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Lessons Learned from a 27 Year Recovery Walk. Michele Alexander Bibby. Who Am I. 51 year LWBIA 27 years managing my Bipolar Disorder Married for 27 years, recently widowed Parent of 2 children 5 years of experience parenting a child with a mental health diagnosis I am the EVIDENCE.

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who am i
Who Am I
  • 51 year LWBIA
  • 27 years managing my Bipolar Disorder
  • Married for 27 years, recently widowed
  • Parent of 2 children
  • 5 years of experience parenting a child with a mental health diagnosis
  • I am the EVIDENCE
my story
My Story
  • About Me
  • Only child
  • College graduate
  • Mom, 2 kids
  • Diagnosed while in Law School
  • Medication Compliant for many years
  • 20 plus year successful career in Human Resources
  • Pregnancy, age 40 … hormonal shift
more about me
More About Me
  • Change in medication
  • Four years of seasonal cycling,
    • 4 summers of crisis hospitalizations
    • 2 inpatient commitments
  • Inability to work
  • Acceptance of the illness
more about me1
More about me
  • Education about bipolar disorder
  • Re-claiming my life
  • Giving back
    • Volunteering, DBSA support groups
  • Telling my story for the 1st time 2007
  • Trained as a certified peer specialist
more about me2
More About Me
  • Worked part-time as CPS at Austin State Hospital (previous patient)
  • Worked full-time as a consultant with Via Hope
  • Worked myself off disability
  • Grief of recent loss
  • Supporting children through their loss
  • I believe recovery is a process, not a destination. My recovery journey has spanned 27 years
  • SAMHSA working definition of recovery. A process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self- directed life, and strive to reach their full potential.
childhood experiences matter
Childhood Experiences Matter
  • Childhood trauma leaves scars
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study – CDC and Kaiser Permanente, www.acestudy.org
  • ACE study says the more adverse experiences in childhood, the greater likelihood for struggling in adulthood
  • Childhood experiences can be a critical starting point of reference for counseling therapy
sick children sick families
Sick children ….. Sick families
  • Emotionally distressed children are the outcome of sick family systems
  • In my case, after my diagnosis I began a journey of 27 years of counseling therapy
  • No one in my family participated in or received any type of therapy
  • I believe if you give counseling to a child from a distressed family and the child begins to improve, the benefits are diminished when they are returned to a sick family dynamic
when the illness shows up matters
When The Illness Shows Up Matters
  • In my case, I was in Law School
  • The later the onset of the illness, the more a person is likely to have accomplished
  • We must acknowledge the difficulty children and adolescents have when they are diagnosed so early
  • Childhood and adolescent diagnoses can impair the potential a person’s life may hold
dreams deferred
Dreams Deferred
  • As MH Consumers we have life goals and we have dreams
  • Does the dreaded “D” – diagnosis mean the death of our dreams?
impact of race on diagnosis
Impact of Race on Diagnosis
  • The vestiges of slavery have left a legacy of anger in our community
  • Anger should not result in a diagnosis
  • Being black male should not increase the likelihood for special education or diagnoses
  • We have to be very discerning about the labels put on us, on members of our community and our children
mh service trauma
MH Service Trauma
  • MH consumer diagnosed in the 1980’s, I experienced
    • Straight Jackets
    • Rubber Isolation Rooms
    • Mistreatment when you are the most vulnerable
  • There is a problem in our society when a person has to recover from the “therapeutic” services they received
fear blame and shame
Fear, Blame and Shame
  • In my family, no one wanted to acknowledge any presence of mental illness in the family. There appeared to be a lot of fear related to my diagnosis
  • Different sides of the family were blamed
  • No one wanted to talk about the illness, consequently I felt a lot of shame
  • We have to open up the dialogue in our families to normalize the conversations about the presence of mental health issues in our families
language matters
Language Matters
  • Crazy
  • Odd
  • Troubled
  • Mental Health Consumer
  • Distressed
medication compliance
Medication Compliance
  • I was blessed in that the first med I was prescribed was the right med
  • I learned early on that the medication management was key to managing my symptoms
  • Many consumers are not so fortunate and spend years trying to find the right cocktail
  • Years of productivity can be lost spent adjusting and changing meds
  • This is compounded for children and adolescents with constantly changing brains
  • In 2002, I had a baby and had to change a med I had been taking for 20 years
  • I began seasonal cycling
  • I had 4 summers in crisis. Four hospitalizations
  • I had to reorder my life
  • Disability was a life saving option
  • Once on disability, I came to terms with my illness
  • I accepted that I had an illness that had to be managed and could become unmanageable
  • Being on disability afforded me the poor treatment many MH consumers experience everyday
self awareness
Self Awareness
  • During a hospitalization at ASH, I was exposed to Mary Ellen Copelands Wellness Recovery Action Program (WRAP)
  • WRAP allowed me insight that has become critical in managing my illness. I now know how to gage
    • Early warning signs
    • Signs that things are breaking down
    • What are my triggers
    • Who are my supporters
support system
Support System
  • As a MH consumer, having a circle of caring, loving people is key
  • A loving support system ensures you are not isolated
  • Having a supportive and loving family has been one of my success strategies
relationships matter
Relationships Matter
  • We are meant to be in relationship one to another
  • My greatest desire is to be engaged in healthy relationships with positive people
  • Sometimes we do and say things in crisis that can strain or damage relationships
  • I believe just as we can work on our recovery, we can work to recover relationships when they are worthwhile
peer support
Peer Support
  • There is nothing like the mutuality of a relationship between people with lived experience
  • DBSA tag line, “We’ve been there, we can help”
  • I became a certified peer specialist. This is a career opportunity for MH consumers
  • The authenticity of relating and sharing that PS provide in clinical settings is incomparable
wonderfully made
Wonderfully Made
  • People living with mental illness are extra sensitive and I believe a little extra human
  • We are especially sensitive to light, season, hurt and pain (our own and others)
  • We can relate
  • Perhaps MH consumers are “extra” human
  • There is a lot of pain and darkness in this world
  • MH consumers are uniquely equipped to detect and support the distress of others
shift of focus illness to wellness
Shift of FocusIllness to Wellness
  • What you focus on you give power to
  • I began to focus on the things I do to stay well
  • These are my wellness strategies
    • Meds
    • Heart Healthy Diet
    • Exercise
    • Healthy Relationships
    • Spirituality
    • Under committing
    • African American Therapist
    • Wicked smart Psychiatrist
    • Integration of physical and mental health care
giving back
Giving Back
  • I learned that Giving Back is also a key wellness strategy for me
  • I learned to be a support group facilitator with DBSA. I became DBSA chapter President
  • It has been said to those whom much is given, much is required. So, I have moved my efforts to advocacy
  • MLK said “Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”
  • There is still a lot of injustice that plays itself out with MH consumers on many different system levels
priorities change
Priorities Change
  • Career
  • Family
  • Managing the Illness
  • Maintaining Wellness
  • Me
  • Advocacy
failure is a part of growth
Failure Is a Part of Growth
  • Failure can actually put you on the path to the next great chapter in your life
  • Recovery is non-linear. The non-linearity of it includes dead ends and detours
  • The key is staying on the path
life throws curve balls
Life Throws Curve Balls
  • Emotional Distress
  • Situational Distress
    • Catastrophic Events
    • Death/Loss
    • Chronic Illness
  • Key is overcoming
fully recovered
Fully Recovered
  • Decision Making
  • Major Social Supports
  • Social Role / Identity
  • Role of Medication
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF)
  • Sense of Self
my responsibility
My Responsibility
  • My words, actions
  • Be a loving parent
  • Maintaining my own wellness
  • Continuing education about mental health matters
  • Supporting & inspiring my peers. Informing folks about mental health issues from a consumer perspective
  • Books
    • Visible Darkness, William Styron
    • Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jemison
    • Brilliant Madness, Patti Duke
  • Via Hope, www.viahope.org. Certified Peer Specialist training and certification
  • Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), Mary Ellen Copeland, www.mentalhealthrecovery.com
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE Study)
  • FacingUs, www.facingus.org - Wellness Tracker
  • Depression Bipolar Support Alliance, DBSA. www.dbsalliance.org - Support Groups and other resources
  • SAMHSA Working Definition of Recovery. http://store.samhsa.gov/product/SAMHSA-s-Working-Definition-of-Recovery/PEP12-RECDEF
  • National Empowerment Center, ECPR Training, www.power2u.org