Elevating Voices: Tina

Dec 21, 2023

We know all too well at Guild that managing mental illness can often feel impossible and insurmountable. Our clients don’t choose their diagnoses, and persevering in the face of them can feel difficult and unfair when other people don’t have to live with mental illness at all. For this reason and many others, it’s common for people living with mental illness to stop treatment, to think they can go it on their own without support.

“For many years, I showed up and was dedicated to the many instructions and rules my illness had, but eventually, I was so sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Guild client Tina says.

As a kid, Tina loved coloring, sports, and going to the arcade. Her curiosity and sense of adventure earned her the nickname “Curious George” from her family and loved ones. Most of all, Tina remembers that when she was happy, her joy could not be contained. But when she was mad, she got really mad.

Tina kept active in sports throughout her high school years. She loved being part of a team and thrived in athletic environments. Her coaches praised her determination and persistence. But as so many of us know, athletic success and achievement can have a darker side. It’s easy for young people who are already struggling mentally to believe they are only as good as their latest win. Once the scoreboard is cleared, who are they?

“One of the greatest lies I once believed was how much of my worth was based on what I could achieve,” Tina says. “Once the final point was scored, and the game was done, my community disappeared.”

When Tina started her freshman year of college at Saint Paul College in 2001, she had big dreams of what her future would hold. All of that “came to a crashing halt” when she was hospitalized for her mental health. 

“I remember gripping my mom’s hand as we walked by a nurse,” she says. “I was so scared of what would happen next, knowing she would go home, and I had to stay. I remember looking around me at the other patients who were so far gone, scared that could be me in the future, asking myself, ‘Is this my life now?’”

In the hospital, Tina was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and the diagnosis terrified her. Her life suddenly felt like a roller coaster that she never chose to get on, with highs and lows that cost her many personal relationships. For years, she dedicated herself to stabilizing her mental health, but she eventually hit a rut, tired of having to work so hard just to be okay. 

“I stopped showing up and pushing myself,” Tina says. “I stopped taking medication. I stopped trying to win. I was 24 years old and gave up. Relationships I thought I could depend on disappeared. Nights and days began to blur.”

After several years of living in what she describes as chaos, Tina found herself hospitalized again. She wanted her life to change, wanted to find a way to live with her bipolar disorder and become independent. During her hospital stay, a social worker told her about Guild.

“[She told me] the people there wouldn’t be afraid or overwhelmed by my highs and lows,” Tina says. “They would help me navigate medication, connect me to housing, and would even be able to help with the mountain of paperwork that comes along with my health.”

At Guild, Tina found a team again … only this time, a team that stood behind her not because of what she could offer them in terms of success, but just because she mattered as a person.

“My world opened in ways I never imagined,” Tina says. “It’s hard to put into words what significant change has happened in my life. I’ve come to see the beautiful parts of my illness and the creativity it holds. I have a family that loves me. I drive, advocate for my needs, and I have a career I love, working with seniors in assisted living.” 

With Guild’s support, Tina has found a new purpose in life — one that isn’t defined by wins or losses or the number on the scoreboard. 

“I’m not defined by my diagnosis. I bring beauty and worth simply because of who I am.”

At Guild, we understand the importance of putting the right team together to best support our clients’ needs. Please consider giving today to support people like Tina.