going into a depressive state and feeling suicidal.   I finally went to my boss and told her I would probably have to quit due to the added stress and how is was affecting my mental health.  She told me to take the day off and we would discuss it the next day.  Well she is probably the best employer I ever had.  She had never heard of bipolar disorder but she spent that night researching it and that was amazing.  She fixed my work load and allowed me to work from home on my more difficult days.  She never told anyone else in the company of over 300 people and to this day I will never forget that.  However she retired and things changed and I no longer had her protection and the new boss was very harsh and had no room for this.  So I decided to leave a company that I dearly loved because they just could not accept that I had a mental illness.   I once again looked for a fresh start.  I never found one again of course.  I had other jobs but the other bosses were not that understanding or really did not care.  So I have have mixed responses in the work environment.  My feeling now even though I no longer work is to not tell unless it is necessary for your own mental health.  They are not allowed to ask you by law on most careers.  There are a few exceptions but the accounting field is not one of them.    I know some companies do not always follow this or they pressure you to  think you have to tell them.  Make sure you know your rights if you are working with a mental illness. Here is a link that might be helpful.

I have lost friends, dates, boyfriends and a career after people found out that I had a mental illness.  There are only a very small group of people that know in my life and they are mostly family.  My husband's response to finding out about my illness was a shocking one.  He really did not see my mental illness he saw me and loved me for the real me.  Even now after almost three years of marriage he does not see my illness he sees me.  He is my rock and helps keep me stable and really tries to be there for me.  It was even tough to tell people in my old church.  They found out when I was in the hospital for depression and they didn't know what to say, send flowers. call me or even send a card.  However when I had a hysterectomy they sent so much stuff and I had so many visitors.  The funny thing is I really did not need them then and I was fine other then some recovery and minor pain.  I needed them the most when I was suicidal.  They however were no where to be found and they never treated me the same after that.  I left that church of course and I am still having problems finding one.  I feel a lot of people in church just do not know how to handle mental illness or want to deal with it.  I think I was even told once that I had a spiritual weakness and it was just all in my head and it would go away if I was more faithful.  My social anxiety also dampers my ability to meet new people and a new church can be overwhelming.  However my faith in God is strong and I know he knows how I feel and that is truly all that really matters. 

So at the end of this blog I guess I am still a great actress to those that do not know and free around those that do know.  I do not even use my first name on this blog but my middle name because most do not know it and I still have the fear of everyone around me finding out and I am not ready for that at this time.  I was not even going to put my picture on here but I thought well that is a start.  I wanted readers to see my face and be able to relate to it and and know that it comes from my heart.  I think it also shows another face with bipolar disorder and it's not your predictable stereotype everyone has about the illness.  The media of course loves to show the most extreme cases that end in tragedy.  The majority of people with bipolar disorder are more likely to harm themselves rather than others.  The media leaves that out because it does not sell.   I get so tired of having to keep such a huge secret about my life and I tell very few people that I am on SSDI.  I do encourage everyone though that thinks they might have a mental illness to go tell a professional and get help.  Those are the people you need to be honest with to get the help you need.  They are legally bound not to disclose your information unless you request it so that is a good thing to know and it builds trust.   I guess I still have not answered my question and still ponder on the thought is it better to tell or not tell.  What do you think?

Friday, May 18, 2012

We have come so far.. but have many miles to go

I was thinking yesterday while I was reading many of the stories from blogging for mental health day at that we have a come quite a long way in understanding mental illness but there are so many more things we need to do to fight the stigma associated with mental illness.  There seems to be so many news articles in the media that show mental illness in such a bad light and I wished we could get more of a positive message out there to the media that it's treatable and it is nothing to fear.

I was reading an article yesterday about how the family of Mary Richardson Kennedy were very upset on the way the news media were reporting her death.  I can't say that I blame them either.  Why is that when someone takes their own life that the media floods the airways of negativity about that person's life in the few months leading up to the death or sometimes just a few hours before their death.  They also go after their character if they had any bad decisions in their life.   They never seem to focus on  the positive aspects of their life and most will never know anything more about their life other than the way it ended.

I know I had a good friend a few years back that killed himself and all anyone could talk about was the day of his death. No one wanted to talk about what a great guy he was or how much he impacted their lives.  How creative, intelligent and funny he was in his life.  All anyone wanted to talk about was his suicide and criticize him.  I guess unless you have never been in that dark moment that you want to take your life that you cannot relate and just judge them.  I have heard so many people say how selfish those people are or what a coward they were for taking their own life.  I know once in the hospital when I was having suicidal thoughts that one therapist tried to tell me that I was seeking attention.  All of these things could not be further from the truth.  The pain you feel is so dark and deep all you can think of is how much you want to end the pain.  You feel worthless and you even feel your friends and family would be better off if you were not there to bring them down and be a burden.  I know these feelings and I have always had support to get through it.  If you do feel alone there are many places to reach out to but the group I think that does it the best is

I also find it ironic that the media loves to leave out the stories of mental illness that need to be told.  I was reading the very sad story about the beating of Kelly Thomas by police officers and then he died as a result.  This was the first time I have heard of this case and it happened a year ago.  Kelly Thomas had schizophrenia and was homeless at the time.  I will not go into the details of his beating nor show the upsetting video but I will leave you with a link to his story if you want to know more about his story at  I  praise his father, Ron Thomas for fighting for his son and getting his story out there.  We should all take a note here and keep fighting the stigma for our loved ones with mental illness and for our own rights.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

To share or not to share... that is the question

After over 20 years of living my life having Bipolar Disorder, I decided last year to start a blog about my life experiences and how it affects my life as well as others in my life. I decided that sharing my story would be helpful to promote a better understanding of mental illness. I started my blog for many reasons that I thought would help others learn more about Bipolar Disorder and how to seek help.  My main reasons were:
  1. To inform others about Bipolar Disorder
  2. Guiding others to find the help they need to promote better mental health
  3. To fight stigma that can often be associtated with mental illness
  4. To help others to not feel ashamed of having a mental illness and how to find support
I remember when I was only 16 and I was told that I had Bipolar Disorder that it was a very confusing time for me.  I was not quite sure what that meant to my life.  I remember feeling scared, and I did not know what to expect in the years to come.  Back in the 1980's there really was not much information out there about mental illness or Bipolar Disorder.   I was hoping to reach those today that are now in my shoes that day when mental illness walked into my life.  I also wanted to reach family members that have loved ones with Bipolar Disorder because I know back when I was first diagnosed that my family knew very little if nothing at all about this illness.  I really wanted to put a real spin on the disorder and share my life as painful as it can be at times with others with the hope that they might relate to my experiences and seek treatment.  However, writing the blog actually turned out to really help me get through many tough days.  During the past year I have connected with numerous others that have Bipolar Disorder and write blogs about it and it is another form of support for myself.  The most important thing to me with these new connections is that I never feel alone and they are very encouraging to me.

I thought when I started this blog if I could help just one person out there learn more about Bipolar Disorder than it was worth putting my painful feelings out there.  Well after hearing so many comments and questions from others I know I have done that and such much more.  I think of the Mom that wrote me about her daughter that had committed suicide 6 months prior to reading my blog.  The doctors thought her daughter might of had Bipolar Disorder and that my blog helped her understand Bipolar Disorder better and she just wished she could of found out more information before that happened to her daughter.   She told me she hoped that my blog would save other people's lives. I strive to do that each time I write a blog entry and to help myself from taking my own life.  I still have many dark days but support helps me get through those times.  My readers have also helped me find out new information that I was not aware of  before I started writing and encouraged me on the rough days.
Now that I have been writing this blog for about a year, I am encouraged to keep writing because I have had so many people write to me that my honesty about my illness has helped them to actually seek treatment.  So many people tell me that the stigma of having a mental illness stops them from seeking treatment.  This is the one thing I am most passionate about and have always tried to do what I can to on my part to help others understand it and not run away from it.  My dream is that one day Bipolar Disorder will be treated by the public, the media, and the medical community as just another illness that needs medical care and nothing more.  I think that having a day set aside to focus on blogging for mental health is so important to fight this stigma.  There is so much to be shared at and help others find out more about mental illness and promote better mental health. I encourage everyone to check this site out and share their own stories.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Something new, Something old, Something blue, Something no one knew

The last time I wrote on my blog the sun was shining, the birds were singing and I felt better then I had ever felt in my life.  This was my something new.   I kept wondering when the bottom was going to fall out of my new feelings of well being.  I kept asking and asking everyone I knew around me if I seemed manic.  All of them said they do not see the manic signs I showed in the past.  Then I ran into something I knew nothing about or had ever felt.  That something was Hypomania.  That was the something I never really knew much about.  For some odd reason I only thought that was part of Bipolar Disorder 2.  As a person living with Bipolar Disorder 1, I had always had extreme moods swings of being very manic or extremely depressed.  I have never encountered the feelings I had with being hypomanic.  I was very confused and thought that maybe just maybe my medication had kicked in very quick.  I also thought that maybe I was healed by God because I am a Christian.  Well God has a plan for my life and at this time he still wants me to continue down this path.   I know as a patient for many years, medicine does not work that fast but I guess I was living in the great feelings and I did not see it.  My own guess is to why I was kicked into that state was maybe that I was coming off one antidepressant and a mood stabilizer and then introduced to a new ones.  As I look back on that week that I felt "normal" and how I thought most people live their life.  I now can see I was Hypomanic. 

So after about five days of having all these wonderful feelings about life and about myself and having a ton of energy, I finally crashed and stayed in bed for two days feeling so tired from all the activities I had been doing.  This was the something that was old and blue.  Thank goodness when I was hypomanic all I did was clean my house from top to bottom, workout everyday, and I was able to drive myself to places and had no social anxiety.  I did not do anything careless or reckless that normally comes with full blown mania.  I actual did really productive things that I needed to do months ago.  I was able to to finish task and I slept about five hours a day and I woke up feeling refreshed and full of energy.  I was also talking every one's ears off but it was not rapid speech that did not make sense or too fast.  So for a few days all I did was look up hypomania and find out all I could about it to see if that is what happened to me.  I have been keeping a mood journal for eight weeks now and my Psychiatrist confirmed that is was hypomania.  The largest difference I found between hypomanic and full blown mania was that I did not have psychotic thoughts or symptoms and no grandiosity about my life or something I wanted to do in the future that was reckless or harmful to my life.  I was also able to be highly functional and I was sleeping every night.  In the past when I had full blown mania I did not sleep for days and I could not be told or believe I was manic. 

I was reading on the NAMI website that someone referred to it as "mania lite".  I thought that was a good way to describe it.  It lies somewhere just under mania but higher than deep depression.  So for someone who has studied and tried just about any medicine and therapy, I could not believe I had never been told that as a Bipolar Disorder 1 patient that I was also capable of feeling something in between the two.  I will be honest I was quite sad when the bottom fell out. I felt cheated of feeling normal for once in a very long time.  I would also love to stay at this level because the feelings were wonderful.  But with my illness I know this is not a healthy or productive attitude.  After my crash I fell into a depression with one or two days with suicidal thoughts and felt I was worthless.  I have a wonderful support team that got me through those days.  After the new medicine kicked in I was no longer feeling depressed but I also felt like a Zombie.  I felt very medicated and just really had no feelings of happy or sad.  So after quite a journey on Mr. Toads Wild Ride of going up and down, I finally started feeling a lot happier with no suicide thoughts but I still had some issues.  I kept reading from other people on the same medication to just hang on because it can take about six to eight weeks for my medicine to truly kick in and make me more stable. 

My last visit to my Psychiatrist went fairly well.  He tweaked my medicine slightly.  Taking the second dose of Wellbutrin in the afternoon kept me from sleeping at night, so he changed me over to Wellbutrin XL 300 mg to take just once in the morning with an increased dose of my mood stabilizer to 150 mg of Lamictal.  I also still take .5 mg of Xanax for my panic attacks and social anxiety.  In a few weeks he wants to get me to 200 mg of Lamital and stop there unless I have issues.  I did not get the rash that everyone warned me about so that was a relief and for the most part the side effects are less than other medications I have tried in the past. I know these medication do no work for everyone just like I can't take other medications.  I really do like my new Psychiatrist and I feel he has an incredible knowledge of Pharmacology.  He is actually something old in my life as well.  When I was admitted into the hospital for suicidal thoughts and extreme depression about ten years ago he was my doctor and he got me home within 6 days.   I am thankful to have found him again and the last thing he said to me was "keep up the good work".  As a person with this illness that could not be more true because everyday is work to stay on top of your environment, medication, and staying stable.

It's funny I read an article last week that stated that Bipolar Disorder is just a made up illness by doctors and Pharmaceutical companies to make money and there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance in the brain.  Well I am here to say other wise and my last eight weeks if not last 20 years has proved that theory very wrong. I do have an imbalance and the only thing that helps is the doctors and medication.   I feel stable at the moment but I know it's a daily fight and I take it one day at a time and I am very thankful for my wonderful husband for sticking by me, taking care of me and loving me for the real me.  My Mom and Dad are also very helpful when I need help while my husband is working.  I feel very blessed to have so many wonderful love ones in my life that get me to the next week.  I turn 40 in about a month and instead of being sad or feeling old I am celebrating that I have made it to 40 years.  This illness can take so many lives early in their life and I have made it this far and fight everyday to make another 40 years. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Break in the Clouds

If you have been following my blog you might know that I have been in a huge struggle with my medicine not working and having to change my Psychiatrist.   Well I am happy to report that after one week of treatment with the new medicine that I am doing quite well and very stable.  This past week has truly been a blessing in my life.  My new Psychiatrist took me off of Paxil and Topomax and prescribed Wellbutrin SR 150 mg for my anti-depressant and 50 mg of Lamictal as my mood stablizer for the first week.  Tomorrow he is increasing my Wellbutrin SR to 150 mg twice a day and then after another week I will be on 100 mg of Lamictal.  He is being very cautious to start me with smaller doses to see how I react and to see if there are any side effects.  I am glad that he is prescribing lower does and it gives me more confidence in him.   Building trust with new Psychiatrist will take a lot longer but at least I feel confident in his knowledge of the illness and the medication. 

Well after the first week I am happy to report that I am feeling so much better with very low side effects.  I  almost feel as good as I did the year before my first attack at 16.  This is something I have never been able to achieve since my treatment.  I know it's early but at least thus far I feel more balanced then in many long years,  I have been in this seat before a few times but I have never felt this good.  I would get stable on my medicine and then the medicine for whatever reason would quit working.   So while I feel stable and happier than I have been in years, I look around the corner to see if mania is coming or more episodes of depression mixed with suicidal feelings.  I am trying to stay optimistic about my new treatment but I guess there is still a part of me that is finding it hard to believe that I feel so good at the moment.   I know only time will tell and I wonder if I will be writing my next blog article about how my treatment did not work or only worked for a few weeks. 

It's funny because I am so happy I keep asking everyone in my support team if I seem manic or even hypo manic.  Everyone that has been with me and around my illness for years just states no you are not manic and tell me I just seem happy and balanced.  I guess the sheer fact that I am asking others if I seem manic then I am not.   When I have been in manic states in the past I have no clue that I am and no one can tell me otherwise.  My social anxiety even seems better this week.  Yesterday I got outside into my own car and drove myself alone to my optometrist office.   I actually went to an appointment without someone on my support team driving me or sitting in the office to be there if I had a panic attack.  I know to most people this seems so basic and an everyday occurrence but for me it was a huge break through.  I even went home last week to my parents home because my father was having surgery to help my mom and I did fine being around people I did not know all week.  So all of these steps are huge and I could not be prouder of myself and thankful for the treatment plan working. 

Something really neat also happened while I was at home.  It was just my Mom and I riding back in the car and she looked over with tears in her eyes and said "you know, I could be planning your funeral this week but instead you really helped me with your father through his after care."  I know my Mom and Dad have always been there for me no matter what and supported me through tough times but it was nice for someone to say you are needed here and for me to believe it and feel worthy and useful.  For the first time in a long time I am not waking up to the thoughts of " I just don't want to be here and I wished I could die.  Instead I have been going to bed early and getting a full eight hours of sleep and then wake up feeling fresh and energized.  So for now I am enjoying a break in the clouds and I can finally feel the sunshine on my face.  I hope my stability continues but only time will tell what is next on my journey with bipolar disorder. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Down but not Out

After a very long depressing Winter I am finally thawing out and feeling the sun on my face.  As I wrote in my last blog article which was months ago that I was struggling with the idea that my Psychiatrist of over 10 years was thinking of changing the scope of his practice and moving to a new career path.  He finally made his decision at the end of last year and I had been stuck in the "grief" phases since then.  To me losing him as my doctor was similar to a death.  To me it was like losing a member of my family.   He has helped me through so many rough times and the ups and downs of my illness.  He helped get me through a very painful abusive marriage.  He helped me decide that applying for SSDI was the right decision for my life at that time and helped me every step of the way.  The first time I saw him he said God has sent you to me and I am here to help you.  He made more progress with me and my illness then any other Psychiatrist.  He truly treated me with dignity and not like a number as some can.  He truly cared about my well being and I felt like I could share anything with him.  He made me realize that I was much more than my illness and the I had an illness and that I was not my illness.  I trusted him with everything about my treatment and he knew me as well as my parents and just about anyone in my life.  So the thought of losing him in my support team was something that I could not accept for awhile.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross stated in her book titled On Death and Dying, that most people dealt with grief and tragedy in five stages.  Well to me losing my main link to my well being and stability was like a huge tragedy.  I feel like I went through these phases losing my doctor.  First I was in huge denial.  I felt "Oh he won't stop treating me and this can not be happening to me".   That lasted almost six weeks.  Then I was very angry at him for leaving and moving on to other areas of his field and not going to be there to help me.  Yes this was all about me and me and me and it was all about me.  I didn't think of the new patients he would now be helping and that maybe they needed him more than I did.   This I admit was the selfish phase. This stage only lasted for a few days because I could not be mad at the person that saved my life many times over in so many areas of my life.  In the bargaining phase I begged and prayed to God that he would not leave and change his mind.  But then I received the official letter and that was it because the words were in black and white.  It was hard to deny that he was no longer going to treat me for my illness.   However I think the letter helped because  he stated it was a difficult decision for him to move onto a new career change.  That was the day I knew I had to find a new doctor very soon because my depression was getting worse by the minute.  I think I spent a total of 3 weeks in bed mostly and cried and ate all the worst food ever and watched brainless television and did nothing productive for weeks.  I had to call in my support team of my parents and my husband and they got me through this rough time.   I even attempted to put two suicide attempts in place over one week.   That was about two weeks ago.  One was that I looked around my home and tied a scarf around my neck and tried to find the right place to hang myself and then another of locking myself in the bathroom with all my medicine and sitting in a bathtub wanting to take them all and just never waking up again.   My family was close enough and watching me and I never got too far into the suicide plan.  This might seem silly to most people getting this upset over losing my doctor but he was my main lifeline in my care and now it was gone.

However I truly believe God has a plan for my life and that the last ten years was just a season and maybe it was time for me to not be selfish and think of others and all the people that he will help with their mental illness.  So after my most darkness moments,  I finally found  a doctor's name in my old records that treated me in an inpatient care facility when I was suicidal in 2002.  I remembered he did a great job during my stay and that maybe he might be an option.  I called and they had an opening and that was that the start of the closure of my old doctor and crossing the bridge to my new journey with my new doctor.  I was on the way to start another chapter and move on with my recovery.  I had my mom go with me because I was having terrible anxiety about seeing someone new that did not know me or my history.  I was shaking and a nervous wreck and could not drive or go by myself.  I sat there in the office and cried before the new doctor came in because I knew that when that doorknob turned it would be a brand new face and I had no idea what to expect.  I also knew I would not see the bright shiny face of my previous doctor and I was so scared.   My session went as well as it could with all the changes but I felt good about his treatment plan he put into place.  He put me on a new anti-depressant, Wellbutrin SR and a new mood stabilizer that I had never heard of before called, Lamictal.  Thankfully he left me on my anxiety medicine to treat my social anxiety and my OCD.  Well I know it's too soon to tell but I feel very hopeful for once in a several months.  I feel fairly stable at the moment and my head feels clearer. 

Another good thing that happened was that I am a Christan but due to my social anxiety I had a hard time going to a church with a lot of people that I did not know.  I really hated this because that was something huge missing in my life that I truly needed to get through each day.   But I finally made it back in the doors of the church and the people could not be kinder and I feel so much better and closer to God.  My faith in God has always helped me get through the tough times of my illness, but over the last few years I felt a great distance from God though I know he never left me and has been carrying me all this time.    I am so grateful for my family and my wonderful husband who are always there for me and try to help my stability rather than bring me down.  I know it is not my time to die and that taking my own life would have been very wrong and would of  hurt so many people that I love dearly in life.   I am just grateful God and my family were there to save me.  Bipolar Disorder is a roller coaster and I know my moods will still rock up and down but at least now I feel better I have a doctor in place when there are bumps in my path.   It just shows anyone that might be reading this that even though I have been in treatment for almost 23 years that I still struggle each day and treatment is vital to be stable.    I will turn 40 this year and hitting that number does not make me sad it makes me happy that I am still fighting the fight and made it another year. Bipolar Disorder seems to always knock me down but I come up swinging and fighting and refuse to let an illness control me but rather control it.