There is no shame in needing help
From her personal history and her family history, Lise knows a lot about the struggles people can have with mental illness and how stigma makes those struggles worse.
Mental illness runs in my family. So does resilience. You can see that plainly through the generations with our many achievements and lives well-lived, despite struggle.
Lise’s sister, who had schizoaffective disorder, was the “most compromised” member of her family. Other relatives were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and OCD. Some went undiagnosed.
My father swore us to secrecy about my sister’s schizophrenia. Later, he died by suicide. The resulting toxic shame from in and outside my family impacted my development and played a part in sabotaging my chance for a happy and well-adjusted childhood and teen years.
It took me into adulthood to really learn about my sister’s illness and the fallout from suicide. Without stigma, much of what happened would have been easier to bear.
Lise’s own problems with mental illness began in high school following her father’s death. Her depression became more problematic through her college years. She had social difficulties and had to push hard to graduate. After college, she experienced low self-esteem and had trouble finding work.
Years later, a doctor switched Lise’s antidepressant medication, and she was hospitalized for the first time with mania. At age 43, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The following year, her marriage ended, the first of many events that impacted her own life and that of her sons.
I have been in the hospital some dozen times, and I have been on many, many medications. My illness is treatment-resistant, and though I have had relatively long periods of stability, they have not been longer than 18 months to two years. My last hospitalization was in August of 2018.
Despite the challenges she faces, Lise lives a full and vibrant life.
I maintain a home, work as a librarian, keep up a terrific relationship with my three sons, read, write, garden, walk my dogs, and provide a lap for my sweet cat.
Lise also has a large circle of friends and belongs to a wonderful church community. She supports efforts to increase understanding and support for mental health issues by serving as a peer member of a committee planning a new psychiatric wing of her local hospital.
She attends a support group for people with mood disorders, and she works with the National Alliance on Mental Illness as a connection facilitator.
Life is immeasurably better when you get help, and there is no shame in needing help—there is just misery in feeling depressed or anxious.
In addition to encouraging people to get help, Lise wants people to understand that mental illness is no different than any other kind of illness.
Last time I checked, the brain is part of the body.