I love data, facts and information; I actually call myself a data girl. Data is quantifiable and can provide support for determining need and directing resources. For example, bi-polar disorder (BPD) is a chronic illness that affects the brain in a way that can cause extreme mood swings that vary in length. People with BPD can go from mania, feeling euphoric or revved up and irritable, to depression, feeling down or hopeless. Individuals with BPD also have increased co-morbidity with substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorder, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and higher rates of suicide.

Did you know that BPD affects about 12.3 million people in the United States and as many as 60 million people worldwide? Or that half of all patients begin seeing symptoms between the ages of 15 and 25, but it can begin at any age?

While I do love data and facts to identify and define issues, sometimes the best way to paint a picture of illness and recovery is illustrated through a personal story of someone living with bipolar disorder. To provide you with a personal story, I didn’t have to go very far to find one of the 12.3 million persons diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you probably wouldn’t either.

One of my favorite persons in the world in my cousin Victoria, known by our family as Tori. She is ten years younger than me and ever since I can remember has been a person on fire…when she’s around. When Tori walks in, the energy in a room magnifies tenfold. Her smile is a big as her personality and she is the life of the party even when there isn’t one. Tori loves to make plans about the future but we know that sometimes those plans won’t materialize; not because she isn’t sincere, but as we have all come to understand, along with the electricity of her presence there is also a dark place she retreats into and we know we won’t see her for a while. So we’ve adjusted our thinking to accommodate the reality of her extremes, loving her and knowing that soon she will be back on top and the cycle will start again.

After a fabulous King Ranch Casserole dinner on a Sunday night (yes, that was a bribe), Tori agreed to talk about her struggles with BPD and her recovery. While her disease manifested in high school, Tori never suspected she was bipolar. She was misdiagnosed throughout her life with damaging consequences until a therapist finally identified BPD when Tori was in her forties. To listen to the interview, Click Here.

Tori leaves us with this statement, “I’m still a good person, I was never a bad person like I thought I was.” If you suspect that you or someone you love has bipolar disorder, please seek treatment. MHMR Tarrant’s ICARE call line is 800-866-2045.