Living with Mental Illness


When I entered the world of living with bipolar disorder it took me many years to learn about the illness. Sometimes the descriptions of the symptoms I would read about would not apply to me, so I never could really get a handle on how the illness was alive and well inside of my brain. I had a hard time determining how bipolar disorder was affecting my day-to-day living. Until it became so debilitating that it was hard to ignore the obvious.

This is the thing about mental illness—it is complex to diagnosis, difficult to live with, and hard to explain to other people who have no idea what it is like to live in the world when you struggle with a mental illness.

But some of us have a need and desire to educate the general population about various disorders. Yet we are sometimes afraid to talk about our mental illness for fear we will be discriminated against or thought less of because we live with these disorders. Wow! Is it any wonder that many of us live in isolation after we become ill?  It’s just not fair.

I don’t know a great deal about other mental illnesses but I do know a fair amount about bipolar disorder. I have numerous experiences on both sides of the fence, as a caregiver and as a person who lives with the illness. I know enough to have gained a tremendous amount of respect for this mysterious illness that impacts my brain. It can bring me to my knees with emotional pain with a depressive episode or it can make me so manic I can’t sit still. Whatever end of the spectrum I am fighting I am always on the lookout for the next major episode. I don’t get a chance to relax and chalk up my limited amount of sleep to “too many things on my mind.” Instead I have to monitor myself and ask the question, “Am I getting manic again? Should I call my doctor?”

In between my hypervigilance I try to live a “normal” life. I take care of my new adopted puppy, cut the grass, go to the grocery store and work a part-time job.

I’m looking forward to an upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. where I will attend the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) national conference.  When I go there I am planning on joining other members in a National Action Day.  This is where we will go to Capitol Hill and tell our story to our congressional members and ask them to support mental health services. It is an opportunity to share in two minutes what has affected me my entire life. I hope I can articulate what it’s like to have a mental illness disrupt your life. Then I want to explain how with proper treatment and a lot of hard work how some of us can and do recover.

We never get “cured” but we go on and live our lives in spite of the enormous challenges we have been given. We move on and learn to live our lives in the world of mental illness. It’s not always full of pain and sorrow.  Sometimes it simply becomes the “way it just is.”  I think you just get used to the struggle.





12 thoughts on “Living with Mental Illness

      1. 3 excellent research organizations I follow are CREST BD, Heinz Prechter Bipolar Program @ University of Michigan, UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience & I belong to the International Society of Bipolar Disorders, which has some similarities to the International Bipolar Foundation but I find it to be more research-oriented. I figure if we can fly to the moon, why not, right? 🙂

      2. Thank you for those names. I will be looking them up tomorrow. I just finished listening to Kay Redfield Jamison on a radio program in London. I am amazed at how much I continue to learn about bipolar disorder. She is really amazing.

      3. Oh Amy…I grew up in L.A. Dr. Jamison went to my high school! She attended Palisades High long before I did, however. I read her book years after I graduated. When I found out she was speaking at my hometown’s library, I had to go. I went with my mom and when she entered the room, everyone went silent. She was stunning – she looked like a C.E.O. in a cobalt blue suit, with gorgeous “L.A.” blonde hair. She was everything her reputation proclaimed: eloquent, funny, imposing, brilliant. Later on when I started freelancing, I wrote an article about women and depression. I contacted her for an interview and because she was uber-popular, I pulled the “we went to the same high school” card. I doubted that would work, but she invited me to interview her via the phone as she was far away! It was so cool – I couldn’t have asked for a better subject. Try reading her book “Exuberance: The Passion for Life” someday if you haven’t already!

      4. What a cool experience! I have not read that book and I will put that on my list. She is amazing. I heard get speak at a DBSA meeting a few years ago. You certainly have some really neat experiences with your writing. Are you planning on writing a book?

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