“You’re not good enough!” “Things will never get better!” “It’s hopeless!” These are just a few of the voices of bipolar disorder that have been living in my head since I was a teenager. But on a day that has been etched into my mind forever—I was 15, lying in bed contemplating suicide—I heard another voice whisper, “One day you will share your story.” I found it absurd that such a thought would pop into my head at such a desperate time, yet over the years I have heard it more loudly and frequently. It is  nothing short of miraculous that I am here, 30 years later, doing exactly what that voice assured me of so long ago.

Without a doubt, I know it was God carrying me through this battle, teaching me that my struggles would one day provide hope for others. I’ve wanted to give up so many times. There have been lows filled with despair—seemingly lasting forever—when I’ve wanted nothing more than to die. Then they would switch to mania, resulting in nights of sleeplessness.

I have been fairly stable for a few years. After countless hours of therapy, endless trials with different pharmaceutical cocktails, numerous hospitalizations and leaves of absences from my teaching job, I can finally say I accept living with a bipolar diagnosis. I see moments where God has clearly saved me when I’ve called out to Him in desperation. He’s given me strength and courage to speak out and help others by blogging and sharing my story with struggling teens. The moment I put my complete trust in God, even though it didn’t seem to make sense, doors began to open. My life changed when my purpose became clear.

Despite my illness, I have been able to accomplish things my 15-year-old self would never have thought possible. I have overcome an eating disorder and alcoholism, both of which I turned to in order to cope. I am now in my eighteenth year of teaching elementary school where my experience with mental illness has given me more insight and compassion for my students. I have an amazingly supportive family, comprising my husband and two boys with whom I travel the country every summer in our rv.

Whereas at one point I could not imagine seeing past the darkness and fog, I now truly appreciate all the beauty this world has to offer. We organize concerts as a family to benefit our community and also bring anti-bullying assemblies to elementary schools. My husband and I write the programs which are performed by our 11 and 13 year-old sons’ band. I achieved a bucket list goal of completing a 30-mile ultramarathon and I’m now pursuing my dream of writing for the purpose of bringing others hope. I blog at maotribe.wordpress.com and have a book that is in the works.

I never truly believed I would make it this far. As I’ve struggled, my faith has grown that God will have my back when I ask for help and that He has brought me to this moment. I vow to keep pressing on in the hope that my journey will help others see that they, too, have a purpose and that there is hope. There is always, ALWAYS hope!