In the introduction to his book, No Man is an island, Thomas Merton said that loving ourselves properly is “desiring to live, accepting life as a great gift and a great good, not because of what it gives us, but because of what it enables us to give to others.” This has been true in my life.

Although I will always have emotional struggles, I am well most of the time now. This is a great gift and I find my greatest fulfillment in using these times of wellness to contribute to the well-being of others. I have many friends who are there for me. When I need them, it’s a joy to know I can be there for them as well.

Just as important to me as helping others cope with the symptoms of bipolar disorder is my desire to cut through the stigma that is attached to mental illness. If I could whittle away even a small part of the terrible feeling of shame that people with this disorder suffer, I would have done something meaningful.

This desire to make a difference in the lives of others with mental illness led me to become a mental health activist. It took courage to begin writing about my battles with the disease, but once my courage was in place, it never wavered. There have been times when I wandered away from that focus and followed other, more material pursuits, but I always came back, my desire to improve the lives of people with mental illness stronger than ever.