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Jenna’s Amazing Story! From Suicide Attempt to Recovery…

I’ve been given a lot of labels since I was 17 years old;. psychotic, alcoholic, drug addict, bulimic, cutter, depressed, and labeled as having post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, and .

My Teen Years

When I was 13 years old, I began experiencing hypo-mania with lots of energy and really bizarre behavior. I remember one night I spent nearly an hour rolling on the ground back and forth in an empty parking lot late at night, laughing to myself. This was when my safe world changed into an unfamiliar place, which is what triggered the mania. I was abused for 3 months. The stress of the abuse triggered the start of my long battle with bipolar disorder. I told no one. I was all alone and terrified. For the next 3 years, the hypo-mania was my escape from reality.

At 16 years old, I had my first major depressive episode, so my doctor put me on medication, but I struggled with suicidal thoughts and impulses. I began harming myself and experimenting with alcohol.

Then at 17 years old, I began experiencing full blown mania with extreme rage, anger, agitation and felt completely out of control. I felt that I could talk to no one, and even if someone was there, I didn’t know how to reach out. So I continued to drink, and I continued to harm myself. I would stay up 2 to 3 days in a row when I was really manic, cycling back and forth from severe depression to mania. The depression was so dark; I would just daydream and fantasize about ways to end my life.  I often got delusional and psychotic. One night I tried to jump off a bridge, because I thought I was superman and wanted to fly.

Eventually, when I was 18 years old, I had my first of what would be many hospitalizations, after a suicide attempt. It was then that I was diagnosed with type rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder Type I. And even though it all made sense, it didn’t make it any easier.  I started using drugs. I would use drugs to get me out of a depression and when I wanted distance from the pain.

My life was in complete chaos, where every night was a struggle for my life, and my mom never knew if I would come back in the morning alive. I began having frequent contact with the police. Then I entered my first group home. It was a residential care facility with 24 hour staffing for those struggling with mental health and addictions. I couldn’t live on my own or with my mom anymore. I felt like I had lost everything and all the feelings from the abuse were still festering inside. So I continued to drink, cut and use, and the frequent trips to the hospital and police contact continued. I even went through 28 treatments of electric shock therapy in hopes of managing the mania and depression.

For the next 7 years, this was my life.shutterstock_154131002 (2)

My Life in my Twenties

When I was 25 years old, I entered an out patient treatment program called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). It was a 2-year program designed for treating life threatening behaviors with a combination of group and individual work with a counselor. It was the beginning of a big change in my life. For the first time ever, I felt hope. I felt like there was a way I could cope without drinking alcohol and cutting. Through a lot of drug and alcohol treatment and the DBT, I began to turn my life around. I got sober and clean and began to get stable on my medications. After a 12-year illness, I was finally starting to feel better.

In my own mind, there was a downside to getting clean and sober; I began to feel again. But instead of turning to cutting, drugs and alcohol to cope, I began binge-eating and then purging food. The next diagnosis was bulimia. It was 3 more years before I was accepted into a residential treatment centre in Vancouver for bulimia. I spent a year there. I began to feel again, and for the first time, really deal with the feelings and trauma I had from growing up without a father, the sexual abuse, all my hospital stays and the feelings I had around that period of my life.

bipolar babes story

Recovery is Always Possible

I am now 31 years old, and I am the happiest that I have ever been in my whole life. I am clean and sober, and am happy to say I no longer use the eating disorder to cope. For the last 3 years, I’ve been in school working on a music degree in hopes of teaching and performing piano, and I really like the music program I’m in. I live on my own, have a cat and we take good care of each other.

It has taken a LOT of hard work and a LOT of support, but I am living a life full of love, joy and happiness. I am still healing, still working hard at my recovery by practicing good self care. It shows me that a label is just a label, it doesn’t define who I am as a person and it certainly doesn’t mean that life is over.

Recovery is always possible.

Check out Andrea AKA Bipolar Babe’s Message of Stomping out Stigma

Andrea AKA Bipolar Babe’s Story – I am Worthy, Lovable and Appreciated!

Go to Bipolar Babes Blog For Story. 🙂

Hello, my name is Andrea Paquette and I am known as the Bipolar Babe in the mental health community. I founded the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia by launching www.bipolarbabes.com and from the beginning my mandate has been to stomp out stigma. 

 

 

A Story of a Bipolar Babe on World Bipolar Day

On this day I recognize all of the people in the world that live with bipolar disorder. I feel every one of us has a very important story to share with the world. It is often in the depths of our depression and challenges where we often realize the pleasure of just being able to live through another day. I have truly learned that from my darkest of moments, I am able to appreciate the most simple and beautiful things of this world. My appreciation for life is beyond measure and to be able to embrace a life that is extraordinary is my most valued triumph.

“No matter what our challenges, we can all live extraordinary lives.” ~Andrea AKA Bipolar Babe

 

UNCUT: Part 1 of 2 – Bipolar Babe’s Mini School Presentation

Visit us @ www.stigmafreezone.com 🙂

Here is Part 1 of 2 of Andrea’s Bipolar Babes Presentation at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary in Vancouver.
Life is about being authentic and Andrea is excited to share her uncut version of her talk. I think it is the funny things like the P.A. system and squeaky chairs that make it seem like you are actually there!

Thanks for your support! 🙂 ~Andrea

UNCUT: Part 2 of 2 – Bipolar Babe’s Mini School Presentation

Visit us @ www.stigmafreezone.com 🙂
Here is Part 2 of Andrea’s Bipolar Babes Presentation at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary. Life is about being authentic so I am excited to share my uncut version of my talk. Once again, I think it is the funny things like the P.A system and squeaky chairs that make it seem like you are actually there! Thanks for your support! 🙂 Part 1 of this presentation may be found at:

Andrea Paquette bipolar babe

Andrea

Hello, my name is Andrea Paquette and I am known as the Bipolar Babe in the mental health community. I founded the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia by launching www.bipolarbabes.com and from the beginning my mandate is to stomp out stigma. The Society has been in operation since 2010 and I am so happy to be the Executive Director of this impactful Charity. Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 25 years old, I know what it means to face stigma internally and externally. It is my desire to share my personal experiences of living with bipolar and how I have managed stigma throughout my life for the past 14 years. I have been on many amazing Bipolar Babes’ adventures throughout the years and have the privilege of working with hundreds of people as a support group facilitator providing them with the tools necessary, so they can empower themselves. I have also spoken to over 12,000 people about my personal story over the years in the community, while mainly focusing on youth in schools. My most recent cherished moment is being awarded the 2015 Courage To Come Back Award in the category of mental health given by Coast Mental Health. You are probably wondering what I mean by stating that I have faced internal and external stigma. Upon my diagnosis, I did not feel initially stigmatized and I did not know what to expect from others in regards to my diagnosis. However, as time passed I was faced with people kicking me out of my own home and confiscating my key to having ‘friends’ abandon me upon discovering that I had a mental illness.  I have also been internally stigmatized, which was a direct result from my experiences with the people in my life over the years. I was barely able to look at myself in the mirror without shame and guilt emitting from my perceived negative image. Over the years, I have learned to grow more accepting of myself, and I fought against this negative and stigmatized version of myself. Today, I truly believe that I am a good person, who deserves good things in life and I now see myself through the same lens as my loved ones see me. I am grateful to offer hope, love and an appreciation for others. I am both privileged and honoured to share my personal experiences about stigma and my mental health journey because I feel it is a vitally important conversation. I hope to provide encouragement to help others overcome the negative effects that stigma can have on others, and perhaps remind myself along the way that I too am worthy, loved, and appreciated by many. We often need to be told such things and I am here to do just that. Hope to see you in Greater Vancouver at one of our Stigma-Free Zone Superheroes classroom presentations this semester! Currently, I am the sole presenter for our Program, but there are many more Superheroes on the way who will be offering presentations in the future. Please feel free to visit my Bipolar Babes Blog on our Bipolar Babes website. Thank you! ~Andrea AKA Bipolar Babe

VLOG: Thank you for Visiting the new Bipolar Babes Website!

Hello friends,

I want to offer you a personal thank-you and big hug for visiting our new Bipolar Babes website. As we conclude the year 2015, we have reached amazing heights with the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia with the impacting Bipolar Babes Programs. In 2009, it all began with my own quirky and fun t-shirt idea and I wanted to wear the Bipolar Babe name boldly, which was my own form of self- empowerment from stigmatizing myself for having bipolar disorder. This t-shirt provided the catalyst for great things, not only for me, but now for so many people seeking help who live with bipolar disorder and any form of mental illness.

As I reflect on our Society’s last five years of success, I am both humbled and in awe with how far we have come in regards to our growth and the ability to reach so many wonderful individuals with our message of hope and resiliency. I want to share my personal message with you today via my first vlog on bipolarbabes.com and I thank you again for your much appreciated support.

Much love to you. ~Andrea AKA Bipolar Babe

The First Bipolar Youth Action Project Forum by Anna Graham, Youth Peer Researcher

After careful planning and organization, the day for the first Bipolar Youth Action Project finally arrived. We set out to make our mark in the world of bipolar disorder (BD) research and we were ready to make it happen. Our goal was to find out what helped youth with BD to live meaningful and healthy lives: what skills they employed, and what tools they used to keep themselves balanced and well while living with the disorder. After a day filled with fun, new insights, and a plethora of information, we have gathered invaluable data that will help shed light on our cause.

The day was ready to begin with all the food, tables, and chairs set up in our space. Our 21 forum participants, all youth who live with BD, came through the doors, registering and acquainting themselves with each other and with the members of the BYAP. As everyone got settled introductions were made and the tone was set for the day — we were in for a lot of fun and information gathering. Throughout the day we had Erin Stewart Elliott, our graphic facilitator, creating images to represent what we were accomplishing that day. Erin’s graphic record outlined our journey as it developed, creating a unique visual reminder of what we had done. She began her process at the beginning of the forum and we watched as her drawings and words captured the feel and energy of the information that was being presented that day.

The participants then formed into groups in order to prepare for the focus group portion of the forum. The participants were organized into 4 groups with a facilitator asking questions and managing the flow of the conversation and a co-facilitator supporting and taking notes. This was the crucial portion of the forum, the time to gather data that we will organize and then present during our next forum. In the focus groups, we discussed methods for wellness and achieving balance and stability. It was an honest and unique view of how youth stay well while living with BD. After the focus groups were finished we broke for lunch and enjoyed delicious sandwiches and salads!

Then to finish off the day we had our workshops. The workshops were run by the BYAP members and covered topics such as mindfulness and how to live successfully and happily while not letting your disorder define who you are. The workshops were great, with lots of participation and interest. Laura walked us through a mindfulness segment in which we used a piece of chocolate to find ourselves in a state of calm and mindfulness; it was very effective and well received by the participants! Michelle and Alan also did a mindfulness exercise that taught us how to live within the present moment.

Overall the day was fantastic, and was successful in achieving its goal of finding new information to help in understanding how youth live well with bipolar disorder. Now we prepare for Forum 2, where we’ll share the information we collected in Forum 1! It will be an amazing way for people to see what self-management strategies are employed by youth and how they manage living with BD and staying well. I feel so grateful for being able to participate in such a meaningful project and can't wait for the next installment to get underway! 

Simplifying Your Life for the Benefit of your Mental Health

Recently, I have decided to simplify my life for the benefit of my mental health. For the first time, I have pulled back from many things and I have realized that I give to much to others and very little to myself. I jump into people's problems and lives upon their request for help, and I so enjoy being the listening ear by providing valuable information about mental health when it is needed, but it has become to be to much. 

I noticed in the last while I have been meeting A LOT of people over coffee to hear about their issues and I provide my advice based upon personal experience. I am careful to not claim to have all the answers. I met five people in one week and by Saturday I was drained, tired and completely mentally unhealthy. I felt run-down and slept for two days and I noticed that I was just running on empty. 

How I Simplified my Life for my Mental Health

I recently adopted a beautiful dog named Ryder and as I spent a lot of my time with him, I started to realize how much I enjoyed his company. He did not have any mental health issues to discuss, did not ask for my advice and he simply walked with me making me smile. I wake up early every morning excited to see him and when I look at his little face, I just cannot help but smile even more. I started to realize that dog walks and spending time alone without people was actually quite gratifying.

So what have I learned about simplifying my life for my mental health over this past month?

  • I actually enjoy being alone with my new companion as walks and time on the couch offer me great solace and time to clear my mind;
  • I have learned that I must have boundaries and learn how to say no, even when it is difficult;
  • I now use the phone a lot more for the purpose of talking with people who want to meet with me in person; and
  • I do not feel guilty for not being the one to 'save' people and in most situations people do have some form of support and I can direct them to resources in the community.

However, this is different for my Teens2Twenties group as they are my priority, I still tell them to call me if they need me at any time because quite often they do not have any support as many of the adults do. I know to still set boundaries with them, but my heart is so soft for all youth that there will rarely, if ever, be an occasion where I say no. For them it is different and this feels perfect with me.

Simplicity in your life for your mental health is imperative and I encourage you to find your own simplicity. When we are caring and understanding individuals, we often give too much of ourselves to others, so truly consider giving back to YOU!

Embracing all that is Uncertain and Temporary..then we can Truly Begin to Live

As of late, I have been pondering and accepting that life is uncertain on so many fronts, not just for those who have a mental illness. Relationships fail, finances falter, our health fades and the certainty of life that we once believed in seems to unravel as we spiral through life.

Why the Ponder Things Uncertain?

As I manage our Charity, the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia (BDSBC), I have realized that I have gotten myself into an uncertain situation. This is not necessarily a negative thing. There are no guarantees of financial gains and the journey is wholly entrepreneurial in many senses. I left my government job over one year ago, and people often wonder why I gave up such a secure and financially viable position. I was simply not happy and life is too valuable to be unchallenged and unmotivated. I tell myself that I can do all I am able with the abilities that I possess. Still I believe my future is not mine to determine and I can plan for everything and anything in all aspects of my life, but life itself often has other plans.

There will be Great Rewards 

Life is undetermined and unpredictable, and we have to accept that there will be pain and pitfalls, but more wonderfully there will be great rewards. I am in the classrooms educating youth on mental health and molding young minds, facilitating healing and growth in support groups, and doing the everyday work to keep this Society reputable and viable. It is the first time in my life where work does not feel like work. I wake up every day and know that my “work” day will be rewarding and fulfilling. There is always one more hand to hold through a tough time or at a hospital visit, another person to encourage, and most of all, the hopes of saving another life by simply providing the services we offer to the people who need it most. We recently published our BDSBC Annual Report, and as I read it, I see the smiling members of the Board on the pages, and I am touched, moved and inspired by the people that care about the Society. It is even more touching to know they truly believe in me.

Approaching the Uncertain with Open Arms

Whether you are starting up a new business or a non-profit, selling or buying your home, taking a chance on a new love or filing for divorce, we must embrace that everything is uncertain, and every single thing we see, touch, hear or feel is temporary. It will all fade, falter and cease to exist one day, and yes, so will all of us. I make this statement to encourage you to really live, to make sure you write that book you have been putting off for years, make that return phone call to your mother when she has already called twice that day, embrace your pet and spend time playing with them, and please do lean over to your partner’s ear and tell them that you love them tremendously.

When we embrace all that is temporary and uncertain, then we can all truly begin to live.