In 1997, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, it took seven additional years for me to become an active participant in managing my illness. Once I faced it, I realized bipolar disorder had played a significant role throughout my life. Prior to my diagnosis, I failed out of college, married an old high school friend and in the blink of an eye, my world became my husband and my two children. I lived the majority of my thirteen-year marriage undiagnosed. As my husband sought comfort from others, my manic and depressive episodes became more and more extreme. I would go for days without sleep, shop excessively and start business after business. And then the lows would come – I would rarely get out of bed, sometimes only to take my children to school in my pajamas. I went through the motions of each extreme state without any idea that there was a reasonable explanation for my behavior. But the worst was yet to come.
In November 2001 my world came crashing down around me. My husband took our two young sons and went to live in another city with another woman. I lost everything dear to me, as well as my version of a support system. Without the coping skills and ability to handle the situation, I was on a sudden and dangerous downward spiral. Over the course of the next four years, I often had suicidal thoughts, was arrested numerous times and lived in a manic state. In sum, I was trapped in a tunnel of darkness with no ray of hope to be found at either end.
Finally, in January 2005 it hit me like a lightning bolt: “The storm has passed, Sarah! Make the choice to control your own life! Pick up the pieces and face the world!” The next day I called Krist Samaritan Center and was set up with a fabulous therapist. Within the next two weeks, I was with a new doctor and on the right medication regimen. Based on the therapist’s recommendation, I tried a DBSA Greater Houston support group. I went to my first meeting and left thinking “this is not for me.” My therapist urged me to try it again. I did, begrudgingly, and suddenly I was hooked. As I listened to others share their stories, and in turn told my own, I saw people nodding with understanding – for the first time I had an empathetic support system. These people really understood me!
The DBSA Greater Houston sponsored support group connects me with others and helps me to deal with my own illness. I have had the pleasure of being a DBSA Greater Houston facilitator for two years now and was the proud recipient of the 2008 Rookie Facilitator of the Year award. As a facilitator I know I am helping others by giving the participants the tools they need to help each other. In group, we do not always have the answers and sometimes there are no words that can express the feelings; but we will always listen, be a shoulder to cry on and keep working week after week to support each other. I am honored to be a part of DBSA Greater Houston, and am thrilled with the growth and vision of the Greater Houston chapter.
As my life has come into clarity, I now have a job with more responsibility than I ever thought possible, and I have returned to school to get my degree in Social Work. I am excited about the opportunity to share my story with others; while some will be shocked, I know many will nod and understand. Because I know my life has had some anguished times, I want to share my story with others, giving them hope and encouragement to have the strength to keep coming back to our groups, knowing that a better life is out there for them. Thanks in large part to DBSA Greater Houston, a life that was once full of sadness and pain is now a life worth living. I know I deserve it, and now I look forward to every day with hope, promise and the adventures that await my new life.