An Interview with the Queen of Dealing with Disaster

When you meet Donita, you are immediately comforted by her free spirit and authentic attitude. She is gravitating and one of the most selfless individuals I know. In a world filled with selfish people, it is rare to stumble upon a beautiful gem like Donita. However, it has been a difficult road to get where she is today. At the young age of 18, Donita received a diagnosis of Bipolar 1 disorder. She admits that there were moments in her life where the light at the end of the tunnel seemed impossible to reach. In spite of those challenges Donita’s strength and spirit carried her through darkness into light.

Donita is a mental health advocate, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) volunteer, and “In Our Voice Presenter.” Outside of her work in advocacy, she is busy being a wife, mother and business owner. Wonder Woman right? Her story is unique and compelling. Today I want to share a little piece of the gift she has shared with me, in a very personal interview about her life as a young adult living with bipolar disorder, past and present.


What did your life look like before your diagnosis of bipolar disorder? What does it look like now?

Before my diagnosis, I was doing drugs, including hallucinogens and methamphetamines. I was kicked out of high school and sent to alternative school. I was told to “stop it” and “behave.” By the time I was 16, I had a newborn baby boy. I quit meth but was still drinking heavily. I attempted suicide at 18 when my son was nearing two years old. At that point, I went to the mental hospital and received a diagnosis of (manic depression) bipolar 1 disorder. I did not take my medications upon my release. No one encouraged treatment, or even asked how I was doing. I went right back to work and felt like a leper.

 

Four months later I met my husband. We fell deeply in love, but the cycles of my bipolar disorder deeply impacted us. After six more years of suffering with symptoms of mania, extreme irritability, depression and sometimes a feeling that everyone was against me, I had an “episode” in which I was screaming and crying for help. My husband held me on the ground until I calmed down. I clawed at the earth and broke my fingernails. When I calmed down, he said, “Do you remember when you were 18 when we first got together, and you told me you have bipolar disorder?” With tears in my voice, I responded, “Yes!” My husband said something that I will never forget, “Let’s do something about it together.” And we did.

 

What does life look like now, several years after your diagnosis?

 

My life is everything I dreamed. I am a wife and a mother. I can sleep now. It took medication, family support, and support groups, such as NAMI, for me to find peace within myself. My husband and I are successful business owners. My son also lives with bipolar disorder, but I am confident in myself, as a mother, and feel equipped to support him.

Tell me a little bit about your work as a mental health advocate?

 

A group of us with the local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) organization are continuing to go into the high schools (locally), to teach the 9th-grade health students about mental illness. “Mental Health” is listed on the North Carolina Curriculum for 9th graders, something they were not offering. Through “In Our Voice” we educate and reduce stigma. At the end of IOOV, “Anonymous” questionnaires are filled out by the audience. The responses of these kids are what make me feel accomplished. “I feel the same way,” some say. “Now I can help my mom,” says another. “This class helps me to be more understanding towards my friends,” said one. Some students even gave us their emails so that we could send them more information. The best/worst response and the reason I believe so firmly in this program is “I have thought about killing myself too. I didn’t know anyone else felt like that.” I was very young when my sleeplessness and depression began. I am so grateful for my recovery and the chance to educate and help someone else.


What awards have you received as an advocate?

During my time as President of our local NAMI chapter, we received the NC NMAI Affiliate of the Year award. We also received the Recovery Champion award.

How has being a wife and a mother impacted your life?

I could write a book on this topic. The long and the short of it is; when I was a little girl, all I wanted was to be a mother, a “good,” and honest mother. This goal kept me focused in my chaotic life. Having a child, and a husband doesn’t just give me purpose, it is my purpose. I am truly blessed to have met my desires and to have achieved satisfaction, at my young age.


What problems are we facing regarding our mental health care system in the US?

This is an important question. It has been studied and theorized that early care is less costly than emergency care. The difficulty is that creating an early care system would require money up front. The $ savings, from the emergency room to the jail, would not be immediate. As a politician seeking reelection, every dollar is scrutinized. Individuals with mental health conditions are not a significant percentage of the population. It is important to educate yourself, and to vote, and to support organizations like NAMI that have paid lobbyists who research and fight for what is needed in the mental health community.
 
Another issue is our Veterans. In America every day, 22 Veterans take their own lives. Veterans make up 30% of our homeless population (keeping in mind that Veterans are less than 0.5% of the TOTAL population). I firmly believe the military budget has room for these brave men and women….. And as an American, I am appalled at these numbers.


Outside of the challenges you face living with bipolar disorder, what do you love about your bipolar mind if anything at all?

My bipolar mind is my mind. I am creative and empathetic, is this me or the condition? I love my whole self; this is how I thrive. I might not have survived the events of my childhood, without my bipolar. It kept me defensive and angry, inquisitive and awake and helped me define myself at a young age. My husband believes that bipolar may be a human adaptation; Bipolar individuals are the kings and queens of dealing with disaster.


What advice would give to someone who is struggling with their mental health?

You are not alone. Read! Read! Read! Get involved in peer support groups. See a doctor. Give any new coping skills or medications a proper trial run, before abandoning them. Fill your life with positive music, etc. Follow places like The Healthy Place, and other positive groups on Instagram, Youtube, etc., to see inspirational quotes on your feed… providing balance to online negativity. Identify behaviors that can make mental conditions worse, ie, drinking/doing drugs, choosing drama, not sleeping, etc. Identify your “triggers” to avoid mental health slips. It is OK to take care of yourself!!! Peace is real.


Donita’s Top Three Quotes:

I doubt sometimes whether a quiet and unagitated life would have suited me – yet I sometimes long for it. -George Gordon Byron


No one ever said life was fair, only eventful.-Carol Burnett


Information is the cure to fear. -Unknown


Donita’s Top Three Books to Read:

Love Is Letting Go Of Fear by Gerald G. Jampolsky
The Isaiah Effect by Gregg Braden
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg


Donita has been so kind to share her email for those of you who are interested in reaching out to her.

Contact her at Happydonita@gmail.com. Thank you Donita for being the beautiful gem you are and sharing part of your story with us today. You are such an inspiration.

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Bipolar and Recovery: Is It Possible?

Can you recover from bipolar disorder? In my new HealthyPlace vlog, I share my answer to this question and the reason why I stay away from using the word recovery in my blog posts and vlogs.

What does recovery mean to you? Share your thoughts on my YouTube video!

 

Keeping It Candid On “I’m​ Bipolar Too” Blog

I started my journey with HealthyPlace.com almost a year ago. I am so thankful for the opportunity to share my experience and talk about mental health in an authentic and open way. The adventure continues on my HealthyPlace blog, “I’m Bipolar Too.” There will be new posts every Tuesday and Thursday morning. I am getting personal, sharing advice and keeping it candid about mental health. Share your thoughts and experience in the comment section of posts or do a response video and send it into info@healthyplace.com.

Also, don’t forget to keep up with my HealthyPlace YouTube channel! New videos every Monday morning. Again, please share your experience or do a video for us. You have a story, a voice, and it deserves to be heard. Please subscribe if you have not had a chance!

 

 

 

 

StandUp SpeakUp: A Candid Interview About My Experience with Bipolar II

In this podcast done for Wearable Therapy Tokii, a company creating wearable art with a powerful message about mental health. In this interview, I talk in depth about my experience with bipolar II and the need for better resources for those struggling with mental health conditions.

Podcast: https://standupspeakup.podbean.com/e/episode-1-overcoming-bipolar

Blog: http://www.standupspeakuptokii.com/a-journey-through-bipolar/

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Experience in a Mental Hospital

Everyone’s experience is different in a mental hospital. Unfortunately, some people endure rough circumstances. What turned my experience in a mental hospital, from a negative one to a positive one, are the people I met. I thought I would be greeted by monsters. Aggressive people that society had been telling me since I was a child that “mentally ill” people are. Instead, I was greeted by angels. Please watch the video and if you can, subscribe to my HealthyPlace YouTube channel. Also, do not hesitate to share your story or leave comments.

Coming to the Healthyplace Youtube Channel Talking About Mental Health

Every Monday morning I will be posting videos at my new HealthyPlace YouTube channel, sharing parts of my story about living with bipolar II. I will be talking to friends, family, and strangers on the street about mental health. Stay tuned for the wild ride! Subscribe to the YouTube channel. See you next Monday morning.

Why People Feel Uneasy Taking Meds for the Head

Treatment plans for mental health care differ from situation to situation.  In some cases, it calls for therapy and in other cases medication is needed.  This doesn’t mean that when you wake up feeling sad, you call the doctor and start popping pills.  However, when depression or severe emotional behavior begins to affect your daily life, work and relationships, it is time to seek help.  There is no shame in taking medicines if needed.  If you get the flu do you take meds?  Yes.  So what is the difference when it is the flu of the mind.  There is none.  Would you blame someone who lost her husband in war for seeking out medication for anxiety?  Would you judge a woman for taking antidepressants who lost her child 2 months shy of his 1st birthday to cancer?  We all want to end up at the same place, but some need to take a different route to the intersection of happy and healthy.  There is no shame in that.

Reasons why people feel uneasy taking meds for the head…

I don’t need a pill to make me happy.

Lets do a word replacement, instead of happy, lets put healthy.  I don’t want to take a pill to make me healthy!  Make sense?  Happy and health go together like PB&J.  Think about people from the past, who would have done anything to receive treatment to help them maintain a stable life with a mental disorder.  Virginia Wolf is shaking her head.

I feel like I am weak if I have to resort to medication.

Are people who have diabetes weak because they have to resort to insulin in order to survive?  It is all about how you frame it.  You are not weak, you are honest about your situation and health.  A strong person acknowledges their pain, and does something about it.

I am afraid people will judge me.

Okay, write out those people who you think will judge you.  Now delete them from your phone.  People who love you won’t judge you.  I hate to tell you, but when you get a prescription you are not the headline on the 10’oclock news that night.  If you fear judgement…dont tell anyone.  You will be pleasantly surprised that over half the people you fear in opening up to, are going through a similar situation.

I don’t want people to think I am crazy.

What is crazy is having the available resources to receive good mental health care, and not taking advantage of it.  Reaching out for help is far from crazy.  People will get wasted, and have sex without a condom with the first person they meet at a bar (no judgement) and that is not considered crazy.  However, taking anti-depressants for depression, YIKES that is insanity!  Think about it.

I don’t want to stay on medicine long-term.

Okay, do not jump the gun.  Get to Point A before jumping to Point Z.  You may not be on medicine for the long-term, but if you are so what?  If you feel like your life, relationships and your day to day has improved since taking a medication than why would you stop.   Again, everyone has to take a different route to happiness sometimes.  Do not be ashamed of the route you take.

 

21 Images That Make You Understand Why The Stigma of Mental Illness Exists!

The stigma of mental illness SUCKS!  It is so bad that it causes those in the mental health community to ask, Why does the public have such a deep misconception about mental health?  The images relayed to the public pertaining to mental health are disturbing to say the least.  To reduce this “madness” we have to acknowledge the ridiculousness of the images, and words, used to describe mental illness.

Below are 21 images that make you say to yourself, “Oh thats why people think the way they do about mental illness!”

                               Stop Stigma.  Spread Love.

6 Things Women Need To Stop Doing To Other Women

She is such a slut!  Ew, she is huge!  Did you see what she was wearing?  Why is he dating her?

The goal is to build a ‘sisterhood’ between women, however, there is still much work to be done.  We are harder on each other than we are on those keeping us below the glass ceiling.  Several women shared with me a situation, in which they felt abused or embraced by their fellow female comrade.  It is evident that a readjustment of our attitudes towards one another is necessary.

These are 6 things women need to stop doing to other women.  

1.  Stop blaming her for his infidelity.

This is common.  The boyfriend cheats, we blame the woman for our relationship problems.  She is not your problem, he is.  In many situations the “other woman” does not even know he has a girlfriend, and if she does, karma will be a bigger bitch than you could ever be!

I gave another woman hell about sleeping with my boyfriend.  She didn’t even know he had a girlfriend.  I married him, and we had two children.  He cheated on me with three different women throughout our marriage.  We got divorced two years ago.-Melissa, 42

2.  Don’t diminish each other’s life choices.

Whether you are a “work-aholic” or a “mom-aholic.” We need to empower each other’s life choices.  We are all making progressive steps as mothers, and boss ladies.  Clap for her, not at her.

I chose to have a career over having children.  It was my decision.  My sister has two daughters. My sister and I love to jump in each other’s shoes once in a while.  We respect one another.-Erin, 38

3.  Stop calling her a Slut.

We are justifying this type of name calling when we say it about other women.  If your girlfriend is living a lifestyle you think is dangerous than confront her about it, don’t call her degrading names for her sexual decisions.

I have had my fair share of sexual partners, but always use protection.  I enjoy sex, and I am not ashamed to say so.  I have been called a “slut” more by women, than I have been by men.-Johanna, 27

4.  Stop body shaming.

It’s bad enough we have to hear it from guys.  Women have the power to change this, but for some reason we brutally scrutinize other women’s bodies.  Body shaming other females is more mentally damaging than you think.

I went to join a sorority my Freshman year at the University I attended.  We had to do the cliche “rush.” One night the sorority sisters lined us up in our bathing suits, and used a marker to circle the areas of our body they found unflattering.  I went home to see myself in the mirror covered in marker with words like PIG! FAT! UGLY!  I dropped out a week later.-Alison, 24

5.  Start embracing, and stop competing.

Being a woman is not a sport, and girlfriends are not suppose to be enemies.  We are all different, and bring something different to the table.  If you feel insecure around other women, look inside yourself to find the root of the problem.

My best friend is a supermodel, but she has always empowered me.  We go shopping, and she dresses me up when we go out.  We did not compete, we built each other up.  She is a major part of the reason why I am so confident today. Kara, 25

6.  Her style may not be your style accept it.

She is not “white trash” because she has tattoos, and she is not a “snot” because she wears Lilly Pulitzer.  Instead of calling her blue hair “weird,” call it “eccentric.”  Let’s embrace our differences, and respect each others style.

I came from a Conservative home, and my best friend was a wild child from Boston.  Her style was totally different, she had tattoos, talked about sex and everything in-between.  At first I bashed her.  Then one night, we drank wine, and I opened up to her about everything.  She was my Maid of Honor at my wedding.-Catherine, 28