Dealing With Bipolar Disorder & Mental IllnessEmotional Overload: Living With Mood Disorder. “In my life, I have been surrounded by mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence and homelessness. I just thought it was all a part of life. Several people in my family have mental illness. Also, two of my aunts were heavily using drugs throughout my childhood. I grew up in a very risky situation with domestic violence. Due to this my mother and I became homeless on a couple of occasions. All of this has had a big impact on the person I have become.
Even though I had all of that dysfunction going on, I made school my top propriety and my safe place. Because school was one of the only good things I had, I got excellent grades. I skipped fourth and sixth grade. I was in Girl Scouts and cheerleading, and played soccer just to escape from my life at home. With me doing so good in school I never expected I could do something to change that.
Before I was diagnosed as bipolar, I would notice that some days I could sleep all day long and other days I would stay up all night to clean my house spotless. However, I didn’t really see this as any sort of issue; I thought it was totally normal. About a year before being diagnosed things got worse. I started ditching school and doing drugs, and I got involved with gangs. I was in a downward spiral, but I thought it was all normal.
One day in eighth grade, I kicked a substitute teacher. As a result, the school considered expelling me. This was my rock bottom. The thought of being kicked out of school made me suicidal and I told my mother this. Shortly after, I found myself at children’s hospital behavioral health unit. I was there a week, during which time I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I thought that was it, that I was crazy and that was all I’d ever be.
Once I was diagnosed, I lost several close friends because of the stigma around mental illness. People actually thought that there was no hope, so I began to think that to. It took about six months and then I realized that I wasn’t crazy. I realized that I have a mental illness and that I can get better. Even though bipolar disorder doesn’t have a cure, I found out that with the right treatment and coping skills, I could be just like everyone else. I’d just have to do some things a little bit differently.
I began getting active in the community. I joined NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and through that organization I started public speaking. I now am a member of three youth groups: MY LIFE (Magellan Youth Leaders Inspiring Future Empowerment), Ground Zero and Arizona Youth Advisory Council. All of this has helped me get my voice out there and try to reduce the stigma about mental illness for other youth. I have found that there is hope, and now know that having a mental illness is no different than someone having diabetes except that mental illness affects the brain.”
Magellan Youth Leaders Inspiring Future Empowerment (MY LIFE) is made up of youth, ages of 13 to 23, who have experience with mental health, substance abuse and/or foster care related issues. The group gives youth an opportunity to use their experience, talents and voice to make positive changes in their lives, while helping others to do the same. Recently, the members of MY LIFE came together with the Arizona Department of Health Services/Division of Behavioral Health Services and Casey Family Programs, as well as a multitude of community sponsors, performers, musicians and corporate organizations to carry out MY FEST – a youth-run music, art, entertainment and youth involvement festival. In total, the event played host to more than 1,200 attendees and 58 different exhibitors.
Mental Health By the Numbers.
Each year, nearly 20,000 teens in Arizona attempt suicide.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder include dramatic mood swings, from overly “high” to sad and hopeless, often with periods of normalcy in between.
At least one in five children and adolescents has a mental health issue, difficulty or challenge per U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
About 5.7 million American adults, or about 2.6 percent of the population, have bipolar disorder. (NIMH)
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