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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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!

Actively Dating with Bipolar 2 Disorder

What’s it like living with bipolar 2 disorder and actively dating? Check out my new video on my HealthyPlace YouTube channel to find out. Share your comments or send in a response video to info@healthyplace.com!

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.

What I Want People to Know About My Life with Bipolar

When you have a mental health condition, people lump you into one big category of, for lack of a better term, crazy. The stigma molds us into these people that frankly speaking, we are not. It’s as if we have no chance of being successful and productive individuals. In this video, I shed light on a couple things I want people to know about my life with bipolar. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and share your thoughts in the comment section.

Oh BTW ignore the fact that I look borderline insane in this video thumbnail.

Dating with Bipolar Disorder

In today’s society, with all the dating apps and social pressure, dating is hard enough right? Imagine having a stigmatized mental health condition on top of all that. In this video, I explain why dating with bipolar can be extremely stressful and what to do about it. Don’t mind the crooked face 😉

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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bipolar Disorder and Friendships

When I was diagnosed with bipolar II, I had to come back to the place I had run from, my home. In this video, my best friend Courtney opens up to me about her experience having a best friend with bipolar. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel.