BringChange2Mind

February 18, 2011

Returning

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , , , , — Linea @ 6:12 pm

The topic of today’s blog is about returning. Many of you may have noticed that I have disappeared from the world of computers, Facebook, and blogs. For health reasons I have needed to step back and take care of myself. But now I am back. Now it is time to talk about that very tricky act of returning after a mental health leave.

The act of returning is a mixed feeling, one of excitement, one of hesitation, one of “am I ready?” and sometimes one of pride. Returning to the world, whether it is the world of work or the world of friends is something fragile, scary, and intimidating. Though sharing our story of ill health after this leave may not be necessary, taking our time and energy to reemerge  into a past existence and those necessary life responsibilities is many times essential

So how do we do this you ask? How do we re-enter the world after it has crumbled at our feet? Do you tell your story or not? Co-workers, families, and friends may have missed you, become worried, become mad. How do you take care of yourself when you are so far behind in your responsibilities but have to catch up? I don’t have the universal answer to these questions but I do have my own experience. Perhaps sharing some of my own story will inspire you to reconnect yourself. Perhaps some of it will spark your own ideas about returning that you will hopefully share in our comments section.

So here is my path…I have disappeared for almost three months due to a severe depression and eating disorder. These are things that I’ve dealt with before but still remain difficult. This disclosure is not something that everyone should have to share and when asked, a mere, “I was dealing with some health issues that I would rather not discuss, but I am slowly getting better” will suffice. This has often times been my answer, but with close family and friends it is different. For them I tell the truth. However, even your closest friends may not fully grasp your struggles. For them I simply ask for support of my decisions. They may not agree, but it is my struggle and if they care they will stand beside my choices and intelligent attempt to seek what’s best for me.

The second struggle I am experiencing is getting back to my old responsibilities and work load while simultaneously taking care of my needs. This is something I have yet to master. How do I reemerge into such a busy life? How do I step back into relationships? Even the small things, like using Facebook feel overwhelming and exhausting. This is something I have to take one step at a time. I remember years ago when I was really sick for the first time someone told me to take things one step at a time. My wise grandma clarified however, saying some days you have to take minute by minute, but some days you have to take second by second. When getting out of bed in the morning feels like a second by second job, Facebook becomes minute by minute.

I am taking my time. Returning takes a lot of breaks and lots of time to breathe, sit and meditate. Re-emerging is like stepping out of a cave into the sun. Stunning yet blinding. But slowly I am adjusting, slowing I am emerging.

How do you return after a health crisis? What tricks have you or a loved one learned?

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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.

December 10, 2010

Jayne Appel: Family and Mental Illness

The following is a guest post by Jayne Appel, Center for the WNBA San Antonio Silver Stars and Team USA.  You can visit Jayne’s website here and connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter at @jayneappel.

Throughout my life, mental illness has been something I have always been forced to think about. Most of society simply sees me as a professional athlete, with no worries in the world, other than keeping my body healthy and able to perform on the court.

My story, however, is very different. I grew up with a family member who is a diagnosed schizophrenic. It started around the time I was in the sixth grade and he was in high school. At the time, still being so young and not understanding what exactly a mental illness was, it was something that was difficult for me to cope with. I thought “my family is the only family dealing with this…why can’t we just be normal.” I didn’t reach out to my friends for support and it was almost something I was ashamed to talk about.

When I got to high school, I was still learning to cope with having a family member who was sick. For some reason, I couldn’t grasp what exactly was going on in his mind and how I could help at all. I struggled to have a normal sibling relationship with him and at times felt uneasy. This was all simply because I didn’t understand the disease and how to help someone living with it.

I decided to study this at Stanford University and majored in Psychology. Over time I noticed the more informed I became about the brain and how it functions, the better I felt about my family member. I was able to eliminate the stigmas in my head that so many people fall victim to in our society. I wrote multiple papers, became involved with the Crisis Intervention Team on a family panel, and literally devoted all of my studies and focus towards the brain.

Now, with a better understanding of what is going on, I have been able to form a strong relationship with him and enjoy our time together. I have also decided to use my position as a professional athlete to broadcast information about mental illnesses and how we can rid of the stigmas tied to them. When I saw what BringChange2Mind was working on, I instantly wanted them to be involved with my WNBA teams first “Mental Health Awareness Night”. I hope to continue to be a part of the team working towards getting rid of stigmas and raising awareness about mental health.

September 9, 2010

Take 5 Minutes to Educate Yourself (and Others)

“As anyone who has been close to someone that has committed suicide knows, there is no other pain like that felt after the incident” ~ Peter Greene

From Take5toSaveLives.com

Most of you probably know this, but for those who don’t, tomorrow (Friday, September 10th) is World Suicide Prevention Day.  In fact, all this week – from September 6th – 11th – is National Suicide Prevention Week.  Why should we make a whole day out of suicide prevention?  Wait, a better question is why should there be a week dedicated to suicide?  Here’s why…

  • 11: suicide is the 11th cause of death for all Americans in 2007*
  • 34,000+: the number of people took their own lives in 2007
  • 1 in 15: in 2007, 1 suicide occurred every 15 minutes
  • 376,306: the number of people treated in Emergency Departments for intentional, nonfatal self-inflicted injuries in 2008
  • ~1,100: approximately 1,100 college students took their own lives on campuses across the country
  • 2: suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among 25-34 year olds

Now that I’ve laid out the facts for you, here’s how you can help yourself, a family member, friend, or even a complete stranger in need.  I encourage you to read the details of each step on Take 5 to Save Lives, a campaign produced by the National Council for Suicide Prevention:

  1. Learn the signs**
  2. Join the movement
  3. Spread the word (via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  4. Support a friend
  5. Reach out

For a list of additional resources, I urge you to go to the Find Help page on our website If you know of anymore resources, I encourage you to use the comment section to educate other people about them.

Remember, when a family member or friend reaches out to you for help, you should always be there for them.  The fact that they are trying to get your attention means they really need a helping hand.  Help yourself, and them, by learning the signs and joining the movement. During Suicide Prevention Week, take it upon yourself to spend 5 minutes learning how you can help someone who is in need.

Also, be aware of your surroundings and the people you regularly pass in the hallways of your school or office, the courtyard on your campus, or the cashier at your local coffee shop or grocery store.  You never know when you might meet someone showing signs of depression or suicidal ideations.  These tips can – and, at some point, will – come in handy.  We owe it to each other to live life with our eyes wide open, ensuring that everyone we meet has someone to talk to.

*Statistics were found on a PDF from the CDC’s website | **Steps were found on Take 5 to Save Lives

June 27, 2010

BringChange2Mind in Seattle, by Cinda Johnson

We were two moms and two adult children chatting at the dining room table after a Seattle dinner of salmon on the grill and salad. We had met each other in person less than three months before yet we were bonded as close as family. Calen and Linea talked about their experiences hospitalized because of psychiatric illnesses. They talked about their “breaks” (these weren’t school breaks!) and how it affected their relationships with their friends. Jessie and I talked about the pain, love and profound respect we experienced as we traveled with our children through their illnesses. Jessie and Linea talked about when suicide was stalking them and how they stayed healthy and stable. We talked about my brother and the others who were no longer with us. Calen connected with Linea as they discussed how sharing their stories and voices as advocates for mental health treatment and understanding had strengthened them. It was just an ordinary evening, yet profound in our shared heartache, heartbreak, recovery and thankfulness.

Linea Johnson, Cinda Johnson, Jessie Close, and Calen Pick

Calen Pick and Jessie Close were in town to present at Seattle University’s College of Education celebration of the 75th year of educating teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, community mental health counselors, principals, superintendents and leaders in higher education. There were a few questions around campus about the connection between “celebration” and “mental illness”. Calen and Jessie spoke of their own battles with mental illness and their slow road to recovery. They shared their commitment to the very mission of Seattle University, “…empowering leaders for a just and humane world.” Yes, there were a few in the audience who looked uncomfortable as Calen described his hallucinations and Jessie her battle with alcohol in addition to her bipolar disorder. But the vast majority applauded the courage and willingness to put a face to frightening illnesses; two beautiful, wise, and “normal” (whatever that is) faces to which the audience could relate.

Mental illnesses are insidious and terrifying but also treatable, manageable and even offer opportunities to connect to others with honesty and love in ways we may have previously not been able to do. Although both Jessie and Calen and Linea and I speak to large audiences sharing our stories in order to assure understanding, resources and care for the millions of people with a mental health condition, it is the personal connections that strengthen this movement. Linea and Calen are examples of the power of young people stepping forward and changing the face and understanding of mental illness yet they are two young people in their twenties who love books and walking and music and art and deep philosophical discussions. Jessie bravely shares her own experiences struggling with bipolar disorder. Yet she and I also connect at a deep and lasting level of “mom”; mothers who will do anything possible to keep their children safe and wish with every fiber of their being for their happiness and safety.

Seattle University's 75th Anniversary Celebration

BringChange2Mind is a powerful movement with almost 13,000 Facebook fans and emails and requests for help coming in every day and from all over the nation. Requests that are responded to within 36 hours! This movement is taking hold and taking off. The conversations on Facebook are powerful, the walks across the country with our NAMI partners were life-changing for many, and the support and understanding developing within this community is awe-inspiring. Together we are an influential and significant grass-roots movement started by Glenn Close. Yes, a famous actress but also a sister who is connected to every family with a mental illness because she knows. Just like the connection around the dining room table, into the community and across the country. This BringChange2Mind community gets it. Together we can change the face of these illnesses and together we can be the leaders needed for a just and humane world for all people, particularly for those with mental illnesses.

May 30, 2010

Life is Over Rated, by Keith Anderson

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , , , , , , — BringChange2Mind @ 7:20 pm

Keith Anderson

“Life is over rated.”  I made that off  the cuff comment one cold morning as I traveled to a local ski hill. It became a phrase we would jokingly use at my law firm when a file went astray.  Little did I know that in time, I believed it.

For me, life in my 20s was wonderful. I did well in school, then at work.  I was optimistic.  Life was easy.  When my 30s rolled around, personal challenges surfaced.

My father died in 1992, at age 59.  I come from a close family.  My everyday life changed after his death. Depression moved in and the pressures of  life became overwhelming.

I thought I could handle my own difficulties and just kept trying to get through each ugly day.  As  a lawyer, I solve other people’s problems. I don’t ask for help, people ask me.

Life had become a series of bad moments and bad days, leading to worse months and years.

I withdrew from my friends, classmates from university. In London, we had all been foreign students and we became very close. After graduating, we kept in touch, sharing holidays, weddings and anniversaries. I shut down those relationships.

Tears occurred daily as I drove to the office. I would collect myself in the parking lot, walk in and work all day.  Pretending to be fine was exhausting.

Insomnia took hold.  During the week, I slept two or three hours a night.  By the weekend,  I would collapse. This routine went on for years.  I hated life so much, I stayed awake to delay the next morning’s arrival.

My last relationship was shortchanged.  As my self-worth eroded, I couldn’t commit to a trip or even dinner the next night.  I thought I did not deserve to be happy and slowly cut off contact. Looking back, she may have been “the one.”

Then life got even worse. I was diagnosed on March 7, 2003, with depression. I was suspended by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society on March 11. I had a breakdown on March 11-12. Not my best week.

I had no disciplinary history in 18 years of practice. The crux of the 2003 complaint did not involve a client. I had found a house, isolated from the world. Its driveway was over a mile long. No neighbors. I thought if I could get this house, I could hide, breathe. In my struggle to survive, I acted as my own lawyer and  I made improper decisions. Depression twisted my mind making logical thought difficult.

My family provided strong support such that I felt protected and safe. They were simply wonderful.  My mother, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew saved me.

The Bar  Society was even helpful.  John Merrick the Society Chair, said, “I need say no more, but Keith go home and get well.”  They understood the devastating role depression had played. They also provided a list of psychologists.

I had never been to therapy before, but the floodgates opened and out flowed my life. I attended therapy weekly for two years. It became the highlight of my week.

So getting healthy took the support and understanding of my family, my psychologist, and the Bar Society. But I also worked hard as well, and a series of small steps lead to major accomplishments.

I would go to a favorite restaurant, get take out and eat in my vehicle in the back parking area. After awhile, I moved to the front parking lot.  Then one day, six months later, I ate inside.

This is actually a happy story.  Getting suspended was a good thing.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still devastating. But it removed me from an unhealthy workplace Being diagnosed with depression was a relief. I then knew I had a mental illness.

Before the diagnosis, one solution that I often considered was a late night canoe trip on the lake in front of my house with no return. The events of March 2003 were certainly a better option.

I lived off my savings for a few years but now I have no house, no vehicles, no money. Life is good though.  To focus on what I don’t have is not fair to what I do have. I have my good health.  I have my family. I can read a book. I sleep well.  I have learned how to be happy again.

Life is not over rated, it is wonderful, once again.

May 20, 2010

What NAMI Walks Mean to Robin, by Robin Walker

I feel like the majority of my motherhood career has been like pushing sand against waves from the ocean, always leaving my spirit feeling washed up and wiped out. I have put in countless years trying to swoop my son under my wing to protect him from himself, his illness and the residual effects it has had on his life, it has been isolating. Many a night I collapsed in my bed with the feelings of defeat and many a morning I felt as if the very thought of getting out of bed was going to break me. It took that brokenness in me to surrender.

I attended Al-Anon for numerous years and worked the 12 steps of the program. I admitted I was powerless over alcohol – that my life had become unmanageable. I came to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity and I sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God, praying only for His knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry that out. I surrendered. I experienced two alcoholics and their disease in my life, I was broken and then I surrendered.

One would think that if I could grasp the concept and understanding of AA’s 12 steps as a teenager and young adult that I could apply that to anything in my life as I matured, but somehow I lost that understanding, I lost me. I was so busy taking care of my son. I wanted to give him everything I craved as a child; acceptance, unconditional love, a sense of pride. I started at conception, talking to him inside me throughout my pregnancy. Then when he was born I would tell him daily how special and wanted he was. I have never loved anyone more than Korbin and I know never will.

So when mental illness struck I didn’t understand. I couldn’t grasp how “he didn’t feel like anyone would miss him if he wasn’t here tomorrow”. I couldn’t wrap my head around it! I told him, and showed him, how loved he was. I made that my priority in my mothering. When we hit “rock bottom” three and a half years ago it felt like another defeat and I broke….again. Korbin was going to be okay, he would continue to get treatment and gain coping skills, but this didn’t fix my brokenness. I had to claw my way up and out of the pit I was in. I needed to relearn my steps to recover and even then I didn’t feel complete.

My sense of feeling complete came on the weekend of May 8th, 2010, at the Portland, Maine NAMI walk. I had been busy with my volunteering for BC2M and advocating to end the stigma of mental illness. I was coordinating the BC2M walking teams across the USA and I felt good, empowered, and proud to be a part of such a revolutionary campaign. On May 8th I lead one of our BC2M walking teams in Portland Maine and fully grasped what I was a part of. It was the first time in 12 years that I didn’t feel isolated, it was a day I will never forget. There I was with my son in our BC2M t-shirts not feeling shame because of the illness. We were surrounded by people just like us, we were surrounded by our good friends and family. I saw BC2M shirts on others, some with diagnoses. It was so powerful to watch and experience that live. I listened to Jessie and Calen speak and there were tears in my eyes as I watched them….I felt “normal” for the first time since being a mom, I was hearing the same things I was feeling.

The next day at my sister’s house for dinner, on Mother’s Day, I let the last cat out of the bag. We shared with the last of the family, and even in-laws, about our “secret”. It was freeing and I was finally at peace about mental illness in my family. I feel like the NAMI walk weekend was my first pure and authentic step into advocacy, I was an open book, I surrendered and trusted and now I was not only talking the talk but walking the walk, literally and spiritually. I was doing good works with my advocacy before for sure, but to be transparent….that changes it. I am stronger, wiser and free!

I am grateful for this opportunity to be part of the NAMI walks and to coordinate them. I have met some great advocates and feel blessed by that. I feel blessed by the BC2M community, for because of them I am sharing this joy. To have actually experienced my own walk was life changing and rates in my top three greatest experiences of my life. I encourage everyone to join a BC2M team to feel that sense of oneness. It is refreshing and it has made my soul well.

Robin (bottom center), Korbin (bottom left) and some of the BringChange2Mind family

(Robin Walker is one of our beloved volunteers who has been working night and day to bring BC2M NAMI Walk teams to your city. To find a walk near you please visit our BC2M NAMI Walk site. Here you can join teams in your area, learn how to start your own, or donate! We thank you Robin with all of our hearts!)

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