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!

 

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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!

 

 

Teen Vogue Interview 2017: Bipolar Disorder Dating Tips

Dating is hard with or without a mental health condition. We have this overwhelming pressure to have the perfect body, perfect job, perfect social life and perfect mind. So you can imagine what it’s like when you have a mental health condition such as bipolar disorder. The stigma of mental illness sends a negative message to people. We are crazy! She’s a cheater! She’s unstable! So what is it like when you are actively dating with bipolar disorder? Lucky enough Teen Vogue contemplated the same question and reached out to me. I am so excited to share my interview with Teen Vogue. Check it out and please share.

Teen Vogue May 2017: Bipolar Disorder Dating Tips

Revealing My Life with Bipolar on Voices for Change 2.0 Podcast

This past Saturday, March 4th, I had the opportunity to speak with Rebecca and Joe Lombardo on their blog talk radio show Voices for Change 2.0 podcast. Prior to the show, people always ask me one particular question, “Are you nervous Hannah.” The part of me that always puts on a strong front answers, “No not at all. I am used to this by now.” The other part of me answers, “Hell yeah I am nervous.” The show was live, meaning anything I revealed stuck like glue. Luckily for me, Rebecca Lombardo eased my nerves days prior to the show. We talked about the podcast, but no specifics. It is better not to have the questions prior to a show like this. The thing that put me most at ease, was that Rebecca has bipolar disorder as well and has been sharing her story for years. For an hour we talked about our work as mental health advocates, the future of mental health and parts of our own story living with bipolar disorder.

On Saturday I was asked questions pertaining to my diagnosis of bipolar 2 and what it has been like coming forward. We discussed my experience in media and the importance of utilizing mediated platforms to spread awareness. We took people who called in with questions. One caller requested an answer to the golden question that I think many people hesitate to ask me. How is dating for you Hannah? Take a listen to the podcast to find out what I say.

Please follow this amazing podcast on their journey via Twitter @Voices4ChangeRJ.

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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

10 Things I Hate About Stigma

We have all seen the movie 10 Things I Hate About You, and Kat’s memorable speech to Heath Ledger at the end of the movie.  Familiar?  While reading this post, think about Stigma as if it is a person.  Stigma has influenced many in society to make negative assumptions about mental health conditions.  Stigma is like a bully.

1o things I hate about stigma…

1. I hate the way you think every emotional reaction is a symptom of my “illness!”

I will never forget when a young guy emailed me with concern for his girlfriends mental health.  “She freaked on me!  Yelled, scream and threw me out!  I texted her that I think her Bipolar is out of control and she should seek help!”  My first question, “Well what did you do?”  His response, “I hooked up with her roommate but…”

Just because a person has a diagnosis, or is in a bad spot mentally, does not mean that every emotional reaction is due to their condition.  We are all human, and react in hostile ways when confronted with harmful words or actions by others.

2. I hate the way you assume I am violent or out of control.

People with a mental illness are more likely to be the victim of violent acts, than the perpetrator.  Don’t let the media fool you!  Most likely we are violent towards ourselves, not you.

3. I hate the way you feel about me professionally.

Jobs and mental health.  Yikes!  A mental health condition does not make a person incapable of succeeding.  In my experience in the mental health community, most of the people I have met with a mental disorder are extremely successful.  We are capable of more than you think.

4. I hate the way you think I am suppose to physically appear grimy.

To assume I have no fashion sense is rude!  Sure I have my no make up, sweatpants, cheesy bread and greasy hair days…but doesn’t everyone?  Yes, I do care about my physical appearance so please refrain from statements such as, “Oh my Gah I would have never assumed you had bipolar!  You dress cute, and are really well made up!” 

5. I hate the way you make negative assumptions about my condition.

When I revealed my diagnosis, I heard statements like, “I don’t think you got that, your just so positive!”  As if having a mental condition means I am suppose to be negative and doing nothing with my life.  A lot of people I have met with mental conditions are upbeat.  If we are in a dark place, you usually don’t see us or hear from us.

6. I hate your lack of compassion.

It is not a “mental health problem,” its a “people problem.”  In modern day society, people are less compassionate.  Okay so you don’t think mental illness is a real condition,  but what happened to simply helping someone in need.  A person who is struggling despite your biased attitude.

7. I hate the way you think I am not capable of succeeding.

There are tons of people with mental health condition that succeed as parents, students and/or professionals.  Our ability to reach a deeper level of emotion makes us more capable of success in a lot of areas.

8. I hate the way you make me feel like an outcast.

You are weird!–No you are just boring!  Making someone feel different in a negative way is unacceptable.  The ‘you can’t sit here’ attitude is a character flaw on your end regardless of someones condition.

9. I hate the way you are so judgmental.

You don’t know my story.  You don’t know my struggle.  The truth is most people really don’t understand mental health.  Do not judge my condition before taking the time to observe my character.

10. I hate the way you think my mental health defines me.

Yes it is a part of me, and is something I deal with on a day to day basis, but it does not define who I am.  We are defined by what we create in this world, who we love and how we do it, not by a disorder or disease.

 

But the sad part is I don’t hate you a bit, not even at all because ignorance-ness is a more dreadful disorder than mine.

Then & Now: A story about friendship, facing the past and mental illness

It was six years ago that I had my first major episode with Bipolar 2 while in College.  I was  living with a group of girls who this story is about. In the last month before I withdrew from school, I kept my struggle hidden from others, especially myself.  Two days before I left, my parents were called by 2 of my friends.  They told them that I was falling apart.  Day by day I was getting worse.  They realized they couldn’t help me, and decided not to tell the other girls.  I do not like to talk about the pain of the past.  However, a few days ago I learned that sometimes it is necessary to walk down memory lane, no matter how dark the road is…

This past weekend, I reconnected with friends who I hadn’t seen since the day I withdrew from school.  Jenny, one of my best friends, planned the weekend.  When we arrived to the house, we poured a cocktail, and sat outside. After an hour of blabbing, I heard little footsteps behind me.  When I turned, my heart dropped.  Sophie was walking towards me.  Sophie and I were inseparable during my time in Boston.  I hadn’t seen her since the day I left school.  When I saw her I could have dropped to my knees.  We all sat outside.  It was just like it used to be.  We reminisced about our lives over the last six years.  It was magical.  We laughed, we loved, we danced.  However, I knew at some point I was going to have to confront what happened six years ago.  On the second night we walked outside to sit on the patio.  We pulled out a bottle of wine, a pack full of cigarettes and started to talk…

I let them lead the conversation (this is very rare).  Sophie revealed to me her confusion over the last six years.   As I saw her crumble in tears, I realized that it was not only me that needed closure, it was her.  It was all of my friends. The day I had left, I closed that chapter, and refused to finish it.  I had given them no explanation for my emotional episodes or distant behavior.  I smiled as they walked out the door, and when they came back, I was gone.

Sophie looked towards me for some sort of reaction, and explained what she remembered about the day I left…

I was walking back from class.  Someone called out to me and said, “Somethings going on with Hannah.  She is outside of the health center crying and screaming about how she can’t take it anymore.  She doesn’t want to live.”  I couldn’t believe it.  I kept walking, and then you were just gone, and I never knew what happened…

I have no recollection of this time.

You don’t remember Hannah?  Jenny asked.

No.  I don’t.

I sat there in disbelief.  It was the first time in years I had to confront the darkest time of my life.  With tears in her eyes Sophie asked me the question I had been dreading for 6 years.  I revealed to her what happened and why it occurred.

Please tell me what happened?

I told her the details of what happened that day.  I am still hesitant to share this part of my story publicly.  She cried so hard I thought she would break.  We all sat there in silence. The next day we woke up in one bed with smiles ear to ear.  When we all separated, we hugged each other longer than we ever had.

Six years ago I met a group of girls, who, little did I know, would save me from myself.  People who loved me so much they were willing to take the leap with me.  They had to look at an empty room not knowing if the person they used to see dancing would ever be the same again.  It built a strength in all of us, and an unbreakable bond.  No matter the distance, we have a story unlike any other.  We had no idea what we were doing or who we would become in the future.  All we knew is that we loved each other, and one of us was slowly withering away.  We are not friends, we are soulmates.  This past weekend I realized that reflecting on our struggle is not something to be feared.  It is an epic part of our story, and deserves to be shared.  It is no longer my story, it is our story.  A story about friendship, strength and genuine love.

To Jenny, Sophie, Michelle, Kim, Cayla, Alex, Katie, Cody & Kara.  Thank you for never giving up on me, always supporting me and loving me endlessly.  I would not be here without you.

It is important for those of us who have struggled with our mental health to understand that we are not the only ones hurting in these situations.  The people around us suffer, and have their own story that deserves to be heard.  If you have a friend who is struggling with their mental health.  Please look to my H2H Support Page or H2H Resource Page!  Don’t give up on those you love.

 

 

 

 

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.

Dear Dad: A Letter From Your Daughter With Bipolar

I was walking through a dark tunnel, no light to be seen.  All I could hear were the echoes of my own voice.  In the moment that I wanted to stop, to give up on finding the light, I felt the strength and confidence you had instilled in me over the years, prior to this moment.  You didn’t come into the tunnel to guide me to the light, for you knew that would not help me in the end.  You gave me the knowledge, the power and confidence to overcome this battle prior to me entering.  As I walked into the light again, you were standing there gleaming with joy saying to me,  “I never doubted you Hannah….I knew you wouldn’t give up.”-Halway2hannah

The first man who had his heart broken by me,was my father.  To see the little girl who danced to the beat of her own drum laying in a hospital bed, withering away only 19 years later;  he could protect me from everything in my life, but the one person he couldn’t protect me from was me.  This is a letter to my father from his daughter with bipolar…

Dear Dad,

Happy Father’s Day!  Instead of sending you a card, I decided to write a post in form of a letter to share with my friends, family & followers.  A novel would not be enough room to share with the people around me the impact you have had on my life.  Your strength helped me get off the ground, your confidence gave me hope when I felt like there was none, and your heart is what saved me in the end.

I will not remember the material gifts you gave me, or how much money you spent, although all gifts received are greatly appreciated.

This is what I will always remember dad…

…you sitting on the sidelines, applauding and gleaming at my success as an athlete, a student, a young teenager, with hope in your eyes for my future.

…you sitting at my bed side a few years later, holding my hand at my weakest, believing in my ability to overcome this battle with bipolar.

…the proud look on your face, sitting in the crowd of over 1,000 people waiting to see me graduate from College.

I will remember these moments because your support for me never changed regardless of the situation.  On the sidelines of being crowned prom queen, or in the moment when I was too weak to move, you were always proud, and always believed in me.

Thank you…

…for working to understand my diagnosis, even though you may never fully get it.

…for making me feel like my power stemmed from my flaws.

…for believing in me, when I didn’t believe in myself.

…for always pushing me to succeed regardless of a diagnosis.

…for never giving up on me.

…for embracing the wild child in me.

…for allowing me to share the details of my life without judgment.

…for making me feel beautiful when my reflection told me otherwise.

…for finding me when I was lost.

…for listening to my late night rambling when all you wanted to do was sleep.

…for loving me when I couldnt love myself.

Thank you dad, for being the father not many can be.  I used to think love could only be observed in the best moments of our lives, but I was wrong.  A fathers love for his daughter is truly shown in the worse moments.  Not in the moments you are seen dancing, but in the moments you are seen crumbling.  A fathers love is endless, thank you dad for teaching me this.

I love you always Dad.

Love, Hannah

Dad

 

To all the fathers who are struggling with their daughters-Do not give up on them.  They are capable, and you are capable of teaching them how to find the light again.  There is nothing more powerful than a fathers love for his daughter.  Happy Fathers Day to you all!