I walk because I am proud of the legacy of my Nana. She was bipolar. She had no name for the classic symptoms of an illness that disrupted her daily life and made no sense to the world around her. Nan suffered and because we loved her, we suffered too.
Despite her illness, as a commercial real estate developer and builder Nan achieved success and won the respect of colleagues in a field that, after two generations, still remains predominantly male. She was a single mom who taught her children and grandchildren about faith and hard work and devotion to family. She was an equestrian, a lover of dogs and the songs of her canaries. Nan was vibrant! And the light she brought to our lives shines bright in her kids, grands, and great-grands today.
Nan faced the challenges of mental illness without the gifts of treatment and the knowledgeable support from others to smooth the way. But her courage inspired us, her energy entertained us, and though her darkness sometimes overshadowed us, she taught us to persevere.
I inherited Nan’s illness. But I have a name for the disease, a clinical diagnosis: bipolar disorder. We now know bipolar disorder is a medical illness that like diabetes or asthma can (should) be treated. So unlike Nan, I have access to education about how and why bipolar affects my brain. I have the benefits of medication and support from family and friends based on what we have learned and understand about the disease. In short, I have tools to manage the symptoms of my mental illness.
Nan, my grandmother, was wise and intense. She lived boldly and empathized with abandon. She held on through the storms brought by her disease and gave her legacy of strength to me.
--Tami Leino Hanna
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