When I think about recovery from mental illness three words come to mind: resilience, hope, and hostilities. Mental illnesses can seem like a life sentences, but through hard work and patience one can recover. Recently, I connected with Cathryn Murray who has been walking the path of recovery and learning how to their back control of their life. In 2009, Cathryn was diagnosed with Bipolar, and she has been very open in sharing the challenges and barriers along the way. After hearing Cathryn’s story, I wanted to share it with you, and I hope you find her story as inspiring as I did.
SWH: What were your first thoughts upon hearing the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and how did you begin to internalize the fact that you have a mental illness?
Cathryn: At first, I did not want to believe that I had a mental illness. I chose to pretend like I did not have a mental illness. In the beginning, I stopped taking my medications and this resulted in me losing everything that I owned. I was forced to live in a Board and Care for three years. During this time, I learned about my condition, participated in day treatment programs and graduated from SPIRIT, a program that helps consumers become peer support workers. I have learned that it is okay to have an illness. I have learned more about my condition and today I am on the right path, taking the right meds for me and dealing with my symptoms in a positive way. I think it was my case manager Ziba that really opened my eyes to the fact that I had an illness. One day she told me that I had a mental illness, and I needed to take medications. It was that day that I wanted to learn all about Bipolar I and learn to deal with this illness.
SWH: How did your upbringing impact your mental health?
Cathryn: I was diagnosed with Bipolar I in my late 30’s. I am 38 now. I have always had Bipolar I, but I was not diagnosed with it until now. I believe that I have always had a Mental Illness. I was often shy and an introvert while growing up. My mother was a remarkable individual that taught me a lot about life and helped me to be responsible and caring. I was raised properly and to be independent and self sufficient, but I always had a problem with my relationships with friends. For the first time in my life, I have friends and family to turn to that have helped me on this road to recovery.
SWH: How did those around you react to you having a mental illness?
Cathryn: I lost a few friends, but those individuals were never my true friends. I have learned to speak out about my illness and have developed new friendships with the many programs that I have been apart in. I have made a lot of friends on social media sites and my family has been both supportive and caring. I guess I am blessed that I really have not had any negative experiences. I am learning to make new friends at school and work on establishing new friendships.
SWH: Explain the process you took to get help for your mental illness and how it changed your life?
Cathryn: After being hospitalized two times, I realized that I had a mental illness. I started researching about Bipolar and attending day treatment programs, which helped me tremendously to get on the right track again. I have also learned a lot about my illness from SPIRIT, a program that helps consumers become peer support workers in the mental health field. This program made me realize that I am so much more than my diagnosis. I participated in SPIRIT and graduated from the program in 2012. I later went on to enrolling at a local business college and plan to graduate from the program in 18 months. I think both being hospitalized and working with a case manager/therapist has helped me become stable and the person that I am today.
SWH: What does being in recovery mean to you?
Cathryn: Recovery means challenge, hard work, determination, and hard core tenacity. Recovery means no more excuses no further delay. This is for real this is not for play! So I grit my teeth and put my feet to the grind ready to battle to do whatever it takes. Whatever I have to endure I know its well worth the cost. Because of all the good things that I know recovery can also be. Recovery means restoration. Restoration of peace of mind, restoration of love for my family and myself. Ultimately, to me, recovery means everything, recovery means life.
SWH: How your perception of life changed from this experience?
Cathryn: I have learned to appreciate life a lot more since being diagnosed with a mental illness. Before my breakdown I was working for a good company and modeling. My life seemed pretty awesome, but then things started changing for the worse I lost everything. But in life you can’t take anything with you. I have grown so much from this experience and it has caused me to appreciate things more. I am now moving on my own again. I am not scared anymore and I know that I can deal with my mental illness and continue to live a healthy life.
SWH: What piece of advice would you offer to someone who is suffering hopelessly with a mental illness?
Cathryn:Mental Illnesses are forever, but they are treatable. If you are on the wrong medications, change them. If you are seeing a doctor who is not helping you, get a different doctor. Keep reaching for sanity, because it is there. I promise you. I also believe in GOD. For me my belief in GOD and having faith has helped me to become stronger and stable again.
Cathryn Murray is a full time student at Heald Business College in Concord, CA, majoring in Entrepreneurship Business. She is passionate about writing, Mental Health issues and photography. You can visit her online at her blog, Twitter, or on Facebook.