Program Coordinator, Mental Health and Addiction Services and Peer Support Specialist, Harborview Medical Center
Living with bipolar disorder

Like their father, Thai and her twin sister suffered from bipolar disorder. In 2013, they both hit “rock bottom” at the same time and struggled to function. They nearly lost their lives before seeking treatment. Despite the ultimate loss of her sister, Thai has reached stability. She has come to realize her own strength – and to give herself credit for all the hard work she puts in to stay mentally and physically healthy.

Thai’s Story

How has mental illness impacted your life?

It has taken two family members from me: my dad and my twin sister both lost their battles and died by suicide. Losing my twin has been the most painful part of dealing with this condition because she was the other half of my soul.

In my own life, it broke my family apart. In my manic phase, I quit my job, piled up debt and ended my marriage. Once I spiraled into depression, I had to give up custody of my daughter and quit school before I could finish my B.S.

What helped you get well and move to stability?

My journey to recovery started the night I was admitted for psychiatric care. When I was discharged, I decided to take advantage of the Peer Bridger Program offered by the hospital. My peer bridgers – two individuals who also suffer from mental illness but are in active recovery – helped me transition from inpatient care to outpatient care. My recovery team helped me to get temporary housing and ultimately permanent employment. I was also able to receive trauma therapy to cope with my sister’s suicide.

The most fundamental key to my recovery has been my work. It enabled me to regain my confidence and most importantly, to provide for my daughter and afford my own place. I focused on staying actively involved by volunteering within a mental health organization, which helped me stay out of isolation.

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

I take my medication daily and try my best to practice self-care with exercise and healthy eating. I reach out when I need someone to talk to. I focus on not being ashamed of having a mental illness.

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

Your life is worth fighting for. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help – because no one can beat mental illness without support. You are not alone. Recovery is a life long journey and having ups and downs does not mean failure.

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

Be patient, loving, supportive, and nonjudgmental. Seek counseling for your loved one and for yourself. It will help you better understand the mental illness your loved one is suffering from.