Hello, my name is Andrea Paquette and I am known as the Bipolar Babe in the mental health community. I founded the Bipolar Disorder Society of British Columbia by launching www.bipolarbabes.com and from the beginning my mandate is to stomp out stigma. The Society has been in operation since 2010 and I am so happy to be the Executive Director of this impactful Charity. Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 25 years old, I know what it means to face stigma internally and externally. It is my desire to share my personal experiences of living with bipolar and how I have managed stigma throughout my life for the past 14 years. I have been on many amazing Bipolar Babes’ adventures throughout the years and have the privilege of working with hundreds of people as a support group facilitator providing them with the tools necessary, so they can empower themselves. I have also spoken to over 12,000 people about my personal story over the years in the community, while mainly focusing on youth in schools. My most recent cherished moment is being awarded the 2015 Courage To Come Back Award in the category of mental health given by Coast Mental Health. You are probably wondering what I mean by stating that I have faced internal and external stigma. Upon my diagnosis, I did not feel initially stigmatized and I did not know what to expect from others in regards to my diagnosis. However, as time passed I was faced with people kicking me out of my own home and confiscating my key to having ‘friends’ abandon me upon discovering that I had a mental illness. I have also been internally stigmatized, which was a direct result from my experiences with the people in my life over the years. I was barely able to look at myself in the mirror without shame and guilt emitting from my perceived negative image. Over the years, I have learned to grow more accepting of myself, and I fought against this negative and stigmatized version of myself. Today, I truly believe that I am a good person, who deserves good things in life and I now see myself through the same lens as my loved ones see me. I am grateful to offer hope, love and an appreciation for others. I am both privileged and honoured to share my personal experiences about stigma and my mental health journey because I feel it is a vitally important conversation. I hope to provide encouragement to help others overcome the negative effects that stigma can have on others, and perhaps remind myself along the way that I too am worthy, loved, and appreciated by many. We often need to be told such things and I am here to do just that. Hope to see you in Greater Vancouver at one of our Stigma-Free Zone Superheroes classroom presentations this semester! Currently, I am the sole presenter for our Program, but there are many more Superheroes on the way who will be offering presentations in the future. Please feel free to visit my Bipolar Babes Blog on our Bipolar Babes website. Thank you! ~Andrea AKA Bipolar Babe
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