“It is possible to live with a mental health challenge & still live your best life” – Susan
1) Some Fun Facts about you.
I live in San Francisco and love to write. I have been playing violin for 23 years, and I am a foodie. My favorite cuisines are Indian food and Japanese food.
2) Your journey with Mental Health (Shedding light on any mental health condition you had or currently live with).
I began my mental health journey at age 13, but didn’t get a proper diagnosis until age 22. I struggled a lot in my teenage years, confused at what was making me have extreme mood changes. As I got older, my mood changes got worse. My mania made me not sleep for days on end, and my depression made me have suicidal ideations. I was always confused: how could someone feel like this? This was definitely not normal. I saw myself do things that I knew my normal Susan would not due like lie, be delusional, and run away for 30 minutes or more and not have anyone know where I was. I used to walk down my parents road and look up at the sky with tears streaming down my face, hoping that one day someone could take my bipolar away from me. When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 22 it was a scary experience.
Prior, I was in college with the plan of graduating college in 2014. Everything came tumbling down in 2013, one year before I was supposed to graduate with a B.A in Psychology. At the time, my moods were fluctuating so much, I wasn’t getting any sleep, and my suicidal ideations began to show up on a weekly basis. I had started to go to therapy, but never talked about my moods because they scared me. Why talk about them if I didn’t understand what was happening?
If I didn’t understand, how would a normal human being understand? In 2014, I sat at my parents dining room table and started to write about my experience with bipolar disorder. It was the first time that I let my heart out and realised maybe my words could help others. I was still far from stable, but I had been going to regular therapy for over a year and was getting enough support from friends and family that I was able to reflect on how my life was going and what was helping my recovery. I used to browse the internet regularly searching for resources and reading about other people’s experience with bipolar disorder. One day I thought to myself that it would be cool if someone was searching for help on the internet and they found an article that I wrote myself. This made me search for mental health organisations in the Bay Area and emailed several to see if they were interested in me blogging for them.
After 3-4 months of emailing one organisation emailed me back and I arranged to go into San Francisco to meet with this woman and the rest is history. I’ve been writing about my journey since 2014 and it is therapy for me. My writing opened up a lot of doors for me. The organisation that I began writing with connected me with other organisations that had centred their heart in mental health and well-being as well. I’ve held a position at a non-profit who works with foster youth as a Peer Mentor and have been on a couple of boards that strive to support young people and their mental health. I’ve also held a board seat on San Francisco’s Mental Health Board and now work as a Lead Peer Partner at Edgewood Center for Children and Families at a local Drop-in Center for 18-25 year olds who are often struggling with their mental health diagnoses or simply needing support when it comes to everyday life.
I had always dreamed of helping young people manage their diagnoses but never knew how until I learned about Peer Counseling. In 2016 I decided to take a course in Peer Specialist Training in San Francisco. This changed my life. It made me see how a diagnosis isn’t something to define you, but instead something that can be strength and inspiration for yourself. In the course they taught us how we can work with clients and use our diagnoses to help others and that whole concept was new to me. How could I help others with a story of me struggling?
The job that I hold now is the first job that I’ve ever really had and I use my story every day to provide care and mentorship to young people. I reflect on my story every day to help others gain a hold on their life and well-being. The young people that I work with need this reminder that other people have gone through what they are going through and it’s going to be OK.
3) Things that helped you cope.
Writing, playing violin and passion projects
I’ve learned a lot through my years with bipolar disorder. I have more years to come. Everyone goes on this journey through life that is full of uncertainty. I’ve gathered that this journey is a hard one, with struggles and successes weaved throughout. You have to be your own advocate, but it is truly possible to live your best life with a diagnosis. Is there a secret? Be open to change. Be open to new experiences. Be open to support. Things will fall into place.
4) A message to others. What would you like to tell those who maybe struggling with their mental health right now or those who live with a mental health condition?
It is possible to live with a mental health challenge & still live your best life.
Sometimes all you need is a story! There are so many people out there who might just need a brim of hope to cross over. Are you someone who has lived with a mental health condition and/or are currently on your recovery journey? We would love to hear from you – Please share your story by filling the Mental Health Warrior form or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Share your story with @speakinggrey and inspire others!