07/01/2014 04:06PM ● Published by Style
Clockwise: Michelle Wimett, Marcia Rose and James Witschner – Photo by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group
“James built a small group, but after only a few weeks he went into a severe mania and left,” Rose says. “I remember the next night when I went in to tell everyone [that] the group was cancelled; I looked into their faces, and I just couldn’t do it.”
Rose took over the program that night. Knowing nothing about bipolar disease, she quickly saw the program needed to transition from a support group with a “poor me” attitude to a class that enabled people to cope with the disease with their heads up.
Today, 16 years later, Bipolar Insights has more than 30 volunteers helping approximately 110 people at two classes on Sunday and Monday evenings. Some have been attending for more than a decade. Rose herself is also a sought-after speaker on bipolar disorder, provides counseling and informational resources for families dealing with the disease and recently finished a book, all in addition to her day job. But she’ll tell everyone it’s not about her—it’s about helping people with the disease to not feel isolated, and to understand they don’t need to let the disease define them.
“People are not bipolar, they have bipolar—that’s where we start,” Rose says. “We push out preconceived ideas that cause fear, self-hate and isolation. We teach that bipolar is an illness that can—and must—be managed, just like any other.” By providing tools to help people cope with the disease—like journals they can use to graph how they’re feeling from day to day—their medications are prescribed based on real data. Proper medication helps restore balance, and with that comes confidence in knowing the disease really can be managed, which drives out fear and gives individuals power over their disease.
Bipolar Insights is a program that counsels on coping skills and emphasizes continuously that every person has value and worth. Without any doubt, this is a program that works. Many of the attendees, including James, have been “balanced” for years. They also learn to involve their families in managing their disease so they need not ever feel alone.
It’s a labor of love that Rose says she will do “until she can’t.” That’s a big change from the early days, when she truly wanted to quit every week, but somehow stuck with it. For that, she credits her faith in God. “Without the Lord, I wouldn’t be where I am today...I wanted to be an actress,” she says with a laugh. “Of course my daughter reminds me that now I’m on stage twice a week. God just had a different plan than I did.”