Risa has an MSW from Fordham University and a BA from Columbia University. She has spoken of living with mental illness for the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and was featured in Women’s Health Magazine’s May 2016 issue regarding mental health. Risa was also a panelist on AOL Build discussing the effects of stigma on those with mental illness. In 2017, Risa was also featured in an episode of Dr. Oz discussing her success with ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) and was a featured speaker at Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford’s first annual event: Embracing Possibility for Mental Health Awareness and was awarded the 2018 Humanitarian Award at the second annual event. She has written for OC87 Recovery Diaries, Huffpost, Psychcentral, Kveller, Keshet, The Mighty, Bring Change 2 Mind and was published in the 2nd and 3rd volumes of Stigma Fighters Anthology. Risa lives in central Connecticut with her husband and their 11 year old daughter.
It’s been quite a while since I have written, but in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve pushed myself to do so. I’ve been through a lot, in terms of my bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder since December of 2019 and, well, I have no end date, yet. Since March of 2020, I have either tried or increased/decreased doses of 9 medications, all to help regulate my mood and even out the hypomania and depression. I attended 2 different Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs from February of 2020 to June of 2020, then from July of 2020 to September of 2020. During this time, the medication trials were happening in conjunction with the programs.
I did not improve and then underwent 2 separate courses of TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), which I had done in 2016-2017. Unfortunately, I could not complete each course as each caused hypomanic states.
All of this happened while a pandemic took over all our lives. I was already going through something unimaginable and then it was as if there was a part II of something unimaginable occurring at the same time. I would be depressed for a week, then be in a mixed state with both depressed symptoms and hypomanic symptoms at the same time, then would be hypomanic for a couple of weeks. All of this while trying to keep things as sane as possible for my daughter, while having distance learning at home and then 10 weeks of summer vacation at home.
I had to take a break from my job in February of 2020, pre-pandemic, due to my illness and attendance in the IOPs. I was then, with all my fellow employees, placed on furlough, which continues today.
The last time my psychiatrist and I decided to try another new medication was in March of 2021 and that didn’t work out due to side effects, which happened with all of the prior trials. Since then, I have been maintaining myself on my current 5 psychiatric medications. It is difficult and we are ready to add a new medication if I become too depressed or hypomanic. It’s a medication I have not tried but it is known to help those with Bipolar II (me).
I still have zoom sessions with my therapist 5 times per week and we do some very difficult work together. We are a good team and she has helped me since the day I first met her in 2017. I see my psychiatrist every 2-4 weeks, depending on how I am doing, and we also work well together.
It’s difficult to be at home but I try to schedule things but often become overwhelmed by them and I don’t always follow through. I hope to return to work sometime in June but only 4 hours per week to start. I need to take things slowly and my manager is completely supportive of my needs. I am very lucky.
As difficult as the past year and a half has been, I am here and doing my best. It’s not always that great, but I’m learning a lot about myself that I never knew, or connected, in my work with my therapist and none of that is easy.
I’m not feeling terrible and I’m not feeling great and I never know when certain symptoms will show themselves, which is the hardest part of having bipolar disorder. I just thank God every day that I have my husband, our daughter, family, and amazing friends who always support me, no matter what state I am in.
All I can really say is:
I’m here, I’m me.
Here is an update of how I have been managing, emotionally, with my Bipolar Disorder.