Mental Health Strategist, Executive Coach and Management Consultant, Mental Health Innovations
Living with bipolar disorder

Leslie’s mental health challenges began with a manic episode in 1997. After more than a decade of isolation and suffering while keeping her illness a secret, today Leslie talks freely of her struggles, hoping to help others. Her illness became the catalyst to start her own business helping companies prioritize the mental health of their employees. “My commitment to diminishing stigma is greater than any fear of talking about my illness.”

Leslie’s Story

What was your most difficult time? How did you get through it?

After I was diagnosed, it was very challenging to assimilate what had happened and how it would change my life. My living conditions, job, friends, how I related to myself – all of it felt uncertain. At first I just survived. I took my medication and did my blood work, and that was it. The stigma paralyzed me. Everything I did was from a place of fear of someone finding out.  I had no power with my illness; it had all the power over me.

What helped you move toward stability?

In 2010 I took a self-development workshop (Landmark Forum) and it was transformational. It shifted my perspective of the illness to just something I have – like my left hand – rather than someone I AM. It was the moment I went from not talking about my illness to speaking about it publicly. I told family first, then work colleagues, peers and friends.

What do you do to manage your condition and stay healthy?

I limit sugar, and no longer eat gluten, dairy and or drink alcohol. Sleep is consistent and predictable, with rest periods scheduled in. I exercise regularly and take my medicine religiously. I talk freely about my mental health and write a blog for professionals offering strategies to thrive while living with a mental health illness.

What is your life like now?

I love my life. I’m successful professionally and personally, and I get to make a difference with people each day. I live my purpose and am able to manage life’s complex challenges as they occur. I work with brilliant people who are equally passionate about creating change in the workplace around the topic of mental health.

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

There is a way to live and thrive with a mental health condition, so don’t give up. Ask for support, learn what your triggers are, talk to others who have been through the same illness, and use the resources available to you.

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

Understand the behaviors come from the illness and not the person. Learn as much about their illness as possible, and get yourself into a peer support group. Lastly, make sure you are also taking care of yourself.