I had a happy childhood, so the first time I felt depressed, it came as quite a shock. I was 18 years old and away at college during my second semester. I felt displaced, alienated, withdrawn, and also paranoid. I didn’t have any appetite, and even easy things were difficult to do. I couldn’t concentrate. I called home a lot crying, and finally had to leave the college, interrupting my education. That was my first episode of what would be many to come.

At age 21, I ended up in the hospital for six weeks because I tried to overdose. I was put on many different medications, but no meds were working. So, I was transported to a university hospital where I spent another six weeks. As a last resort, I was given ECT—electro-convulsive therapy. Finally something worked.

I have been hospitalized three times because I have been a danger to myself. For 17 years, I had the diagnosis of major depression until I had an “up” (manic episode). Then I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The up days were great! I needed almost no sleep, had tremendous energy, could read and recite several books at once . . . the world was so beautiful! But these days would follow with anger, then severe downs, where I would end up with deep self-hate.
When I was 35, I tried to kill myself by overdosing on my medications, and that time I almost died. Once again, ECT was a life-saver for me because I wouldn’t respond to any meds.

Fear of rejection was difficult for me in the beginning. I feared that if people knew I had a mental illness, they would judge me. Now, I actually feel that I don’t need to be ashamed anymore . . . and it feels good being honest about where I’ve been in life. The illness is not all of who I am, but it is part of my path.

My last episode of depression was in 2011, and ECT helped me again. My regular treatment consists of taking medications, seeing my psychiatrist, and being aware of my stressors. I read positive books and I’m conscious of the thoughts I think. I release my negative feelings, keep my focus on the present moment, and rely on my inner self to calm me and guide me. These are my greatest tools for wellness.

I feel passionate about my recovery, and this passion led me to become a life coach for people with bipolar disorder. (www.embracetheinneryou.com ) I guide them to find love for themselves and learn to process difficult feelings as they come up. I help them to live their best lives even though they are living with a mental illness. I created a support group for women with bipolar disorder, I also am a facilitator at my local chapter of DBSA, and I do some speaking in order to share my message of hope.

My experience with bipolar disorder has taught me so much. I now have a deeper connection with Spirit, a genuine acceptance of myself, and a better understanding of others. It has taught me to have an attitude of gratitude and a real trust in life. Because of all it has taught me, I know that pain really does serve a purpose. Although it was a painful experience to learn from, it led me to my purpose in life, and I’m happy to be sharing that purpose with others.