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:
Hey, I know that feeling too!😊
“A week ago it was the mountains I thought the most wonderful, today it’s the plains. I guess it’s the feeling of bigness in both that carries me away.“ Georgia Okeefe
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
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".
This is a new campaign launched by national DBSA. Remember, "I'm here. "
Thanks to BP magazine for shining a bright light on a dark topic. I am glad to be a part of a support group that helps prevent suicide. For over 13 years our group has served the Jackson, Tn. community faithfully. "Thank you" to , A Better Tomorrow inspirational support group.
TAKING SUICIDE PREVENTION UPSTREAM
Across the country, school districts are providing mental health awareness and suicide prevention training for teachers and school personnel. Some are mandated or encouraged to do so by state law, others are motivated by recent incidents, and some introduce this kind of education because suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among youth aged 15-24.
Teacher and parent training are key components in any plan to address teen suicide. Increasingly, however, communities are recognizing that kids need to learn about mental health, too. Social and emotional learning across the lifespan reduces risk factors and promotes protection factors for violence, substance abuse, negative health outcomes, and suicide. One way to provide universal student training is by including a mental health component in the standard wellness or health curriculum. School districts and individual schools can implement individual, more targeted programs as well.
Knowing how to cope and developing resilience are at the core of mental health awareness and suicide prevention efforts being implemented in Massachusetts with children as young as elementary school. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts places a high value on suicide prevention, with dedicated line-item funding in the state budget for the Department of Public Health Suicide Prevention Program. With support from state officials, the DPH has launched suicide prevention programs across the state and for people across the lifespan.
Some of the skill-building and suicide prevention programs in Massachusetts schools are
There are dozens of programs that schools can use to promote skills development while fostering students’ mental health and their willingness to seek and accept help for mental health concerns. SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center Best Practices Registry include searchable descriptions for a wide variety of educational programs. For high school students, the SAMHSA Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools has a comprehensive list of programs, but a search of the NREPP and BPR may yield programs added since the Toolkit was published.
What can you do? Find out how your school district handles mental health training and emotional skill building for students. If there is not currently a program and there is no interest from school officials, you might work with the parent-teacher organization, local mental health groups, and the local board of public health to raise awareness of the issue, then advocate for implementation of one or more programs. There may be grants available to cover the cost of training or there may be organizations in your community that would help subsidize the program.
The bottom line is that suicide prevention requires a comprehensive approach. It’s never too early to start and everyone – families, schools, communities, and peers that create supportive environments; individuals who learn and leverage positive coping skills; and mental and public health systems that treat and prevent risk factors – plays a part.
Editor’s Note: The Families for Depression Awareness Teen Depression Webinaris an accessible, free resource for training parents, teachers, and others who work with youth to recognize depression, talk about depression with parents and youth, and know what to do to help a young person struggling with depression. Register for the Teen Depression Webinar live with Dr. Michael Tsappis on September 30.
Thanks to the MA Department of Public Health Suicide Prevention Program and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center for their support in developing this post.
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.
After the diagnosis, I have had to walk through a grieving process. I grieve for the “death” of who I was, for the person who I am, and for my future self. Confusion and loss of self are huge players in this grief process. Of course, sadness does too, much sadness. I believe it is the same type of journey we go through when we lose our loved ones. Except this time, the person is me.
Those five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I would imagine the denial stage is probably the most difficult to move out of after being diagnosed with a mental illness. It has been for me. The denial phase looked similar to this: I cannot believe I am bipolar; all I went in for was for ADD; the doctor can’t be right; I don’t even know what bipolar is, how is that ME? As Gru’s minions say “Wha???” It even looks like: these meds are making me worse; I’m not sick or have mental problems; maybe I was misdiagnosed; maybe I’m really not bipolar since the medicines are not working. On and on and on…
Since I am still fairly new with the diagnosis, I can see the reoccurrence of denial throughout the past few years. Thankfully, I am not stuck in the vortex of complete denial. It helps to read, to learn, to use the internet, to search for others who are walking the same walk. Thankfully, you are out there for me to glean from and from you I have hope.
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..