BringChange2Mind

December 24, 2010

Creating a Community Throughout the Holidays

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Jeremy @ 8:30 am

We hear all the time that the holidays can be a difficult time for a lot of folks. The weight of missing lost love ones or the depressing thoughts that come from living in a down economy where you can’t go all out for your family with presents can make someone want to wish the holiday season would pass as fast as humanly possible.

A lot of us (myself included) cling to false ideals. We believe that there is such a thing as a perfect life. The photo you see above is of my family and I – my mother’s parents, sister, and her children – taken last Christmas. The message I wanted to convey with this photo is, yes, we are a very happy family. However, there has been a fair share of arguments and problems within our relationships. We have had our share of struggles within the family, but we got through them with the help of others.

Why am I bringing all of this up? I want you to remember that everyone struggles at some point in life. For some, it’s a life-long struggle while for others it might only be an acute occurrence. At any given point in time you have no idea what your friends, your family, or your neighbors might be going through.

During this holiday season, I implore you to be there for others or reach out for help if you need it. Open your doors to your neighbors and friends; invite them to have a meal with you over the next week; get coffee with your neighbor who just lost a spouse; walk over to your neighbor’s help for a listening ear; say “hi” to the next person who passes by…

…Form a true community. I promise you, these acts of kindness will not go unnoticed, especially during the holiday season.

Advertisements

October 26, 2010

Telling the Truth

Filed under: Story, Youth — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Linea @ 12:00 pm

Recently I went to see my psychiatrist. I told him that I am feeling slightly moody and find myself creeping into these unintended, uncontrollable moments of frustration, hyperactivity, or utter exhaustion. We talked about the need to “tweak” my meds, and we talked about the likelihood of changing one out completely sometime in the near future.

I have been stable for a long time, aside from small yearly depressions that come around the anniversary of hospitalizations and traumatic events. This time however, it is more than a simple yearly depression, but that anxious rumbling of a depressed/hypo-manic mixed state. I don’t necessarily consider myself “unstable” but affected enough that I had to skip a couple of weeks of blog posts. Stability is really a funny thing. While I still consider myself “stable” I continue to have these little hiccups of symptoms. Moments where I would feel much better jumping on the bed for hours than I would trying to attempt even a partial night’s sleep. Moments where I feel so exhausted after having lunch with someone that I come home and pass out in seconds. Nights where I can’t help but cry myself to sleep. These things come and go, but in learning to manage these symptoms I have been able to remain steady and solid.

When I go through these hiccups and these “tweaks” in my meds I am always scared to tell people. I travel the country telling people my story,  and sharing frightening and often horrifying events but always reassuring them with the ending, “but I’m stable now”. And I am. Just maybe not perfect. And I fear telling people, “I’m great but I have been having issues with my meds”, or “I’m wonderful, but have been having small worrisome mood swings lately”, because I’m afraid they won’t get it. I’m afraid they will still be afraid for me. So I often tell them I’m fine no matter what.

As I speak and travel I meet lots of people with similar stories. And meeting people who share your story and hearing their struggles not only feels comforting as you are swiftly pulled from the aloneness of a diagnosis, but it also reminds you of all the pain you experienced. It reminds each individual of how lonely you really were and how different your life would have been had you just had this new friend with you from the beginning. It is strangely validating, empowering, and comforting, and yet, it is often painful to meet people with such similar stories of agony, near suicide, self-harm, self-medication, and more. It is beautiful because everything is suddenly okay. You have found yourself on solid ground. But you can’t help but remember how terrifying it is to dangle from the cliff. Because of this I not only have strong feelings of pain and grief, but I also worry that I will hurt these new friends by telling them my truth, either because of their own memories or because of their worries for me. I get so scared not to be “okay” after being a “poster child of wellness.”

But that’s not truly telling my story. That’s not being authentically honest.  The whole reason I speak is to let others know that they are not alone in their feelings. It is to let them know that I have some of the same worries, moods, instability, chaos and fear that they do, even if I come across as stable and put together.

These mixed emotions, the joy of finding friends with similar stories and the worry of letting them know I am not always alright reminds me to keep sharing, to keep being honest. My fear of sharing only brings me back to that place of isolation and aloneness. People should not be alone in this fight. People should not feel the need to hide when their emotions or behavior isn’t “normal”. People should not have to feel fear when divulging their truth. We need to change things now. We cannot let this continue to happen. The stigma and misunderstanding (my own included) that comes with these illnesses makes us so afraid to say, “You know, today I am NOT okay.”

We need to change things now and speak out so people do not have to be afraid. We cannot let so many of our children end up on the streets, end up incarcerated, or end up losing their lives by self-medicating because they are afraid or have been given the message that we should not talk about these things. We cannot let a treatable enemy like suicide claim so many victims because they are alone and scared. We need to talk about this. We need to change things fast. Please help us change things by sharing stories, by letting people know that they are not alone. In my mind the biggest way to fight stigma is to talk. Share your truth. We need to remind the nation that 1 in 6 adults suffers from a mental illness by sharing real stories from the heart. Please have courage, for all of us, and share your truth, whatever that may be.

Here is mine:
I am Linea. I have bipolar disorder and have been experiencing a somewhat extended hypo-manic, depressed mixed state, causing me to have to make small adjustments to my medications and it makes me anxious. However, I am completely fine. I am capable and happy doing all the work that I do because I know how to take care of myself. Things will not happen as they did in the past because I know how to handle my stress levels, how to keep myself from coping in unhealthy ways, and how to ask for help when I need it. I am stable. I have bumps. And it’s okay.

Now please tell me yours.

October 8, 2010

Love Is Always Louder. Always.

Filed under: Resource, Youth — Tags: , , , , , , , — BringChange2Mind @ 2:20 pm

Last week our nation was rocked by a series of tragic events.  Within a matter of a week, five students – all under the age of 20 – took their lives because they were bullied due to their sexual preferences.  While no words can express the sorrow we all feel after hearing about these events, the BringChange2Mind team wants to extend our deepest condolences to the families of those that were lost last week.

Each of these men endured hardships that most of us can’t begin to imagine.  They were tormented because of their sexuality, their privacy was breached and their lives were destroyed by people who didn’t understand them.  Sadly, when they felt that there was no hope left they ended their misery by taking their lives.  What they didn’t know was that there was hope.  There was love.  There were people who cared deeply about them.

One fact is very clear in all of this.  We are in the midst of an epidemic of  bullying.  Kids as young as 5 are the victims of bullying that can continue all the way up through college and in the work place.  While some are able to endure and cope with the daily pain that comes with being the victim of bullying, others are not.  The saddest part about this epidemic is that it’s 100% preventable.  We can prevent it.

Bullying is not a new phenomenon.  It has lingered and been begrudgingly tolerated in the hallways and jungle gyms of our school systems for decades.   It often happens right under our noses – in our front yards and in the streets of our neighborhoods.  But we need to recognize that the big difference between today’s bullying, and the bullying of the past, is that bullies now use technology to tear apart their victims.  This form of bullying can be far reaching and devastating.   Bullies torment their victims on Instant Messenger, Facebook, and MySpace.  Some go as far as posting indecent photographs and videos of their victims on social media sites.  These avenues of bullying were not available in the past.

Thankfully, among all these tragedies, there is hope and help available for those in need. Love Is Louder was created by actress Brittany Snow, The Jed Foundation and MTV with support from Active Minds, Ad Council, DoSomething.org, Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Love is Not AbuseReach Out, STOMP Out Bullying, The Trevor Project, To Write Love on Her Arms and Wired Safety.

The Love Is Louder movement strives to amplify the momentum of other inspiring online campaigns and invite anyone who has felt mistreated, misunderstood or isolated, into conversation. They are here to raise the volume around a critical message — that love and support is more powerful than the external and internal voices that bring us down, cause us pain and make us feel hopeless.

After these truly disturbing events, it is so important to support one another.  The growing negativity within our society stemming from abuses such as bullying might seem more powerful than the “good” in our society.  We are here to say that’s not true, and our BC2M community of over 14,000 tells us that.

There is more good than evil in this world.  There are more shoulders to lean on than there are bullies in our schools, workplaces and neighborhoods.  If you can’t find someone to talk to, remember you can turn to your fellow BC2M supporters or seek help through our Response Team.  Never hesitate to ask someone for a shoulder to lean on or a hand to hold as you walk toward help.

Be sure to visit Love Is Louder on Facebook to learn more about how you can help the movement.  We need as many people as possible to spread the love and the message: Love Is Louder.

~ The BringChange2Mind Team

September 26, 2010

A funny thing happened on the way to Boston…

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , — Jeremy @ 6:23 pm

Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.  ~William James

It happened a couple of weeks ago, but it’s an anecdote that’s been on my mind since.  It’s something I think I can easily relate back to Linea’s last post Community Engagement: How You Can Change A Mind, as well as the point of this post.  Personally, I was quite impressed with what I had seen.  Alright – you’re probably thinking “enough already, tell us what happened” – so I will…

About two weeks ago I was driving back to Boston from New York.  It was about 7:00pm so it was fairly dark out already – dark enough that you wouldn’t be able to see a car in your rearview mirror.  As I was driving along the highway a minivan quickly came up behind me and switched lanes.  The fact that they were going fast didn’t scare me (they were probably going 85 MPH), nor did the fact that they probably had kids in the car scare me (I mean, it was a minivan).  What scared me most was that they didn’t have their headlights on.

As quickly as I realized it, I started blinking my high beams at the car to no avail.  For one reason or another, they didn’t realize that they were practically driving blindly – not aware of what might lie ahead.  Thankfully the car directly ahead saw me frantically flashing my high beams and eventually realized why.  In turn, that car threw their hazard lights on as the minivan started passing to the left and, like teamwork, the driver of the minivan finally threw on their lights.

I’m not telling you this story because I wanted to talk about bad drivers, minivans, or headlights (I think that would be a pretty boring post).  I told this story because I think it’s closely related to what we at BringChange2Mind like to talk about – helping others in our community.

We sometimes forget what it means to help others.  It doesn’t always need to be an extravagant gesture, but can be things as simple as holding the door open for those behind you or helping an elderly person up some stairs.  No matter what the act is, you should always try to be there for those in need.

I’ll leave you with three things you should always try to remember:

  1. Care about others, no matter how close you are to them
  2. Be there for them night or day
  3. Have a willingness to help

You never know when your actions could mean more to that person than you thought.

August 30, 2010

Strength of Us, By Dana Markey

Our newest guest blog focuses on an amazing resource for young adults. Dana Markey, project manager for NAMI’s Strength of Us, is here to tell us all about it…

I am always excited to have the opportunity to write about StrengthofUs.org, a new online community and social networking website for young adults living with a mental health condition. This project is very close to my heart so I’m thrilled to share this valuable resource with the BringChange2Mind.org blog!

I know how valuable it is to find peer support and with that, the comforting knowledge that you are not alone. After an isolating and traumatic childhood, I was lucky enough to go to college where I started up a NAMI on Campus chapter, a student-run, student-led organization that provided mental health support and education to college students.

Through this group, I got to connect with my peers and exchange stories, support and hope with those who could understand. I saw time and time again how just one meaningful connection with a peer could change the course of someone’s life, mine included.

Yet, the reality for far too many young adults, ages 18 to 25, living with a mental health condition is that this kind of peer connection can be hard to come by. College in so many ways saved my life but even then I knew that not all young adults have ready access to a supportive community like a campus—a more universal space was needed where any young adult could access peer support and resources specifically geared toward their needs.

Thus, when NAMI received a grant from the Rodwell Dart Memorial Foundation to create just such a space for young adults, I jumped at the chance to become involved with the project.

As project manager of StrengthofUs.org and a young adult myself, I had the great fortune of meeting many inspiring, candid and empathetic young adults while developing and eventually participating in StrengthofUs.org. As part of this project, we surveyed over 250 young adults on their social networking habits, support needs and resource preferences. We also assembled a wonderful young adult Expert Advisory Group that advised us on all aspects of the project.

Since our launch in March 2010, the website is growing rapidly with young adults opening their lives, minds and hearts to help others by sharing their personal stories, providing mutual support and offering friendship to those in need of a listening ear.

Their stories reflect an amazing amount of resiliency in the face of adversity. One young adult describes how filmmaking saved his life during a time he was battling severe depression, another talks about taking charge of his life after experiencing delusional thinking and paranoia and yet another discusses making it to Harvard after overcoming debilitating Anxiety. These stories are only a snapshot of the amazing young adults who are on the site to offer lessons learned, hope and encouragement to others whose lives have been impacted by a mental health issue in one way or another.

StrengthofUs.org users are connecting with their peers by sharing their personal stories, creativity and helpful resources by:

  • Creating profiles;
  • Writing and responding to blog entries;
  • Posting to “The Wire,” a Twitter-like feature;
  • Engaging in discussion groups and chats;
  • Expressing themselves creatively by posting their original music, poetry, photographs and other artistic endeavors; and
  • Sharing videos, photos and other media.

Young adults can also access relevant resources on and talk about the issues that matter most to them, including:

  • Dating and relationships,
  • Making and keeping friends,
  • Doing well in school,
  • Living independently,
  • Setting and achieving goals,
  • Maintaining weight,
  • Overcoming negative thoughts;
  • Finding strength and happiness; and
  • Much more.

These are issues we all explore in our lives at one time or another, but StrengthofUs.org enables young adults to bond and connect over these topics rather than have to deal with them alone—it’s about strength in numbers so to say.

The over 1,000 talented, compassionate and thoughtful young adults on StrengthofUs.org are just the kind of people most of us hope to meet in our lives. They are quick to offer hope, strength and virtual hugs when others are having a bad day and to celebrate with those having a good day. If there is one thing you can take from StrengthofUs.org, it is that clichéd, yet ever so comforting reminder that you are indeed not alone. I encourage you to join this wonderful community today at StrengthofUs.org.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: