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!
After an accident onboard a Navy ship, I had major, extensive surgery by a neurosurgeon to remove a tumor from my spinal cord. The tumor tethered my spinal cord and placed pressure on my brainstem. After the nine hours of surgery I experienced serious complications that continued for years. Predictably, I developed chronic depression that required professional, long-term treatment. Over time, I, like most people living with chronic depression, learned to wear a mask in order to go about life during the tough days. The author of the article describes many of my life experiences as I work to maintain wellness.
It’s a great article. Click on the link:
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
26 Little Signs You are getting over Depression
~ Thank you to themighty.com
To get a sense of how people with depression knew they were starting to feel better, we asked our mental health community to share little ways they knew they were recovering from depression.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “When I can wake up and get ready for the day. I shower, cook, clean up the house and just face the day like a ‘normal’ person…” — Amanda T.
2. “When I start cooking my own food again instead of wasting money on fast food. When I start showering and brushing my teeth on a more normal basis. When I start to laugh with meaning again. When my hobbies become enjoyable again. When I can get myself to work on time. When I sing. When I cuddle my significant other to enjoy his presence, not just to try and feel better. When I start enjoying the little things again, like a full moon or beautiful sunset.” — Stephanie F.
3. “Laughing, really laughing and realizing in that moment you are actually happy, and you forget everything else for those few seconds and relish in the moment because it’s been so long.” — Rebecca M.
4. “When I can start reading again. My concentration and focus improves.” — Sharyn H.
5. “It’s little things for me, and it usually happens without me noticing. Caring about what I put on in the morning, wanting to cook dinner, remembering and wanting to watch my favorite TV shows, actually laughing instead of saying ‘that’s funny.’ I’ll catch myself making the bed or washing my face in the morning and realize I am actually feeling better.” — Nichole H.
6. “When I no longer go to bed praying I don’t wake up and instead go to bed smiling because I feel worthy of life and happiness.” — Megan E.
7. “When my eyes get the life back into them. (When I smile with my eyes.) Becoming productive again. Spending less time in my room.” — Amanda A.
8. “When I start doing the things I love, no matter how skilled or unskilled I am: singing passionately; dancing as though my life depended on it; baking while licking the batter off the mixing spoons; and even laughing, and going outside, taking in just how beautiful the world can be outside of my windows.” — Ashley H.
9. “When I start noticing the beauty in the sunrise, how the clouds have different colors, actually seeing the leaves on the trees instead of them just being there. When I get motivation and energy to do stuff like housework, socializing, taking a walk. When I manage to enjoy a cup of coffee, not just drinking it to kickstart my level of energy.” — Rita O.
10. “Either of these, which will seem like the easiest things in the world for some people. 1. When I find I still can and do find things funny. 2. Getting up without feeling I’m about to explode from the pressure in my head or the need to immediately get back under the safety of the duvet.” — Louise F.
11. “I become more present during the day. Instead of feeling like I am just going through the motions, I begin to feel like life isn’t a hassle. To sum it up I look forward to my days and getting out of bed.” — Anjelica M.
12. “When I’m able to look past the present. When I am able to make future plans and further be excited about them. When I can see myself accomplishing more.” — Caroline S.
13. “When I feel like I can support those around me, like my husband and my mom. Like I can carry them on my shoulders rather than being crushed by the weight.” — Emily M.
14. “The days I accomplish something — anything — that’s when I feel like, ‘I can do this.’ After a year-long battle and months of therapy, I surprised myself when I not only played music but sang along! I imagine the true sign of getting better is when I can read, clean house daily, shower more than once or twice per week, and make a real meal more than once per week. It’s amazing how much of your life depression affects that others simply see as ‘normal.'” — Jazmyne F.
15. “Wanting to take care of myself. Simple things like taking a shower, brushing my hair, even putting make up on. Not because I have to but because I want to.” — Andrea B.
16. “When I actually try and make plans with the few friends I have left. Or I finally do household things I’ve been putting off for over a month because I don’t have the energy to get out of bed.” — Alexis M.
17. “I feel lighter. Like something has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel a warm burst of sunshine in my chest. I also feel relief.” — Sarah V.
18. “I start singing again, just humming while walking or doing things. I stop singing completely when depressed. First sign of light at the end of that dark tunnel is music back in my head and heart.” — Gaia F.
19. “When my sense of taste and smell improves and I can have lights on in the evening. (I normally live in the dark.)” — Julian N.
20. “When you can eat a meal willingly without your stomach feeling like there is a weight inside of it.” — Ashley B.
21. “Leaving the house to do things because I want to and not because I’m obligated.” — Alyse W.
22. “Singing in the car.” — Lucy D.
23. “When I wake up and don’t feel like I want to cry anymore.” — Adam B.
24. “When I no longer get angry at everything and everyone.” — Ceri C.
25. “I don’t have to force myself to smile.” — Hailie H.
26. “Colors get a little more vivid, and the world looks a little less hopeless.” — Michaela R
Choose life… Insure Tennessee
Choose life. When in doubt, when you are not sure... When there is a question choose life.
The question of Insure Tennessee is a question of whether or not we will choose life. It is not a question of a better way to choose life. It is not a question of not this but that. As more and more stories pour in it is obvious. For thousands of Tennessean it is increasingly each day a question of life or death... a question of life or needless and preventable suffering... a future of hope or one bound by despair. It is not about finding an answer. It is about the common sense and political will to grab the one (the only one) in front of us and stop the unnecessary misery that defines the lives of so many vulnerable Tennesseans.
Chattanooga voted last night to choose life. Their city council voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution supporting Insure Tennessee. They joined a growing movement of cities and towns saying they support their neighbors, their friends, their families. No one should have to unnecessarily suffer or suffer as a direct result of governmental policy. Insure Tennessee.
The movement is growing. Thanks to the leadership of people like Pam Weston in East Tennessee and Meryl and Randall Rice in West Tennessee and the stories and words of more and more Tennesseans the movement is growing. It is the growing crescendo of more and more ordinary Tennesseans saying "CHOOSE LIFE!!!!!"
Imagine a flood, a hurricane in Tennessee. The waters are rising.. People are dying.... Many are on top of their houses waiting for a miracle.. a boat... a something... someone who cares.... hope. The government has boats. But they decide to wait. "Let's make sure this is a good idea..."
The waters still rise. For some it is too late. For others it will soon be too late. Action matters. The hurricane is here for thousands of Tennesseans. And they are on top of their houses waiting.
Join the movement to choose life. Talk to your local government. Ask them to join Chattanooga and the other towns and counties that have acted.
Today. Today please choose life.
Larry Drain ~
This is a new campaign launched by national DBSA. Remember, "I'm here. "
Thank you, Larry Drain, for making us think and feel about the serious matter of mental illness in the light of reality . . . Reality check, anyone?
hopeworkscommunity, Larry Drain
What is Murphy selling?
Donald Trump gave me the clue.
Even more than AOT or any other policy idea Tim Murphy is selling something far more visceral, far more compelling and far more appealing. Like Trump he is selling anger to those who feel like they or their loved ones have been hurt by a system that often doesn’t help very much. Like Trump he is selling justification and direction by telling them who is to blame. Like Trump he is selling redemption and hope by telling them if they just follow and support him he can change it. His message is one of quest and crusade and rescue of those hurt and victimized.
Like Trump he has never let the facts get in the way but that is not the subject of this post.
Murphy has tapped into something very real. It is far more than a few overcontrolling parents frustrated with their kids. I sat one night with one 72 year old man talking about his 38 year old schizophrenic son. The pain and outrage was real. His son had been attacked by police in a parking lot who thought he was drunk a couple of weeks before he sat down with me. He had been tased more than once and they thought some damage to his legs might be permanent. He was furious at the police but equally furious at a system that had never been there for his son and furious….well just furious that the son he loved was seemingly stuck in the life he had. I remember listening to a mother describe the day she screamed and begged the police not to shoot her son. He had a towel wrapped around his hand and they thought he might have a gun. I have heard a hundred more stories.
It is not so very different than the rage I hear when I hear people talk about the damage they feel the system has done to them. It is the rage of the 22 year old girl with no history of diabetes in her family who now, courtesy of the medication a psychiatrist had prescribed her, had just found out she now had diabetes. She screamed at me….”What the fuck am I supposed to do now?”
It is my rage. My nephew one night laid down in front of a train and died. He believed that treatment was for crazy people and he could think of few things worse than being crazy. He believed what the wider society told him about “mental illness.” He didn’t want to be embarrassed. He didn’t want to stick out. He tried to hide his desperation. He tried to macho his desperation. Finally he decided to kill it.
The rage is real. It may express itself different for different people but it is real.
I think people can find better lives. My nephew, my friend’s son and literally hundreds of thousands of other people deserve something better. And it literally makes me want to scream and scream and scream that so many never find it. It makes me want to scream when people are treated as less than people. It makes me want to scream when the only options people have are things that have already not worked. And it makes me scream when people in their zeal to control symptoms destroy the quality of the life they are trying to save.
Murphy is not going away. The rage is real.
I think back often to something I heard Robert Whitaker say once. He wondered if we would ever have an honest mental health system. What if it was just about what worked?
What if it was?
Maybe in the end that is the only real answer to the Murphys…
Mother Teresa practiced what she preached, serving her neighbors in great need. In contrast, every year Americans feel they must leave their suffering children "next door" to fly off to an exotic land to do God's work. Personally, I try to follow these words of the person who epitomized service and devotion to God.
I say, thank you, Mother Teresa, for leaving these words of wisdom and guidance.
More than once in life I've closed one chapter and opened another. I like to think I learned valuable lessons each time. I bet you feel much the same about your life too.
I'm writing my story in hopes that it will inspire others to share their story. I don't know if there is a "book" in everyone but I know for certain there is a story in there. I encourage you to share your story of overcoming some of life's challenges. Someone needs to hear what you have to say. They are waiting!
The big payoff of well-chosen words
By Stephen Propst
You may think that talk is cheap. But, when words are used thoughtlessly, carelessly, or hurtfully, they can take a heavy toll. Like an arrow, “wrong” words can be sharp, piercing a person’s spirit, ripping away at self-esteem, and making a person feel belittled or even betrayed. Ill-chosen words can strain friendships and create stress. And especially vulnerable are people who have bipolar disorder.
Now, let’s be honest. Dealing with bipolar disorder is not only tough for the people who have the illness, but it’s also a challenge for those who live with them. Taking time to consider the impact of what you say before you “fire away” makes it easier. Choosing your words carefully can strengthen relationships, fuel recovery, and make for a better quality of life for everyone.
“Never tell anyone that he looks tired or depressed,” says H. Jackson Brown Jr., in his book Life’s Little Instruction Book (Rutledge Hill Press, 1991). That’s good advice! Now, let’s look at 10 more comments to avoid making to someone who has bipolar disorder. These observations come from more than two decades of dealing with the illness and from years of leading support groups and consulting with families. The goal is to help family and friends to more peacefully coexist with those of us who have bipolar.
S.L. Brannon D.Div..