Executive Director of The Stability Network and Many Minds Collaborative
Living with bipolar disorder with recurrent psychosis, suicidal depression, anxiety, and OCD

Although her first psychotic break wasn’t until age 29, Katherine remembers having symptoms as early as fourth grade. With the aid of her husband and the “stable family ecosystem” they created together, she now has a full life – with a wonderful son, a loving family and meaningful work that lets her use her own mental health experience to improve others’ lives.

Katherine’s Story

What are the most difficult times for you in coping with your condition?

When I experience depressions and dysphoric manias. The scariest times are when I want to kill myself and fear for my safety. I feel completely alone in my suffering – as though no one could possibly understand. The Stability Network has really helped me cope with those times because I have so many peers who understand and have walked in similar shoes. Their mere existence helps me get through it.

What helped you get well and move to stability?

Ultimately, the thing that has kept me alive is my commitment to my husband, and now, to my son. My husband worked hard to create a stable ecosystem – he set high expectations for what he and I both needed to do. Going to bed multiple hours earlier than before, charting my moods every night, exercising every day, taking drugs that made me gain a lot of weight. I fought him vehemently at first. He said, “Just try.” I did and I saw that all of these steps helped. But it was a long process.

How do you manage your condition and stay healthy?

I work at being healthy every single day. In terms of strategies, it is a “cocktail” of approaches: nine hours of sleep every night; a lot of medication, including a powerful anti-psychotic; daily exercise; regular psychiatry visits; intense dialectical behavioral therapy; adorable cats; mood charting; and avoidance of interpersonal stress. Work is a wonderfully grounding part of my existence and has been key to my recovery. I love that I am alive and can help others live, too.

What advice would you give to others who are struggling?

Find something you care enough about to live for. Be patient. The struggle is worth it. Good days will return.

If you could go back and do something over, what would it be?

I wouldn’t have gone back to work so quickly after my hospitalizations. I didn’t give myself enough time to heal and I was still symptomatic. I was afraid if I didn’t return quickly I would lose my job – my tether to the world. See if you can negotiate some time off without having to give your job up entirely.