I crossed paths with Stephanie in a rather unusual way, the details of which are not important. Our first few encounters with each other were not our most shining moments, but they were part of our journey, not only in our personal recovery, but also in the amazing bond that we have forged since then. Stephanie has taught me so many things about myself, some of which I didn’t want to know, but needed to learn. Stephanie is a beautiful person inside and out. When it comes to empowering other women, Stephanie leads by example. She understands the value of forgiveness, and the rarity of finding a kindred spirit in the unlikeliest place. She is a writer who shares her touching and heartfelt stories about her life and her experiences. Stephanie is a courageous Mother who is raising her two strong sons into fine young men. She is a tenacious Stigma Fighter who inspires me, and so many others. Stephanie, I can no longer imagine my life without you in it.
A Beautiful Mind
By Stephanie Ortez
“The ability of perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, thoughts, emotions, and sensory patterns. It is an accurate portrait of mindfulness that all humans should be able to practice whether you suffer from a mental illness or not.” –Awareness according to Wikipedia
If only I could stick a post-it on my forehead to remember to be mindful of what I say or do every day, my life would be so much easier. One of the toughest lessons I’ve had to learn is that I can’t dwell on the things I’ve done wrong–to myself or to others. The minute I start dwelling I cut off the air that allows me to breathe in a very contaminated world. It is a tough job to stay in the moment and keep myself in a place where my mind will not allow hills of depression, but only a landscape that is peaceful and without judgement. This path is easy for all of us to walk when we accept ourselves for what we have–A Beautiful Mind.
Approximately two months ago after an intensive psychological evaluation, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and General Anxiety Disorder. Both my therapist and psychiatrist have given priority to my anxiety disorder with DBT therapy and medicine. Bipolar remains a big issue, but anxiety takes the cake every single moment in my life. It’s a vicious cycle of anxiety, depression, and mixed episodes. People who know me well, know how hard it is for me to stay in touch through phone calls, text, Skype, meeting up for coffee, shopping, nearly every social occasion, yet I like the outdoors. See the irony? Many of you feel the same way and this is why I feel so blessed to join Stigma Fighters and have met so many wonderful people who inspire me to keep writing, to take care of myself, and of course remove the awful shadow of stigma and learn more about the way mental health systems fail to treat patients with care and compassion.
I’ve been hospitalized because of my illness, arrested, and put on probation for one year because of my illness. I have been divorced, experienced dire financial situations, all due to my illness. BUT, in spite of all that, I do like my life. Of course I struggle as a single mother of two wonderful boys with no support at all, but I rejoice with the fact I’m a bit different. I’ve learned to be independent, more assertive, and look after ME, the most important person in this equation.
“I can’t change the world, but I can change the world in me.” This is what awareness means to me. To celebrate every single moment we conquer our illness, and to learn from times when we fail to do so. Interpersonal effectiveness is something so important to me, being your own cheerleader, because without people like us, this world would be a very boring place to live. We paint colors when mania comes and write poetry when depression hits. The suicide ideation and emptiness is definitely a terrible walk to go through and we have lost so many because of it. But we are still alive although we suffer from a heavy-duty condition that has caused a great deal of pain and more losses that we can count. I didn’t go into specifics about my life because what has helped me to confront my troubled past are the advocates who understand me more than my own mother does. Mental health awareness starts when we have loving, caring, compassionate people around us who are willing to take our hands to lead us to green pastures in the midst of the murkiness of our Beautiful Minds. Keep fighting because I have not yet met you. When I do meet you, I am going to tell you how special you are, and how grateful I am that you are in this world. And most importantly, I will tell you that I love your Beautiful Mind.
Stephanie is a mother of two wonderful boys. She lives with Bipolar Disorder, PSTD, and GAD. She’s an admissions advisor for The George Washington University Online School and the International Academy. A position where she helps students from around the globe with a new alternative of learning. She is also a member of Stigma Fighters, a talented writer, and a fearless advocate. You can follow Stephanie’s blog, her deviant art site where she posts the photos that she takes in her spare time, and on Twitter.