WHITTIER – Annette Holguin remembers one day she was a well-behaved, polite, respectful 14-year-old student at Whittier High School. The next she was telling off teachers. Now 41, she remembers her parents being called into the principal’s office. Soon after, Holguin was placed in La Habra Community Hospital’s psychiatric ward. She stayed there a month. Holguin was diagnosed as bipolar, an illness described by mental health experts as an emotional roller coaster, highlighted by severe mood swings. “You go from the highest highs to the lowest lows,” Holguin explained Thursday from her Santa Fe Springs office at Pacific Clinic, a nonprofit behavioral health care agency, where she is now a case manager. She said her illness first showed itself as depression and then she experienced mania – the other side of the spectrum – extreme irritability and anger. Holguin, who was born and raised in Monterey Park until her family moved to Whittier, is an inspiration and example to her clients who suffer from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and deep depression. “They know I empathize with their struggle,” said Holguin, a former Pacific Clinic client. “She can get through the barriers that some of our clients put up,” said Holguin’s boss, Deanna Rondina, day treatment supervisor. Holguin is extremely open with them and her coworkers about her illness. She said she most likely inherited the disease from her mother, Lena, who suffered from major depression. In December 1980, her mother committed suicide. She was 41. “I was just trying to get stable with my medication, and then it happened,” she said, her voice growing quiet. “It was such a difficult time for our entire family.” Holguin’s two sisters, Liz, 44, and Yvonne, 34, are not bipolar. She declined to reveal how her mom killed herself. After getting the right medications and doses, Holguin continued at Whittier High School, but felt the stigma attached to mental illness. “The other kids didn’t mind when they thought I was on drugs during my manic stage, but when I got out of the psych ward, they treated me different. I was crazy.” She felt isolated. And not only from classmates, but also her father, Gilbert, 68. “He didn’t understand me and my situation, especially after years of dealing with my mom’s depression,” she said. But, father and daughter are now close, even though bipolar disorder is still a mystery to him. “We love each other, and that’s the most important thing,” she said. And the love of her family has gotten her through rough patches, especially the episode she experienced four years ago. By that time, Holguin had attended Rio Hondo College and graduated from Cal State Long Beach. She was working part time at Pacific Clinic when family problems pushed her into a deep depression. “I used to get dressed only because I knew my sister was coming home,” she said. Holguin, who has a warm, friendly smile, said that she couldn’t see an end to her problems and could not escape the emotional plunge. Inevitably, she attempted suicide. “It was a half-hearted attempt, a cry for help really.” Holguin took an entire bottle of aspirin, but she knew her sister was on her way home. “I showed her the bottle, and I told her, `I took these.”‘ She went to the hospital and, after a short stay, returned to her life. “I learned to cope with my illness,” Holguin said. And she started taking the right combination of mood alteration, anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications. “I know now that I have to stop the spiral downwards before I can’t get out,” she said. Beside working out as a coping mechanism, Holguin said that speaking with her clients and helping them allows her to keep a level head. “I know I am a role model to them. If they see I can cope and lead a so-called normal life, they can do it too.” firstname.lastname@example.org (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!