State Of Mind Profile: Paige Corologos
VPR's series of special reports on mental health care in Vermont, "State of Mind," includes personal stories of Vermonters who have lived with mental health struggles.
Paige Corologos lives happily on a leafy street in Burlington’s Old North End with her husband and daughter. But there have been times in her life that have not been so stable. Corologos has bipolar disorder. She says she’s always been open about it because she doesn’t want mental illness to live in the shadows.
Here is her story:
I was date-raped when I was fourteen. And that seemed to be a trigger for my bipolar. Directly after that, I tried to commit suicide. That was the first time and there have been many times since, but not for many years now.
Gosh, when you're fifteen, fourteen, and that sort of thing happens, you're so embarrassed and ashamed and you blame yourself. All that kind of stuff that happens to anybody who's been raped. I just held it in and it made me sick.
And I had a propensity because of my family's genetic line, my father's line. My great grandmother had bipolar quite badly.
I wasn't diagnosed with bipolar disorder immediately. It took many years.
I made it through college, failing out once because I was depressed. I immediately went into my masters degree. And I went from depression into a full mania--just craziness and getting papers in last minute but doing very well with them. I was planning on being a teacher.
I got a job at a Catholic school in Winooski. And then probably the third or fourth day, to my great shame to this day, I walked out of the classroom. I had a panic attack and I walked out of the classroom and I walked down to the principal's office and I said, "I'm sorry, I'm leaving."
And she looked at me and she said, "You mean you're sick and for the day?"
And I went, "No."
She said, "You're not coming back?"
And I said, "No." And I said, "I'm sorry." And I left.
I didn't go back to Winooski for many years. And then I didn't go by the church and the school until probably five years ago, out of shame, you know.
It was really hard. It was a very hard about ten years. And I went through some depressions, some hospitalizations, some suicide attempts. I had many times I went up to the hospital.
Finally, my psychiatrist said to me that if I had one more time that I took her medicine, that she had prescribed me, in an unauthorized way to try to hurt myself, that she could not be my psychiatrist anymore. And that stopped me dead in my tracks. So we did cognitive behavioral therapy and I never had another time when I felt I needed to commit suicide, or just not "be" anymore.
I don't worry that it's going to come back. You would think I would, because it can. But I don't worry about it. I've had a good life for so many years now.
I've been "out" as a bipolar person ever since I was diagnosed. I just thought, you know, I can be and other people can't because of their jobs and their lives. And sometimes it affects how people treat you and sometimes it doesn't.
You know, mental illness is frightening; it's frightening for me. It's a frightening topic. So stigma exists and is still out there, but we're working on it.