Four years ago I almost lost my life because of untreated bipolar disorder. During a manic and psychotic episode I drove 3300 miles until finally landing in the mountains, lost on foot in the Idaho National Forest.
In the middle of winter, after two days of surviving without a coat, socks or backpacking gear I was rescued by two people riding ATV’s. I don’t think I would have survived the elements for one more day. My only injury was dehydration and frostbite.
Because of my experience I am a person who feels very strongly about finding the right treatment regimen. I am adamant that bipolar disorder left untreated can lead to unwanted and serious consequences.
But I can also say that it is imperative to find the right treatment team. I was under the care of a physician and therapist at the time of my episode. But I lost insight into my illness and then stopped all my medications.
For a very long time I blamed myself for what happened. Then I realized that having bipolar disorder is not my fault. Where I am accountable is making certain I do the best job possible in managing my illness.
The first time anyone shed light on bipolar disorder signs and symptoms was in the hospital in Idaho. I wish more treatment facilities would take the time to educate patients about their illness. It made a world of difference to me.
This experience among others, has taught me not only about bipolar disorder but also about myself. I learned that even in my most compromised state of mind I had the will to live. I learned just how strong I have been. I learned it was not my time to go.
With this second chance at life I want to make sure I help educate others about mental illness. I want to help eliminate stigma because it dramatically affects all of us.
I also want to share I have recovered. Even though I have been to a stage 4 mental illness I have gotten better. I work. Give talks. Write. Advocate.
No matter where you are in your struggle with mental illness, know you can get well. It is a fight but it is possible. I am living proof.
“Never underestimate your ability to make a difference in someone’s life.”