Megan Mitchell lived for years with bipolar disease


The 17-year ordeal of living with bipolar disease is over for Megan Mitchell.

Ms. Mitchell, the daughter of Kent and Jo Ann Mitchell of Portola Valley and a graduate of Ormondale, Corte Madera and Woodside High schools, has died, apparently by her own hand, at the age of 34.

A memorial service is set for noon on Saturday, Feb. 20, at Family Farm at 1400 Portola Road in Woodside.

Deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office found Ms. Mitchell's body beneath the Eugene Doran Bridge in San Mateo shortly after midnight on Wednesday, Feb. 10. Her vehicle was parked nearby.

Ms. Mitchell endured rapid and frequent mood swings, her father said in an interview. Her medications, meant to create stability, sometimes worked and sometimes didn't, but she always cooperated and was "religious" about following her treatment regime, said Mr. Mitchell, who is a former mayor of Portola Valley.

"We're devastated," Mr. Mitchell said. "This disease is insidious. It got to the point where the collective effect of the drugs began to do things to her physical well being. There were no options. It was awful."

"She just was a beautiful girl and she just couldn't go on," he said. "It just becomes overwhelming. She was so brave. I mean I could never have done what she did. No amount of money could have made me fight as long as she fought."

Ms. Mitchell was diagnosed at 17 and lived with her condition through another year and a half of high school, four years at the University of California at Berkeley, and after she graduated with a bachelor of science degree in forestry and water conservation, her father said.

She loved horses, hiking, the ocean and the family cabin in Sonoma County, he said. She had all the psychological help available, he added.

"As difficult as it's been, we were blessed to have 17 years" to work with her and support her and give her every opportunity, Mr. Mitchell said. "I wouldn't trade places, if you know what I mean. ... It is what it is, and we did our best and she did her best."

Ms. Mitchell is also survived by her older brother Adam Mitchell of Los Altos.

Woman found under bridge was daughter of former Portola Valley mayor; service Feb. 20 .

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Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2010 at 9:04 am

I hope that if there is any kind of afterlife, that she has found peace. I appreciate reading her family's comments, their depth of understanding about the ravages of bipolar disorder, and their ability to put themselves in her position. FWIW, I am thinking of her loved ones at this difficult time.

Like this comment
Posted by A human
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Feb 24, 2010 at 8:59 am

Thank you to her father for being open with the public about the devastating effect of a "mental illness". I hope it will help others understand that most psychiatric problems have an underlying neurochemical basis and in spite of the strongest, most dedicated efforts of the patient, sometimes they can't be controlled.

I suffered dibilitating depression for years, amplified by my cultural belief that a significant component of my illness was a character defect in not being strong enough to overcome it. In fact, I was battling a serious undiagnosed case of Epstein Barr virus, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Why didn't any of my doctors pick up on it? Probably because I am an older mother and there is an unconcious prejudice against both depression and late motherhood.

I am very sad for the Mitchell family. Their deep understanding of her struggles seems to be helping them respect her choice. That doesn't lessen the grief but I hope it protects them from the emotions of blame and anger that are common to families of people who choose to end their lives. I have deep respect for them.

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