Woman in glasses with orange sweater, bright red lipstick, soft smile

…and a Happy New Year!

Post by Dina R. D’Alessandro, RDN

Woman in glasses with orange sweater, bright red lipstick, soft smile
TW: mental health, suicide

This is the face of a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In 1998, I had been crying every day over “little things” like misplacing a sock, so I started seeing a therapist. I had always been in and out of therapy since I was 19, but had really thought I could handle things on my own. After all, people told me that I was great at juggling multiple projects, I had an amazing personality, and I was exceptional at being organized and positive. But, the truth was that I was sadder and more overwhelmed than I had been in years. Therapy—and some meds at the time—helped me gain clarity and get out of some situations that were no longer bringing me joy.

Flash forward to 2020, the rockiest of years for many of us. I found myself being spread so thin I was starting to feel like I would snap and ended up nearly giving up on myself. Enter Mental Health America (MHA). They held an online summit that changed and saved me. It was full of presenters and topics that resonated with me. In the lineup were some well known public figures, but also some not-so-well known ones: “regular” people who had a story to share. They warmed my heart and breathed new life in me telling how they overcame the same experiences I was going through. They motivated me to not only seek help once again (thank you, suicide prevention hotline and therapy) but reach out to complete strangers on social media and ask if they’d be willing to be a part of my own online event, a “virtual group hug for the soul” as I was calling it.

There was born the #MadeWithLove wellness retreat, an online gathering for others struggling to make sense of—and survive in—a most challenging year and a fundraiser to give back to the organization that started it all, MHA. Through the kindness of strangers, a common mission, and the willingness to break the stigma of having a mental health disorder, this event has now become an annual thing to raise awareness and provide support to anyone who needs it…and it’s a way for me to be grateful that I’m still alive to do it. I was so proud of and pleased at the turnout of our 2021 event (held earlier this month)–not to mention the over $800 USD we received in donations–and am still feeling the effects of that virtual group hug. If you were one of the hundreds of registrants who attended that weekend, I hope you enjoyed everything we had to offer and that you will keep riding this wave of inspiration into the new year and beyond.

That said, I am–and probably will always be–a work in progress, but I’m able to recognize that I’ve come a long way from that person who used to cry every day. I plan to continue making improvements, setting goals, and honoring my health and wellbeing; and I hope you will join me on this journey as we continue to share educational and informational topics with you.

If there’s anything you’d like to learn from us in 2022, or if you’d like to share your own successes and challenges with us, please leave a comment below, and follow us on any of the social media platforms linked above.