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Your are not alone in this fight

Spread the word! "You are not alone in this fight" when it comes to mental illness.

Our goal is to raise $300,000 by Dec. 31, 2012. Your donations help NAMI provide free education and support programs, publish reports and provide resources for people in need.

This year we're asking you to share your story to inspire hope and break down stigma everywhere.

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Paula's Story

It Takes Time
It's hard to mention bipolar.
The stigma is out there.
The curiosity from those in health never dies.
How can we explain? How can we count?
It takes time.
It's hard to maintain friends, keep jobs, finish school.
The illness interrupts our days.
How can we cope? How can we be?
It takes time.
We think so many thoughts of what we could do, should do.
But you know what?
It takes time.
Time for self esteem
Time for stabilizing moods
Time to feel safe
Time to erase memories
Life is sacred; life is blessed in God's time.
Just admit it.

It is one thing to toss a ball in the air and catch it. It is entirely different to juggle three. With regard to handling life's issues, I fall into the latter category, dealing with mania, depression, and health.

It takes courage to fight this chilling disease. However, to experience healthy times is to taste a victory so sweet that I need to strive for it and share it with others. Whatever the consequences, if I expose my illness to the public, it will, over time, dispel stigma and ignorance. The public I am referring to is my inner circle of family and friends. I know this pebble will cause a ripple effect in my community and I am willing to take the risk.

This effort requires that I be coherent, less impulsive, and more in control of my actions. On the other hand, I must stay out of the dark zone—desperation, exhaustion, and lack of interest in life.

How can I manage to be my healthy self? It is the tedium of visits to my psychiatrist, taking medications, staying within the boundaries of acceptable behavior, and living out my faith with God's help and grace. The result of this good behavior unites a cluster of supportive friends who are very accepting and forgiving. For my illness is episodic and there are still occasional times of relapse. This has been confusing to many and broken relationships are a common occurrence. I have learned when to talk about my illness to others and when to refrain.

With the family, both immediate and extended, it is another story. They all know of my disability and each treats it differently. My sisters are proud of my progress, but remain distant as if my bipolar is contagious. They are also afraid, with good reason that it might flare up among their children because it could be passed on genetically.

My children, ages 23 and 26 treat me like a regular mom and take my illness in stride. I would say that my younger daughter contemplates the possibility of being bipolar from time to time. My older daughter is adopted, so genes play no role there. My husband faced the most obvious hurdles. He loved the real me very much I know. He was affectionate, caring, and a good provider. But, when I displayed any type of symptom, he had to become very objective. It was not easy for him to be the parent figure to his wife. He was usually the one upon whom I depended to steer me toward help. He constantly reminded me to admit that I was ill when symptoms occurred. If I truly care about those that love me, I will say, "I'm not right—please get me help." It is the greatest thing I can do and will help to avoid the all-to-often tragic consequences of this disease.

My more lengthy respites from horrendous mood swings cause memories of pain to fade. Life continues to change and, with it I must constantly adjust. Nevertheless, I find that memories of healthy times, good friends, and loved ones are the constants that keep me going. So the statement "I'm bipolar" rolls across my tongue more easily now.

I am the author of a book called "A Bipolar's Song" available on Amazon. It is the autobiography of my forty years on this roller coaster of mania and depression. My goal in writing it is to dispel stigma and spread hope of recovery. Life's issues are great enough without adding a major illness to the equation. But, I have survived successfully the alcoholism and death of my husband, raising two children, enduring frequent stressful moves, and the alienation of family and friends. Of course, no one wants life's mental difficulties to touch them, but for those who suffer, much compassion, love, and understanding are the keys to helping these consumers survive.

It is my desire through whimsical and heartfelt poetry also included in the book, to inspire and comfort those afflicted, their families, and loved ones. I hope there's a message in this poem that will touch your heart and be of some encouragement.

We Count
This is my conclusion:
After 39 years of confusion—
It's okay.
This is my recommendation:
After 39 years of salvation—
He's here.
This is the suggestion for the ill:
Face the disease with a will.
There's hope.
This is the promise from a sick one:
After all these years, there's a sun.
Help's there.
This is fighting with a passion:
There are those who need compassion.
We count.


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