Last month my friend’s daughter, Helene*, graduated from college with her bachelor’s degree in math.
At first blush, you might think that Helene is no different than the tens of thousands of other college graduates this month. The difference is Helene has bi-polar disorder.
At 35, it has taken her 17 years to reach the goal that she set out for in the fall of 1991. As with most college freshmen, Helene moved into the dorm, ready to take on the world. But, that world began to grow dimmer and dimmer. By the end of her first year, Helene was hospitalized and diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.
After her treatment began, Helene’s parents, like so many parents, were sure that she was now back on that road to taking on the world. It wasn’t long, though, that she slipped off the road again. Back to the hospital, and this time back home. But, not to defeat.
Over the course of the past 17 years, Helene has taken one or two classes a quarter. Sometimes having to drop out because the stress caused a relapse. Helene persevered, missing only a few quarters of study.
In spite of medication problems, in spite of relapses, in spite of impossible odds Helene made it.
Helene is not just a picture of a can-do spirit, she is a picture of recovery. Her quest for her degree shows that mental illness, and it’s resulting difficulties, need not stop a person from her dreams.
Congratulations, Helene! You are an inspiration to all.
*Name changed to protect identity.