Stigma toward those living with mental illness robs them of their voices. A verse in the Bible calls on us to support one another, especially those compromised by health and welfare issues. And our showing kindness cost nothing.
The holidays can be extra difficult for folk living with mental illness. And, yes, mental illness is a real illness. Most everyone knows someone dealing with it in a very real way everyday. So, let’s attempt to raise our awareness to the subtleties of mental illness and attempt to “be there” for our friends, family, and neighbors. Here’s a great article to help us get started!
I like these 10 points! Please read and give each serious consideration! (It’s a quick, fun read)
Thanks to The Mighty.com, Andrea Bems, July 2018
10 Ways I Make My Mental Illness More Bearable
When dealing with my mental illness, sometimes all I want to do is curl up in a ball and sleep for days. It’s easy for me to be frightened by my illness and to cut myself down all the time. Why am I feeling this way? Why do I have to act so “weird” when I’m in this state? Why can’t I just enjoy my life? Here is a list of ways I make dealing with my mental illness a bit more bearable.
1. I listen to my needs.
When I’m in a depressive phase or I am experiencing my physical symptoms, I have to think about what I need in order to cope. This might mean canceling a night out with friends, or leaving early from an event and just going home and doing something calming like taking a lavender bath, changing into my pajamas, turning on my fairy lights, and then reading a book or watching Netflix. I know that when I’m in this phase, I have to fill my life with happy things, so I usually choose something uplifting to read or watch. But sometimes, a friend is what I need. I’m not a fan of public areas when I’m in one of these phases (usually I’m overstimulated by the crowds and noise, which feed my symptoms), so I usually schedule a low-key evening with one or two close friends and either watch a movie or just talk. Good friends will always be there for support.
2. I track my mood and take notes for my therapy meetings.
This is something I’m still trying to get in the habit of doing. But, when I do it, I usually rate my mood, motivation, and anxiety on a scale of one to 10 and take notes about any symptoms I may be experiencing. Then I draw a colorful graph with my mood, motivation and anxiety levels in different colors. This may seem ambitious and overwhelming, but when I do it, it’s actually quite therapeutic and it’s an amazing visual representation of what I’m experiencing on which days and how frequently it’s happening. It’s also important to make note of things that happened on a particular day that may have influenced my mood, motivation and anxiety as well as keep track of my symptoms and how many days they last. It’s easy to forget, and having the information available is helpful for my psychiatrist in terms of medication adjustments.
3. I listen to music that makes me feel.
Music speaks the language of every emotion. Some people say you should listen to happy music when you’re feeling down, but I feel like I can’t truly enjoy happy music when I’m in a depressive phase. While I avoid music that brings me to a place that’s too dark, I listen to music that brings out more tepid emotions, and it’s nice and therapeutic.
4. I snuggle with my cat (and I don’t care about the hair).
Pet therapy is a real thing. Sometimes when my cat Sadie wants some snuggle time, I push her away because I don’t want hair on my clothes. But sometimes you just have to enjoy the warm fuzzy ball of love, a live being under your care that just wants your love. And it’s worth the mess.
5. I let my mental illness inspire my art.
Art is a beautiful therapy for those struggling with mental illness (and, really, anybody). Sometimes I draw quirky comics that illustrate a more humorous side to my mental illness (which is a great way to shift my perspective about my illness toward a more positive light) and sometimes I create more serious depictions of my illness, such as in my chapbook Free the Strange. Usually it depends on how I’m feeling, but both ways are equally therapeutic and, in my opinion, are productive in taking something ugly and creating beauty.
6. I dressed up my light box (and named it Phil).
This is another way I shift my perception of my mental illness towards a more positive light. I have a form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), so I use light box therapy to get through the dark days of winter. Inspired by a suggestion from my therapist, I decided to personalize my light box. I named it Phil. And I made a doodle of a face with a speech bubble saying: “Good morning, Andrea! Here’s your daily dose of artificial sun!” and taped it on my light box and made it look as if it were holding it for me. It’s silly, but it made the methods of dealing with my illness a bit of fun.
7. I use a weighted blanket.
Weighted blankets are a wonderful tool for people with anxiety, depression or any other kind of mental illness (plus, they’re super warm and cozy). They’re supposed to be about 10 percent of a person’s weight, so when you lie underneath it, it’s like being covered with a safe, warm hug. Whenever I watch movies or read a book, I always have my weighted blanket on top of me, and it is glorious.
8. I journal about my mental state (and don’t care if the writing sucks).
As a writer, it’s difficult for me to journal because I feel like the writing has to be good. But I have to remember my journal is for my eyes only (and maybe for my therapist). And it doesn’t necessarily have to be in paragraph form, either. It could be a bulleted list or word collage or a brain dump of words on a page. And it gets the emotion out.
9. I see myself as a character in the low point of their story. (Which means good is on the way!)
I’ve always been a reader and writer, so that’s probably why this speaks to me. In fiction, a character must endure obstacles in order to attain what they desire — which, in my case, has been attaining my master’s degree, having a successful career, and being… well, happy. My mental illness has been a huge obstacle in attaining all these things. But when I think of it in terms of a plot of a novel, obstacles in the way of the character’s desires are necessary for character development. And when they overcome these obstacles, it makes the achievement all the more satisfying. Applying this way of thinking to my life has truly opened my eyes to the big picture and has given me the determination to carry on and not give up.
10. When I’m feeling good, I enjoy every moment.
In this seemingly rare phase when I’m feeling great, it’s easy for me to take it for granted or not truly enjoy it. In many cases, I’m spending this time worrying about how long I have until my next episode, worrying it will happen during an important event or fun trip planned. And then I forget to enjoy feeling good. So, just recently, I started practicing mindfulness during my happy phases. When it’s a beautiful day, I close my eyes and feel the sun on my skin. When I taste something delicious, I take small bites and savor them slowly to make it last longer. When I schedule plans with friends, I take the time to tell them how much I value them as a person and enjoy the time I have with them. When I hear a wonderful song, I dance. I savor life. I savor these beautiful feelings. And I remember I may not feel this good tomorrow, but I will again.
Follow this journey on the author’s blog
bp Hope Sept 2014
Demi Lovato & Bipolar: Stronger Than Ever! This platinum-selling recording artist is on a mission to spread her message of hope: We can get through dark times and find our strength!
By Rachel Rabkin Peachman
Platinum-selling recording artist Demi Lovato is a pro at performing in large concert venues. But on a Saturday afternoon just days before her 22nd birthday, Lovato took time away from her performing schedule to step onto a much smaller stage—with no backup band in sight. In an intimate lecture hall at Kean University in New Jersey, she spoke candidly to an enthralled audience about how she faced up to mental health challenges and lives well in recovery.
The appearance was part of The Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour supported by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc..
“It has become my personal mission to share with others that there is life on the other side of the dark times, and that they are not alone,” Lovato told bp Magazine afterward.
That’s a bit of a switch-up for the multitalented entertainer, whose early life was focused around her love of music and performing. Raised in Texas, she was acting and singing professionally by age 10. Her résumé as an adolescent includes Disney movies, her own Disney TV series, and two successful studio albums.
She achieved all that professional success even as she struggled to cope with emotional distress. Her inner pain found an outlet in eating disorders, substance abuse, and self-harm. As is true for many people, it took Lovato some time and setbacks before she fully committed to do whatever it took to get better.
So many of my fans have also experienced hardship … I think they appreciate my willingness to open up and put it all out there.
“There is so much shame and misunderstanding associated with mental illness,” Lovato reflected. “Along with that comes fear. I know that fear kept me from getting help.”
It wasn’t until Lovato had what she calls a “mental breakdown” in October 2010 that she went into treatment at a rehab facility. That’s when the underlying brain-based illness was diagnosed.
“When I finally got diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it was a relief in so many ways. It helped me start to make sense of my bipolar depression and the harmful things I was doing to cope with what I was experiencing.”
With a maturity that’s notable in a young adult, Lovato buckled down to get sober, find the right treatment plan, and adopt habits that help her maintain her wellness. She’s also turned her efforts outward, becoming an advocate for people affected by mental health conditions and substance abuse. (Lovato has a track record of public engagement, lending her support to causes like marriage equality, anti-bullying efforts, and civic involvement by Latino voters and young people.)
Lovato shared the early days of her recovery in an MTV documentary called Stay Strong, and published an inspirational best seller, Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year, all in an effort to save others from some of the pain she’s experienced.
“Imagine the hope we can give back to people by creating widespread support and showing the world that it’s possible to get through the darkest times and end up in a place of strength,” she said.
Lovato is proof positive that it’s possible to thrive with the right support and commitment.
“Since receiving help, I have been able to accomplish so much personally and professionally,” Lovato said.
In addition to holding her own as a judge alongside Simon Cowell for two seasons of The X Factor, she scored a recurring role on the popular series Glee. She released two more hit studio albums—the R&B-flavored Unbroken and Demi, an electro-pop compilation that made the charts overseas as well as in North America.
Top singles from those albums include “Really Don’t Care,” “Neon Lights,” “Heart Attack,” “Skyscraper” (which won the “best video with a message” award from MTV), and “Give Your Heart a Break.” Lovato is also known for the pop version of “Let it Go,” the belt-it-out anthem from the animated movie Frozen.
After wrapping up her second North American tour of the year this fall, Lovato is heading to the United Kingdom to tour with Enrique Iglesias.
Lovato’s music helps her process what she’s been through. On the resonant track “Warrior,” from Demi, Lovato sings, “And now I’m a warrior, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been … I’m a survivor in more ways than you know.”
Her devoted fans, known as Lovatics, do know—and Lovato welcomes their support.
“My fans are amazing. So many of my fans have also experienced hardship in their lives and I think they appreciate my willingness to open up and put it all out there,” Lovato told bp.
At her talk in New Jersey, that was clear. Alysa Bainbridge traveled from Leesport, Pennsylvania, to hear Lovato speak about bipolar disorder. The illness runs in Bainbridge’s family, and she admires Lovato’s courage to come out into the open despite stigma.
“That’s what I love most about her. She’s not afraid,” said Bainbridge. “She wants to make a difference by telling her story instead of hiding it, because she knows that it will help people.”
In that lecture hall at Kean University, Lovato shared her story with poise, down-to-earth humor, and a touch of sass. She took the stage wearing a black lace top and skirt. Her dark hair—which, in the past, has been shaved, blonde, and blue—was swept away from her face gracefully, with just a hint of blonde highlights glistening along the bottom.
Her appearance was part of the annual conference of New Jersey’s Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. She chatted onstage with Allen Doederlein, national president of DBSA, for nearly an hour.
Here are highlights from their conversation, edited for clarity and length.
Q: What made you realize that you needed help?A: It took a mental breakdown for me to realize that I needed to go into treatment. I had tried many, many times to get help on my own, whether it was through a life coach, or through justmedication and not doing anything else to change my behaviors. And it never worked because I never combined all the things that I needed to do in order to live a happy and healthy life.
Rock bottom looks different for everybody. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to end up in a psych ward or a sober living house to get the help that you need. It could be a moment of clarity in the car while you’re driving where you’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I think that rock bottom for me was several things put together. What it took was a final intervention when my support group—my family, my management, my lawyers—said, ‘If you don’t get sober, we’re dropping you.’ My parents were there and they said, ‘If you don’t get sober, we can’t have you around your little sister. We’ll move back to Texas.’ That was a moment when I realized it was serious. It had been embedded in my mind from a very young age that I was never meant to be happy. And in fact, I thought it was a part of my “artistry” [using air quotes]. That’s what made me deep and artistic, just like Kurt Cobain and other troubled musicians and artists. I realized my illness shouldn’t stop me from being happy. And it shouldn’t define who I am as a person or an artist.
Q: You’ve mentioned self-harm, you mentioned self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, eating disorders, and then you’ve been brave and unique, frankly, in talking about bipolar disorder. Does that have a component that makes you feel vulnerable?A: Absolutely. First off, I see all of those issues as coping mechanisms for my manic [and] depressive states. But still, today when we talk about [bipolar], there’s a stigma around it that people don’t realize. For some reason, it’s a lot easier for people to talk about being bullied, or other types of mental illnesses, or addiction issues. It’s easier for people to say, ‘I’m an alcoholic’—even though that’s so difficult in the first place … But every time that I’ve ever talked about bipolar disorder—and even right now—a tiny part of me is still a bit uncomfortable because it makes me vulnerable sitting here and explaining to you that there’s something chemically wrong in my brain. And just because there is, it doesn’t mean that I’m crazy.
Since receiving help, I have been able to accomplish so much personally and professionally.
I am a normal human being with problems like everyone else. My “diabetes” happens to be my mental illness. And when I work out, when I take my therapy, when I take my medications, for me, that’s my treatment plan, that’s my insulin.
Q: After coming out of treatment, how did you keep your momentum?A: The way that I kept my momentum was always knowing in the back of my mind that I could lose the relationship with my family at any moment. It was also losing the ability to be able to perform onstage because I knew I could tarnish my career and my reputation. A habit of mine was self-sabotaging everything from relationships to progress. In order to break that pattern, I had to have a support team around me that really was honest with me, that told me what I needed to hear when I didn’t want to hear it. And for me, it was [committing to] sober living. Completely surrendering. The night of that intervention, in order to show them that I was going to fully surrender, I handed over my cell phone, handed over my credit cards, handed over my car keys. And I had a sober companion—which is someone who is with you 24/7—for over a year. Those were the measures that I needed to take in order to keep myself alive.
We’re not about surviving. We’re about thriving.
What people were seeing on the outside was a young Hollywood/Disney pop star. And I was really good at faking it, which is something I think a lot of people can relate to. In our society today, if you show any type of emotion, you’re considered weak. But I think that you actually show strength when you ask for help. It shows that you have some confidence in knowing who you are and saying, ‘It’s okay, I know I need help.’ Anybody who’s really good at faking it, I feel your pain, but I also encourage you to take contrary action.
Q: What do you mean by that?A: Contrary action is doing things for yourself when you don’t want to do it. For me, it’s working out when I’d rather watch [tv] shows. Or it’s going to an AA meeting when I don’t want to because I’m tired or it’s my day off. When I don’t [take contrary action], I feel it the very next day, if not later that day, especially with my medication. And I have to realize that every single thing in my life has to come together in order to form the right treatment plan for me.
Q: The right treatment plan can be hard-won. What does that treatment plan look like for you?A: I think [finding the right treatment plan] is a difficult journey and an emotional roller coaster. I also believe that it’s one that people are discouraged to take on because it takes, on average, about 10 years for someone with bipolar disorder to get accurately diagnosed. And I can relate to that because I knew there was something wrong [for years], and I was never told what it was until the day that I went into treatment.
But the right treatment plan is a combination of things. It’s seeing what works for you, seeing which doctors work for you, and it takes a while to process. But don’t give up. For me, my body had to adjust to certain medications and I didn’t know if they were going to work or not. It was a matter of me trying not to give up right away, to let my body adjust to them. And for so long I wasn’t consistent. Acceptance and consistency is my recovery.
Q: It’s so simple but it’s also so powerful.A: It’s complicated to make things simple and simple to make things complicated.
Q: The thought of knowing all of this when you are 21—the idea of knowing it when you’re 40, when you’re 50, when you’re 70—is impressive.A: Regardless of if I was 21 or 65 or 18, it is a blessing to know that I can get help. It is a blessing to know that there is hope. And sometimes it takes people 50, 60 years to have that moment of clarity and that ability to change—to have a spiritual experience or to finally hit rock bottom. I’ve lived a lot of life very fast at a very young age, and that put me in treatment at 18 rather than 45. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, race, background, or ethnicity.
Q: I’m struck by how different this moment is than a lot of mental health conversations. The age of the front two rows [cheering young fans], and the exuberance and fun. That is what you, Demi, are bringing to the mental health community. Because we’re not just about surviving.A: We’re not about surviving. We’re about thriving. [Lovato waves her arm over her head and punctuates it with a dramatic snap of her fingers.] That really deserved a snap.
Q: I feel so encouraged that you’re taking this on.A: I’m excited about everyone here today. Because I truly believe that our future generation is going to consist of people who don’t have this negative stigma attached to mental illness. A while ago, people who were bullied were ashamed. But when people started speaking out, it became a conversation. People really started hearing—and I think that a lot of that was because our generation has an influence on people.
Another reason why I’m able to sit here and talk about mental health today is because I don’t take myself too seriously. I realize that when I speak about it, I don’t want it to be as heavy as it is. It is a very serious disease. And it ends up deadly. But I feel when you’re able to be authentic, honest, and find even the humor in it, it takes a little bit of the stigma away.
Q: And what we’re creating—mental health.A: Everybody in this room is helping to create it, no matter how old, who you are, or what species you are [referring to the therapy dog in the room]. It doesn’t matter as long as we’re talking about it. The more educated we become, the more aware people are of how serious this is, but also how common it is, and that it’s okay.
* * * * *
Demi in your cornerDemi Lovato, personal coach? That’s the feeling that comes through the pages of Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year (Feiwel & Friends, 2013), her book of affirmations and motivational advice.
Shortly after its release in November, the book entered the New York Times best seller list for advice books at No. 1.
The self-help volume is set up to be consulted daily. Each entry offers an inspirational quote, meditation, or lesson that Lovato found helpful in her own recovery journey, plus a goal to encourage the reader’s progress toward wellness.
For example, January 1 explains how Lovato created a meaningful, personal affirmation (“You are beautifully and wonderfully made”) and includes this invitation: “In this New Year, come up with a mantra that is just yours. Each day, look in the mirror and repeat it back to yourself.”
In her introduction, Lovato notes that “it’s important to have something that will motivate, inspire, and help us stay positive and keep moving forward.” Mission accomplished.
The Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour Connects Demi Lovato with Mental Health Advocacy CommunityThe Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour is a new kind of tour for Demi Lovato, a platinum-selling recording artist living with bipolar disorder. To support the mental health community’s vision of building a new generation of inspiring, informed mental health advocates, Demi is participating in a series of discussions with some of the nation’s leading advocates on the challenges currently facing the community. She is also candidly sharing her experience at advocacy events, encouraging and inspiring others with her own story of resilience and learning to live well with mental illness.
The Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour is supported by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to making a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.
In addition to her appearance at Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance New Jersey’s annual conference (where she posed with DBSA national president Allen Doederlein—above), tour stops include The Jed Foundation’s annual gala in New York City; the National Alliance on Mental Illness national convention in Washington, DC; and Mental Health America’s annual conference in Atlanta.
Undoubtedly, the level of happiness I enjoy today I attribute to years of practicing gratitude. I simply go about my day in a state of mindfulness. In that state, I acknowledge things in my life, in my day, in the people around me that I appreciate. I whisper a prayer of gratitude as I bring these things to the fore of my mind.
Expressing gratitude can be just that simple! However, it simply works. And because of that, one continues the practice in expressing gratitude.
Why Grateful People Always Succeed
Feb 7, 2018 @ 10:23 AM, Forbes.com
Why Grateful People Succeed
To begin I’d like to preface with the idea that gratitude is a choice, not a result. I hear all the time that it is so easy to be grateful when you've made it to the top. It is easy to be grateful when your career, mission, relationships and finances are all going exceptionally well. Yes, that is true but contrary to popular belief it is also easy to be grateful during a time of struggle or during a building phase of life where you are trying to improve in all sectors. In fact, gratitude is the key factor in achieving ultimate success and happiness.
Don’t Believe Me? Learn From The Experts
Oprah Winfrey is a prime example of practicing gratitude because not only is she known for her humble beginning but also for her dedication and consistency in her gratitude journaling. She has produced an overwhelming amount of content on gratitude and its effect on her own personal life and she even said she has journals that date back every single day for over a decade.
“Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life.” — Oprah Winfrey
Gratitude Creates Happiness
David Steindl-Rast, in his Ted Talk on happiness proposes a question: ‘Does happiness cause one to be grateful or does being grateful create happiness?’ He concludes his talk explaining that gratitude is the sole creator of happiness. We all know people who have faced devastating adversity and challenge but have managed to persevere with gratitude and happiness. They are the perfect example of creating happiness through practice of gratitude.
The Importance Of Focus
Tony Robbins speaks a lot about the importance of focus. As he says where focus goes, energy flows meaning that the brain sees and feels whatever you focus on time and time again. Whether your focus is positive or negative, thoughts and feelings are manifested based off of your initial focus. You better make sure you’re focusing on the right things!
“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” — Tony Robbins
I’m grateful that I have positive modeling in my life. Closest to me is my husband, Noah Flom. He is the most positive person that I know. Noah’s outlook and positivity is incomparable and I learn something new from him every day. He believes that how you think on the inside, whether positive or negative, will manifest on the outside — and this approach will affect your life, your business, your attitude and your personality. Ultimately, people don’t really want to be around someone who is constantly negative and looking at the glass half empty.
Noah has taught me to always look at the glass half full and find the positive aspects in every situation, challenge, opportunity, and trial regardless of how fair or unfair the situation may seem. Through him I have discovered that attitude is contagious and although we all can’t have the world’s best attitude (like I believe he does) we do have a choice. Regardless of the circumstances, we can always choose to approach any situation from a positive and grateful place. He often says it takes just as much effort to be negative as it does to be positive, so choose wisely!
Hard Days, We All Have Them
All of our days are filled with micro and macro ups and downs and life is constantly testing our abilities, our strength and most importantly our perseverance. Our attitude, focus, and level of gratitude is in direct harmonization with our level of happiness. You cannot be happy without being grateful. Whether you are grateful for a good meal, a smiling stranger, or a brand new car all happiness is stemmed from being genuinely grateful for all opportunities, people, experiences and challenges.
“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, oh which all men have some.” — Charles Dickens
How To Take Action And Choose Gratitude
If you struggle to find the positive things in your life and something to be grateful for try to improvise and stimulate your mind by listening to a podcast or perhaps a video of someone else showing gratitude. A great example of this is Will Smith. He is known as someone who is not only grateful but also someone who is extremely positive and always faces a challenge with a smile. We could all learn a thing or two from him!
To choose gratitude we need to substantially show effort in practicing this skill. Whether that is writing it down in a journal or on a notepad in your phone or even just taking five minutes to think in your head what you were grateful about that day; gratitude begins with action. It takes conscious effort to be grateful but just like any skill you acquire, it not only becomes stronger over time but it also becomes effortless as it becomes a habit it your daily routine.
When you begin to change the lens you use to view the world and you come from a place of gratitude, you begin to see the things differently. Give it a try! Let’s start by commenting five things you are grateful for today!
DBSA Jackson provides a weekly support group meeting for people living with mood disorders. The group facilitators are volunteers with problems of their own. For the past 15 years, these facilitators have proven themselves to be among the "strongest people".