Monday, May 21 , 2018, 8:52 am | Mostly Cloudy 59º


Letter to the Editor: Let’s Not Be Afraid to Talk About Mental Illness

After six days of intense treatment, trial and error, tests and counseling, I was discharged from the psychiatric unit in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

Today, I feel alive again. A week ago, I was in a pit of despair, not understanding why my mind went from racing thoughts to complete numbness in a matter of hours.

The treatment I received in the hospital was extraordinary, the doctors and nurses exceptional, even the janitorial staff made me smile each day. I had visitors and get well wishes from all over the world, each reaching out to me in the hopes that they could understand just a little better what mental illness is.

My name is Orla O’Doherty, and I have bipolar disorder. I live a full life, work as a squash instructor and teacher to disadvantaged youth. I have a family and close friends. I live in a beautiful place. If it weren’t for my health insurance, I would not be making these statements.

Mental illness is a serious affliction that needs to be addressed and taken care of so that I’m not just one of the lucky ones. We are everywhere. We are your dad, your mom, your sister, your brother, your neighbor, you teacher, your bartender, your best friend.

If you know someone with a mental disorder, please love them as best as you can. Love and affection helped get me through the last week, as well as a whole new set of medication that seems to be working wonderfully.

Let’s spread the word about mental illness and not be afraid to talk about it anymore. Thank you all for your thoughts, comments and messages. They meant more to me than you know, particularly while I was alone in that hospital room late at night.

I’m better, and I hope to stay this way for a long time.

Orla O’Doherty
Santa Barbara

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