Volunteer of the Year – Libby Hewes

Libby is one of our local volunteers in San Diego, California. She gives presentations and goes to resource fairs for us to spread awareness about bipolar disorder and IBPF. Libby is very knowledgable about living with bipolar disorder and is wonderful at connecting with people at events. She also helps with projects in the office like putting together our Healthy Living book or mailing our gala invitiations.

We are lucky to have Libby volunteer with us and look forward to continuing to work with her. Read more about Libby in her bio:

“Hi, I’m Libby, and I have a diagnosis of bipolar.”   

Stigma and fear kept me from consulting a psychiatrist about my symptoms for many years. As a result, I self-medicated with illegal drugs, spent my twenties living out my “inner hippie”, had several hospitalizations and suffered periodic episodes of severe mania and suicidal depression. My dogged determination to stay away from psychiatry and rely on therapists and holistic health treatments kept me undiagnosed and untreated for over 20 years. According to my thinking, if I didn’t go to a psychiatrist and didn’t have a diagnosis, then I wasn’t “crazy”. 

I finally received a diagnosis when I was 41 during a voluntary hospitalization for eating disorders. Since then, medications, support groups and self-care have allowed me to bring order to my life. The quality of my life keeps getting better as I enter my sixth decade on the planet. 

Despite intermittent episodes, I had a fulfilling professional career in Information Technology. In 2011, I was certified as a Peer Support Specialist and hired to help other peers navigate San Diego’s mental and behavioral health system. I (semi-) retired last year and am now an active volunteer with IBPF, NAMI, DBSA and the San Diego Public Library. Right now I am teaching NAMI’s Peer-to-Peer course, which is sort of like Mental Illness 101.

My husband and I met online through Yahoo Personals and are celebrating our ninth anniversary this year. We were married only two years when Jim was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. I became his caregiver, nurse and advocate as we navigated Cancer Land and iatrogenic complications for six years. As someone who faints at the sight of a needle, this experience has been a time of tremendous personal growth for me. Jim has been cancer-free for five years.

Jim and I live with Smitty, a beautiful cat who climbs trees, plays with lizards, and enjoys a life of carefree abandon.

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