During the eight years I taught NAMI’s Family to Family course, the session that most powerfully impacted participants was the one near the program’s end where they got to meet a person who relies on mental health services.
They’d look around the room expectantly and I’d announce: “I know you’re expecting a special guest tonight, someone who lives with mental illness as your relatives do.” I’d pause a few beats, then say: “Hi. My name is Carlene and I live with bipolar disorder.”
Eyes would widen. Jaws would drop. Sometimes I could hear a sharp intake of breath. No one expected their teacher to have a diagnosis. No one imagined that an ordinary-shaped life could also include bipolar disorder.Continue reading