My name is Jeanette Towns. I am 57 years old. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995. I have lived experience with this disease. I’ve survived its torments.
In 1995, I suffered some medical malpractice and subsequently suffered my very first manic episode. I was somewhat used to depression as that started in childhood. I just thought I was really sad. While I was in the ER, I heard the doctor yell ‘She’s unraveling!’ I was immediately sent to a mental health hospital nearby. I had never heard of bipolar disorder nor did I have any knowledge of mental illness. I was offered a strong medication. I read the side effects and declined. The hospital closed down. I was one of the last patients. Therefore, I was discharged with no follow-up.
I spent the next 7-10 years wandering around unmedicated. At this time, I was in and out of various hospitals, jails and in and out of my right mind. I was homeless by choice a few times, leaving my husband and children to live on the streets. I suffered hyper-sexuality and exhibited risky behaviors. I left my husband and remarried while manic. I set fires. Broke the law. I was a disaster going somewhere to happen. I was finally declared unfit to stand trial and was sent from jail to a state hospital in the forensics unit. I was there for a four month stay. I was stabilized and placed on meds that worked for me.
When I returned home, a case was opened up with a local mental health center. They managed my meds daily for some time. I had intense case management. I recovered to the point that I was actually asked by the facility if I wanted full-time employment there. I accepted the job and worked there about 4 years. Best. Job. Ever.
Since exiting the workforce, I have remained on my meds. All of my broken relationships restored. I am closer than ever with my family, being in daily contact.
I began to try and hide my story. Last year, I was strongly encouraged to share. I started a private Facebook group entitled Eliminating Mental Health Stigma. It’s a safe place to discuss mental health issues. I became a mental health advocate and activist. My brother-in-law recently made a statement concerning my life. He stated that I was like a car that was in a wreck – after being repaired, you cannot tell I was ever damaged.
My new mission in life is to help others on their journey to recovery. I aim to eliminate the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness. I am an active member of NAMI, including FaithNet since last year.