Organizational Development Specialist, Martha K. Selig Educational Institute, The Jewish Board, New York City
Living with bipolar 2 disorder

Emily was an 18-year-old college student when she began having panic attacks, depression and mania struggles that continued after school. With the help of a caring therapist, spiritual practice and medication, Emily began to turn her life around. Today she provides training to mental health professionals and has a private practice coaching young adults struggling with mental health. She says that bipolar disorder is her biggest blessing. “My current job, which I love, is a direct result of my mental illness. I have great relationships. And, I feel proud of myself when I look in the mirror.”

Emily’s Story

What was your most difficult time?

During my senior year and post-college, I started to experience psychosis. My thoughts were not based in reality, and I was seeing things that weren’t there. This created a lot of struggle, and I could not find a job. Later I also struggled with side effects of the medication.

What helped you get well and move to stability?

My therapist told me I had a choice. I could either get lost in the mental health system as a “chronic patient,” or I could use the skills she was teaching me to manage my emotions and turn my life around. She helped me undo years of belief that I was “sick” and beyond help. I began to employ her coping strategies. I found a spiritual practice that made sense to me. I got into graduate school. Slowly, I began to get my life back.

How do you manage your condition and stay healthy?

The thing that has helped me the most consistently is Buddhism. Meditation has transformed my brain. I barely have symptoms anymore! I also walk regularly with friends and get support from my Buddhist community.

I have started to watch my diet more carefully and am part of a 12-step group for eating disorders called Overeaters Anonymous. I also find that talking with my parents once a day is an important ingredient to my wellness. I see a psychiatrist and therapist as needed.

What words of encouragement would you give to someone struggling with a condition similar to yours?

One of the most important things you can do is advocate for yourself. If something is not working, don’t be afraid to tell your providers, and even change providers if you have to. You can get better. We live in an age where people really can get better with treatment. The more we expect that we can get better, the more likely we will. And don’t be afraid to be your authentic self. These illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of.