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Please welcome first-time contributor Stephanie McLeod, a 36-year-old wife and mother. She first began to experience paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and severe mood swings in her teen years. After being misdiagnosed for years she was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at 31 years old accompanied by years of drug and alcohol addiction. During times of mania and psychosis, photographing the world around her has been one of the only things that has helped keep her grounded in reality. She feels that looking at life through a lens helps her connect to the world around her no matter how distant she may feel. Stephanie has recently become more accepting of her mental illness and sees it as an opportunity to help others who struggle by sharing openly and honesty about her experience. With medication compliance, therapy, 12-step programs, and intensive treatment she is beginning to see life as bright and hopeful again. Stephanie hopes to share her story with others suffering and let them know that life with mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of that there is light on the other side with treatment and self acceptance. Stephanie wants others to live their lives proud of who they are, bravely, and boldly.
About this photo: “This photo is very special to me. I took it at a time that was very dark for me. I had just had my son, despite the joy of the occasion I was still suffering. I remember seeing this double rainbow and praying for relief from my suffering. My mind in a psychosis told me that it was a sign that I would be relieved of my pain finally. A gateway to heaven opened up just for me. Afraid to tell anyone how much pain I was in, experiencing severe mania and depression with bouts of frightening psychosis. Relapsing on drugs and alcohol after 4 years of recovery, using my old coping mechanisms seemed like the only option, that or death. This finally lead to my first stay in a psychiatric hospital. This was when I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and properly medicated. I will never forget the relief I felt. Finally I understood why I had been through all that I had for so many years and I didn’t have to hide it anymore. I will never forget looking out the window of my room in the hospital and seeing the world in a whole new light stable for the first time in my life. I knew at that moment my life would change. Finally I found something I never had…HOPE! Life has gotten more beautiful and amazing since. What an amazing journey!”