Q&A with Waverider’s co-founders
Co-founders Lourica and Carla Halteh share their personal journey to build support for the bipolar and mental health community. Carla was diagnosed with bipolar at age 14 and Lourica has been by her side helping support her mental health journey. Together they launched Waverider, which offers digital diary cards rooted in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and is designed to support mental health providers and their clients.
Tell us about the journey to start Waverider and provide digital diary cards…
Carla: Well, it all started to materialize when I was going through a manic episode with my bipolar disorder. I had ideas of helping others with the same or similar disorders before, and I was so invested and confident in this idea during that period. That’s when I reached out to my sister and she became just as invested with her own ideas.
Lourica, how did you jump in?
When Carla first reached out to me about the project, the pandemic was hitting us all pretty hard. It felt like the perfect time to work on a digital platform for people living with bipolar disorder to get the help they needed. Living with bipolar is pretty isolating on its own but with the stay-at-home orders, it was only getting worse.
How were you thinking of using a digital platform to support people with bipolar?
Lourica: I have always found it interesting that with bipolar disorder, the beginning of manic and depressive episodes are noticed by small changes in behavior. Our smartphones have such potential in helping us identify those specific behaviors. As a family, we were the ones to pick up on those changes, and together we would support Carla and try to help her get ahead of an episode. Not everyone has a support system that can do that for them. Creating a way to help people identify and understand triggers and patterns felt like a no-brainer as the foundational feature for our platform.
And where does the name Waverider come from?
A quote by Jon Kabat-Zinn inspired the name. “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.” For people living with bipolar disorder, those waves are a lot more aggressive and scarier than what most of us have to deal with. Waverider’s purpose is to help people living with bipolar disorder ride those waves by equipping them with tools and support to take control of their symptoms and live their lives uninterrupted.
Carla, can you tell us a little bit about your background with bipolar?
Well, I started out initially being diagnosed with depression; but as time passed doctors realized that I had bipolar 1, which was a combination of both depressive (low) and manic (high) episodes. In my case, I was more prone to manic episodes, which could be quite damaging if not managed well. When manic, you tend to be overly confident, all over the place and prone to making mistakes. These mistakes can be as little as an awkward encounter with a random person, to life-altering mishaps with friends or family. Most, if not all, need damage control. So, I can easily say I lost people along the way and made a ton of mistakes that ultimately had to be faced head on. If I had a supportive tool to notice such escalating trends or correlations, I might have prevented past episodes.
Do you use Waverider’s digital diary cards in your treatment? What is that experience like?
Yes! I find it very useful in documenting my feelings and daily activities. Looking back at my history in Waverider, I am able to realize when things could escalate or could get worse. For instance, consistent sleep is important for managing bipolar so that alone can affect many areas of our lives. I can notice changes there and act accordingly.
Lourica, what have been some of the biggest challenges of being a caregiver for someone with bipolar?
The worst feeling is seeing someone you love struggling and knowing there is little you can do about it.
One of the most challenging things to deal with is when Carla goes through a manic episode. When she is going through an intense manic episode, her behavior becomes erratic, easily irritable and out of her control. Not everyone understands that and it’s very hard to watch her go through it and see people react or turn her away because of it. We try to help minimize the effects of her mania on her life, but it takes a lot out of all of us. I want a way for us to be more prepared. With Waverider, I want to be able to help support not only those living with bipolar disorder but their family and friends who need help learning how to care for them.
Carla, how has your experience managing bipolar helped you shape Waverider?
For me, I suffered from bipolar since the age of 14 and always noticed my ups and downs but wasn’t sure what to do with myself. Luckily, this time around, I gathered all my thoughts and ideas, with the help of my amazing sister, we got together & realized that this kind of service would really help people like me document their thoughts and critical data to hopefully prevent relapses and similar scenarios. I am very lucky to have my sister by my side from day one and she was very supportive in making this idea come to life.
Lourica, what about from the family member’s perspective?
Well, I can never know what it is like to live with bipolar disorder and can only imagine it through the way Carla describes it. I know how it has affected our family, and it is a big part of all of our lives. As a kid, I didn’t know what was going on, and it was scary and confusing. I wished I knew more about it and what was happening to my sister. As the years have gone by, I have become more aware and more involved in her life. I want to know how I can help her and the rest of my family cope and live the best versions of our lives.
That’s how I think of Waverider. I want to create a better way to support Carla, as well as the rest of us, to manage the effects of bipolar together. That can be through tracking so Carla can have better self-awareness, integrating care so that all the right people managing treatment are working together, psycho-education and skills training for all of us to cope better, and access to a community of others going through the same thing.
What is it like working on something you are both so personally invested in?
Carla: It feels really good and to have sisters working together in unison is a blessing.
Lourica: I spent most of my career in advertising, but I started feeling more and more detached from work. I lost my passion for the work because I didn’t feel good about what I was working on. As I got older and wiser, the work stopped aligning with my values. Having the opportunity to work on solving a personal problem as well as knowing that it could help many others is kind of a dream job. I feel very lucky and motivated.
Since neither of you has a professional behavioral health background, tell us how you shaped Waverider from a provider’s perspective?
Lourica: Waverider started with my sister and I but the first thing we did was find clinical advisors to help us build it. Carla has been in therapy all her life but was using it mostly as a support tool – talk therapy vs behavioral therapy. Once we did our research and found modalities that were evidence-based, like DBT, it changed everything. We realized that self-awareness of your unique symptoms and triggers is the first step in the work you do in therapy and that is where we started with the Waverider tracker.
With the help of our advisors and ongoing research, we have a lot of features in our backlog that we are sure will continue to bring value to both therapists and their clients.
This family of cofounders continues to build out Waverider’s digital diary cards in connection with mental health providers and clients to support the mental health community. Interested in learning more?