Katherine Buenteo Calucci, mother of two, is a strong advocate for the practice of “mindfulness,” a meditative practice of paying close attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment. This “on-the-spot” experiential reflection has become a tool for her to use in managing her disabilities. She learned about mindfulness while doing research on coping strategies for bipolar disorder (BPD), her most challenging diagnosis.
“Nobody wants to admit they have a mental illness,” says Kathy. “However, I find most people tend to accept someone who states they have depression or anxiety, but no one wants to hear you have bipolar disorder. It’s like crossing an imaginary line someone created.” Since Kathy has the most challenging form of BPD — rapid-cycling Bipolar I — she finds mindfulness keeps her in tune with her environment; her emotions; her physical state; and her interconnectedness with the world around her. “Those of us who have BPD, are very empathetic beings, when we are in recovery,” continues Kathy. “It’s important that we listen to ourselves and those around us, because it’s so easy to forget or gloss over what a big impact our physical state and the emotional and physical state of those around us impacts our mental state.
Along with BPD, Kathy is managing the auto-immune disorders of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. “These challenges keep me from doing some things, but not all things. I had to learn to keep moving and not let them paralyze me from doing the things I love and enjoy. That’s a lesson I learned from my kids.” Kathy has a 19-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. “If it wasn’t for them, I would have given up a long time ago. I know it’s cliché, but they truly are my inspiration.”Five years ago, Kathy was working in a career field she had for almost 25 years as the director of a college academic advising center for the biggest college at a state university. She loved the work, her team, her colleagues and, most of all, her students. But the stress of her position began to have an effect on Kathy’s health. “It began slowly,” recalls Kathy. “I was waking up feeling exhausted with my joints hurting. I just thought it was age and that everyone goes through this. But then it slowly became a state of being. I worked in pain and was so tired that I had no energy to do anything when I came home. It was very hard on my family.” And it took its toll on her marriage. “I spent days in bed, depressed, barely existing, and my husband had to pick up all the slack,” says Kathy. She’s now in the process of a divorce. “Other days I was so manic; I was hardly recognizable,” continues Kathy. “And those days also took a toll on my body. You’re like an Energizer bunny, not wanting to stop and engaging in behaviors counter-productive to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But you literally do not care about the consequences and you certainly don’t care about the feelings of those close to you. It’s probably one of the hardest things to do after a bipolar episode; picking up the pieces of the chaos you created.”
Kathy’s body literally just gave out. There were several things that happened to her to indicate she was
She considers herself lucky most days because she has the love of her family, two healthy and happy kids, and she was lucky enough to be hired by NTI, Inc. “I was actually shocked when I received a call asking if I wanted to apply for an Associate Recruiter position,” recalls Kathy. “I was so flattered and excited about the opportunity, but nervous, too. I had to step back and evaluate whether I could really do the job and meet their expectations.”
After being hired and embarking on the training process, Kathy did have her doubts about being able to multi-talk at the level expected by NTI. As challenging as it has been, she feels she has successfully acclimated to the accuracy and speed of NTI. “I still have days where I feel like my brain can’t keep up with my fingers or my concentration is absolutely non-existent, but I have to say I work with such a wonderful team and I’m lucky to have a very supportive supervisor,” says Kathy. “My colleagues are great teammates. They have my back and I have theirs. My supervisor tells me like it is and I appreciate the honesty. I love working with genuine people, especially when working in an online environment. Problems are solved quicker and assignments are completed fast and fairly. Having such a positive work environment has made a significant impact on my wellness.”