Knoxville woman says life doesn't have to end with mental illnes

Knoxville woman says life doesn't have to end with mental illness diagnosis

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"I went up, up, up, up, up and then once I was in the hospital, I crashed down and then we had to deal with that," said Barbara Nelson of her first experience dealing with bi-polar disorder. "I went up, up, up, up, up and then once I was in the hospital, I crashed down and then we had to deal with that," said Barbara Nelson of her first experience dealing with bi-polar disorder.

By LORI TUCKER
6 News Anchor

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Some of the stigma about mental illness is starting to chip away.

It's thanks, in part, to education and awareness, including stories of celebrities like Catherine Zeta Jones, who has made no secret of her bi-polar disorder and how she has been hospitalized to help manage the extreme highs and lows.

A local woman who has done the same says mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.

Barbara Nelson helps coordinate mental health resources for United Healthcare patients.

She's good at her job because she's been there.

"What I bring to the table is my hard-learned experience, knowing how it feels to go through a med change, knowing how it feels to deal with side effects, knowing why people would stop taking their meds and end up back in the hospital," Nelson said.

Her first stay in the psychiatric ward was twenty years ago. She was just out of college and had just started a new job when she impulsively got in her car and drove away.

"Well, I drove all through the night and would see signs, things that were signs to me like I-81, I graduated high school in '81. The truckers were waving at me. The songs on the radio had special meaning," she said.

She ended up in a hotel room two and a half hours from home. She called her family who got her to the hospital.

"I went up, up, up, up, up and then once I was in the hospital, I crashed down and then we had to deal with that," said Nelson.

She lost her job and hibernated for four years.

Then, through therapy and support groups, she got up and started again.

"It was like, wow, I can have a life too," she said.

Nelson said while it took four years for her to get going again. Everyone's different.

She regularly sees a psychiatrist, a therapist, is on medication and has been hospitalized through the years to maintain stability.

She also highly recommends volunteering as a way to help others and herself.

The Mental Health Association of East Tennessee can assist in finding treatment. Visit their website to find out more.

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