Editor’s note: We are publishing this article on behalf of a well-educated African American professional woman who wanted to share her story for those going through a similar struggle with bipolar disorder. This is also a plea for help…
I need to write about the sensitive topic of mental health today. How does mental health effect traditional, Christian, ambitious, educated, and well-rounded black women? Do the words mental health alarm most people, especially black culture? Have you ever met someone who could not find a way to sleep regularly?
I am writing to express myself, an African American woman, prior to insomnia with the diagnosis of bipolar depression II, needs when facing this diagnosis, and my ups and downs to maintain a career. The general behavioral health doctors express that there are successful patients functioning well, some continually staggering to stay afloat (describes me), and others who permanently do not work. I have consistently been in and out of my career in the field of disability services from being a special education teacher, rehabilitation specialist, to speaker.
Early on in life, I enjoyed being a positive influence on others. I was happy and healthy as could be. I was a young leader giving inspirational speeches and praise dances at churches. I grew up in a traditional family. I was involved on each of my campuses in junior high, high school, and college on committees, cheerleading, track and field, student council; In summary, I was an all-around individual with academics, peers, respect from elders, and full of ambition in the community.
I received two full scholarships to graduate school ministry programs, SMU and TCU. I attended Southern Methodist University for one semester. After that, at 23, my health began to drastically change. I developed sleep problems, emotional stress peaked, and panic began as I entered behavioral health doctors’ care.
Bipolar II involves ups and down in mood with an abnormal sad state tied to depressive mood problems no matter how much I fight them. I was recently told by doctor that with this disorder, unfortunately, I do not have a will over it.
My diagnosis involves the following:
• Insomnia, inability to fall asleep, tied to depression with significant communication issues with doctors, family, insurance, and working ability changes including NINE hospitalizations and numerous ER visits
• Long processes and gaps without income and employment
• Intensified challenges to have anything steady including regular functionality, social life, independent living (moved in with family)
I am ineligible for social security disability benefits because my work years/age timeline policy for public school workers is not covered (limits any income while needing long term or short term disability)
• Ability taken away to critically think, risky, and unrealistic behaviors in important decisions
• Difficulty to follow up on medical bills, regular bills, and budget without regular functioning (spiraled into a poor credit report)
Medications have caused: chronic fatigue, confusion, abnormal headaches, dizziness, weight up/down, unending physical aches, unusual sleepiness without sleep, anxiety, depression, muscle issues, restlessness, risky, wreckful behaviors.
At 22, I could not have imagined my life to take these turns of instability and survival problems. Now, 31, I hope this messages reaches someone who can imagine someone like me, volunteering on weekends at Dallas Film Festivals, March of Dimes, preparing my hair for winning/crowning Ms. Juneteenth Pageant and drastically having a life change that became dependent, less accomplished, and unable to prepare for life in important ways like I once could such as saving for home ownership, maintain traditional 8-5 work schedule, and enough income to keep high nutrition requirements.
I know it would be wonderful if I could own an expressive art gallery in Dallas Art Districts tailored to the bipolar community with art work that expresses individuals’ journeys with the disorder. This career would provide a beneficial community education business through the arts and flexible hours I need. How interesting could that be!
I dream of my life to feel alive again. Starting eight years ago, my need for special grocers gradually came to surface such as the need for gluten free foods. Research has proven strong ties to gluten intolerance and depression. My mothers’ teacher salary can only support a bit as I need major treatments not covered by insurance.
Chronic fatigue has presented significant problems for me to have any recovery. I am not conveniently located to health specialty food stores, treatments, volunteer opportunities, or social events to optimize my health. Can anyone help me with funding to get stable and achieve healthy outcomes?: own a home where I would have the opportunity to have ongoing treatments for my disorder: garden therapy, personal trainer, an art studio, afford alternative healing/treatments (not covered by insurance) for my disorder to hopefully end my hospitalization cycles and lead a gluten free lifestyle?
Dallas, TX resident