Laurie Pinard expends as much energy today on maintaining her health as she once put into a high-powered career on Parliament Hill.
“I worked in politics for over 15 years,” says Pinard, 44, whose experience included working in the offices of provincial and federal cabinet ministers.
“I didn’t have a private life. I saved everything for my work.”
Eventually, work-related stress and her declining mental health all became too much to bear. “In 2009, I buckled under the weight of my life,” she says.
“I lost everything, absolutely everything, due to mental illness – my career, my money, my possessions.”
After several misdiagnoses, Pinard’s illness was eventually identified as bipolar disorder. She says that her mood swings began when she was a teenager and grew worse when she was in her twenties and thirties.
“How can you treat mental illness effectively, if you don’t identify it?” asks Dr. Ian Manion, the executive director of the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health. “The goal in the face of any disability, mental or physical, is to provide people with the skills to get through the tough times.”
Bipolar disorder is one of the hardest illnesses to diagnose because it is a cyclical disease that can take many forms, says Dr. Mimi Israel, chair of the department of psychiatry at McGill University and psychiatrist-in-chief of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.
“Sometimes, people can have recurrent lows for many years starting in adolescence, and the highs come only 15 or 20 years down the road. When they have recurrent highs, they sometimes don’t go for help. It’s only when they crash and are basically unable to function that they are more likely to want help.”
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February 1, 2013