Who is Sarah?

My name is Sarah. I am a nearly-40 woman living in the same small, Midwestern town that I grew up in. I am currently in the process of moving from my mother’s house to the adorable little house I bought at the end of 2019. It’s only 2.5 miles, but as I put it in a Pokémon Go group, I’m going from no Pokémon in sight to walking a block for 3 PokéStops, a gym, and a raid. I can easily walk to my bank, and with a bit more ambition I can go downtown, such as it is.

I started this blog in 2014, but have recently reimagined its purpose and scope to focus less on personal ramblings and more on educational resources. I made most existing posts private, save for my “Top Reads” from each year (public) and drafts of my book chapters (password-protected).

Why should you listen to me about mental illness, treatment, and social services? Well, it’s up to your judgment to decide if any particular post rings true for you, but I have personal, educational, professional, and volunteer experience.

Personal

I was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder in 2014, with symptoms dating clearly back to at least 1992, possibly earlier. I have been on 20 different medications, seen 3 different therapists, and been in inpatient or partial hospitalization 16 times at 7 different hospitals.

My particular area of interest and experience is in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). I have been in a DBT group since 2015, and over time I’ve transitioned from learning the skills to helping the leader teach them.

I have also utilized many social services resources. I was approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in 2019. I have been a client of Vocational Rehabilitation since 2015, receiving assistance with both education and employment. I’ve utilized food pantries, received energy assistance, and had medical bills written off.

Educational

After several unsuccessful attempts at college totalling 6.5 full-time years over the course of 10 calendar years, I completed my Bachelor of Arts during a 3-year part-time span from 2016-2019. My earlier attempts were a mix of Theatre and English, with a smattering of other majors and minors that didn’t take hold. When I transferred to my final college in 2016, I had a mere 9 credit hours toward the Psychology major that would become my BA degree.

For my electives, I focused on topics such as Counseling Psychology and Practicum experience with an aim to continue to graduate school for a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I started that program, but due to a flare-up of symptoms my professors encouraged me to withdraw.

Professional

Though brief, I worked for a local mental health organization in housing for people with moderate-to-severe mental illness. I learned a great deal in that short time, and what is most relevant to this blog is my knowledge of the behind-the-scenes workings of mental health treatment. I am a rare person who can speak the languages of both patient and provider.

Volunteer

I am a member-at-large on the board of my local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) affiliate. I have been our team captain for the nearest NAMIWalks fundraiser since 2018.

Through NAMI I joined Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). CIT aims to improve treatment of people with mental illness by law enforcement and the judicial system. I helped to organize and run two 40-hour training sessions for first responders, including police officers, paramedics, 911 dispatchers, emergency room nurses, and school resource officers.

I spoke about my personal experience of mental illness at both of these trainings, and have given similar presentations at two of NAMI’s Family-to-Family classes.

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