Fighting My Brain, the Emily Vairo story

4 mins read

In the eye of the storm living with a mental illness without a formal diagnosis or treatment is a scary and confusing time. Although she first starting experiencing symptoms when she was in 8th grade, Emily Vairo didn’t learn she had Bipolar I Disorder until several years later at the age of 22. She explains that she suffered in silence for a long time unsure what her suicide ideation and depression actually meant.

In the summer of 2015 Emily went through some of the classic symptoms of mania: excessive energy, irritability, grandiose ideas, losing touch with reality, hyper sexuality, and racing thoughts.

At first the people in her life thought she was “faking it”, but after the official diagnosis everyone quickly became concerned with her safety, health, and figuring out the best way to move forward.

Thankfully Emily has a strong support system of family, friends, NAMI, and medical professionals. Emily recognizes the important role she plays and that in actuality she is the only one with the capability to hurt her recovery through actions of self-sabotage. In taking a proactive role she has found a variety of healthy ways to manage her systems through yoga, cycling, cooking, journaling, music, photography, and remaining medication compliant.

Another choice she made for her health and wellness was to abstain from alcohol from the point of her diagnosis more than four years ago; it was because of medical advice she was given as to the adverse effects alcohol would have on her symptoms and medications.

Although she had challenges earlier on in her recovery, her first triumph came about seven months after diagnosis when she began working again. She admits it wasn’t easy to gain the confidence to put herself out there.

In her recovery she not only found herself again, but gained a passion for mental health advocacy. Emily began attending NAMI Connection’s meetings after publishing her story and leading a team “Aware and Unashamed” for the NAMI Walks.

From there she became more involved with her advocacy through NAMI as a facilitator for the Connection’s meetings, secretary of The Recovery Council, and a speaker for “Ending the Silence” presentations at local high schools. Her perseverance and strength of character did not go unnoticed as she received the 2019 NAMI S.C. “Recovery Member of the Year” award.

These days Emily has a level of self-awareness she didn’t have before, a much better understanding of her needs. This in turn has created more empathy towards others, not just those in recovery like her.

Without Emily’s knowledge of her illness she might still feel that sense of being empty and alone, she might not even be here today. Her story isn’t one of perfection or being a model citizen in recovery because she still has her struggles, but she works vigilantly to maintain a certain level of stability.

She lives by the NAMI Principal of Support “Never Give up Hope.”

Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate and blogger, as well as a volunteer with the local chapter of NAMI. You can find her on social media by searching #Laurakaponeris1in5.

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