Friday, October 2, 2009


Hope...when I didn't have any, my supports carried it for me. Hope is a funny thing, sometimes hard to find - but once it's there, things seem to begin. Hope for me came from peer support. I met some recovery "role models" through NAMI. For the first time, I had positive experiences with individuals with mental illness (vs. the peer support I found in the hospital). I found people who were living recovery - and this gave me tremendous hope. Once the seeds of hope were planted - everything seemed to bloom. I began to look forward to things, began to think differently and had some self-realizations that I could change how I lived with my illness. Today, I hope for many things. I hope to contribute in some way to breaking the stigma that surrounds mental illness - that's why I'm doing the NAMI Walk tomorrow in Appleton, Wisconsin. I hope that one day science will advance in the area of early diagnosis of brain disorders to prevent the often traumatic experience of living with a mental illness. I hope that I can do all those things I've always dreamed of - being the exec director of a nonprofit agency, returning to school, being involved with my son's activities and continuing my road to recovery.

But how do you find hope when you're feeling hopeless? For me, that hope was first carried by my friends. They held onto the "white light" of hope and always encouraged me no matter how dire the circumstances. When you can't find that shred of hope, find someone who can carry it for you. Hope can be found in the smallest things - getting a good night's sleep without a nightmare or anxiety, enjoying an activity that before felt meaningless, finding something new, discovering recovery is possible and seeing a glimpse of a brighter future. Hope for me often looks like a visualization...envisioning what I hope will happen. Whether it's finding a parking spot or attending a college open house to learn about returning to school (and picturing myself there), I find hope perpetuates itself when I overcome the significant (and more insignificant) barriers placed before me.

Right now I'm reading a book my Jerome Groopman called the "Anatomy of Hope." Groopman was an oncologist and treated many who were terminally ill. His book explores how hope plays a role in recovery. He profiles patients who had a great deal of hope to those that had no hope at all. He provides scientific (and anecdotal) evidence on the fact that hope TRULY does make a difference in recovery. I've always believed that hope can aid recovery, but now there is actually scientific evidence that hope changes brain chemistry producing cells that aid in recovery.

Hope is powerful.

So when you can't find hope, find someone to carry it for you until you can pick it back up again. It will be there waiting for you.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


The first post to my blog...This blog will share my thoughts and experiences with recovery as well as what I have learned about mental illness recovery from peers. Recovery IS possible. In my blog I will share how I used SAMHSA's twelve recovery principles (on their wheel of recovery) and how YOU can apply them to your recovery. Now, a little bit about my recovery journey.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in March 2004, after my son Nicholas was born. Looking back, I can identify symptoms that began when I was 19 during my college years, but I wasn't "officially" diagnosed until March of 2004 when my symptoms became so severe that I was hospitalized (multiple times). For two years we struggled with finding the right medication, establishing coping skills and trying to figure out exactly what was going on. It was a scary time and I had many dark days where it was a struggle just to live. I had lost all hope and felt completely helpless. I had multiple ECT treatments which did make a difference but have had a significant impact on my short and long term memory. Things changed when I found peer support through NAMI. I realized I wasn't alone and I found recovery "role models" who were living well with their illness. I realized recovery IS possible and learned how others had made life worth living.

I began to find new coping skills - started exercising, eating better (I lost 80 pounds in 2 years), practicing yoga, cooking, finding a spiritual center and most importantly taking responsibility for my recovery. I was willing to do whatever it took to learn to live well with my illness. My mom said that if someone told me to eat a couch and it would make me feel better, I would have eaten a couch (and really, I think that's pretty much true). I began to feel better and things changed, I found new hope. As my recovery progressed, I was able to return to work and started to give back to others to help them in their recovery journey.

And here I am today, involved in the mental illness recovery movement. I'm taking a Consumers as Providers course through NAMI and UW-Oshkosh. At the end of the course I will do and internship and can be certified to be a peer specialist - a provider who models recovery.

In this blog I hope to share how recovery is possible for EVERYONE with mental illness and how SAMHSA's twelve principles were applied to my recovery and can be applied to your recovery.

Be well.