19-year-old wants to ‘be the change’ as she faces bipolar disorder

19-year-old wants to ‘be the change’ as she faces bipolar disorder

 

ELLETTSVILLE, Ind. — Rachael Brown, a 19-year-old student at Ivy Tech Community College, heard a shocking diagnosis when she had an adverse reaction to painkiller during wisdom teeth extraction: She suffered from bipolar disorder.

According to behavioral specialist Cheryl Ferguson, bipolar is a disorder that manifests with episodes of mania and depression, once called manic-depressive disorder.

Brown’s therapist has explained to her the symptoms of her diagnosis.

“There will be times when I’m super hyper and I can’t sleep and I’m feeling my mind is racing, or there will be times when I’m maybe not like feel depressed, but I won’t be able to move as quickly, I will feel drowsy, things like that,” she said.

“And it can change at the drop of the hat, which is still scary for me, because I’m a person of consistence. I like to have the same thing, every day, every time, and having a monkey wrench thrown into my plans, and thrown in my life, really, is something I’m just going to have to get used to.”

Despite the changes Brown has had to make in her life, like taking the semester off from school and missing two weeks of work, she is keeping a positive attitude about how to cope with her diagnosis.

“I’m definitely learning my triggers,” she said. “I’m starting to learn… what’s happening to my body and that kinda helps me breathe through it, because it’s hard to breathe something when you don’t know if it’s going to end or what’s happening to you.”

She is grateful for the support of her family and friends.

“My friends and my family, they changed everything. I was able to live with my parents for a while and they were so supportive… I remember asking them hundreds of times a day, ‘Am I ever going to get better?’ ‘Am I going to be OK?’ You know, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ And they would always respond with the same calm, ‘Yes, you’re going to be OK, you’re going to be fine, we love you, people love you, you’re going to get through this.’”

Brown also has learned that the right medication and therapy can help her feel better.

“When I got on the right medication and I started to feel better, it was like night and day, and I was able realize the hope (family and friends) had given me… The support was what really got me through and changed my outlook,” she said.

Breathing is her main coping mechanism. She stops and breathes, “five seconds in, five seconds out,” and imagines her “happy place,” an Irish farm. She also says talking with someone she trusts helps her get through an episode.

“If I talk to someone I’m really close to, and just able to talk through, like just ramble and talk through anything that comes into my mind, if I can say it, it helps me get through it and deal with whatever thoughts I (have),” she said. “Having people who will just sit there and listen to me rant for a couple of minutes really, really helps me.”

She said she’s not letting her diagnosis change her future in a negative way.

“I’m just going to take it a day at a time,” Brown said. “I want to inspire people… be the change.

“I think mental health isn’t talked about as much as it should be and that’s why it’s stigmatized… I think, maybe, just if people hear a lot about it, maybe it will help them to be more understanding to those of us who have to deal with it everyday.”

 

About Bipolar Disorder

Cheryl Ferguson, an independent behavioral specialist and resident of Nashville, Ind., offers insight about bipolar disorder in this audio interview:

 

Ferguson has a master’s degree in non-teaching Special Education and a master’s in Education Psychology. She is a certified school psychologist in several states and worked in that capacity for 10 years.

“I got tired of putting labels on kids,” she said, explaining why she moved into the behavioral specialist field.

Now, she works independently as a behavior specialist and owns and operates an ice cream shop, The Sunshine Shack, in Nashville, with her husband.

[Music: “Fluidscape” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/]

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