Mental Health Warrior: Dori Owen


Altruistic – unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others.

It’s been about five years since I first joined that bipolar support group. I was nervous to say the least, but there was one person who reached out and welcomed me and the person was Dori Owen. Our dialogue flowed immediately, and a friendship began to flourish. I have often described her as one of my very favourite people, and she honestly is. She is the..older sister I never had, but more than that, she is the kindest, most selfless person that I have ever been blessed to cross paths with. Dori is no longer my friend, she is my family. For one minute I wish I could be the writer that she is so I could write this damn intro to do her justice. Dori Owen, you are truly magnificent, with your smartass attitude, hilarious sense of humor, and a heart that is bigger than anyone I know. If I can raise my daughters to radiate even half of the dignity and grace that you do, I will have succeeded as being one of the most amazing mothers ever. I love you. You always have a bed fort ready here.

Dori is an an amazing writer, brilliant beyond compare. In one of my very favorite articles of hers she hoped to one day achieve something that she had quoted:

“So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice—or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”

—Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail

Dori has achieved exactly that, she is an extremist for love and for the cause of justice. She is incredible as a mental health advocate, often putting her support behind those who have been “treated” in the judicial system rather than where their rights should allow them treatment. While she is a zealous activist, she is quick not to judge, in fact she is the least judgmental person I know. Dori believes that education is one of the keys to ending stigma. She would never bully her way into a head-to-head with someone who choses to come at her with malice. “DO NOT ENGAGE, NICOLE, “has come out of her mouth so many times, and I owe a great deal to her for that as well.

Dori sees people for who they are and who they want to be, and she encourages them. She stands behind people who have no voice and she uses hers for them. She is brave. She loves beyond measure. She is talented and beautiful, and she makes me laugh, God does she make me laugh. Dori is the ultimate #MentalHealthWarrior

Bipolar, Motherhood, & Collateral Damage

By Dori Owen

Bipolar, Motherhood, & Collateral Damage

Mothers are all slightly insane.

–J.D. Salinger

Last night I got a brief text from my son who is teaching at an outdoor school all week in Oregon near Mount Hood. His text was in response to one from me asking if he had watched Mad Men this week–a show we both love. I forgot that outdoor school is close to Mother’s Day, a day that is always difficult for him, and I did not find him in the best of moods. I’m sure he was further annoyed because I didn’t remember this was outdoor school week. Yes, Brian, I see you rolling your eyes.

In 2009, I unintentionally managed to trash my relationship with my son as a result of a lithium toxicity incident while living near him in Oregon. He couldn’t handle, nor understand, what happened to me. The resulting psych stay, a barrage of meds, or the mandatory outpatient hospital routine. Distance grew into an immense chasm between us. He was completely freaked by all of it and communication between us was a disastrous fail. I was so sick I could barely manage daily life, much less manage us.

One of my brothers told me that my son was calling him daily telling him that he could not handle the situation. My brother kept telling him he needed to suck it up and work it out because everyone else was too far away to be there to help support me. But my son was unable to handle seeing his mother this way and chose to run away from the situation. I did not blame him. I wished I could have run away as well. But as a result, we have both paid a long-term price for this inconvenient episode of mine and his horrified reaction.

In the years since, I have tried to mend our relationship, but it can be tenuous at times. The incident did some irreparable damage and we will never be quite the same as before with each other. It was just too much. He cannot deal with my bipolar when I am not stable and, selfishly, he worries that he will have the same fate as me. The empathy gene seems to have escaped him. Or, more realistically, it is his coping method. So far, the only mental illness symptoms I see in him are anxiety and OCD. I pray that this is the worst he has to deal with. He goes to a therapist, but always refuses any kind of meds. He has told me that almost all of this therapy topics and issues are about me.

Deep sigh.

I am resigned to the fact we had a relationship failure and I mourn the intimacy we once shared as friends and mother/son. But I am also keenly aware that I am the mother here and have to continue to be kind and loving to him no matter what behavior of the moment he has. I call, write, email, text and send gifts and notes in the mail. Sometimes he responds and sometimes he doesn’t. Then he surprises me and takes baby steps back towards me, slowly, at his own pace. I miss him so much and how it used to be between us. When I receive very thoughtful gifts from him, or even get “I love you” texts, my world becomes brand new and hope springs anew that absolutely we will find our way back to our old selves. In fact, I know that we will. And in a funny kind of way, perhaps with a bond we didn’t have before. Indeed, my poor child has seen me at my worst. Yes, I see you rolling your eyes again, Brian.


Learning she had Bipolar Disorder 1 as an adult, Dori has used her tumultuous journey of diagnosis, noncompliance, hospitalizations, and ultimately acceptance and self-advocacy to tell her story to others to share the “oh, me too” moments for people to understand they are not alone in their mental illness journey. She has a Tumblr blogspot; is an author on Ask A Bipolar; created the Facebook Diary Of An Arizona Girl; is an artist and writer; and a frequent blogger advocating mental health awareness. Dori holds an MBA from the University of Nevada, Reno and worked for 20 years as a government project manager. She lives in Arizona with her beloved dog and cat. She also has a grown son in Portland, Oregon who very much resents being introduced after her pets. But she loves him the most! You can find Dori at Tumblr, Twitter and Ask A Bipolar.

8 thoughts on “Mental Health Warrior: Dori Owen

  1. Dori you’re an amazing mother. Your experience has brought me to tears because I can relate so much; my relationship with my mother, but most importantly, the struggle I faces every day with my own children. On my way to work I made a purpose of not checking FB, Twitter, etc…not because of social media stress, but because I feel I’ve failed as a mother due to certain decisions, my son feeling the pressure of my own illness, and me wanting to go away for good…I’m glad I decided to read this instead. Thank you for sharing my dear friend.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Steph, I think it’s perfectly normal to question your mothering even without adding in a mental illness. I believe that your high self-awareness, together with your love for your children, is going to make you a wonderful mum! You will build memories for them they’ll long remember….and isn’t love what it’s all about, really? 💗

      Liked by 2 people

  2. So many thoughts on this one, Nicole, thanks for showcasing another warrior. It was hard to love my mother at her worst, but I was closer than other siblings. I watched and learned. When I was diagnosed, and then my adult daughter followed years later, our manic states sometimes collided. Things were said, feelings were hurt, but we recovered.I hope that same outcome for Dori. The love is still there, it will heal in time. ❤️ Van

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you so much. I think the biggest lesson learned with my son is unconditional love–no matter what. And I do love him so. He is slowly beginning to ask questions about bipolar and I see this as a huge win for us. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dori, thank you for writing so openly and honestly about your fractured relationship with your son. I worry so about my relationship with my own adolescent son, and with how I may have behaved badly and not been the best role model at times (as in when I throw what we call an “adult temper tantrum” or when I avoid fulfilling responsibilities for they overwhelm me). I do hope that your relationship with him heals over time. I do know that my relationship with my own parents healed considerably, especially as they helped me when I suffered a mental health crisis at 30. Your compassion for him should help bring him around, but as you know, we cannot control the behavior or choices of others. Such is the challenge of parenting. We just do our best, apologize for our mistakes, and try to do better in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you so much for reading this, Kitt. And I think you said it best–we just do our best, apologize for our mistakes, and try to do better in the future. You are an inspiration to me and I’m sure that you’re a wonderful mum!


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