As an individual who was diagnosed with bipolar disease in 1979, I've seen many sides of the mental health field in those past several decades. My forte? Mania, not so much depression. When manic, I lose all sense of what's right and proper and safe. I've been hospitalized many, many times because of mania and have experienced all the local psychiatric hospitals and have also done stays at Western State Hospital. During this time, I've felt hopeless, scared, out of control and negative about myself.

I've been treated with many different psych meds and have dealt with many professional providers. For much of that time, there's been no treatment that would stop the episodes. My family and I were all desperate for something that would work.

Because of the manic episodes, I lost my home and my job of 35 years. I felt at the mercy of this disease.

During 2013, I was an inpatient in a geriatric psychiatry unit. I became a patient of a psychiatrist there who prescribed for me regular ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) treatments and an antipsychotic that was new to me.

I also engaged in group therapy there. This group therapy program uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for older adults with mood disorders (e.g. anxiety, depression, bipolar). One of the key concepts of CBT is that how we think affects how we feel. Through that regular therapy, I learned that I am not my disease. I am more than that. With group help, I began to think positively about myself. The group effort was, for me, greatly empowering. In the end, I could feel good about myself. I still refer to notes from that period. They help.

An example of a CBT exercise on how to think more positively about yourself: To increase positive self-talk, write down a difficult situation and then write down a coping/positive thought on a card, such as, "I can feel bad about myself right now but it's OK and normal to feel this way. It will pass, life flows." Refer to the card as needed.

Now I continue on with my professional helpmates, with regular ECT sessions and with my antipsychotic drug. Also assisting: an automatic meds dispenser that twice a day, tells me to take my meds on time. I don't miss doses with that help.

This recovery, for me, is a miracle. I've not had an episode for over two years. I feel safe and healthy with all these supports. I feel positive about myself and feel I can be a help for others. It is good to feel so empowered.

I am now an elder. There are many people like me who have lived for decades with a mental health diagnosis, but there are also many who receive their diagnosis later in life. Much of elder health care focuses on physical symptoms only, which does not address their mental health needs. Can we, as a community, change that dynamic?

Because my symptoms were so severe, I've been involved with the mental health system from the beginning, 37 years ago. These symptoms negatively impacted my life, with a loss of feeling of well-being. As I have learned, there are many supportive services available within our community. These services can assist us in accessing a wide range of mental health care resources. (See below)

I'd like to urge others who are in the throes of mental emergencies, or their aftermath, to reach out and avail themselves of the multitude of aids that may help in a recovery. I don't think it is something to do alone. Instead "It takes a village…" Outside support is vital! I wish you health and a wonderful life!

by Brenda, NAMI Seattle Member

It Takes a Village


National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Information, resources, and referrals to individuals and families affected by mental illness via phone (206-783-9264), walk-in, or e-mail (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

NAMI Support Group Calendar

Depression Bipolar Support Alliance

Crisis Clinic – Washington
Information, resources, and referrals to individuals affected by a mental health crisis via phone: Dial 2-1-1

Harborview Psychiatric Walk-in Emergency Services

325 9th Avenue

Seattle, WA 98014

(206) 744-3000