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Recovering From Mental Illness

 Following years of psychotherapy, seven shock therapy treatments and medication (taking 17 pills a day), Eileen White has found her purpose in life.  “At first, I was a really angry person because I really felt like I got a raw deal.  Here I am being diagnosed with five major mental disorders including major depression and anorexia.  I just felt cheated!   I was always embarrassed thinking someone would find out about my problems and the treatment I was getting.”

 But, Eileen’s attitude quickly changed following shock treatments.    I actually had some depression free days and really felt good for the first time in my life.  The anger and all the negative feelings went away.”  That’s when Eileen decided to go public in hopes of helping others with mental disorders.  “I wanted to let others know it is possible to recover from the illnesses.   Sure, I’m not cured and still have some symptoms.  I really feel this is something I deal with.  I’m able to go out and tell people about it.”  That’s an understatement.  Eileen travels extensively to address law enforcement agencies, mental health conferences, hospitals, service clubs, colleges and high schools.  Eileen puts a face on mental illness by sharing her personal struggles and triumphs.  “When I started telling people, I felt free for the first time in my life.   I have nothing to hide and talk about the very things I kept hidden for years.  I now have a whole new life.”

 As a speaker, Eileen is touching the lives of people who are looking for answers to their mental disorders.  “Every time I talk, at least 5 or 6 people approach me and share their personal stories of living with mental illness, including depression.  Yet, they’re afraid to get the help they need because of society’s stigma about mental illness.”  One story in particular stands out.  “A high school girl wrote on an evaluation she had always made fun of mentally ill people.  Yet, after hearing me, the young lady said she would never look at another mentally ill person in the same light.  She thanked me for changing her outlook on the mental illness.  If I just reach one person during a presentation, I really am making a difference.”

 No longer an angry woman, Eileen proudly accepts herself as she is.  “I am dealing with the disorder just like any other physical condition.  I could have just as easily suffered from diabetes or a physical disability.  I can honestly tell you the struggles I have encountered for so many years have actually enriched my life.”

 If someone lives with a mental illness, Eileen says treatment works.  “I’m a believer in both therapy and medication.  I have not met one single person in a hospital or group home who is unable to reach their personal best with proper support and treatment.  Support from family, friends and support groups with others who know what it is to live with mental illness is very important.  Getting involved in advocacy and education organizations such as NAMI can point one in the direction of recovery.”

 If you’d like additional information about mental illness, go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s website:  NAMI is a not-for-profit, grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy organization.

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