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
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. 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. "
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.
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!
Tragic California Case Exposes Failings in Our Mental Health Care System
CareforYouMind Feb 10,'15
In April 2012, Fred Paroutaud, a California man with no history of mental illness, experienced a psychotic episode. Mr. Paroutaud was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Just 72 hours after he was admitted, and despite the fact that he was still experiencing hallucinations, he was discharged and referred to outpatient group therapy. Because his condition remained unstable he requested alternate therapy and one-on-one sessions with a psychiatrist. He was denied both by his health plan and his condition deteriorated.
Concerned by his worsening depression, his wife appealed to the health plan again and again. She pleaded that her husband required more supervised and personalized treatment. While waiting for an appointment with his psychiatrist, and just two months after his first psychosis, he died by suicide.
Mr. Paroutaud’s widow is convinced that if more intensive and timely care had been available, her husband would still be alive. In October 2013, she and two other plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit against the health plan claiming they were harmed by its systemic denial of timely access to mental health services.
Why this story sounds familiar
Those two narrow levels of care are appropriate for many people, but not all, and certainly not for all stages of mental illness. The absence of those critical, in-between levels of care is one of the ways that our mental health system falls short and where it fails people like Fred Paroutaud and his family.
When someone is in the midst of a manic episode or considering suicide, hospitalization can provide the opportunity to stabilize the condition. Upon discharge, many patients require medically monitored care in a residential facility or highly personalized care in a medically-monitored outpatient setting. Unfortunately, that level and type of care is almost impossible to find in commercial health plans.
There is another way
This structure, with six levels of care, is the backbone of the mental health system under California’s Medicaid system, and it provides a complete, stepped approach to rehabilitation.
This type of care should not be exclusive to the Medicaid population. One of the 10 essential health benefits under the Affordable Care Act is rehabilitation; another is mental health care. This means that rehabilitation for mental health care isan essential benefit, and all Americans in commercial health plans are entitled to more rehabilitation-focused mental health services.
What you can do now
With increased national attention on access to mental health care, now is the time to tell us about the problems you are having in accessing the care you need. We want to know what services you were denied and the barriers you faced, such as unaffordable out-of-pocket costs, transportation issues, or lack of trained providers in your plan’s network, etc. We also need to know what you did or didn’t do in response and how this impacted your or your family member’s recovery. As advocates and advocacy organizations, we are positioned and prepared to knock on the door of government regulators and health plans and point out the disparity in care and demand access to appropriate rehabilitative services.
Many commercial insurers don’t cover rehabilitation services because they don’t believe they have to. And if no one demands otherwise, they are unlikely to ever change. Share your story. Don’t take ‘no’ as the only answer. Let’s realize the parity we deserve.
Rusty has been Executive Director and Legislative Advocate for CCCMHA since 1987. He is co-author of California’s Mental Health Services Act, a tax on personal incomes over $1 million to expand community mental health care. At CCMHA, he has been instrumental in moving forward a variety of critical mental health-related initiatives, including ensuring the implementation of the federal Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) program to serve children with severe emotional disturbances. He also serves as Executive Director of the Mental Health Association in California.
What are some symptoms of BP? See what bipolar disorder can be like. Pass this along to someone in need. Dark Glasses & Kaleidoscopes - YouTube http://bit.ly/1ExeuNA
Allen Reflects on Thriving in 2014
As DBSA’s 2014: The Year of Thriving comes to a close, it seems appropriate to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this past year, and to think about what’s yet to come.
At the beginning of 2014, we outlined our vision of a future where every adult and child living with a mood disorder has the opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive. To some, this was a message of hope; to others, it seemed a goal almost impossible to imagine. I completely understand how some of my peers might find total wellness to be an unattainable goal. Indeed, I too have experienced times in my life when the only reality I could imagine was the intense pain of depression. In fact, I experienced times this very year when thriving seemed so very far away for me personally. But amidst messages about the danger and drain of people with mental health conditions, and my own concurrent thoughts of self-loathing and self-stigma, to know that there was a community that would hope for the return of my best self was a blessing. To hold hope when we cannot carry it ourselves: this has always seemed, to me, the fundamental purpose of peer support. DBSA was founded on a model of peer support, and DBSA will always be about creating opportunities for peer support, and through peer support—the thousands of people meeting in communities across the country—we are creating a world in which all of us may be reminded of our potential, our strength, and our best selves.
For me to return to a place of thriving took a lot of time and work and collaboration. It also took some luck. For I have been very lucky: to have found clinicians that do not put limitations on what my life can be; to have the support of loved ones and colleagues who remind me of who I am, not what condition I live with; to have insurance that gives me access to quality health care that covers both my physical and mental health; and to find inspiration in my work and the amazing people I have the privilege of working with, and for, in my role at DBSA.
Such good fortune—in clinical collaboration, in supportive community, in access to resources, in meaningful work—are what I, and the DBSA Board and staff, want for everyone, not just the very lucky.
So in 2014, we asked our peers, families, clinicians, researchers, politicians, and the public to expect more. We asked our community to promote and seek full wellness—because better is not well, and everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive.
I am proud of the work DBSA accomplished in 2014, and I encourage you to review our 2014: Year of Thriving programs. I believe that we did open minds—and even a few doors—to the possibility of thriving. A few highlights include:
But so much more must be done. So we ask,
“What needs to happen for us to have wellness change from being a possibility for some to a probability for most?”
It will require:
We made some significant strides this past year, but we do not fool ourselves by believing that these first steps have produced monumental change. That will take persistence. That will take courage. That will take time. That will take hope. That will take ALL of us.
It is through thousands, indeed millions, of inspired, imperfect actions that we will slowly transform these small steps into big changes and create a future where wellness is no longer a possibility for only some lucky few, but a probability for all.
Thank you for joining us on this journey,
I have many cherished friends living with major, "invisible" health challenges. Everyday they work very hard to prevent others from knowing of their struggles. They work to "pass" as being just another face in the crowd.
OCT 2014 State Meeting
Ordinary heroes: Drains honored for speaking out for health care equality
y Linda Braden
Larry and Linda Drain are quiet, unassuming people. But when circumstances arose that threatened Linda’s life, they both began speaking out, their voices ringing loudly to bring awareness to — and a solution for — themselves and others who have fallen through the cracks of the health care system in Tennessee. Their income is too high to qualify for TennCare, Tennessee’s public insurance program, and too low to qualify for federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.
In acknowledgement of their efforts, the Tennessee Health Care Campaign presented the Drains with the 2014 Heroes for Health Award in August at the John Seigenthaler First Amendment Center, Nashville. The award was given “for your dedicated support to affordable access to high-quality health care for all Tennesseans.”
The event honoring the Heroes was part of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign’s 25th Anniversary celebration. In addition to the Drains, Laura Sell was honored for the major work she did as a volunteer to promote and support enrollment in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, collaborating with the Blount County Public Library.
Larry said, “It was a very eventful night. We got to speak to a lot of people, meet a lot of people that were heavy-hitters that we knew about or read about. That was neat. And to get people to treat us like we were important. As we were walking out the door, I said, ‘Linda, do you ever get over being surprised when people treat us nice?’ I’m surprised every single, solitary time. It’s just been a strange happening. When it first started out, we didn’t have a clue ... The way we look at it is that we are extraordinarily ordinary people, and the idea that people would know who we are or that people would listen to what we have to say — I wouldn’t have predicted that in a thousand, million years. Then when it took off, it went insane.”
The story began with Linda, who has been drawing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for some time because of epilepsy, brain surgery and additional health conditions. Larry said, “She has TennCare. She has to have the TennCare in order to live. If she does not have the medication, if she doesn’t have the medical care, she will die.
“Ten years ago, a good day for her was having 10 to 15 grand mal seizures. She went through brain surgery, and the last 10 to 14 years have been extraordinarily eventful, but the medication is her pathway to life.”
After Larry turned 62 last September, he decided to take early retirement and begin drawing Social Security.
“If I had to take all the dumb, stupid, worst things in my entire life that I have ever done, that one is so far to the top that there is not a second place,” he said. “The way we had it figured out, we could live if we took what she made in SSI and what I made in retirement. We weren’t going to be rich — in fact, we were going to be poor — but we would be able to pay our bills, do what we needed to do. We were going to be OK.
“After a couple of months, Social Security called us in and said, ‘You guys make way too much money.’ They were very nice, not cruel or mean or anything like that. ... But they said, ‘We have a limit on unearned income, and you guys are way over it.’”
Larry questioned how that could be, and was told that his Social Security retirement is considered unearned income. He said, “I asked them, how could that be unearned income? I worked 47 years for that. It’s my money. They said, legally it’s unearned income. They told Linda that her check for $720 was going to become $20. We were going to lose $700. I said, ‘I’ll just give the retirement back. I’ll just get another job and we’ll be OK.’ And they said, ‘Well, you can do that, but the only way you can do that is to give us back every single penny we have given you today.’ Well, if I could give it all back today, I would never have needed it to begin with.”
Larry thought he could continue drawing his retirement and also have a job to make ends meet. He said, “What they said after that has basically driven the whole situation. They said, ‘You have to understand, that because your wife is on TennCare, if you make over $85 in a month, she will lose her TennCare.’ So we went home, and we did all the figuring we could.”
Their projected budget for January would leave them with $30 for essentials such as food and gasoline, and the following months would be worse. “We looked at everything we could, trying to find a way. ... But there wasn’t a way,” Larry said. “We were in a position where, if I got a job to give us enough money to live on, it would kill my wife. It would take her insurance away, and it would kill her. If I didn’t get a job, we couldn’t live. We couldn’t live on a dollar a day. It just wasn’t doable. So on Dec. 26, after 33 years of marriage, we separated.”
The original plan was for Linda to stay with a relative until they could find her a permanent place so she could retain her SSI and TennCare. Larry would then find a place as close by as he could. Larry said, “At that time, our understanding was that, according to the way the laws were in the state of Tennessee, we would never again live together as man and wife.”
There were two possible solutions: Change Social Security laws or expand TennCare, the state’s managed Medicaid program which provides health care coverage primarily for low-income children, parents, pregnant women and elderly or disabled adults. Social Security laws were not going to be changed, but Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam could spearhead expansion of Medicaid. Larry said, “If he expanded Medicaid, then Linda didn’t have to be a member of a category, she didn’t have to be ‘disabled,’ to get it. All she had to do was be poor. If he expanded Medicaid, then she would have her insurance, which meant we could live together, I could get a job, and although we’d struggle, we would live. Without him expanding Medicaid, we had no help at all.”
Letters to governor
Larry began drawing attention to the need for TennCare expansion by writing a series of letters to the governor. Some were very personal, some general and policy oriented, but in each letter, Larry pleaded with Haslam to submit a plan for TennCare expansion. The 100th letter was emailed on Sept. 2. As of that date, the governor had not responded to the Drains, but he did announce on Aug. 28 that he plans to submit a proposal to Washington to expand Tennessee’s Medicaid program. He did not release any details, however.
Larry said more than 1,200 individuals from across Tennessee have told him they also contacted Haslam. Larry’s 100th letter to the governor begins to list the names, and he plans to continue adding names in subsequent letters until every one is included.
Each letter is available atdeargovernorhaslam.wordpress.com and is viewed by 4,000 to 6,000 persons daily. In addition, a petition entitled “Gov. Haslam: Expand TennCare and Let Me Stay With My Wife!” at www.thepetitionsite.com has almost 46,000 signatures in support of the Drains.
The Drains’ story was told in the Nashville Tennessean and other major news outlets, drawing even more attention to those who, as Larry said, “didn’t fall through the cracks — we live in the cracks.”
Twenty-five miles separate this couple now. Linda is in Knox County, while Larry is in Blount County. They are waiting for the time when they can once again live together as man and wife without Linda losing her life.
Larry said, “I should not have to drive 25 miles to see my wife. It’s wrong in every sense of the word.”
The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is the leading patient-directed national organization focusing on depression and bipolar disorder. The organization fosters an environment of understanding about the impact and management of these life-threatening illnesses by providing up-to-date,
scientifically-based tools and information. DBSA supports research to promote more timely diagnosis, develop more effective and tolerable treatments and discover a cure. The organization works to ensure that people living with mood disorders are treated equitably. Assisted by a scientific advisory board comprised of the leading researchers and clinicians in the field of mood disorders, DBSA has more than 750 peer-run support groups across the country. Nearly two million people request and receive information and assistance each year. DBSA’s mission is to improve the lives of people living with mood disorders. For more information about DBSA or depression and bipolar disorder, please visit www.DBSAlliance.org or call (800) 826-3632.
Allen Doederlein, President, DBSA
Steve Brannon, State Director, DBSA Tennessee
Support for mood disorders: Allen Doederlien shares information Thursday
By Linda Braden Albert | email@example.com | July 20, 2014
A series of presentations focusing on mental health issues that began in March at the Blount County Public Library will continue Thursday as Allen Doederlein, president of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), speaks on bipolar disorder and depression. The presentations, sponsored by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Maryville, are free and open to the public.
Doederlein said, “Our headquarters are in Chicago, Ill., and yet, we are really all over the country and have some incredible and important affiliates in Tennessee. The work they do is entirely volunteer. It’s done as a labor of love and it’s done from a very personal place.”
The organization is by and for people who live with depression or bipolar disorder. “That lived experience informs everything we do,” Doederlein said. “We provide information that’s easy and understandable, not written in ‘medicalese,’ not confusing but gets directly to what these conditions are and what you can do to live and get well. We provide empowerment. These are conditions that can make people feel disenfranchised, that can carry great stigma. We want to make sure that people are strong advocates for themselves.”
Doederlein said another goal is to raise concerns and needs to elected officials but also on a more personal level. “Also in their work places and their families — anyplace people with mood disorders may find themselves, to say, let’s work collaboratively and constructively to make sure everyone does well,” he said.
DBSA support groups provide valuable assistance and education for those with mood disorders. Doederlein said, “Our chapters operate free, in-person peer support groups. That’s a group that meets without a doctor or clinical professional present, just the people with a lived experience. There’s a great deal of scientific literature that shows that peer-to-peer experience is greatly beneficial and helps people get well and stay well.”
About 53,000 people are reached nationally in a year by these peer support groups, he added.
Doederlein said Larry Drain, president of the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Maryville and initiator of the mental health informational series, is a wonderful example of someone with a great deal of power and intellect who has been challenged by mood disorders.
“He had taken that lived experience and made something in terms of giving back to others,” Doederlein said. “When you think that there are people doing that all over the country, it’s really, really something. Larry’s not only done that in terms of support but also as an advocate.”
At the national level, 50 percent of the paid professional staff and volunteers must, by charter, have personal experience in dealing with mood disorders.
“That perspective informs everything that we do,” Doederlein said. “That’s really important. Very often in health-related education or advocacy, it will be doctors talking to doctors, not really related to a person getting herself or himself well. We make sure that’s at the center of what we do.”
Mood disorders include a spectrum of conditions, including depression and bipolar disorder. Doederlein said, “About 21 million American adults are estimated to be affected by depression and bipolar disorder. That breaks down to about 14 million affected by depression, and between 6 and 7 million affected by bipolar disorder.”
Mood disorders are challenging, but they can be managed and those with the disorders can thrive and contribute to society, Doederlein said. A prime example — Abraham Lincoln.
To learn more, visit the DBSA at www.DBSAlliance.org or attend Thursday’s presentation. It begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Blount County Public Library.
Thanks for the support
by Larry Drain, hopeworkscommunity
The following organizations have offered support of "Dear Governor Haslam". They have put links to this site or printed the letters on their websites. I really appreciate it. I invite you or your organization to do the same.
Tennessee Health Care Campaign.
Tennessee Citizen Action.
Tennessee Disability Coalition.
Tennessee Chapter Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
WRITE GOVERNOR HASLAM TODAY
hopeworkscommunity | June 1, 2014
Helping me through my depression
Blogger, Kelley Baker, shares hints her family uses to help her through depression.
By Kelley Baker
Most of the time, I’m the one you call when you want someone to cheer you up. I like to dance. I love rock concerts, farmers markets, dogs and children. But there’s another side to me: I have been living with clinical depression since I was a child.
Thanks to treatment, coping tools and lifestyle changes—working from home, eating a natural diet—I am better now than I have ever been. Still, every so often I feel the depression returning. I have described it to my husband as a demon eating my brain.
I know it’s confusing for him as one day I seem fine and the next I am sad, distant, or even angry and pushing him away. And I know he wants to help me, but sometimes it’s hard for family members and friends to know what to do.
I had to learn how to be more open with my husband about how I’m feeling and what I need from him. These are some of the things I’ve shared with him:
Help keep clutter at bay. A person spiraling into depression may feel like they are slowing down while the world around them speeds up. The daily routine feels overwhelming: The mail stacks up, dishes pile up in the sink, laundry goes undone. It feels more and more impossible to keep up. Getting extra help with kitchen chores and other mundane tasks keeps things under control so everyone in the house is happier.
Pitch in on meal plans. People who are depressed tend to either eat too little or overeat—usually going for something less than nutritious. Plus, driving through the pick-up lane at a fast food restaurant or ordering a pizza feels so much more manageable than fixing a meal. Having someone make a healthy meal not only contributes to my physical and mental well-being, but also eases my “mom guilt” over what my kids are eating.
A simple ‘Do you want to tell me what you’re feeling?’ makes me feel less alone.
Ask how I’m feeling. If I am able to articulate what I am going through, it helps my husband understand what I am dealing with—and sometimes it helps me understand better, too. Unfortunately, I won’t talk about what I’m going through unless someone asks me. I don’t want to impose, or I don’t think they care. A simple “Do you want to tell me what you’re feeling?” makes me feel less alone.
Encourage self-care. A lot of things fall by the wayside during a depression, including personal appearance. Brushing your teeth and taking a shower just don’t seem to matter—much less getting a haircut or going to the dentist. It all just seems too hard. That attitude can snowball quickly into greater feelings of worthlessness: “Now I’m such a mess, no one could ever love me.” Hearing something like, “I’m going to do the dishes, why don’t you go enjoy a bubble bath?” is often what I need to make me feel okay about doing something self-loving.
Offer a hug. Studies show that a sincere hug lasting longer than 20 seconds can release feel-good chemicals in the brain and elevate the mood of giver and receiver. The fact that people who are depressed often don’t want to be touched can make this tricky, but a hug from the heart, with no expectation of anything further, just may help.
Offer reassurance. Along with the feelings of worthlessness, anger and even guilt that are part and parcel of depression, there’s often fear of ending up alone because really, who would want to put up with these episodes forever? Being reassured I won’t scare away my family because I have an illness takes a huge weight off my mind.
Give a reality check. A never-ending loop of painful, destructive thoughts—“I’m unlovable, I’m a failure, I’m ugly, I’m stupid”—loop through the mind of someone with depression. When my husband reminds me how hard I worked to get a teaching credential, or tells me I’m a great mom or that he loves me, it helps me keep those kind of thoughts in check.
Remember the good. When I’m depressed, I sometimes forget that I was ever happy. Looking at pictures of vacations with my family, watching home movies, hearing things from my husband and kids that they like about me, reminds me that while I may feel sad or numb right now, I’ll get through it.
S.L. Brannon D.Div..