A Rollercoaster of a Journey: Anna Rittenburg’s Personal Experience Fuels Her Ride for Mental Health

June 17, 2023

Anna Rittenburg has always been a lively, active person, but early in the COVID-19 lockdown in the spring of 2020, her normally high energy level became increasingly grandiose and manic.

“I got really wrapped up in existential concepts and the idea of information spread through social media. I stopped sleeping and was soon extremely paranoid and suspicious of everyone around me,” Anna explained.

Deeply concerned about their daughter’s behavior, Anna’s parents drove her to the emergency room, where she was transferred to a local hospital. A few days later, she was admitted to McLean’s Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Inpatient Program (AB2), a short-term unit designed for people in crisis or those experiencing severe or risky symptoms.

At the time, Anna didn’t recognize the severity of her illness or her disconnect from reality, but she now knows that her time at McLean likely saved her life.

During Anna’s inpatient stay at AB2, her care team stabilized her with medication and worked closely with her and her family to help get her safely through her psychosis to the other side.

After four weeks, Anna was discharged with a bipolar 1 diagnosis. The expert, compassionate care Anna received at McLean “was unparalleled. Heather, my nurse practitioner, and Emma, my social worker, didn’t flinch at my behavior and knew how to help me at my level. They treated me with such respect and kindness,” she said.

For a long time, Anna did not want to believe she had bipolar disorder, nor did she want medication; she didn’t want her life to change. But working with her team at AB2—and over many months after her discharge—Anna came to accept her diagnosis and learn to make the necessary adjustments.

Now, when asked whether she’d change things if she could, she replies, “For me? No, I really wouldn’t. I am still me, what you see and what you don’t, and I have learned so much. While it is still somewhat unpredictable, I feel like I know how to manage this.”

Young woman sits on bench outside

Anna Rittenburg

Anna now understands that her mental illness is largely “chemical” and that both medication and therapy must work together to fuel her recovery and keep her stable.

“McLean gave me that understanding,” she said. “They helped me recognize that both are important in managing my disorder.”

Now, nearly three years after that first trip to the emergency room, Anna is doing well—a “miracle” she attributes to her care team at McLean and the unwavering support of her family and friends. Anna works at a large tech consulting company and enjoys writing, running, and morning rides on her Peloton.

In her free time, she also directs her high energy and passion into active pursuits that give back, including running a wellness and community program at her company and training for her second Ride for Mental Health to raise money for McLean.

Anna learned about the ride through a McLean newsletter, and in June 2022, she and her mother participated in their first Ride for Mental Health. Anna raised more than $12,000 and was one of the Ride’s top fundraisers. She hopes to top that number this year.

She said the Ride has inspired her to channel her energy and own experience with mental illness into “something positive” to help others going through similar hard times.

“The Ride is an amazing event, with everyone working together and rallying around each other to support such an important cause,” Anna said.

What Is The Ride for Mental Health?

Started in 2017 by New York attorney and avid cyclist Mac Dorris in memory of his son Eric, the 2023 Ride for Mental Health takes place in New Paltz, New York, on June 24 and 25 and includes 14-, 25-, 50-, and 100-mile cycling routes, suitable for all skill levels.

Since its founding, the Ride has raised more than $1 million for McLean.

“Mac and his team have created a wonderful event that not only raises much-needed funds for mental health, but also brings together a community dedicated to eliminating the stigma of mental illness through education and open conversation,” said Scott L. Rauch, MD, McLean’s president and psychiatrist in chief.

Join Team McLean as a cyclist, volunteer, or supporter:


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