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Growing up I liked roller coasters(not all of them) I enjoyed the twists, turns, and speed of them. You
creep up slowly on the rails and then when you are at the top you wonder wow what is going to happen
next? Then bam its all down hill and the speed accelerates and that is when the excitement begins. I
would start to scream, I would sometimes close my eyes, and other times I would just enjoy the breeze
in my hair and on my face. It was so thrilling. Little back then did I know that my life would actually turn
out to be a real life roller coaster.

I am a public education teacher for middle school level. I also am a suicide survivor. I also volunteer for
NAMI(National Alliance of Mental Illness) as an IYOV(In Your Own Voice Presenter) and a NAMI Group
Co-Facilitator. I have a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree and a Post Master’s Degree.

“When I was in high school I knew I was different, but I just blamed it on hormones. I just felt
different and I started to act different. I often spent a lot of time in my bedroom, hiding from the world.
What was scary was I was starting to hear voices and see things that were not there, and the only
thought I had was am I crazy? I would wear several different masks throughout my high school years, I
had to be that athlete, the perfection one, the funny one, it became exhausting.”

I carried on with life, while still hiding behind my bedroom door, not telling anyone. In high
school I would often drink a lot on the weekends to hide my emotions to me that was the best medicine.
I did not realize till later on that it was one of the worst coping skills I could use.

College life is where the moods swings would really take off. I remember being up till 3 AM sometimes
typing a paper for class that was due 8 AM that morning. Why? Most would say typically college
behavior, but no it was because I could not sleep, and I could not complete a task without going to
another one a few minutes later.

Matana, this would go on for days, and again I used the coping skill I knew best and that was binge drink
on the weekends, heck I enjoyed the college parties and bars. I started to think this was normal behavior
for everyone in college. But this when I also noticed the “roller coaster” began. There were so many
highs and lows. Currently, my world was starting to get darker and the hope was decreasing as well.”

I will never forget the night I tried to take my life, the first thing I did after my attempt was say I was that
dumb I could not kill myself? I do not think people understood, I really did want to die. After my
attempt, I needed the pain to go away, I was still having many ups and downs, this started my cutting
days. To me this is the way I coped, when I would cut it felt like the pain was going disappearing as well.

I have been hospitalized twice and during my first hospitalization I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2- rapid
cycling. This is where I have manias and depression that changes sometimes throughout the day or
every few days for me. My recovery did not work, because I did not follow it, I stopped taking my
medicine and kept drinking and cutting. It was the second time where I really ACCEPTED my illness and
learned to make the changes I needed to be in recovery.

This illness has knocked me down, but not out! I have been able to accomplish things that I do not think
I would have if it wasn’t for this illness pushing me. One thing as in 2015-16 I was named Teacher of the
Year for my school. Then the in 2017-18 I was named the Health and PE Teacher of the Year for
Secondary Level for my whole county. What was even more amazing was that it was voted on by my
peers and many of them know my journey.

I have become very open about my illness to people, I am trying to fight the stigma associated with it.
Why? Because I want people to see that even though one is diagnosed with a mental illness, they can be
successful and do great things. It is funny because I said I would never get a tattoo and I did- on one
forearm I got the word strength and on the other one I got the word hope. These two words are what I
live by, if I am having a moment, I will look at my arms and those words inspire me.

What has helped me also was accepting my illness. I am in recovery, but to me that means staying out of
the hospital, not that my illness has gone away, I know this will not happen. I often felt Bipolar Disorder
was a curse but, now I realize it has been a blessing. This is my journey and I have the battle scars to
prove it, but I am one tough soldier. Therefore, I am in the process of writing a book to share my
journey of what I have been through. I have written several blogs as well to help fight this stigma.

I want people to know when they listen to this podcast that I am in their corner and we need to fight
this stigma together. I wish everyone fighting a mental illness nothing but love, strength, and hope.