As a “happily married mom of three and grandmother to four,” Debbie works each day to remain active and positive, filling her time with the things she loves, like crocheting, baking and helping others to see there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I try very hard each day to stay as active as possible, both physically and emotionally, always trying to manage my bipolar disorder, PTSD, OCD and anxiety disorder. It’s a lifestyle for me, and it works.”
Though she now manages her condition confidently and helps others learn how to do the same, that wasn’t always the case for Debbie. “I am told my PTSD came about from a rough childhood. I grew up in a severely dysfunctional, alcoholic family,” she shared. “I continued the fiasco by marrying an abusive alcoholic. I have also been victim to multiple rapes, molestation and physical abuse, all from people I should have been able to trust.”
Eventually, Debbie was referred by her longtime therapist to a rehabilitation center that was looking for peers (peers are past mental health consumers who now help other mental health consumers based on a shared personal experience). “I spoke with the director, got hired, and immediately started training to become a Certified Peer Specialist,” Debbie said. She now helps others learn the basics of everyday living – making budgets, paying bills, making menus, grocery shopping, setting up appointments, taking medication – she also runs self-help groups on building self-esteem, relaxation techniques, aromatherapy and more.
Along with her work as a Peer Specialist, Debbie also does advocacy work to improve awareness for mental health conditions in her community. She was invited to speak at the Tioga County and Broome County meetings on a range of subjects, from electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), molestation and rape survival, to breaking down false biases based on misinformation on TV and in movies.
As well as her mental health advocacy and her work as a Peer Specialist, Debbie also runs a Facebook group, called My Happy Place, where she shares positive affirmations with her 250+ followers. When asked for her advice on what to do when you’ve just been diagnosed with PTSD, she said:
“Always know that you are NOT ALONE. You are not crazy, or over sensitive. PTSD comes from trying to be too strong for too long or on your own, with little or no support.”
Debbie says: “Talking about your fears and insecurities with someone who truly listens and does not judge you makes a huge difference. You can learn to accept your fears, work through them and enjoy life again. It doesn’t mean you forget what happened. You learn to get stronger for it.”
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