Second Chances for Life

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Idaho National Forest

Four years ago I almost lost my life because of untreated bipolar disorder.  During a manic and psychotic episode I drove 3300 miles until finally landing in the mountains, lost on foot in the Idaho National Forest.

In the middle of winter, after two days of surviving without a coat, socks or backpacking gear I was rescued by two people riding ATV’s.  I don’t think I would have survived the elements for one more day.  My only injury was dehydration and frostbite.

Because of my experience I am a person who feels very strongly about finding the right treatment regimen.  I am adamant that bipolar disorder left untreated can lead to unwanted and serious consequences.

But I can also say that it is imperative to find the right treatment team.  I was under the care of a physician and therapist at the time of my episode.  But I lost insight into my illness and then stopped all my medications.

For a very long time I blamed myself for what happened.  Then I realized that having bipolar disorder is not my fault.  Where I am accountable is making certain  I do the best job possible in managing my illness.

The first time anyone shed light on bipolar disorder signs and symptoms was in the hospital in Idaho.  I wish more treatment facilities would take the time to educate patients about their illness.  It made a world of difference to me.

This experience among others, has taught me not only about bipolar disorder but also about myself.  I learned that even in my most compromised state of mind I had the will to live.  I learned just how strong I have been.  I learned it was not my time to go.

With this second chance at life I want to make sure I help educate others about mental illness.  I want to help eliminate stigma because it dramatically affects all of us.

I also want to share I have recovered.  Even though I have been to a stage 4 mental illness I have gotten better.  I work.  Give talks.  Write.  Advocate.

No matter where you are in your struggle with mental illness, know you can get well.  It is a fight but it is possible.  I am living proof.

“Never underestimate your ability to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Why keeping a positive attitude matters inspite of depression

It is frustrating to live with depression.  I get it.  I walk to the beat of humming depression almost everyday.  It is clearly frustrating to take a handful of medications and not eliminate my symptoms entirely.  

What helps me feel better is that I try very hard to maintain a positive attitude. Is it easy?  No.  But it is truly imperative.

I never realized how much depression could influence my thoughts until a friend gave me some feedback one day.  She said, “Amy, you and I are just different. You see the glass half empty and I see it half full.”  

Ouch.  I always thought of myself as a positive person with a good attitude but unknowingly I had gotten a bit cynical because of my untreated depression.  But as much as I did not appreciate her input at the time I can now look back and say I am glad she said it.

There is a lot to be said for paying attention to what thoughts we have going through our minds.  Practicing mindfulness is a great help in managing depression.  A bit of staying in check with whether my views are really negative or simply impacted because I may not feel well.  

Sometimes other people who don’t experience depression will not be able to relate to how I feel.  But I have learned I also have to understand how they feel too.

No one wants to be around a person who perpetuates negativity even if it is caused from an illness. But more importantly I have found the more I focus on being upbeat and positive the more my mood lifts.  If I am only feeling the hum of depression often times I can move my mood just enough to feel better.

Focusing on a positive attitude has really helped me.  I hope it helps you too.  And by the way someone who cares enough to give you feedback is worth her weight in gold.

Twitter- Amygamble

http://www.amygamble.com

Facing the Truth

Her blinders have been removed

She has taken her gloves off and removed her coat

She sits in stillness with peaceful knowing

Knowing from the soul

Inspired by the spirit

 

The storm came along with no warning

It whirled and twirled devastation

Leaving people shocked, hurt, stunned and dismayed

The creation of fear perpetuated

Numbness permeated and opened wounds

 

Left behind were the remnants of missing pieces

The young woman and old soul stood strong

But the powerful force of the storm threw her to unconsciousness

When she awoke it was apparent to her she was the storm

Crushed by the aftermath of viewing what she left behind

 

Deeply saddened with what she unknowingly had done

Egoically embarrassed, ashamed, and guilty

Incapable of seeing what the mirrors were telling her

Her prayers were answered one day

She ask to be shown so she could heal

 

She prayed for strength and courage

She prayed for forgiveness of self and others

She lay helpless crying for hours in her bed

She faced her naked body and viewed her own destruction

 

Overtaken by grief, hurt, sadness, disappointment

But inspired by unconditional love

 

She is a person hurt by her past

She is a human being

She is not defined by labels

She is not willing to give up

She is walking her journey one step at a time

 

Who is she?  Who is this woman with such great strength?

She is not alone

 

@amyjgamble

amygamble.com

 

Lessons of hardships and insights for those living with mental illness

Walking through adversity is neither all dark and certainly not all light.  It is a kaleidoscope of colors filled with a variety of emotions.

My life has been defined by my ability to overcome adversity.  For the most part I have faced my challenges head on even though I have been impacted by a periodicly disabling condition – bipolar disorder.  I have lived with this disability all my life though you cannot see my wheelchair I assure you it is there.

My comparison is not to discount the great challenges both physical and mental faced by those who do need wheelchairs.  It is more to visually demonstrate the impact of a disabling mental condition.  The challenges of overcoming the affects of facing sometimes severe limitations can only be highlighted by what is obviously understood.  

What is equally important is to acknowledge that some people can recover and live fulfilling lives despite their mental health condition. While others find the struggle overwhelming, limiting and relentless.

There was a period in my life where I saw the latter as my fate.  Stripped of my dignity, confidence and self-esteem the journey back to living became the greatest challenge of my life.

What is inherent in my journey is the importance of overcoming adversity and the necessity of finding hope even in the darkest places.

Last night I had an opportunity to share some insights of what I have learned with a young man.  

Lesson:  If you do not treat bipolar disorder it will get worse!

“Bipolar disorder will destroy you if you do not get a treatment plan and follow it,” I said to a young college student who sat at a support group meeting and declared he was no longer taking medication.  I did not hesitate to share those rather strong words.  They are words I wish I had heard many years ago by someone who had walked in my shoes.

I also told him, “You can have a great life if you learn how to manage your illness.”

I aim to not rain on anyone’s parade but to give a dose of reality about mental illness.  We don’t get to choose what are challenge is in life, but we do choose how we deal with it.  Ignoring a mental illness is not going to make it go away.  Serious mental illnesses, like major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia will get worse over time if they are not treated.

I have been a person who almost lost my life because of untreated bipolar disorder.    I believe my life purpose is to reach out and help other people not make the same mistakes.  But it is my hardships and adversity that gives me incredibly valuable insights.  

One of the greatest gifts is being in a position to help other people.  In an intriguing way the person most helped is often the giver.  I am blessed to share my insights and I hope you find value in my words.