My name is Lynda. I live with Bipolar.
I now know that the onset of the illness probably began around the age of twelve. Prior to that I was sociable, a bit of a prankster, happy and outgoing. However, around the age of twelve there were periods where I was sad, angry and exhibited extreme and intense reactions to a variety of situations. Despite this I was remarkably high functioning.
I remained high functioning into my adulthood despite having an undiagnosed mental illness. I maintained a difficult schedule while earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA, GPA 3.89) and excelling in a demanding career.
In retrospect I believe I remained high functioning because my life had a high degree of routine. At that time the familiarity, “normalcy” and predictability of my life helped me feel in control.
In 1991 my routine was shattered. This began a decent into a period of my life where my illness was most destructive and paralyzing. Some of the events that contributed to
- Marriage in 1991. Prior to that I had never lived with anyone except my dog. I was now in a living situation that I was not accustomed to. It was a drastic change in my routine.
- A move to Houston. After almost 19 years of living in another city, I had never lived in a city where my immediate family did not live.With the exception of my husband, I knew no one. I was alone.
- A new job and a promotion. I felt compelled to exceed my employer’s expectations of me.
For eight years, 1991–1999, I had no routine, no relationships and no sense of control or direction over the changes in my life. I was constantly trying to “feel better” about my new environment and life. I didn’t know my problem was much more complex and that I was dealing with a mental illness…my mental illness.
- I became antisocial and isolated.
- I used poor judgment in dealing with problematic events.
- I responded inappropriately to situations that were not reality.
- The “world” was wrong and I was always right. The “world” just refused to cooperate with me.
There was no support or understanding for what I was experiencing. I didn’t even know what was going on with me. I did know I was miserable, sad, paranoid, angry,
overwhelmed and my life seemed hopeless.
After trying unsuccessfully for many years to restore some level of hope in my life, I went to my primary care physician who eventually referred me to a psychiatrist and psychotherapist. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I in 1999. The diagnosis explained a lot about my struggles, unhappiness and behavior. Although, I was diligent in following my doctor’s prescribed treatment plan, I did not accept or embrace the diagnosis for two years.
During my second admittance to an intensive outpatient treatment program, a counselor repeatedly and strongly suggested I find a support group in order to expand the tools I needed to have more periods of stability.
I decided to take his advice and add a support group to my wellness plan. I learned about Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Greater Houston two years prior to receiving the counselor’s advice. I had not attended because I was afraid to be around other people. I was still isolating and mildly agoraphobic.
The time had come to take a risk, despite my discomfort, and visit a DBSA Greater Houston support group. When I reluctantly attended my first DBSA Greater Houston meeting I immediately experienced a sense of community at a level I had not had for quite some time. I felt accepted. I felt like I belonged. I felt valued. I felt hopeful.
Although I had isolated myself from the public and my family, I began to feel an emotional connection to the members in the group during my first visit. Why?
- The participants welcomed me.
- The participants showed empathy because they had similar experiences.
- Being with a group of people living with a mental illness allowed me to relate to them free of stigmas. I was not being judged.
- I could be open without being judged.
By the end of my first visit I felt relief. I managed to work through the initial anxiety and reap the rewards. I’m still reaping the rewards of being a member of a wonderful and vital organization.
Being involved with a DBSA Greater Houston support group facilitates my wellness plan in order to live with my bipolar in a way that promotes the highest quality of life I am capable of for any
Whenever I experience low points in my recovery, the DBSA Greater Houston support group helps me by:
- Brainstorming coping skills to help me through difficult periods.
- Giving me hope for a better day by seeing others making positive inroads toward living successfully with mental illness.
- Motivating me to continue coming to group and remaining committed to my treatment plan.
Because of what a positive difference DBSA Greater Houston made in my life, I wanted to give back to the organization because it has been (and continues to be) such an integral part of my wellness plan. Consequently, I became a volunteer facilitator for the Westchase DBSA Greater Houston support groups. Facilitating groups has been tremendously rewarding. In addition to helping others, my participation in the DBSA Greater Houston support groups:
- Empowers me.
- Helps me identify my strengths.
- Serves as a conduit for respect as well as helping me generate a healthier level of self-respect and self-validation.
- Promotes my sense of accomplishment, productivity and accountability.
Earlier this year I received the 2009 DBSA Greater Houston Rookie Facilitator of the Year Award for the work I have done as a facilitator for Westchase DBSA Greater Houston groups. It was an enormous affirmation of the limitations I have overcome simply by being associated with DBSA Greater Houston. DBSA Greater Houston helped me become a successful participant in my own wellness as well as allowing me the opportunity to contribute to others who are ready to take responsibility for their own wellness. It also continues to give me support so that I can be successful in remaining committed to my own wellness plan.
My name is Lynda. I live with Bipolar Disorder I, and I have a successful wellness plan that includes DBSA Greater Houston.