The Right Perspective is Everything
I Enjoy My Senior Years By Helping Others
At the age of forty, job related stress brought on my first episode of major depression. Since 1980, I had been diagnosed with bipolar 1 and have had seven breakdowns requiring electro-convulsive therapy.
My last event was four years ago, and today I am in full recovery, not cured, but able to fully function. I attend support group meetings at NAMI and Recovery International. I believe my acquired coping skills and new positive attitude allows me to not dwell on the past, which is subject to interpretation, nor the future, which is unknown, and to focus on the present.
For thirty years, I was able to work on Wall Street. I've been married 51 years, have two grown children and four grandchildren, despite my recurrent illness. Bipolar has made me sensitive to the plight of others, more understanding and appreciative of the people in my life.
When I am well, I think back to the darkest days of my life, and when I am ill, I remember how I overcame the nightmare that is mental illness seven times. If my dark days return, I know that with treatment I can survive.
My recovery has been reinforced by my advocacy efforts. As a member of JAC NYC (Jails Action Coalition), I fight to end solitary confinement, especially for those with mental illness, and I am active with RIPPD (Rights for Imprisoned People With Psychiatric Disabilities), which fights for Community Crisis Intervention Teams.
In 1990, after 30 years of employment at a major firm, I was downsized and told that my position was being eliminated due to the recession in the economy. When I responded that I had seniority and they were keeping younger people on the job with less seniority than I, they said seniority only applies to union workers. So much for loyalty in the capitalistic system. I sued under the Employment Disability Laws and was eventually given long term disability and Social Security Disability.
Not working was a shock for me. Having a schedule each day, putting on a nice suit, white shirt and tie, working alongside fellow workers, engaging them in conversation about sports, current events , their children involved in Little League baseball, was no longer available. I had to find other dreams and outlets that provided me with involvement.
I am now a speaker for MHA and last month I made a presentation at Bellevue for consumers such as myself. My biggest happiness is seeing other consumers who have struggled to cope with their new life eventually helping others in the support groups I attend. They help, not with advice, but by relating how under similar circumstances they found out that "eventually every problem has a solution."