BringChange2Mind

September 15, 2011

Fear

Filed under: Uncategorized — BringChange2Mind @ 12:24 pm

FEAR

I noticed a few yellow leaves on the trees that surround my house recently. My heart sank. Then when I realized I have to wear my fleece slippers as the floors in my little house are already cold in the mornings, I felt my heart grow cold too.
I’m not afraid of the inevitable Montana cold; I love the quiet of winter, the beauty of shadows on snow, the crisp air, the occasional moose trotting down the road. What I am afraid of this season, is watching, helplessly, as my mood plunges along with the temperature. I observe myself looking over my shoulder. I am stalked by depression.
I know I don’t force depression; I have been this way since I was 19 or 20. The seasonal changes from winter to spring and then, like now, the change from summer to fall are the two changes that effect many others as well as myself. The first clue that I’m sinking is when I catch myself staring at nothing, my eyes out of focus. I will say, out loud, “Oh no!”
The difference between now and when I was younger is that over the years I’ve learned how to recognize, although not eliminate, the horrible effects of seasonal depression. I know it’s coming by staring, know that I must reach out, must jot down this change in mood in my daily planner. When I’m depressed it’s as though my life is standing still; bills go unpaid, food gets eaten but not replenished, dogs don’t get walked. It’s as though I’m suddenly in a black tube, traveling along but slowing down at every turn until I stop all together.
Keeping track of my mood is important, not only for me but for my doctor. Because it’s difficult to keep track of my mood when depressed my doctor is better equipped to keep track of me than I am. This sounds as though I give myself up to the mood and, in all honesty, that is what happens, involuntarily. Depression is a dangerous place to be and there’s no shame in asking for help not only with medication but for moral support. Since I tend to isolate, (even more than usual), when depressed, I try to force myself to pick up the phone and let family and friends know what’s up. When I don’t pick up the phone the timbre of my voice is a dead give away when someone calls me. I can’t trick anyone into thinking I’m not depressed. Over the years I’ve resigned myself to this particular symptom.
Seasonal depression cuts right through my anti-depression medication. As I said above, it’s very important to keep close to your doctor, if possible, when experiencing seasonal depression. My psychopharmacologist tries to help me without an increase in the anti-depressives. He suggests using a light box, exercise, vitamins. These suggestions, if I follow them, really do help until the seasonal depression fades away. But when under this particular cloud it’s very difficult to remember what it feels like to not be depressed. Letting others in, as well as your doctor, is very helpful. And remind yourself over and over that ‘this too will pass’.

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August 19, 2011

Nickelodeon Needs to be Educated – Chrisa Dieterle Hickey

Filed under: Uncategorized — BringChange2Mind @ 8:19 am

Last Saturday was the season premiere of iCarly, one of the most popular shows on Nickelodeon.  If you didn’t see it, it was called, “iLost My Mind,” and the story was about one character, Samantha, checking herself into Troubled Waters Mental Institution because she found herself attracted to a boy she hates.   I watched the show because my daughter likes iCarly, and I wanted to see what they thought was acceptable to show tweens and teens about the experience in a psychiatric facility.

I didn’t see much offensive about the story line. It was goofy and silly as iCarly tends to be.  What really made my blood run cold was the set and the extras populating said “mental institution”.  For starters, every wall and door was covered in dark, grimy looking streaks, smudges and stains – around doorknobs, along door and window frames, and above an overflowing trash can.  There wasn’t a doctor to be seen anywhere in any scene, but two scenes featured a half dozen uniformed security guards keeping the patients in line.  And the patients were spot-on stereotypes of raving lunatics – a grown man rocking a baby doll, another man compulsively rubbing his face with a sponge, another pressed face first against a wall, banging on it, and a delusional patient who thought he was from the future, wore pants made from a damage proof polymer, and sat alternately laughing maniacally and screaming in terror at a TV showing nothing but static.

I cringe, wondering what tweeners who watched that think about psychiatric treatment.  If they ever experience depression, will they tell anyone, or will they fear the dirty room full of strange adults and security guards?  Will parents who saw it shy away at getting a child treatment, thinking the facility will be full of adults acting bizarrely?  And what was the point of creating that backdrop? It didn’t further the story line.  Stereotypes like these keep stigma alive and well, and keep 60% of teens that need mental health care from getting it.  I followed Susan Resko of Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation’s lead and wrote a letter to Nickelodeon’s parent company, Viacom.  It’s too late to change this episode of iCarly, but hopefully, they’ll give some thought to the images they promote in the future.

The address for Nickelodeon is

Viewer Services

1633 Broadway

New York, NY 10019

(212) 258-7579

 

For Viacom, their parent company, it’s

Viacom Inc.

1515 Broadway

New York, New York 10036

(212) 258-6000

Or you can use their web form to send an email : http://www.viacom.com/contact/Pages/default.aspx

August 16, 2011

Close & Personal # 2 – Jessie Close

Filed under: Uncategorized — BringChange2Mind @ 9:03 am

Close and Personal #2

Dual-Diagnosis

 

She was standing in the middle of Dixie’s living room when Molly and I walked in.  She was holding a bottle of wine and made busy to get us some.  “No, thank you,” I told her.  She pushed.  “No, thank you,” I told her again.  She didn’t give up.  Usually, just saying ‘no thank you’ get’s the point across.  But not this time.  She tried to hand me a wine glass.

This was book club night, an evening with friends that, because I live quite a solitary life, I look forward to all month.  I read the book for this month over a year ago and was sure I’d remember everything about it once the discussion began; I couldn’t have been more wrong.  I couldn’t remember anything.

However, it isn’t the group I want to focus on, it isn’t the book or the eating or the yakking.  It was this one woman, this pushy-with-alcohol woman, and myself.  She is a summer person and neighbor of Dixie’s who threw the festivities this time and is someone none of us knew.  In short, she isn’t from around here.  She used the dreaded ‘C’ word to explain where she was from: California.  Her nails were long and painted, her clothes immaculate; things that gave her away immediately.  I won’t speak for my friends in the group but we are a somewhat motley collection of women.  We live year around in a very rural Montana location; our clothes are usually not stylish, our nails aren’t painted.  Not to say painted nails aren’t attractive but they don’t last long when gardening.

I moved out here in 1996 when my daughter was five years old.  I was basically helpless in the face of hauling and burning firewood, snow removal, getting to the supermarket through a ton of snow, frozen/broken pipes.  I tried to not ask for help.  I’m not saying I’m oh so tough now but I have a better handle on the truth.  And the truth is, I can’t fake it.  I have to ask for help that, of course, allows me more lessons in humility, one of my life’s repetitive themes.  And this brings me back to Book Club and the summer woman.

This woman’s body language, her speech and her actions spoke to me.  Under her pushiness I could see a very uncomfortable, possibly shy person.  She was pushing booze on everyone, including me, and wouldn’t stop.  All of a sudden I heard myself say, “I’m an alcoholic and that’s why I don’t want any”.   She stopped.  But the damage was done.  First, I forgot to say ‘recovering alcoholic’.  Then, my mind began spinning and whirring the way it does when I reveal something about myself, something tinged with shame and stigma.   My thoughts go into overdrive: ‘what if she knows I live with bipolar disorder too?’  ‘What if she knows I was once suicidal?’  ‘Oh man, I really am a mess!’ All these predictable thoughts crashed into each other inside my mind.  I didn’t know this person at all and was now watching myself do a self-centered mini-putdown-marathon.  I felt exposed and ashamed.  I can get twisted up into regret more than I care to admit.  It took me almost all evening to come back to my good mood.   I saw clearly that this woman is an alcoholic.  Why couldn’t I simply forgive her?  I know from AA that an alcoholic has to bring him/herself to the table of recovery.  There is nothing I can do but set a good example.  Living with a dual-diagnosis (mental illness and addiction combined) feels too heavy at times and this was one of those times.

I’m not going to lie and say I’d like to meet up with this woman again but, observing myself during this book club evening was significant.  Quitting drinking was the most difficult undertaking of my life.  I hope that in the future I’ll be proud of what I have accomplished under the heading of dual-diagnosis.  As far as the summer woman from California, I wish her well and thank her for the lesson

August 8, 2011

Extreme Makeover Home Edition and BC2M in Kansas

Filed under: Contributing Blogger — BringChange2Mind @ 4:49 pm

Last week I spent 5 days in the most wonderful field in the world located in Ottawa, Kansas.  Extreme Makeover Home Edition had chosen Gina and Allen Hill, their children, Makale and Dreyson, and  Allen’s dog Frankie, as the recipients of a new house constructed to meet the needs and wishes of the family and in particular those of Allen who has PTSD.

Over 3,000 volunteers assembled in over 100 degree heat and over seven days, they committed to building a new house, which we all hope will become a new home for the Hills. I am so proud to say I was one of those volunteers.

This house will change the lives of the Hill family. They will live together as a family, they will create memories for years to come. The Extreme Makeover team really “got it” in terms of mental illness and how the house can address those issues and provide safety and comfort to Allen. For that, I thank them.

On a personal note, my life has been changed  as well.  I was so pleased to have been provided the opportunity to help Gina and Allen.  I thought it would be great to help, I never thought my own life would be so do positively impacted. Any volunteer activity brings a certain level of self satisfaction, a sense of  “inner warmth”. This past week, I was overwhelmed in the best sense of the word to have been a witness  to the kindness of  strangers, to see such compassion exhibited so openly. As well, I met the most wonderful of people. We shared stories of tragedy, of hope, of inspiration. Tears of despair at times, tears of joy at others.

One person in particular told me a bit about her life and the difficulties she faced and then conquered. She has now become such a force in our world, she taught me a lot, and inspired me even more.

There are good people in the world though we don’t always think so.

Whoever thought this Canadian would find himself walking through a cornfield in Kansas with hard hat in hand. I certainly did not, but I am so happy I was there.

Keith Anderson, a proud and happy BC2M Volunteer.

July 19, 2011

Close & Personal #1 – Jessie Close

Filed under: Uncategorized — BringChange2Mind @ 11:45 am

Calen and I were delighted to be asked to open the NAMI convention this year, as we have so much respect for the positive impact NAMI has had on so many people’s lives, including ours.  NAMI offers people living with mental illness and their friends and families both education about mental illness and hope for recovery. NAMI’s excellent educational resources can also be accessed by visitors to the BringChange2Mind website.   I co-founded BringChange2Mind two years ago as a leading campaign focused on eradicating stigma around mental illness.  Yet prior to this period of advocating for change, I was unaware of many of the signs of mental illness and was also deeply affected by self-stigma.

NAMI is the Alliance that helped me with my life and my son Calen’s life in the very beginning of our journeys to get well.

In my own life, mental illness played a crippling role, stripping me of my dreams.  There were so many things I wanted to pursue, so many careers I started and had to stop because of my all consuming and destructive moods.  Everything I wanted to work toward was inevitably destroyed; once humiliated I couldn’t go back.

I wasn’t diagnosed properly until I was 47 years old.  I know I’ve been bipolar, untreated, for most of my life.  I went through so many houses and cars that I lost count.  I went through 5 husbands (it’s more difficult to lose count of husbands), three of which told me, “I just can’t take this anymore”.  I don’t blame them and am not speaking of this for sympathy; I can certainly handle that all by myself.

I’m speaking of this to illustrate how difficult it is for those who are not mentally ill to truly understand those of us who are, and why they should attend NAMI’s Family to Family meetings.  My last husband would tell me to my face, “I want you back”.  What he meant was that he wanted my mania back, “just please bring back that person I love because I can’t stand the depressed, suicidal one.”  I remember pounding him on his chest with my fists saying, “I’m right here!  This is me too!” The manic me spoiled him.  He loved the hyper-sexuality and the happy, giddy, person who greeted him at the end of the day with enough energy to cook dinner and clean up.  He didn’t like the scared, sad wife who would crawl into our closet to hide, lying on our shoes.  He didn’t like the empty shell of a woman who sat, staring at nothing, for days on end.  Who would?

I encouraged him to attend NAMI meetings but he only went to one.  He wanted nothing to do with understanding my dark side and actually only wanted the beginnings of mania, not the end part when I got irritable, angry and mean.  It’s possible I chose husbands who wouldn’t understand because I felt such self-loathing inside my skin.  I’ll never know the answer but I do know I no longer feel that self-loathing as intensely as I used to.

BringChange2Mind has partnered with NAMI on many NAMI Walks and as a founder of BC2M I am proud to see this alliance.  NAMI is there for all of us and I must say that I think going to NAMI meetings to support a loved one should be prescribed along with the psychiatric medications we take. Sharing suffering makes for great friendships.  I had a small but effective group in Bozeman, Montana to help me through the four stages of my Grief surrounding Calen’s illness: Denial, Anger, Acceptance, Advocacy.

The personal feel of NAMI gatherings, the hope held out to all who attend, the ability to make this huge organization touch the personal, to help and allow hope to ring true are what I am celebrating this month of NAMI’s Conference.

 

 

 

 

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.

April 8, 2011

Grief

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , — BringChange2Mind @ 1:12 pm

Today we are going to talk about grief. Not necessarily grief from the loss of a loved one, but grief of the diagnosis. In these past four months I have been trying my damnedest to be healthy and stay well. I had made sure that I was not only continuing to take my meds, but I was also maintaining healthy habits such as exercising (yoga and running), meditating, and additional stress relieving activities like my new found hobby: knitting. I have tried to be patient and kind to myself and have worked with my psychiatrist to increase and adjust medications to help me get over this bump. But as I found myself continuing to go deeper or simply stay in the “pits of despair” I found myself moving into the same mind-frame that I experienced when I was first diagnosed with bipolar. I found myself feeling, to put it simply, angsty. I found that I was reverting to the teenage-angst felt when life just doesn’t seem fair. When you realize, why me? And why now? I found myself getting angry at whoever or whatever has done this to me. And if there is no one to blame, then just why? And though I continually feel that my bipolar is part of me, though not all of me, and that I wouldn’t want to get rid of it. I simply wanted it to go away, or even a little while.

So I suppose my question to the world is, and specifically to anyone suffering from a chronic condition or disease, how do you cope and come to terms with the fact that you may continually have dips in your health, even if they continue to become increasingly easier?

I know that for me they have become easier, this is by far better than my initial diagnosis, but it is still terribly frustrating sometimes to know that I may have this occur again and again. All I know is that I will get through this and it will continue to get better, but some days, on my most 13-year old angst ridden days, I can only continue to say, this sucks.

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.

Marc

March 22, 2011

Keeping up with Family and Friends

Filed under: Guest Blog — Tags: , — BringChange2Mind @ 1:06 pm

I compare myself to my family members and friends all the time.  I spend many unproductive hours beating myself up because I need to rest but feel it’s a waste of time.  I feel guilty when I rest and am unable to rest because I feel I should be doing something constructive.  I should know better by now.  When I’m tired I get symptomatic.  I have bipolar disorder and I take medication for it but when I don’t rest the medication has a hard time working for me.

One of the many doctors I’ve spoken to says ‘sleep is medicine’.  I know it is but…  I know I have to take care of myself but… I’ll just finish this or I’ll just do that THEN I’ll rest.  In the meantime my symptoms raise their ugly heads.  Confusion, dizziness, nausea, feeling separate from, feeling like I’m in a fish bowl looking out are all symptoms I feel when I’m overtired.  I also have an almost overwhelming urge to flee wherever I am, to be quiet until the feelings pass.  Husband #5 found it disconcerting that I would crawl into our closet and shut down; I felt safe in the dark, on the floor, even when I was lying on shoes.  If I don’t respect the fact that I’m symptomatic I get worse and basically am not worth much to myself or anyone else.  So why is it so difficult for those of us with mental illness to take things easy?

Many of us have family members who are creative people with daunting energy.  In my family it’s my son Sander, 28, who is prolific, my sister Glenn and my powerhouse father, who died two years ago of a massive heart-attack.  I have envied those three and have watched their successes when I could barely put two sentences together (depression) or was as wild as a hare (mania).

But wishing doesn’t the person make.  I remember telling my mother that I was going to study French and flying so I could be a translator/pilot.  This was a long time before we knew I suffered from bipolar disorder.  And I told her I wanted to be a doctor like my father.  I’ll never forget her looking at me, both times, and saying, as kindly as she could, that “I don’t think that would work for you.”  I met the same discouraging attitude about many ideas I had, manic or not.  My parents knew something was wrong but didn’t know what it was.  My mother saw me go through so many cycles that she would try to shut down my ideas before I got in too deep.  Whatever it was, my mother knew my high energy would sooner than later turn into what she called ‘exhaustion’ which is what we now call depression.  We were all bewildered back then.

Now that I know what it is I’m dealing with I can approach my chosen activities and work with the humbling knowledge that I must pace myself: I must weigh what it is I’m doing with everything else I’m doing, in other words, I mustn’t overload myself.  There are few things that I dislike more than resting or putting something aside, even when I know it’s best.  When I delve into my feelings it becomes evident that I’m embarrassed to not be working myself sick.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow that others can work themselves into the ground without becoming ill, especially when they’re family members.  I’m a competitive person but competition isn’t the name of this game.  I’m certainly vain but vanity has no place in this.  Staying alive and living well is what it’s all about.  I believe that my family and friends understand more than I give them credit for.  I believe they are thankful that I have learned to pace myself and know how much I dislike limiting my workload.  It must be a relief for them.  I know it’s a relief for me.

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