Kimberly D. Holmes
My life was pretty up and down before I experienced mental health symptoms. I had a lot of mood swings and what I now know of manic behavior. However, I did manage to graduate from high school and I obtained a good job with the federal government as a civil service employee. I am a 49-year-old African American woman and I have lived in San Diego California most of my life.
I experienced a lot of depression from the time I was 12 years old. I experienced mania that made me impulsive and sometime reckless with my behavior. I quit my job of 13 years in a bout of mania and tried to take my life or self-harm on several occasions. I divorced twice and my life was in a state of chaos. When I finally went to the doctor, I was 28 years old. Initially, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and two years later I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I.
I was quite happy to get the diagnoses, but I was confused and didn’t know what to expect in my life going forward. I took my medication as prescribed and managed to live for a few years symptom-free. It took me many years to find my acceptance. Not until I spent five months in jail and one month in a state mental institution did I begin to accept my illness. However, in an intensive outpatient behavioral health program, I learned that I could find peace and a sense of normalcy in my life.
Recovery today is beautiful. I live a lifestyle that embraces recovery. I practice coping skills everyday through lots of things. I like to read and write and I use a lot of pet therapy with my puppy Emma. I practice good eating and sleeping habits and I am an author today. Initially, my family was afraid of me and did not want anything to do with me because of my challenges. Fortunately, I had some good friends that only wanted to know how they could help. I embraced them and found a good support group.
It’s hard still for my community to accept a mental health diagnosis. Some of them don’t believe that it is legitimate. Most believe that I just need more of God and that he can heal me if I wanted him to. Despite this, I have worked diligently to educate my peers though community work. I currently speak for NAMI’s In Our Own Voice program and I am a recent author. The name of my book is “It’s My Life and I’ll Cry If I Want Too: The Diary of a Bipolar Woman.” I hope to inspire others to tell their stories and not to be ashamed of some of the things that come along with mental illness.