Describe something you are proud of in your journey in managing mental illness, could be a moment, an overall victory, etc.

I’m Katie H. from central Maine and here is my story of living with Bipolar 1 disorder. I was first diagnosed in 2018 when I was hospitalized for severe depression and anxiety. I was at a breaking point and didn’t know what to do. It was a scary experience being in the psychiatric ward for the first time, even as an adult in her 20’s. However, it was necessary to get the help that I needed. After being released, I found a psychiatrist that I trust and a medication routine that works for me. It took months to get there but I did it and slowly started to put the pieces back together. I was unemployed for some time or just didn’t last long with jobs that I did get. Work/life balance has always been difficult for me. I also ended up separating from my husband in 2022, fell out with some friends, and took on work full-time. It was one of the most turbulent years of my life. I never thought I’d see the day that I would be completely dependent upon myself but I have my own apartment, pay all of my bills, own a car, and have a job that I enjoy. I work for a private New England liberal arts college. I never thought I’d hold down a full-time job since my diagnosis but here I am. I’ve never felt so free and content in my life. Of course, there are bad days still. I can now better recognize when I’m feeling upset, depressed, or manic more quickly. I use to be in some form of denial about these emotions when I was experiencing them. Self-awareness is a very useful tool that takes time. Sleep has always been a challenge for me. If I get less than 8 hours every night, I am quite irritable and easily overwhelmed. I’ve started to set timers on my phone to get ready for bed. As simple as this task is, it helps immensely. One thing I didn’t know I needed so much of was alone time. Since I live by myself, I had no choice but to face my own company. I never use to like myself but over the last year, I decided that I was going to try. I use to constantly schedule plans with friends or be overly codependent on my previous partner so I could escape myself. Both are not very healthy choices. I started doing things that only I liked such as watching obscure movies, getting lost in a video game or listening to music for hours on end by myself. Now I can’t wait for my alone time! It’s incredibly important to try and accept yourself. It took me most of my life but I did it.

Advice for Newly Diagnosed:

The hardest part for me was finding the right medication. Side effects are what scare people off from trying medication but please take my advice and give it a shot. Most medications that I had tried in the past took several weeks for it to reach therapeutic levels in the bloodstream. I had to keep in mind that the side effects were very temporary and relief could be right around the corner. It made a world of difference for me once I found the right medications. Another word of advice is to reach out. You do not have to suffer alone. Though I’ve lost a few friends over the years, I’ve gained more than I lost. I have a hard time saying no to people and that led to boundary issues. I know now how to stick up for myself and some people did not like that. Some showed their true colors in the end and I took it as my que to leave them in the past. I hold on for the dear life to those who have loved me and supported me despite my bad days. Surround yourself with friends you feel safe with and respect your boundaries. Don’t try to people please!

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