This I Believe

Allison - Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Entered on July 8, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: illness, science

I believe in mental illness. I believe that it is real, should not be stigmatized, and is treatable. I thank people like Kay Renfield Jamison and Maurice Bernard who have proven to me that you can suffer from mental illness and be extremely successful at the same time. Dealing with my own mental illness, Bipolar Disorder, has shaped the course of my life in a both a positive and negative way. It has been devestating at times while at othe times has shown me the strength I have deep within me. When I was first diagnosed at age 20 I had little hope for my future thinking that I would be destined to a life of wild mood swings and irritable outbursts. It is my precarious mental health has been both my downfall and saviour. There have been times when I have been physically and emotionally dependent on others just to get through the day. However, I have come to a put where I realize that I have alot of control over my mental health. I take my daily prescribed medication, stay away from alcohol, and spend time doing relaxing activities. I work as a therapist and assistant director of an outpatient Program for children with severe emotional and behavioral problems. The decision to work in this field was a personal one. When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I was a patient in an inpatient psychiatric facility. There were staff who were downright mean while others were compassionate and empathic. I vowed that one day I would become a licensed clinical social worker and treat people with the dignity and respect they deserve. Every day is a struggle for me but it is one that I do not back down from. My mood can change in the drop of a hat and that is something I am constantly working on. However, I am up to the challenge and look forward to the days ahead. I know that it is not an easy road for me or anyone suffering from mental illness. But I stronly believe that with continued normalization of mental illness and treatment we can lead happy and productive lives.