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This fundraiser ended on 01/05/13

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The family and friends of Donna Bruno are uniting to raise money to assist with her medical expenses for extensive bipolar treatment.

As many of you know, Donna Bruno is a vibrant, creative, intelligent young woman who has always been one to fight to achieve her goals and dreams. And she continues to fight, yet in a different way. Donna was diagnosed with Bipolar I 3 1/2 years ago after her 1st hospitalization. It has been a downward slope ever since. Donna had been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder since she was 27 but she knew something wasn't right. It was not until she was in graduate school and was delving deeper into the psychology of mental illness that she began to realize she had more than depression.

Many people are not educated on this mood disorder. Bipolar is considered a mental illness and one goes from extreme highs to extreme lows. The illness has wreaked havoc on her life and her loved ones. She has been unable to hold a job down for over 2 years now . She thought she was stable enough in 2011 to go obtain her TESOL certification to teach English in Thailand. She received her certificate and did teach but it was short lived. She was released from the position due to her depression setting in while there and not being able to get up and go to work. Not long after, she went into one of her worst manic episodes to date while in another country. It was dangerous and put her family and husband through more stress than they could ever have imagined. Luckily she was able to get home and be hospitalized and stabilized but it was brief. She was back in the hospital only 5 months later. This is when she lost another job, a therapist position WITHIN the mental health field due to yet another hospitalization. Even within the mental health profession, this illness is widely misunderstood.

Donna has been labeled as "treatment resistant". This meaning she has not responded well to medications and outpatient therapy so far. She has been prescribed med after med to stabilize her and this past year has been the most difficult thus far. Donna continues with weekly therapy and med management by her psychiatrist. But studies show, treatment resistant patients usually require deeper more extensive therapeutic interventions and pharmacology in order to reclaim their lives. We realize that mental illness still is not recognized as a "true illness" sometimes in our society. It is still highly stigmatized. Donna is well aware of this, not only dealing with it personally, but also being a Masters Level Social Worker in the field of dealing and working with others with mental illness. If anything, she hopes this fundraiser will not only assist with her medical expenses to get the care she truly needs but to also bring an awareness to this illness.

Donna is hoping that after completion of treatment, which is a minimum of 6 weeks in a residential program, she will have the tools that are necessary to pick her life back up and "live" again, not just maintain and be in a perpetual state of depression or manic highs. This illness is much more debilitating than many people realize. Depression when you have bipolar does not mean you are down or just have the blues for a few days. It means, in Donna's case, she does not get out of the bed for weeks on end, won't shower or take care of herself, prone to anxiety/panic attacks and crying spells that seem never ending. It is emotional anguish to say the least. It means not being able to work consistently anymore because you never know from one day to the next what your mood will be or how you will be feeling. The inconsistency makes it now impossible to make social plans or any plans for that matter because she may be in the bed for days on end or "high", manic if you will and irritable and agitated for being unable to sleep for 3 and 4 days at a time.

Maintenance therapy has proven to not be successful thus far for Donna. We have located a specialized bipolar treatment center that has an 80% success rate for treatment resistent clients like Donna. The challenge is trying to pay for this treatment. It is a private pay facility and insurance will not cover long term residential treatment. Insurance covers crisis management, quick hospital stay and back on the street again with some outpatient follow up. This has proven to be unsuccessful for Donna. All we can do is hope everyone who reads this message understands that this has been a true travesty in Donna's life and her husband and family as well. Donna also wants this to be an opportunity to bring awareness to this illness and let people realize it is truly a disease and must be dealt with properly in order for one to function successfully in society. We thank you for taking the time to read her story. This was very difficult for her to let it be known to everyone she has bipolar but it is part of her healing and acceptance of the illness. As Donna likes to put it: "I am not Bipolar. I am Donna Bruno, a human being and I have the illness Bipolar. I am not the disease."

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