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 Disorder and Denial: “Bipolar Disorder? Me? No Way!”

“Bipolar Disorder? Me? No I don’t think you have that right doc!” On my new HealthyPlace YouTube Video I talk about one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when you live with bipolar disorder, and that is denying that you have bipolar disorder. When you live with a stigmatized condition, it is not easy to accept your diagnosis. As children, stigma is embedded in us, and that includes those of us who live with a mental health condition. So you can imagine the difficulty in embracing and accepting a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

Share your experience in the comment section of my YouTube video or do a response video and send it into info@healthyplace.com!

Keeping Faith and Living with Bipolar: My Interview with ‘Bipolar Brave’ Author Katie Dale

This past May, I was fortunate enough to go to a Mental Health Influencer Summitt in sunny San Diego, California. It gave me the opportunity to meet advocates from all over the US. This is where I met Katie Dale, author of the blog, Bipolar Brave: Power, Love & Sound Mind. Katie is beautiful, and her genuine spirit and open mind make you feel so comfortable around her. Katie is diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder and started her blog to raise awareness about mental health. Katie’s story is very unique, being that she is open about bipolar disorder and her strong faith in God. This is something you do not see often. I reached out to her for an interview and luckily she was gracious enough to answer some of my questions.

You were very young when you went to the psych unit after your manic episode, how did that experience shape you into the person you are today?

Katie: As I had never been in a place or situation before like it, I absorbed every detail of it and have carried the story with me. It was the initial jumping-off point for the direction my life would eventually take. I remember being super intuitive and telling the doctor I would write a book about that place (which I have), and that the experience there instilled a belief in me that I may not have had if I never went there, that inspired me to go off my medication years down the road. I still am in awe of the kindness I received from a patient aid that I wonder about from time to time still.

You say in your “About Me”-”My Junior year began with a lot of hopeful expectations to learn a Biblical worldview, but I transitioned roughly.”

Was it the Biblical worldview that caused you to question yourself or triggered you into a depression? 

Katie: Being the perfectionist/idealist I was, I aimed my expectations too high, and when I was confronted with a Christian education that was at times rather Un-Christian, it caused me to question the schooling. I was so disappointed in the way I was received as a new student, the way chapels were mandatory and out of duty, to the unfair reprimanding way I was treated for coming to class late, yet with a pass. My pristine notions that it was a perfect place had been shattered, and I internalized that, along with my insecurity, fear and secret desire to end my life.

Your religious beliefs seem to play a significant role in your journey, past, and present. What role does it play in managing your bipolar disorder?

Katie: My faith is important to me since I have experienced a personal, real, genuinely loving God at a young age (in the hospitals especially). Now I rely on those experiences to have grown a backbone in my personal faith so that I never question God’s love for me or His faithfulness (or His existence for that matter). Every day I look to Him as a guide and source of strength, so that gives me a profound sense of comfort in my management of the disorder. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life” – if He’s the truth, I’ve discovered all of His sayings are good and true -, and that gives me confidence on a day-to-day basis.

Has it been difficult to not only live with bipolar disorder but work as an advocate, while trying to maintain your religious beliefs?

Katie: No, not at all. It’s been a joy to share the great work God has done in and through me since the reason I’m doing so well is His grace. God gets the credit, and I am so glad I have Him rooting for me.

What do you want to accomplish with your blog, Bipolar Brave?

Katie: I want to be a subject matter expert and looked to as a beacon for those struggling with an understanding of bipolar disorder, whether they have it or not, whether they are a Christian or not. I think blogging is one of those things that brings people together in the sense that they’re open to learning other things and in a non-threatening non-committal way. I hope my blog does that.

What would you like to achieve in the future?

Katie: I’d love to make it to the bestseller list with my memoir and have it turned into a movie. If that doesn’t happen, just getting my story out there and speaking about the experiences I had so others understand it better and can experience it through reading my story. There is so much in my story I still don’t understand, I wonder if the material would serve as a guide to future studies into the relationships between the spiritual and the psychiatric, the emotional and the supernatural.

I know you have been working on a book, which I am so excited for! What is the overall purpose and message of your future book?

Katie: The plot of my book is a recollection of most of my days being emotionally shipwrecked at 16 and 24 because of the episodes of bipolar I was subjected to. I want the purpose to be so others can understand what bipolar disorder looks like, feels like, acts like, and I want the theme to be how to stay brave in the midst of it all because it is such a scary thing. It’s like Philippians 4:13 – Paul the apostle’s words “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” At the very least, I had to go through a hell and back to learn the greatest lesson: God allows trials and tribulations to shape and discipline His children because that’s what a loving Father does.

What do you want people to know about bipolar disorder?

Katie: A couple things: 1) It’s scary and unpredictable, so trust God and 2) medication works, so trust God for that to work out too. Also that it is a monster when it’s kicking your ass, but when you finally get a leg up on it, accept it and treat it, you will kick its ass.

Follow Katie’s journey on her fantastic blog, Bipolar Brave & on social media @KatieRDale

Thank you, Katie! You inspire so many individuals with your story and authentic spirit. I look forward to your future work in advocacy and writing!

 

It’s Time We #SlayStigma And Talk About Mental Health in a Bold Way

Sunday’s are for Slaying Stigma, as I announced tonight on my Instagram @halfway2hannah. I am redecorating my account and confronting mental health in a bold way. I have been working on this renovation for the last couple months, coming up with ideas to talk about stigma and mental health in unique and vibrant way. I will be sharing personal stories from my journey living with bipolar 2 disorder on images captured by the beautiful photographer Jillian Clark. Sharing mental health awareness, inspirational quotes and bad ass statements!

One of the major reasons I am doing this is to get people to speak up about mental health and the issues facing society by sharing their thoughts and/or experience in the comment section. Mental health pertains to all of us, with or without a condition, so join me by following my Instagram (@halfway2hannah). I look forward to getting to know you!

 

 

A Personal Success Story from My Life with Bipolar. Whats Yours?

On my new HealthyPlace YouTube video, I am celebrating my 28th birthday by sharing a personal success story.  On Monday, September 11th, I took another step into my late twenties with a grateful heart, unfiltered attitude, and colorful hair! Although many people complain about getting older, I embrace aging to the fullest and how could I not? On September 11th, 2001 so many innocent individuals lost their lives. It is a constant reminder of how fortunate I am to be alive.

In case you forgot to buy me a gift don’t worry because it’s not too late. One major goal of this video is to encourage you to share a success story from your life living with a mental health condition. C’mon tell me something that you are proud of! Share your story in the comment section of my YouTube video or do a response video and send it into info@healthyplace.com!

 

Bipolar & ADHD: A Double Whammy!

It took years for me to find the right routine of medication after I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. My mood was stabilized, but my inability to focus and complete projects still kept me from truly thriving. Bipolar and ADHD is a topic with some controversy attached, being that some of the medications used to treat ADHD can have a negative effect on individuals with bipolar disorder. However, a diagnosis of ADHD along side bipolar disorder had the opposite effect on my life. In my new HealthyPlace video, I share what life was like before receiving the proper treatment for a condition, that majority of my doctors were unwilling to address.

Please share your thoughts and experience on my YouTube channel and check out my other videos! Want to hear what you have to say!

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!

 

Bipolar and Anger: The Ice Queen

I have always been hesitant to talk about bipolar and anger. It has such a negative connotation, and people relate it to extreme violence and unpredictable madness. This is not necessarily the case, and in my experience, the part I struggle with is my lack of emotion when it comes to getting angry with those closest to me. The extremes of bipolar disorder are evident in my reactions being that I am either loud or silent. I can be in your face or completely withdrawn. In my new Healthyplace video, I share my experience going from warm and loving to an Ice Queen.

What Bipolar Disorder Means To Me

In my new HealthyPlace video, I share part of my journey living with bipolar 2 disorder and what bipolar disorder means to me.

What does bipolar disorder or depression mean to you? What impact has it had on your life? Please share your thoughts or do a response video and send it into info@healthyplace.com.

 

Hypersexuality and Bipolar Disorder

Let’s talk about sex and bipolar! In my experience as a single young adult, with or without a mental health condition, sex can complicate any friendship or relationship. When you have bipolar disorder, there are a couple more complications you face due to your emotional extremes. I have the ability to feel everything, however, also the capacity to be completely disconnected. This is heavily present when I am in a manic episode and engaging in sexual relations. In my new HealthyPlace video, I talk more in detail about my experience with hypersexuality living with bipolar 2 disorder.

Share your comments or do a response video and send it into info@healthyplace.com!