April 29, 2011

Inspirational Quote of the Week

Filed under: Quote of the Week — Tags: , , — Marc Peters @ 9:02 am

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” – Dale Carnegie

Sorry that we’ve been slacking on the inspirational quotes lately. Hopefully you’ve kept yourself and your friends inspired anyway :). If you have a favorite quote feel free to leave it in the comments!


April 18, 2011

It’s Still a Shame

Filed under: Contributing Blogger — Tags: , , , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

Last Friday, I had the rare opportunity for a class session with former

President Bill Clinton. (That’s one of the benefits of attending his graduate school I guess). Surprisingly it wasn’t that great a day. I was exhausted and detached for most of my four hour class that morning. My behavior was off enough for my classmates to inquire to see if I was okay. I’d been doing fairly well lately and working nonstop at school work so I figured I was just exhausted. It took until that evening when I could not get remotely excited for the presidential Q&A for me to realize that I was sliding into a mild depression. I even had a good question prepared. I was going to thank President Clinton for signing the first Mental Health Parity bill into law back in 96. Then refer to his famous (in the mental health community) quote on mental illness:

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.

That is what he said after losing a close friend to suicide. He was right then and he was right now. I wanted to ask him whether he thought we had progressed much in the years since he made that profound statement and what more could we be doing.

What’s tragic is that our society has not come that far in the 10+ years since Clinton left office. The Mental Health Parity Act passed in 2008 made great strides in evening the health coverage playing field. I’m just not convinced that progress in policy have been accompanied by a change in the hearts and minds of everyday people. I have no doubt that things are better now than they were then. However, just because things are better today than they were yesterday doesn’t excuse us from working feverishly for a brighter tomorrow.

I still know people who are embarrassed to tell people when they are seeing a therapist or a psychiatrist. In our “lift yourselves up by your bootstraps” society, heaven forbid someone need to ask for help. I get emails often from people who feel more comfortable talking to me, a complete stranger, than they do their friends and family. Would the world be a better place if people chose help-seeking over isolation? Absolutely. Can we get there? I have no doubt. But we aren’t there yet.

If we are going to get there (wherever that is and whatever that means), we need to pay heed to the first half of Clinton’s quote. We need to realize that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. We cannot continue to cower anytime we admit that we’re feeling depressed or anxious or whatever the case may be.

Rather than feeling shame about being different, realize that there are a lot of people out there walking this walk with you. Rather than beat yourself up for what you can’t do, respect yourself for managing the challenges that you face on a day-to-day basis with courage and character. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Let me say that again- you have nothing to be ashamed of. Maybe it is a matter of us telling each other that a little more often.

For as outspoken as I am about living with bipolar disorder, that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes feel shame for the way it makes me feel or act. We all need a reminder now and then of how much we are worth, how far we have come and how much more we can do.

March 30, 2011

For those who haven’t found their voice

Filed under: Contributing Blogger — Marc Peters @ 11:08 am

People are fond of telling me how great it is that I’m able to speak up for those that do not have a voice. In this case, they are referring to other people with mental health disorders as the voiceless. I don’t think that people who have trouble advocating for themselves are voiceless. I just think they haven’t found their voice yet.  I’ve been reflecting on that a lot lately as I’ve struggled to find new words to string together for a compelling blog post. I’ve found that I put tremendous pressure on myself to speak for the entire community when really all I can be expected to do is tell my story and hope that others can take something from it.

I became an outspoken advocate almost by accident. When I was released on furlough during an inpatient stay in 2005, Facebook still had a part of the personal profile that allowed students to list their “summer plans”. In my post-psychosis stupor and anti-psychotic haze, I went ahead and listed “recovering from a psychotic episode.” What did I care? I did not/could not process the consequences. As a result, my disorder and my struggles with mental health issues have never been a secret. I’m incredibly thankful for that momentary lapse in judgment. Living with bipolar disorder is hard enough without having to hide it. If no one knew, I couldn’t count on friends, classmates, and professors for understanding. If no one knew, I’d forever be anxious, scrambling to cover for manic behavior or exhausting myself pretending to be fine when I barely could get out of bed in the morning.

I’ve often heard people in the mental health community say, “I can’t tell anyone. I don’t want people to know. I don’t know how they will take it. Everyone I’ve told so far has dismissed me as crazy or dismissed my issue as not a real health problem.” I get that. I really do and I completely respect you if you make the choice to live privately. However, I do urge you to reconsider. We can pass laws that prevent discrimination based on mental health issues. We can shout until we are blue in the face raising awareness. Until more people are talking openly about the realities of living with mental health issues, we will not win the hearts and minds of those who lack understanding. How can we possibly expect them to understand if we don’t educate them about it? If the only image that comes to mind when people mention mental illness is that of a violent madman, we will never make more than halting gains. It can get exhausting feeling like you’re everyone’s mental health tutor, but it is a price we must pay if we want progress.

At the end of the day, this isn’t about me and this isn’t about you. This is about the 14-year-old experiencing suicidal thoughts for the first time, who doesn’t know where to turn and just feels hopeless and so different from everybody else. It’s about the 32-year-old struggling with anorexia who doesn’t know where to turn for help and whose friends are afraid to intervene because they don’t really know what to do. It’s about setting an example. This doesn’t it mean it won’t be hard. It doesn’t mean that the challenges of living with a mental health issue will magically go away. It only means that we owe it to ourselves and for all those who come after us to do all we can to make it better.

You don’t have to make a proclamation to the world in order to find your voice. Take small steps, like talking with friends or family members, co-workers or classmates. Challenge yourself to have one difficult conversation. Just know that you have a community of support here.


March 2, 2011

The New “Normal”

I asked a friend for some advice on what I should blog about and he recommended: “The King’s Speech and how it won recognition for stutterers. We need a movie to do the same for mental health.” Realizing that movies, television and other aspects of popular culture can go a long way when it comes to making something “normal,” I momentarily forgot  that I had not seen The King’s Speech or paid any attention to the ripple effect that it has had in the greater community. I said “Sure! That sounds like a great idea!” Then I set out to educate myself (in this case via The Huffington Post):

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The movie’s kind of like a “Rain Man” for the stuttering world, [Stuttering Foundation President Jane] Fraser said in a phone chat earlier this week. “We have a world-class, superb actor showing us how devastating it is to stutter,” she says. It doesn’t hurt that he’s playing a king who’s leading a country against Hitler.

The foundation has received a flurry of media attention and a spike in donations in recent months.

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy:

In February the Stuttering Foundation of America received $25,000 in donations versus the $10,000 it received in February 2010. “So that’s tremendous,” [Fraser] says. “We’ve seen an increase in new donations. Something like 80 percent from last week, from people that had never donated before.”

So when Colin Firth wins an Oscar for a performance in a movie that moves speech impediments into the social discourse, it works magic. That’s fairly self-evident. For another example, look at how Glee chose to focus a series of episodes on gay bullying after so much had been in the news on the subject. When we can talk about a fictional event as opposed to something actually going on in our lives, it gives us enough distance to tackle an uncomfortable issue t

When a TV show like House decides to highlight the mental health of its title character, it improves the basic knowledge of all its viewers. I frequently get asked whether or not my stay in a mental hospital was anything like Hugh Laurie’s fictional visit and if my counseling appointments go anything like his did. It helps make the intangible tangible to folks who have never had to deal with any of these issues.

Now, we can’t rely on popular culture to completely remove stigma from mental health issues. Sometimes they even do more harm then good. What we can do is monitor for opportunities for discussion and take advantage of them when they arise. It may seem simplistic to believe that adding A Beautiful Mind and It’s Kind of a Funny Story to your Netflix queue to watch with friends will make any sort of a difference, but we need to take advantage of any small chance we get to move this conversation forward. It’s one thing to talk amongst ourselves and support one another (which we should always and forever continue to do). We need to continue to look for any and all ways to reach the people who aren’t already having these conversations and pull them into the dialogue. It’s going to to take everyone we can get to fully eradicate mental health stigma.

I would love to know about any experiences you’ve had watching movies/TV shows with a mental health component to them. Do you think that we could start conversations this way? Share in the comments!

February 23, 2011

Strength in Numbers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

The greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of your time.

The past few weeks have been a sort of a hell for me. When I started to write this post, I was still mired in a severe depressive episode. The ripple of effect of that misery hit all facets of my life. The ties with friends fray when it becomes exhausting and uncomfortable to talk on the phone or meet up with classmates. On a theoretical level, I know that the first thing I should do when I’m depressed is reach out. However, it’s often the last thing on my mind. I can usually go against every fiber of my depressed being and call a friend or two for support, but this episode was different.

For one thing, I haven’t yet been able to build the support system during my six months in Little Rock that I left behind after most of my life in Maryland. When I was working for Active Minds in Washington, DC, I had friends in the area to rely on and co-workers who were intimately familiar with the field of mental health. I had it easy. Undergraduate too was easy compared to now. If you think about college, you have friend networks built in and even if there is stigma and ignorance, people are always around. It is hard when you are in a transient point in your life to make local support networks a priority. It becomes even harder as a student knowing that even if you decide to stay put, the people you’ve come to trust may leave.

There are steps to take that I haven’t. I don’t have a local therapist. I’m only starting to think of Arkansas as a long-term home and I found the prospect of building a relationship with a new therapist daunting (especially if I was going to up and leave in a year or two). Something else I realize that I had failed to do was educate my classmates about warning signs and how they can help me when I’m in need. If I had taken those steps, my journey this past month might not have been so awful.

Eventually I did reach out and my classmates were there for me. People have an incredible capacity for compassion if you give them the opportunity. However, if you aren’t in a place where you can disclose what is going on in your life make sure that you can rely on a doctor or a therapist. If you are in crisis, make sure you know that there are places you can call for support without judgment. Keep that 1-800-273-TALK number handy in the case of an emergency. Know that there is incredible strength to be had in numbers when you choose to let someone in. The burden of an eating disorder, an anxiety disorder, depression, mania, and anything and everything else on the mental health spectrum is near impossible to bear alone. It’s okay to need help. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to receive help. It’s okay.

All the best,


January 31, 2011

Inspirational Quote of the Week

Filed under: Quote of the Week — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” -Albert Camus

When Allison Fine came to speak at the Clinton School this past week, she ended her speech with this quote. While Camus wasn’t speaking about depression, the parallel can easily be drawn. Sometimes the only way to weather the storms that we face is to understand the tremendous strength we possess. We need to remind each other of that constantly.

January 26, 2011

The Danger of A Single Story

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

In this video, author Chimamanda Adichie speaks to a conference about the danger of a single story representing an entire population. This an issue that we often face in mental health. The stories that make the news are always negative. The stories of the thousands upon thousands who manage their disorders and support their friends often go untold. Thankfully BringChange2Mind and other like-minded organizations are working to create a broader dialogue that is more representative of the mental health community.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the video!


January 12, 2011

The Benefits of Service

Filed under: Event — Tags: , , , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

A lot of the country is looking forward to the upcoming three-day weekend: Saturday, Sunday and the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Three days off right? Rather than taking Monday as an extra day for rest and relaxation, I encourage you to consider spending (at least part of the) day serving others. This holiday is meant to honor a man who has become a legend for the service he did for our country. The least we can do is spend one day giving back.

I feel not only a desire to serve, but also an obligation. I would not be where I am today if people had not looked after me. I went through a severe depressive episode in high school. If my teachers hadn’t gone above and beyond to protect me and nurse me back to full health before sending me off to college, I might not be here at all. Their only motivation was love. When I spent most of my college career recovering from a psychotic break, my professors carried me until I was able to walk on my own. I am giving back because I owe it to all the people who’ve made me who I am. I can’t say for sure, but I’m betting that you can think of people in your own life whose service has meant the world to you.

Every day I wake up hoping to serve one person, to make one person think something new, to inspire one person to do something different. It’s then and only then that I feel as though I’ve lived up to what I was called to do. It’s then and only then that I feel as though I’ve made a deposit on paying down my debt of gratitude. However, service isn’t only about giving back. It can be restorative.

“Volunteers have improved mental health, including less depression than those who don’t serve others. While younger volunteers also receive health benefits from volunteering, volunteers age sixty and older benefit more greatly.” – Shirley Sagawa, The American Way to Change: How National Service and Volunteers are Transforming America

When I’m depressed – trapped in the mental prison – nothing pulls me out faster than focusing on the needs of someone else. Serving others can be a tremendous reminder of a world beyond ourselves. Depression is tremendously isolating. I, like most, get trapped in a negative wave of thinking. I grasp desperately for something to hold onto. Service is that lifesaver for me. It can also be a great stress reliever and a way to build lasting bonds and friendships. I’ve found nothing more meaningful than uniting with others beyond a common goal. What do you think keeps me coming back to BringChange2Mind?

I hope that you will consider serving in your community on Monday and throughout the year. If you want to find a place to serve, visit the My Nation page on ServiceNation to find a service event in your area.



January 10, 2011

Inspirational Quote of the Week

Filed under: Quote of the Week — Tags: , , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.”

-Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox has always been one of my favorite actors. He didn’t become one of my favorite people until I learned of his courage in the face of Parkinson’s. I encourage anyone who is feeling in need of perspective or inspiration to read his memoir: Lucky Man. I’d loan it to you, but I’m pretty sure both of my copies are loaned out already.



PS. As always, please post some of your favorite inspirational quotes in the comment section here. You never know when the words you share will make all the difference to someone who has stumbled across the blog.

January 5, 2011

What Remains

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

I spent my entire freshman year, at Syracuse University, walking the fine line between manic and psychotic. Finally it was too much for my brain to take and as Spring Break ended and my friends were returning to class rested and rejuvenated, I found myself staring at the blank walls of a hospital room.

I fought my way back to campus and my final three years at Syracuse were a mix of brief respites of joy and the endless pain of recovery and adjusting to a new life. When my friends were out partying or toiling away in the library, I was holed up in my dorm, fast asleep. The exhaustion from the readjustment was enough to knock me out, but more so than that I was watching my sleep habits carefully to make sure to avoid restless, manic nights. As much as I wanted to rejoice at making it back to campus, I couldn’t. My thought processes were considerably slower after my bipolar diagnosis and subsequent pharmaceutical regimen. It took me three hours to complete homework assignments and readings that would have taken me thirty minutes in the past.

I couldn’t bring myself to try and process any of the trauma of that fateful Spring semester. I did not yet have the words or the courage to express how I was feeling – even to my closest friends and mentors. It was a lonely time for me. I was trapped in my own head and couldn’t see beyond my reality of the moment. I had yet to see any college students step forward and say “I have a mental illness. This is my struggle. Look at how I’m thriving.” The only examples I had to look to were the adults with whom I shared an inpatient stay – hardly a comfort.

My last visit to Syracuse in Fall of 2009 brought up many painful memories. Walking around campus meant retracing my footsteps on a journey that I don’t look back on with pride. I still have vivid flashbacks of manic conversations. I remember things I said that I can’t believe. I remember actions I took that shock me. You would think that with all that pain, I wouldn’t want to come back. Thankfully, those memories aren’t all that remain.

I’m just getting home from my most recent trip up to Syracuse. I had the opportunity to visit with the mentors that I’ve kept in touch with over the years, my extended family that supported me even when I didn’t know how to ask for their help, and the wonderful friends I made along the way. The amazing thing about when you are made vulnerable by circumstances beyond your control is that it invites those around you to draw near. Even now, I am so open about my struggles not only to set a positive example for those who are facing similar adversities, but also because it fosters a connection with people that I have yet to replicate any other way.

For those of you of you out there who haven’t been able to disclose your illness to people around you, just know that for all the stigma and misunderstanding there is also hope and love. I still hold on to the painful memories, the anxiety that they bring, and the shame I can’t seem to leave behind. I know one day I’ll have to shed that weight if I’m going to grow into the person I want to be, but in the meantime it helps to have the bright spots too. I’m so incredibly grateful for the people that have remained in my life and seen me through my highest highs and my lowest lows. I’m so thankful for what remains.

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