CPA; CFE; CGMA; Mental Health Advocate
Successfully living with bipolar disorder and PTSD

A fierce believer in the potential and creativity of those with mental illness, Christina survived a harrowing and abusive upbringing; coping not only with her own mental illness, but those of many family members. After years of personal struggle, today Christina says, “life is better.” She is making a career change from CPA to full-time mental health advocate to help destigmatize mental illness and educate the public that “those of us with these conditions are human beings with the same dreams, aspirations and successes as others.”

Christina’s Story

When were you first aware of your condition?

With hindsight, I had issues at a young age.  My family and I had similar symptoms of erratic behavior and emotional outbursts, which I thought to be healthy. In addition, my childhood was traumatic which further exacerbated my illness.  Due to genetics and environment, I’ve been hospitalized a few times and attempted suicide. In 2004, I received my diagnosis.

What was your most difficult time?

In 2004, my first difficult time was when I had a nervous breakdown while at work. I have always considered myself to be a competent employee, but agreeing to work with 7 different bosses, each with their unique management style and expectation, wasn’t ideal. It was a pressure cooker. This setting triggered my bipolar episode, I sought help through my health insurance provider who connected me with psychiatric care.

How did you get through it?

Once diagnosed, my treatment plan was proper medication, therapy and prayer. There was no quick cure, it was a process, which took years. My recovery includes exercising, eating healthier, reading, dancing and attending support groups.  Another method to heal and strengthen my mind was to tutor adults in GED and CUNY Math. Educating adults and helping them achieve their dreams was cathartic.

How do you manage your condition and stay healthy?

First and foremost, I avoid toxic people and environments. A great sleep is 8 hours. My exercise is 3 to 4 times a week. I do Pilates as wells as cardio exercises, such as jumping jacks, jump rope and walking the Brooklyn Bridge. Acupuncture has also helped tremendously.

What encouragement would you give to family members/friends who are worried about a loved one with a mental health condition?

Never shut the door on your loved one. Be willing to listen before you react, be non-judgmental, and show empathy. Try to make them laugh or bring up a special time you shared. Ask what will make them feel better: whether it’s a movie, their favorite ice cream or a hug. If necessary, go to therapy with them.

What does success look like to you?

Success is setting goals and accomplishing them, such as studying for the CPA exam and passing it; dreaming of a lovely home and purchasing it. These “hooray” moments bring joy to my life and is a testament to my worthiness.  I am not my illness, I just happen to live with one.