Stephanie’s Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Came as a Shock

“Asking for help is the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself,” said Stephanie, smiling, as we began our meeting.

Stephanie has bipolar disorder, a diagnosis that often comes as a shock. To her, those words seemed downright unreal, exaggerated when they were uttered some 15 years ago.

“When my doctor told me I was bipolar, I didn’t believe him. At the time I was helping my father with his business. I worked hard, slept little, forgot to eat, and jumped to exaggerated conclusions very quickly… It was my relatives who first took me to the hospital. I was so out of touch with reality that I thought the ambulance I was in was driving me to an appointment with the accountant.”

That first visit to the psychiatric emergency room at the Montreal General Hospital was followed by hospitalization. Unfortunately, it would not be the last for Stephanie, who has had to learn to live with the disease, and to accept the different treatments and therapy offered to her.

“Like many people in my situation, I wanted to stop my treatments. I went through a series of ups and downs, but the moment I realized that I needed help, I mustered all my courage and gave myself the tools to get better. I realized that when I was a kid, I didn’t mind asking for help. So why would it be any different now?”

Ending the Stigma around Mental Illness

Some may say that Stephanie is brave to share her story. This sentence alone speaks to the stigma surrounding mental illness. Her mother and sisters have been supportive throughout her journey. It is through their support that she has been able to find the balance that allows her to lead an orderly life while pursuing her goals.

“I hope that one day people will no longer be embarrassed to talk about the mental health challenges they face. That they will no longer be afraid of the impact on their career or personal life. That we will all have caring family members, employers and friends who will see the strength in those of us who have overcome so much. I am fortunate that I got the support and guidance I needed, and that I now have a stable enough life that I can in turn help those who are going through tough times.”

Stephanie is involved as a peer mentor with other people with mental illnesses and disorders through the MUHC’s Recovery Transition Program (RTP).

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