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!
bp Hope Sept 2014
Demi Lovato & Bipolar: Stronger Than Ever! This platinum-selling recording artist is on a mission to spread her message of hope: We can get through dark times and find our strength!
By Rachel Rabkin Peachman
Platinum-selling recording artist Demi Lovato is a pro at performing in large concert venues. But on a Saturday afternoon just days before her 22nd birthday, Lovato took time away from her performing schedule to step onto a much smaller stage—with no backup band in sight. In an intimate lecture hall at Kean University in New Jersey, she spoke candidly to an enthralled audience about how she faced up to mental health challenges and lives well in recovery.
The appearance was part of The Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour supported by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc..
“It has become my personal mission to share with others that there is life on the other side of the dark times, and that they are not alone,” Lovato told bp Magazine afterward.
That’s a bit of a switch-up for the multitalented entertainer, whose early life was focused around her love of music and performing. Raised in Texas, she was acting and singing professionally by age 10. Her résumé as an adolescent includes Disney movies, her own Disney TV series, and two successful studio albums.
She achieved all that professional success even as she struggled to cope with emotional distress. Her inner pain found an outlet in eating disorders, substance abuse, and self-harm. As is true for many people, it took Lovato some time and setbacks before she fully committed to do whatever it took to get better.
So many of my fans have also experienced hardship … I think they appreciate my willingness to open up and put it all out there.
“There is so much shame and misunderstanding associated with mental illness,” Lovato reflected. “Along with that comes fear. I know that fear kept me from getting help.”
It wasn’t until Lovato had what she calls a “mental breakdown” in October 2010 that she went into treatment at a rehab facility. That’s when the underlying brain-based illness was diagnosed.
“When I finally got diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it was a relief in so many ways. It helped me start to make sense of my bipolar depression and the harmful things I was doing to cope with what I was experiencing.”
With a maturity that’s notable in a young adult, Lovato buckled down to get sober, find the right treatment plan, and adopt habits that help her maintain her wellness. She’s also turned her efforts outward, becoming an advocate for people affected by mental health conditions and substance abuse. (Lovato has a track record of public engagement, lending her support to causes like marriage equality, anti-bullying efforts, and civic involvement by Latino voters and young people.)
Lovato shared the early days of her recovery in an MTV documentary called Stay Strong, and published an inspirational best seller, Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year, all in an effort to save others from some of the pain she’s experienced.
“Imagine the hope we can give back to people by creating widespread support and showing the world that it’s possible to get through the darkest times and end up in a place of strength,” she said.
Lovato is proof positive that it’s possible to thrive with the right support and commitment.
“Since receiving help, I have been able to accomplish so much personally and professionally,” Lovato said.
In addition to holding her own as a judge alongside Simon Cowell for two seasons of The X Factor, she scored a recurring role on the popular series Glee. She released two more hit studio albums—the R&B-flavored Unbroken and Demi, an electro-pop compilation that made the charts overseas as well as in North America.
Top singles from those albums include “Really Don’t Care,” “Neon Lights,” “Heart Attack,” “Skyscraper” (which won the “best video with a message” award from MTV), and “Give Your Heart a Break.” Lovato is also known for the pop version of “Let it Go,” the belt-it-out anthem from the animated movie Frozen.
After wrapping up her second North American tour of the year this fall, Lovato is heading to the United Kingdom to tour with Enrique Iglesias.
Lovato’s music helps her process what she’s been through. On the resonant track “Warrior,” from Demi, Lovato sings, “And now I’m a warrior, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been … I’m a survivor in more ways than you know.”
Her devoted fans, known as Lovatics, do know—and Lovato welcomes their support.
“My fans are amazing. So many of my fans have also experienced hardship in their lives and I think they appreciate my willingness to open up and put it all out there,” Lovato told bp.
At her talk in New Jersey, that was clear. Alysa Bainbridge traveled from Leesport, Pennsylvania, to hear Lovato speak about bipolar disorder. The illness runs in Bainbridge’s family, and she admires Lovato’s courage to come out into the open despite stigma.
“That’s what I love most about her. She’s not afraid,” said Bainbridge. “She wants to make a difference by telling her story instead of hiding it, because she knows that it will help people.”
In that lecture hall at Kean University, Lovato shared her story with poise, down-to-earth humor, and a touch of sass. She took the stage wearing a black lace top and skirt. Her dark hair—which, in the past, has been shaved, blonde, and blue—was swept away from her face gracefully, with just a hint of blonde highlights glistening along the bottom.
Her appearance was part of the annual conference of New Jersey’s Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. She chatted onstage with Allen Doederlein, national president of DBSA, for nearly an hour.
Here are highlights from their conversation, edited for clarity and length.
Q: What made you realize that you needed help?A: It took a mental breakdown for me to realize that I needed to go into treatment. I had tried many, many times to get help on my own, whether it was through a life coach, or through justmedication and not doing anything else to change my behaviors. And it never worked because I never combined all the things that I needed to do in order to live a happy and healthy life.
Rock bottom looks different for everybody. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to end up in a psych ward or a sober living house to get the help that you need. It could be a moment of clarity in the car while you’re driving where you’re just sick and tired of being sick and tired.
I think that rock bottom for me was several things put together. What it took was a final intervention when my support group—my family, my management, my lawyers—said, ‘If you don’t get sober, we’re dropping you.’ My parents were there and they said, ‘If you don’t get sober, we can’t have you around your little sister. We’ll move back to Texas.’ That was a moment when I realized it was serious. It had been embedded in my mind from a very young age that I was never meant to be happy. And in fact, I thought it was a part of my “artistry” [using air quotes]. That’s what made me deep and artistic, just like Kurt Cobain and other troubled musicians and artists. I realized my illness shouldn’t stop me from being happy. And it shouldn’t define who I am as a person or an artist.
Q: You’ve mentioned self-harm, you mentioned self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, eating disorders, and then you’ve been brave and unique, frankly, in talking about bipolar disorder. Does that have a component that makes you feel vulnerable?A: Absolutely. First off, I see all of those issues as coping mechanisms for my manic [and] depressive states. But still, today when we talk about [bipolar], there’s a stigma around it that people don’t realize. For some reason, it’s a lot easier for people to talk about being bullied, or other types of mental illnesses, or addiction issues. It’s easier for people to say, ‘I’m an alcoholic’—even though that’s so difficult in the first place … But every time that I’ve ever talked about bipolar disorder—and even right now—a tiny part of me is still a bit uncomfortable because it makes me vulnerable sitting here and explaining to you that there’s something chemically wrong in my brain. And just because there is, it doesn’t mean that I’m crazy.
Since receiving help, I have been able to accomplish so much personally and professionally.
I am a normal human being with problems like everyone else. My “diabetes” happens to be my mental illness. And when I work out, when I take my therapy, when I take my medications, for me, that’s my treatment plan, that’s my insulin.
Q: After coming out of treatment, how did you keep your momentum?A: The way that I kept my momentum was always knowing in the back of my mind that I could lose the relationship with my family at any moment. It was also losing the ability to be able to perform onstage because I knew I could tarnish my career and my reputation. A habit of mine was self-sabotaging everything from relationships to progress. In order to break that pattern, I had to have a support team around me that really was honest with me, that told me what I needed to hear when I didn’t want to hear it. And for me, it was [committing to] sober living. Completely surrendering. The night of that intervention, in order to show them that I was going to fully surrender, I handed over my cell phone, handed over my credit cards, handed over my car keys. And I had a sober companion—which is someone who is with you 24/7—for over a year. Those were the measures that I needed to take in order to keep myself alive.
We’re not about surviving. We’re about thriving.
What people were seeing on the outside was a young Hollywood/Disney pop star. And I was really good at faking it, which is something I think a lot of people can relate to. In our society today, if you show any type of emotion, you’re considered weak. But I think that you actually show strength when you ask for help. It shows that you have some confidence in knowing who you are and saying, ‘It’s okay, I know I need help.’ Anybody who’s really good at faking it, I feel your pain, but I also encourage you to take contrary action.
Q: What do you mean by that?A: Contrary action is doing things for yourself when you don’t want to do it. For me, it’s working out when I’d rather watch [tv] shows. Or it’s going to an AA meeting when I don’t want to because I’m tired or it’s my day off. When I don’t [take contrary action], I feel it the very next day, if not later that day, especially with my medication. And I have to realize that every single thing in my life has to come together in order to form the right treatment plan for me.
Q: The right treatment plan can be hard-won. What does that treatment plan look like for you?A: I think [finding the right treatment plan] is a difficult journey and an emotional roller coaster. I also believe that it’s one that people are discouraged to take on because it takes, on average, about 10 years for someone with bipolar disorder to get accurately diagnosed. And I can relate to that because I knew there was something wrong [for years], and I was never told what it was until the day that I went into treatment.
But the right treatment plan is a combination of things. It’s seeing what works for you, seeing which doctors work for you, and it takes a while to process. But don’t give up. For me, my body had to adjust to certain medications and I didn’t know if they were going to work or not. It was a matter of me trying not to give up right away, to let my body adjust to them. And for so long I wasn’t consistent. Acceptance and consistency is my recovery.
Q: It’s so simple but it’s also so powerful.A: It’s complicated to make things simple and simple to make things complicated.
Q: The thought of knowing all of this when you are 21—the idea of knowing it when you’re 40, when you’re 50, when you’re 70—is impressive.A: Regardless of if I was 21 or 65 or 18, it is a blessing to know that I can get help. It is a blessing to know that there is hope. And sometimes it takes people 50, 60 years to have that moment of clarity and that ability to change—to have a spiritual experience or to finally hit rock bottom. I’ve lived a lot of life very fast at a very young age, and that put me in treatment at 18 rather than 45. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, race, background, or ethnicity.
Q: I’m struck by how different this moment is than a lot of mental health conversations. The age of the front two rows [cheering young fans], and the exuberance and fun. That is what you, Demi, are bringing to the mental health community. Because we’re not just about surviving.A: We’re not about surviving. We’re about thriving. [Lovato waves her arm over her head and punctuates it with a dramatic snap of her fingers.] That really deserved a snap.
Q: I feel so encouraged that you’re taking this on.A: I’m excited about everyone here today. Because I truly believe that our future generation is going to consist of people who don’t have this negative stigma attached to mental illness. A while ago, people who were bullied were ashamed. But when people started speaking out, it became a conversation. People really started hearing—and I think that a lot of that was because our generation has an influence on people.
Another reason why I’m able to sit here and talk about mental health today is because I don’t take myself too seriously. I realize that when I speak about it, I don’t want it to be as heavy as it is. It is a very serious disease. And it ends up deadly. But I feel when you’re able to be authentic, honest, and find even the humor in it, it takes a little bit of the stigma away.
Q: And what we’re creating—mental health.A: Everybody in this room is helping to create it, no matter how old, who you are, or what species you are [referring to the therapy dog in the room]. It doesn’t matter as long as we’re talking about it. The more educated we become, the more aware people are of how serious this is, but also how common it is, and that it’s okay.
* * * * *
Demi in your cornerDemi Lovato, personal coach? That’s the feeling that comes through the pages of Staying Strong: 365 Days a Year (Feiwel & Friends, 2013), her book of affirmations and motivational advice.
Shortly after its release in November, the book entered the New York Times best seller list for advice books at No. 1.
The self-help volume is set up to be consulted daily. Each entry offers an inspirational quote, meditation, or lesson that Lovato found helpful in her own recovery journey, plus a goal to encourage the reader’s progress toward wellness.
For example, January 1 explains how Lovato created a meaningful, personal affirmation (“You are beautifully and wonderfully made”) and includes this invitation: “In this New Year, come up with a mantra that is just yours. Each day, look in the mirror and repeat it back to yourself.”
In her introduction, Lovato notes that “it’s important to have something that will motivate, inspire, and help us stay positive and keep moving forward.” Mission accomplished.
The Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour Connects Demi Lovato with Mental Health Advocacy CommunityThe Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour is a new kind of tour for Demi Lovato, a platinum-selling recording artist living with bipolar disorder. To support the mental health community’s vision of building a new generation of inspiring, informed mental health advocates, Demi is participating in a series of discussions with some of the nation’s leading advocates on the challenges currently facing the community. She is also candidly sharing her experience at advocacy events, encouraging and inspiring others with her own story of resilience and learning to live well with mental illness.
The Mental Health Listening & Engagement Tour is supported by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to making a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.
In addition to her appearance at Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance New Jersey’s annual conference (where she posed with DBSA national president Allen Doederlein—above), tour stops include The Jed Foundation’s annual gala in New York City; the National Alliance on Mental Illness national convention in Washington, DC; and Mental Health America’s annual conference in Atlanta.
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.
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.
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..