My name is Michael and I am living with bipolar disorder. Through volunteering, I have found a lot of support and kind of a family
that I didn't expect to find. When I live with the symptoms of depression and the bipolar is oftentimes difficult to even get out of bed.
So, I volunteer job where it's understood that these are some of the symptoms that I'm living with is a really nice way to not isolate, to be involved, but not having expectations
of a 40-hour week job. It's been a good way to kind of stay afloat you know rather than be all over the place.
Today's mindfulness practice in addition to helping us learn to focus more on being in a moment is designed to help us practice a skill called dialectic thinking.
I find oftentimes when the beginning of the week is the hardest. I can be very depressed at the beginning of the week, but knowing that on Mondays I have a commitment is very helpful, because it just
I guess it's in the back of my head that you've got to get up and at least try. You know there are times when I call in sick and I say I just can't do it, but it's always there.
I like this example because it's a very simple example of a dialectic statement. The rose is beautiful and it has thorns. I've been part of a clubhouse where I volunteer and I teach Spanish.
I also volunteered a lot with NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Illness where I do a presentation program to reduce stigma. It's called the In Our Own Voice Presentation Program at NAMI.
Our experiences are often so intense and so unrecognizable to others that they're described by words that remove them from natural emotional states. When I do the In Our Own Voice Presentations,
we talk about our dark days, we talk about our acceptance, our coping, our treatment and we end with our successes, hopes, and dreams and it's really an arc of recovery.
And every time I do one of those presentations, I walked out of there reminded how far I've come because I tell the story and people are very excited to hear it and it reminds me that,
â€œHey, you've come so far. You don't want to relapse. You don't want to end up decompensating. And you tell others just like you're telling yourself
how to do that or how to prevent that from happening.â€ I wake up, you know, each day and it's like, â€œWow! I'm doing a lot.â€ You know, I'm not, you know, so people say, â€œWell, you're not working.â€
It's like, â€œBut I am. I'm doing, I'm doing it in my own way.â€ When I'm facilitating a class, it reminds me that I'm doing something. I'm doing something really, really good and positive.
Volunteering is a great way to start doing something. It's kind of a segue. You don't have to, you know, commit to something that you can't do.
And normally, the organizations that will get you involved and see that and understand that, so it's a great way to just kind of start getting,
coming back from the throws of the dark days of the illness. It's a very safe feeling. It's a very nice feeling to be around people who just get it.