Heidi Iwig has a college degree and a career as a CPR instructor for the American Red Cross. She’s happily married and has a beautiful 1-year-old daughter.
She also lives with bipolar disorder and manages her illness with help from Via Christi Psychiatric Clinic and its medical director, Matthew Macaluso, DO.
“Initially, I didn’t want people to know that I had bipolar because there is a huge stigma out there,” says Heidi, 33. “People are scared because they don’t understand it. I’m tired of the stigma.”
Heidi’s mental illness did not surface until she was in college. After an active, successful student career at Wichita’s Northwest High School, Heidi struggled with procrastination in college and was first diagnosed with ADHD. When her academic challenges continued and she was not feeling right, she underwent further testing in 2007 and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
A bipolar mania
In 2008, while attending college in Tennessee, she experienced “a bipolar high or mania” that lasted for about a month, followed by a deep slide into depression. “With bipolar disorder, it’s kind of like a roller coaster – you have your highs and your lows. I ended up coming off of the high and I dipped really low – the lowest I’ve ever been.”
She remembers a feeling of standing outside her body, watching two sides of her inner self arguing over whether to commit suicide or seek help. The pro-life side won the argument and she sought help, spending 10 days as an inpatient in a behavioral health center.
Therapy and a new regimen of medication helped her manage her bipolar disorder well for the next two years. She moved back to Wichita in 2009 to be closer to her parents and, based on a recommendation, she began receiving psychiatric care from Dr. Macaluso.
In February 2010, she began dating Scott Iwig – who became her husband and today is the “anchor” that helps her manage the peaks and valleys of her illness.
In June 2010, a month after she and Scott became engaged, Heidi plunged into another episode of anxiety-laced mania and depression. She spent several days as an inpatient at Via Christi Behavioral Health Center, participating in group and individual therapy. “I felt Via Christi’s inpatient program worked better and I saw a difference in how I recovered,” she says.
Battling post-partum depression
Dr. Macaluso adjusted her medications and Heidi did well. She and Scott were married a year later. They began trying to have a child and Heidi became pregnant in February 2012. On Nov. 3, 2012, Heidi gave birth to their daughter, Lydia.
During pregnancy, however, Heidi had stopped taking one of her medications because of the chance it would harm the baby. As a result, she battled a difficult period of post-partum depression.
Her husband, Scott, was very supportive and helped her care for Lydia. “We just kept at it with the therapy and the post-partum eventually went away,” she says.
Today, Heidi is thankful for the monthly therapy and medication support she receives from Dr. Macaluso and the resident physicians at Via Christi Psychiatric Clinic. She hopes that sharing her story will help people become more accepting of mental illness.
“It’s not a person’s fault that they have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder,” she says. “Accept us for who we are and don’t treat us any differently.”