In New York I was a mental health advocate for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness.) The program I was involved in was IOOV (In Our Own Voice.) My role was to go and speak at hospitals, outpatient programs, colleges, outreach programs, law firms and to a facility with people who had physical disabilities. I shared my story and stressed my coping skills.
I am very passionate about my advocacy work and miss it tremendously. My road has not been easy, but I've learned a great many lessons along the way. It would be selfish if I didn't give back to my fellow travelers with Mental illness.
Costa Rica doesn't really have anything in the way of support for the Mentally ill. Yes, they have good psychiatrists and therapists. I know there is a support group in Spanish. I'm working on getting one set up for expats.
I love advocacy work, but it started when I began advocating for myself. A few times I have fallen prey to a doctor's idea of how I should be treated. Every person with bipolar is different and all meds don't work for every one.
Right now I am advocating for myself again. I have been on lithium for roughly 9 years. There were 2 yrs during which I didn't take any meds. That happened when I was getting pregnant, being pregnant and after Myah's birth. My decision to go back on lithium was made because I have daughter and I really didn't want my illness to effect her life.
The decision to get off of lithium was made by me and my husband. Last year we discovered my lithium level was high. The problem when the level is high is that you can become irrational, very anxious and your kidneys are vulnerable to toxicity that can cause permanent damage.
Lithium metabolizes through the kidneys and not through the liver like most medicines.
There are studies that say that the meds the mentally ill take may shorten their lives by 25 years. I'm not sure if this is true, but have read it many times.
The thing is that I have had 8 yrs without any episodes of any kind. I'm really in a good place. My daughter means everything to me. I am an old mother as it is and I can't afford to lose 25 years from my life.
I don't think of it as a gamble at all. The reason is because if I try something new and it doesn't work I can go back on the lithium. People don't understand how rough the meds we take are. Sometimes the side effects are worse than the illness itself. More research needs to be done but that's another blog!
I dedicate this bog post to my dear friend Lady Charmaine a true Advocate!
Love & Peace