DBSA Brightened My Life…

As a clinical psychologist who lives with bipolar disorder, I have been committed to DBSA’s mission of supporting wellness for peers living with a mood disorder.

Five years after my symptoms first emerged, I thought I had “recovered” or even somehow been cured of bipolar disorder, but I was in my first year of graduate school when I experienced yet another hypomanic episode. My mind was racing again with ideas for a blog that I believed was going to change the world. I was terribly irritable and raged against a challenging roommate at the time. Needless to say, I was in a vulnerable place, wrestling with guilt and shame over my behavior. Intent on finding resources, I came upon DBSA by chance from a Google search and learned about the Young Adult Council.

After this episode, I was reminded of how frustrated and isolated I felt during my early experiences with bipolar disorder in 2013, as I was about to graduate college and enter “the real world.” I wanted to draw on my lived experience to help support other young adults with mood disorders while being in a community with those who have been similarly impacted. DBSA’s mission really spoke to me, and serving on YAC for the past five years has enabled me to contribute to that mission in an especially meaningful way.

As a YAC member, I had the chance to collaborate with other young adults for a blog post and accompanying podcast episode on recognizing the early signs of a mood disorder. I felt invested in developing this particular resource, as I remembered what I wished I had known back then. Mental health was not part of any conversation I had while growing up, and it continues to be stigmatized especially in the Asian American community. As such, I strongly believe in efforts to provide more education and raise awareness for the younger generations.

It was especially valuable for me to connect with other young adults in this way, as I found it affirming to reflect on both our challenges and successes together. It was refreshing and even liberating to speak further on my lived experiences as a panelist for the DBSA Leadership Summit in 2021 with other YAC members. It was an incredible opportunity and honor to be a panelist in collaboration with suicide survivor Emma Benoit and director Greg Dicharry for My Ascension Movie with DBSA: A Discussion on Youth Mental Health.

It is truly inspiring to hear from our other YAC members on ways in which we can support young adults, as they often tap into their own personal experiences. I am eager to see greater representation of the diverse identities and various conditions that can be intertwined with having a mood disorder, such as chronic illness, pregnancy, first-generation college students, and BIPOC-identified folks. We are all more than just a diagnosis, and I am encouraged that we are striving to be more inclusive in our development of resources.

Through my experiences on YAC, my dedication to DBSA has only grown stronger. Most recently, I am thrilled to continue supporting its mission as a founding member and current President of the Associate Board. As a young adult, much of my identity was already uncertain, but having bipolar disorder really challenged me in defining myself. I often questioned where bipolar ended and where I began. I struggled to distinguish what was my personality and personal growth from an episode and symptoms. Bipolar disorder has been among my greatest lessons in understanding who I am as a whole person.

Recognizing that I will always live with bipolar disorder, I am proud to say that I am working as a clinical psychologist, 10 years after my first hypomanic episode. I am also more than just my diagnosis. I understand how frustrating and isolating the challenges can be, and yet I have personally witnessed the impact of our work in creating resources and speaking on our own lived experiences. Together with help, education, and support, I believe DBSA can instill hope in those with mood disorders that they can lead meaningful lives and even thrive in them.