by Maricela Estrada
& Lorie Lewis Ham
This week author Maricela Estrada joins us with a guest post about her struggle with bipolar disorder. We also have a review of her memoir, Bipolar Girl and instructions on how to enter to win a copy at the end of this post.
The thing about mental illness is that medication can only do so much. We have to put in the extra effort. When I say this I mean that we need to feed our mind positive things. We need to reframe negative self-talk or depressed moods into positive thoughts and energy.
Even when I wrote Bipolar Girl, I still had a lot of symptoms that I couldn’t quite control. I suffered from depression and suicidal ideation. Almost any little thing was just an excuse for me to overdose. I had lost track of how many times I tried killing myself.
On my last suicide attempt I overdosed and damaged my heart and all the muscles in my body. I remember that I overdosed at around 10 pm and my roommate came home intoxicated around 2 am. She didn’t realize what I did and did not call 911 until 7 am. The way I look at it is that I should’ve been dead. It was by God’s grace that He saved me from death by my own hands.
Finally, I had this beautiful awakening and I started to appreciate my life and everyone in it. I began to reframe all those horrible damaging, negative thoughts and self-destructive behaviors: I lost friends and broke relationships; I worried my family, especially my mother who is my world. I thought, “Mari! Enough! Don’t you love yourself?” You need to stop and get your life together.” So that was it. That was one step towards wellness and recovery.
When I talk about mental illness, it doesn’t mean just popping pills. We need to take care of ourselves in every aspect: mind, body and soul. Some of you may have heard of this, it is called holistic health. We need to feed ourselves healthy food and nourish our bodies, and exercise: go walking, yoga.
We also need to believe in something. This is called spirituality. It doesn’t mean you have to be religious. I personally am religious and spiritual but that is just me. You can chose to believe in God or a guardian angel. and if you don’t believe in either, you can believe in your higher self. I do a lot of meditation and that has helped me in my recovery and spiritual journey because when I meditate, I pray.
The other thing is that I see mental health recovery as a circle, like a pie divided in slices. One slice is our psychiatrist and/or medication. The other slice is therapy or case management. The next slice is our support system, meaning group therapy, peer groups or online support groups. The following slice would be spirituality, then body and exercise. Finally, support in general: family, friends, and if you don’t have family or friends, join a support group. You will make friends there. The thing that I want to tell all of you is that RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE FOR EVERYONE! You just need to take that first step.
Also, accept your mental illness. I spent four long and painful years in denial. There is nothing wrong with having a mental illness. I see my mental illness as a wonderful gift. I like to call it a gift of challenge because, yes, it challenges my life everyday but it has made me a better person – more loving, compassionate, humble, resilient and strong. If I could do it, so can you.
I graduated college Cal State Fullerton and also graduated from the Project Return Peer Support Network Peer Advocacy Program and now I’m working as a Peer Advocate for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. A Peer Advocate is someone with lived experienced that is trained to work in mental health. I absolutely love my job. I plan to continue my education with my Master’s in Social Work. I would like to become a Psychiatric Social Worker or Marriage, Family and Child Therapist. I haven’t decided what school but that is something that I plan for the future.
So please follow your dreams and just see how beautiful and bountiful your life will be. Just remember that I have been there. I’m turning 32 on April 20th and in these 32 years, I have been in and out of mental hospitals at least 20 times. Trust me. There is life after mental illness, psychosis, depression– there is life and it is beautiful!
Bipolar Girl, My Psychotic Self by Maricela Estrada
Bipolar Girl is the memoir of Maricela Estrada and her struggle with bipolar disorder. Raised by her widowed Mexican mother and surrounded by poverty and violence in East Los Angeles, Maricela suffered with depression all of her life, leading to her first suicide attempt at the age of 14, despite being a good student and popular in school.
In this book, she shares her struggles through the years after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her journey to becoming better. There were many suicide attempts and time spent in more than one mental hospital along the way.
This is a very emotional journey that Maricela takes the reader on—she is very honest about her struggles and her pain, and her courage through it all shines through. If you have ever wondered what it is like to suffer from bipolar disorder, or perhaps you have been diagnosed yourself and are looking for a reason to hope, check out this inspirational book.
To enter to win a copy of Bipolar Girl, simply email KRL at kinsgriverlife[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject line “Bipolar”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 12, 2012. U.S. residents only.
Check out more mental health articles and book reviews in KRL’s Mental Health section.