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Thursday, November 3, 2016

It hurts when a person in denial shuts you out

What do you do? The person you love is out of control and is not listening to you. You know its going to end badly for both of you. No cooperation. Only denial. Here are some practical things one can do for their loved one, and themselves. 

Fast Talk: Dealing With DenialEventually, we need to face the facts about our reality and diagnoses

By Julie A. Fast

It can be upsetting, stressful, and downright incomprehensible when someone with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder denies the illness and refuses treatment. You may find yourself watching helplessly as behaviors tied to untreated bipolar lead to family distress, broken relationships, problems at school and work, money woes, and alcohol and drug abuse.
If you try to help someone in denial, you will probably be accused of interfering if you even mention the word bipolar. This is confusing because it's very easy for you to see what's wrong, and naturally you want to point out the problem in hopes that the person will then get help. Often, however, your attempt just makes things worse.
It hurts when a person in denial shuts you out, but it's common.
What's even more confusing is that you can have an honest conversation about bipolar when your loved one is stable, reviving your hopes that the person will enter or stick with treatment. Then boom! Here comes the denial again.
It may be cold comfort to learn that it is very typical behavior for people with bipolar disorder to deny they are sick and avoid treatment, even if they have been in the hospital or taken medications for the illness in the past.
It's important to remember that people in denial are usually miserable, in a great deal of internal pain, and can't see a way out. It's easy to believe they really can't see what's going on, but unless denial is a result of a mood swing such as strong maniaor paranoia, the affected individuals usually know what is happening. They respond to your concern with aggression because they are trying to protect their decision to deny the illness.
It hurts when a person in denial shuts you out, but it's common. The person prefers to be around others who don't mention the illness, and will paint you as the bad guy because you are the one who is stating the truth.
There is good news, however. I've talked with hundreds of people who moved through denial to eventually admit that bipolar is at the root of their problems and they needed help. Over and over I've been told how despite their relentless inner pain and confusion, they refused help and pushed away the people who cared about them.
It's when someone realizes that they no longer want a life controlled by bipolar disorder that they begin to listen to loving advice instead of fighting back.
Steps toward change
Find the sweet spot. Are there periods when your loved one is more open to discussion? Often people are more receptive during a mild depression. Once you see a pattern in your loved one's moods, you'll have a better sense of when to gently start a conversation.
Set expectations. If a loved one with bipolar is living with you, you have the right to set expectations for behaviors such as drug use, drinking, yelling, staying in bed all day, staying out all hours and, yes, refusing treatment. You are always in control of what works best for you. It's not always about the person with the illness. It will be up to you to decide the consequences if your expectations aren't met.
Understand the challenges. Always remember that bipolar is an illness. No one chooses to have bipolar disorder. People in denial can be very unpleasant and it's easy to walk away from them, but don't forget they are suffering. It's OK to address this directly. Go ahead and say you understand that it must be hard to have someone tell you what to do. Say that you can tell the person feels misunderstood. People in denial may get angry or refuse to reply, but they have heard you. Many times, when they get better, they will tell you they heard you.
Hold on to hope. I've known many people who accepted treatment after years of denial, often when loved ones learn simple strategies and get them help at the right time. It isn't easy to hang on until then. Nothing with bipolar disorder is easy! But bipolar is treatable, even for those who currently refuse to admit they are ill.
Printed as "Fast Talk: The Denial Factor", Summer 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Helping your loved living with bipolar disorder. Thanks, !

I gained a better understanding of my role as helper, and my limitations. I hope you get great benefit from it also.

10 Ways to Support Someone with Bipolar

When family and friends understand how things are for those of us with bipolar, it helps move us along the road to recovery and helps us all live more harmoniously.
By Stephen Propst

For those of us who have bipolar disorder, we are kidding ourselves if we think we can go it alone. While one of the most profound determinants of making a positive recovery is having support from family and friends, supporting someone with a chronic illness is not easy. When family and friends understand how things are for those of us with bipolar, it helps move us along the road to recovery and helps us all live more harmoniously.
For those who support us, there are ways to reduce stress, improve relationships, and make for a better overall quality of life for everyone. Whether the person has been diagnosed as having bipolar and is compliant, or refuses to admit that anything is even wrong, having the right attitude and the necessary basic knowledge is key. Here are 10 points to keep in mind if you're serious about offering support that helps, not hinders.
1. Never give up hopeLooking back, the first 10 years of my more than two decades of dealing with bipolar disorder were a seemingly insurmountable struggle, but my loved ones never gave up hope. Despite a situation that often created frustration and hopelessness, they never doubted my recovery. Today, they continue to instill that same undying confidence.
There is one piece of advice for anyone who loves someone with bipolar disorder, and it is this: keep the faith and never give up. There have been many times when there was nothing but hope, and you have living proof that it kept me going. So, let your hope for a loved one spread—it's contagious.
2. Take some timeTime is one of the hardest concepts to convey to people. We all want immediate results, but with bipolar disorder, so-called overnight success can, in fact, extend to years. Studies show that it can take 10 years or more to even obtain an accurate diagnosis (Living with Bipolar Disorder: How Far Have We Really Come? Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance [DBSA] Constituency Survey, 2001). In my own case, it took eight years before someone accurately put a name to my struggle.
With bipolar disorder, there are simply no quick fixes. Thinking there is a miracle cure only makes matters worse, so instead, help your loved one set realistic goals. The road to recovery is not a straight shot; it's a winding path with delays, downtimes, and detours. Remember progress can be made, but it takes time. Let patience be your guide.
3. Face the factsBe willing to acknowledge that bipolar disorder is a legitimate disorder. Saying something like, "It's all in your head," or "Just snap out of it," denies that reality. As with diabetes or cancer, bipolar disorder requires medical treatment and management. And as with other chronic conditions, bipolar disorder is initially unfamiliar and frequently unpredictable. It can be gut-wrenching and at times, scary.
It also helps to face the facts when it comes to our current mental health system. If you find it to be disorganized and disconnected, imagine what the patient is experiencing. With your support, a patient can be guided through the maze, find the best care, and stick to a workable treatment plan.
4. Adopt the right attitudeHow you see things does matter. With the amount of stigma and discrimination that exist in society at large, the last thing a patient needs is misguided thinking coming from family and friends. More support is needed, not more shame. The more your response is based on reality and not on myths, the more your support can make a difference.
All too often, family members make a loved one feel as though it isn't bipolar but rather a character flaw or something brought on by the person. Some even view an occasional setback as though it spells permanent doom. Such flawed thinking may be common, but it's harmful to the person facing bipolar disorder who needs constructive feedback, not destructive rhetoric.
5. Get educatedPeople who have bipolar disorder often deny that anything's wrong, and frequently, they don't stay on their medications. It's important to learn about these and other nuances of the disorder. Fortunately, there are many resources available today, especially compared to 25 years ago, not the least of which is the Internet.
A national clothing store uses the slogan: "An educated consumer is our best customer." To support your loved one, consider adopting a similar notion. An educated family member or friend is our best advocate and our greatest source of support.
6. Treat us like adultsA psychiatrist once commented that my body (at the time) was 30-years-old physically, but I was 45 intellectually, and 15 emotionally. Talk about a tough pill to swallow! Bipolar disorder can arrest a person's emotional maturity and produce behavior that appears very childish and reckless.
Please remember, however, that while someone who has bipolar may act like a child, there is an adult underneath. The world of the person who has bipolar disorder can be full of chaos and confusion, and low self-esteem is common. It can make a big difference when you continue to acknowledge and show respect for the grown human being who is struggling behind all the symptoms.
7. Give us some spaceLiving with a serious illness is a daunting task. It can be a foreign concept to separate yourself from someone you want to help. But as a support person, it is best to establish a loving distance between yourself and the person who has bipolar.
Set boundaries and establish consequences that encourage those who have bipolar to seek recovery on their own, all the while expressing your concern and willingness to help. Be supportive, patient, and understanding—without being used. Effective encouragement is helpful; enabling is not.
An educated family member or friend is our best advocate and our greatest source of support.
8. Forget the pastFrustration often accompanies bipolar disorder. Family and friends can spend countless hours—if not years—wondering what went wrong. Avoid making matters worse by wallowing in the past.
Pointing fingers solves nothing, blaming is not the answer, and getting angry only makes matters worse. Bitterness and resentment can sometimes act as a trigger and incite more of the behavior you want to stop. Instead, focus on helping make tomorrow better. That's true support.
9. Take care of yourselfThe family suffers right along with the person who has bipolar disorder, so, it's important for you to develop your own coping skills. Only if you take care of yourself can you help. All too often caregivers end up becoming ill.
During training, emergency medical technicians are taught to never put their lives in obvious jeopardy to save someone else's. If they did so, they'd be unable to help anyone. Likewise the same is true for you while you are caring for your loved one. Remember that you have yourself—and probably others—to care for as well.
10. Find a healthy balanceThere are so many questions: "How much should I be willing to do?" "Should we use tough love?" "How long does this go on?" "How long should we wait before we intervene?" and on and on and on. Bipolar disorder is tough. It's like walking a tightrope sometimes, where you've got to learn to balance your own welfare with the interest you have in supporting the person with bipolar.
You also have to find a healthy balance when it comes to the support you offer. Learn to take things in stride, one day at a time. There's a time to help and a time to step back; a time to speak and a time to listen; a time to be patient and a time to be insistent.
Now, you have some valuable points to ponder as you help your loved one pursue recovery. The more you're in the know, the better equipped you are to offer the type of support that can make a positive difference. The reward is a brighter, happier future—for everyone involved.
I know it's worth the effort.
Printed as "Points to ponder: Help from parents, partners, and pals", Fall 2005

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

National Mental Illness Awareness Month

October is a special month because it has a variety of mental health "awareness" days:

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Caring and Support are priceless

Many times along my life's journey, I came to learn the value of having someone to be with me. I never expected anyone to have "the answer" for me. However, I did need caring and support which I received. 

Right now I say a "Thank You" -  (you know who you are.)

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Advocacy Alert from DBSA

Please consider submitting your story. Many folk are living and suffering with little or no mental health care services.Thank you!

From: "Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance" <>

Subject: How's Your Health Insurance Working? The White House Wants to Know.

Date: August 23, 2016 at 10:44:50 AM CDT


Thank you for your past support of mental health parity issues. As a result of your advocacy, several years ago Congress passed the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Act. This important legislation has improved access to mental health care for thousands of Americans by ensuring that that their health insurance plan provides the same benefits for mental health services as it does for other physical conditions. The journey toward this legislative success was long, but your interest in working with DBSA was key.

Today, we continue to work with our government and other advocacy partners to ensure full implementation of this important law. One way we do this is by asking plan beneficiaries (like yourself!) to share their story with the White House Parity Task Force. They want to hear what's working well and what's not working such as does your plan:

  • Have higher co-payments or a separate deductible for mental health providers
  • require prior authorization for mental health care but not for med/surg care
  • deny care because the treatment was not medically necessary  
  • place restrictions on the geographic location of care but does not for med/surg care
  • require a less expensive form of treatment be tried before you can move forward with the care plan you and your clinician have developed for you.


Sharing your story will help policy makers identify best practices and ensure better compliance among all the insurance plans. Your story—good or bad—will help others. The deadline for sharing your story is August 31. So please act today!

Please subscribe to the DBSA Advocacy website to continue to receive communications from us about this and other important issues.


Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

55 E. Jackson Blvd., Suite 490

Chicago, IL 60604

(800) 826-3632


Advocacy alert from DBSA -

Monday, August 1, 2016

We have changed the Meeting Nights

We have changed the meeting nights from Monday to Thursday! 

DBSA JACKSON: Depression Bipolar Support Alliance of Jackson is committed to helping to improve the lives of those suffering with mood disorders. Our inspirational support group, A Better Tomorrow, meets every Thursday at 6:30 pm. Our Friends and Family breakout support group meets the 1st and 3rd Thursday at 6:30 pm. The meetings are at The Life Church, 780 Bolivar Hwy, (Hwy. 18). Friends and family members are welcome. For more information call: (731) 215-7200.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I am grateful to DBSA

I am grateful for what DBSA gave me. Genuine hugs. Love. A place to belong. An understanding I was missing and needing. Healing.
- Steve

"We're keeping the light on for you." - DBSA Jackson

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Peer specialist? What's a peer?

The Peer Specialist: A Vital Professional in Mental Health Care

Brewing within my heart is something of a heroic character.  My calling is mental health awareness and stigma fighting.  I want to become directly involved in the lives of people who suffer.  I want to get to know them on a personal level, and create a rapport where I make a long-term commitment to that person's health and wellness.  I want to make a difference in this world.  And if I can change even one life for someone, that is worth more than gold to me.

Luckily, I fulfill this desire of mine by working in non-profit.  While the salary could always be better, I work with people who are similarly passionate about social welfare.  My agency offers housing to people with mental illness disabilities, and we additionally provide case management services to an involved degree.  We coordinate everything from their doctors' appointments to monthly checks.

And my job specifically?  I am employed as a "peer specialist."  A peer specialist is a mental health professional who has personal lived experience with mental illness.  Peers have suffered mental strife themselves, and so they are able to understand and empathize with their clients.  This type of experience cannot be learned in university.  And so, peers have expertise that doctors and social workers do not.

It is a pity, that the peer career is all but a hushed secret in the field of mental health.  Observe: I grew up in Queens, New York… began therapy services at the age of ten, started medications at fourteen, developed schizophrenia at twenty-two, went on disability at twenty-six.  There were many medications tried, ninety pounds gained, seven hospitalizations in all… if you were to add up the time I've lived in hospitals, you'd have twenty-seven weeks.  Some of those stays did not grace me with a daily fresh air break of fifteen minutes, while other places were more benevolent.

Yet never did I hear about peer specialists.  An absolute shame, given that I even live in that massive metropolis of New York City.  If peers are unknown here, how dismal it may be in other communities around the world.  Perhaps I come across as snotty New Yorker here, but I am more concerned than anything.

I learned about the peer career when I was in a psychiatric rehabilitative program in 2012.  Once I heard about it, I instantly wanted to become one myself.  I applied to a peer specialist training program at a school called Howie the Harp Advocacy Center, and was accepted.  In 2013, I attended classes at Howie five days a week, totaling to 500 classroom hours.  Following was a 12-week internship at an agency in Queens, where I was then hired for a full-time position.  At Howie, my education was extensive, and many prominent people in the peer specialist community gave guest lectures, in addition to the curriculum imparted by the regular staff.

The very name of the school, Howie the Harp, is named after a specific person who was one of the first pioneers in the peer movement.  Howard Geld was psychiatrically hospitalized as a teenager in the late 60s.  At age seventeen, he left New York and relocated to the west coast, where he eventually became involved in the Insane Liberation Front.  During his life, he was involved in mental health advocacy efforts on the east and west coasts.  He earned his moniker of "Howie the Harp" because he was a street performer on the harmonica.  In 1993, he became the Director of Advocacy for a social service organization in New York called Community Access.  He garnered funds to start a peer specialist training center, slated to open in 1995.  Unfortunately, he passed away two weeks before the school opened.  The school was then named after him in his honor.[1]

While attending Howie, I learned that there is an actual peer movement, which strives to create awareness about mental illness akin to a civil rights movement.  Over the years, it has been called various titles: the Psychiatric Survivors movement, the Peer Movement, the Consumer/Survivor/Ex-Patient Movement, and so forth.  The overall sentiment is captured in the statement of "Nothing about us without us."  So often, psychiatric clients are stripped of their rights, whether it be within the walls of institutions, or in the office of their psychiatrist.  People are forced into treatments they don't want for themselves.  People feel intimidated by doctors, and feel forced to take their medications.  And then there is stigma.  That pervasive societal attitude that disparages and demeans those who have a diagnosis.

Hearing about this social effort has fueled my own desire to get involved in the movement.  Now today, I have various online ventures where I strive to help this mission.  I run a Facebook wellness group, called "What is Wellness?  A Mental Health Discussion Group."  We have monthly meetups in New York City, and my hope is that there will be regional meetings as more members join.  I also keep a personal blog, and am a contributor of essays and poetry to various sites.  Much of my writings are inspired by the mental illness experience.

Additionally at Howie, I learned about the "recovery model," which is in stark contrast to the "medical model."  Typically, when one is physically ill, s/he will go to the doctor to remedy the situation.  The doctor will prescribe a medication or perhaps surgery and whatnot, and the treatment is determined successful if the person's symptoms are eradicated.  However, this is not sufficient for achieving mental health wellness.  For example, if one experiencing mania, taking medications may successfully remove this behavior.  However, side effects could cause one to have a flatness that numbs one to all emotions, or perhaps the person will gain a lot of weight.  There may even result permanent physical maladies.  Very often, psychiatric patients are told by professionals that they will "never be able to have a full-time job," or they'll "never be able to be in a relationship."  Such negative predictions only serve more to defeat a person's spirit. 

The recovery model maintains that the medical model of mere symptom management is not enough to ensure true mental wellness.  Side effects can often compromise one's quality of life to the point that the "cure" still causes substantial suffering.  With the recovery model, the idea is that recovery goes beyond this.  Everyone is entitled to living a fulfilling and fruitful life.  Those with mental illness should be encouraged and supported to reach for this level of wellness, no matter how "severe" their condition may seem.

I love being a peer, especially because I can be open with my having mental illness.  Specifically, I am diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.  This condition profoundly impaired my life during my twenties, and I also suffered from depression as a child.  I developed schizophrenia specifically at age 22, while in conservatory preparing to be a professional violist.  I was forced to abandon a performing career, and took over a year to recover.  I then attempted to restart my life by attending school to become a public school music teacher, but these plans were thwarted when I again had a psychotic attack.  When I attempted to return to school, my professors were leery about letting me return to school.

"You're rushing start school again."  An attitude of annoyance

"Are you safe around children?"  An attitude of caution and alert.

These attitudes made me ashamed of my illness, and discouraged me from the teaching career.  What kind of life would it be, if I had to live in the "mental illness closet" for the remainder of my professional life?  The pressure would inevitably cause pressure and relapse, and would only confirm the attitude that I am "broken" and "dangerous."

Being a peer specialist is incredibly liberating.  Not only can I be open about my diagnosis, but my experiences are even seen as a strength.  No longer do I need to feel that shame, but instead I can feel pride.  Pride, that I have overcome the devastation that my mind once inflicted upon me.  Gratitude, that I have many stories to tell and memories to recall which can help ease the pain of others.

Whenever I meet a new client at my job, I immediately make known what I am.

"Hello, I'm Neesa.  I am a peer specialist.  Do you know what a peer is?"

Oftentimes, the client does not know.  And so I explain.

"A peer is a person who has mental illness themselves.  I myself have a diagnosis of Schizoaffective disorder.  I've been hospitalized seven times.  I have been on disability since 2011.  So I know where you're coming from.  I know how this system can really wear you down, trying to juggle the system of public assistance and Medicaid and psychiatrists… I've lived it.  Just know… I'm here so that I can relate to you.  I know where you're coming from."

Whenever I say this, I feel this invisible wall melt between me and the client.  The client seems to become more relaxed, and it immediately becomes easier for me to casually chat with the person.  My hope is to strike a chord within the person, wherein s/he can feel safe and open.  On the job, I have learned that this type of relationship allows me encourage and inspire a client to reach for greater wellness and recovery in their own lives. This truly is the crux of the peer profession.

There are various other responsibilities that keep me busy on the job as well.  I act as an advocate by accompanying clients on errands on public transit.  Very often, they will need assistance with getting government documents such as birth certificates and non-driver's IDs.  The process of getting together the correct paperwork, and also traveling and waiting on lines can be very stressful for clients.  But by being there with them, their anxiety is eased.  I also visit clients at their homes and teach skills such as cooking and budgeting.  The intent is that clients will learn skills that allow them to live with greater independence.

The greatest fulfillment I experience as a peer is developing that one-on-one relationship with the client.  Conversing with them, getting to know them, and ultimately helping them feel more confident.  Helping them to realize that they are in the driver's seat of their own personal recovery and independence.  I also try to personally "practice what I preach."  I aim for a high level of wellness in my own life, so as to be an example of it to my clients.  I personally lost fifty pounds.  I eat vegetables and eat no candy.  I work out.  I have  hobbies and creative pursuits.  I have many friends.  To talk about wellness is one thing, but to actually live it is something else.  I attempt to demonstrate this, recovery, in my own life.

I also channel my creativity into my current peer work.  I run an all-day recreation group at the office on Sundays, and clients are free to come and chill.  (During the week, the office is primarily used for office and administrative purposes, and clients do not go there typically.)  We watch movies and YouTube videos, and I also have a collection of high-quality art supplies, ranging from colored pencils to thick papers, collage supplies and even clay.  All of these supplies I obtained free of charge from a wonderful non-profit organization called Materials for the Arts.  I utilize my musical background by facilitating groups where we write songs together.  I installed a small library, so residents enjoy reading.  I even give individualized birthday cards and a small, inexpensive present each month.  I take care in choosing a card that each client would enjoy, and I scrounge around trying to find free items that I can use for gifts.

I am happy to work for an agency that allows for me to make my work my own.  So often, mental health recipients are bombarded with doctors and administrative paperwork and therapy groups, which can be very clinical and discouraging.  I like to say that my job as a peer serves to "humanize" the services my agency offers.

My hope is that there soon will be widespread awareness about peer specialists.  It is a wonderful career for a person with lived experience.  Additionally, there are specific positions that are available for those with a substance abuse history and/or forensic background, in addition to mental illness.   For me, being a peer empowers me.  It now gives me a mission in life.  I want to fight stigma.  I want to give voice to those who suffer in silence.  I want to unite all of us together.

Because together, that is how we change the world.


Neesa Suncheuri works as a mental health peer specialist at a housing agency in Queens, New York.  She is the founder of a Facebook discussion group for peer specialists and other recovery enthusiasts, entitled "What is Wellness?  A Mental Health Discussion Group."  Much of her creative inspiration is rooted in her now-tamed schizophrenia.  She writes poetry and fiction, and maintains a blog called Unlearning Schizophrenia.  She is also a singer/songwriter, and an enthusiast for the German language and culture.  Follow her on Twitter at @neesasuncheuri

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Thursday, June 16, 2016


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Yay! For Mental Health Reform

You did it. 

Thanks to your advocacy, H.R. 2646, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Actpassed unanimously (53-0) out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee on Wednesday, June 15th.

Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) said, "I want to thank all the advocates. You are the ones who held our feet to the fire to get this passed."

Keep the fire going. 

Let your members of Congress know that you appreciate the unanimous vote by the House Energy & Commerce Committee and urge them to bring a vote to the floor of the House and Senate. 


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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Support groups help!

Support Groups Help

Depression and bipolar disorder can be isolating illnesses, but DBSA support groups can help you connect with others who have been there as well. Visit a DBSA support group and get the support that is essential to recovery.

DBSA JACKSON: Depression Bipolar Support Alliance of Jackson is committed to helping to improve the lives of those suffering with mood disorders. Our inspirational support group, A Better Tomorrow, meets every Monday at 6:30 pm. Our Friends and Family breakout support group meets the 1st and 3rd Monday at 6:30 pm. The meetings are at The Life Church, 780 Bolivar Hwy, (Hwy. 18). Friends and family members are welcome. For more information call: (731) 215-7200.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Don't Judge Me

I thank for this thought-provoking article. Those of us living with depression know that these views are out there about out health challenge. It is time that we push back against this type of stigma. I like this article's message!

Don't Judge Me for My Depression

Is it stigma if bipolar depression is called a "personal and spiritual crisis"? In my opinion, YES. I treat my depression the way I would if it were a physical illness—because that's exactly what it is.

By Julie A. Fast

It's difficult to live with depression when a large segment of society doesn't even consider it an illness. I can't count the number of times people have asked me why I don't accept where I am in life and be happy. Some have suggested that I explore depression as a spiritual quest to find out why I was "chosen" for this particular illness. I can tell that others feel I have something wrong inside and if I would just fix it, the depression would go away.

I once read a book by a well-known spiritual teacher. It made me so upset I slammed it shut and threw it in the recycle bin! His focus was on the soul. He talked of how depression is a "reaction to the problems of the world" as well as "unhealthy personal choices." He pontificated that the focus on physical treatment ignores the real problem, which is that people with depression are spiritually bereft.


I have a medical illness. It's called depression. I'm not in spiritual crisis. When someone implies that depression is my fault and that through "inner exploration" I can find peace, it makes me more ill. It puts the burden, and the blame, on me for not being able to manage depression on my own.

I've never heard a spiritual guru say that diabetes is a dearth of spirituality in a person with that illness. Imagine a book saying that a lack of insulin output is a result of an inappropriate reaction to the world. How about children with cancer—are they spiritually bereft? Why are people with bipolar disorder singled out as responsible for our depression when other physical illnesses are treated with such compassion?

As I write this, I feel my anger rising. That's okay, though, because anger is healthy when it's justified—as it is when the origin of my depression is being questioned by people who don't understand how devastating that can be for someone whose diagnosis presents enough challenges to contend with already.

Is this viewpoint stigma? Stigma means that we are judged negatively for having an illness that affects our behavior. Is it stigma if depression is called a "personal and spiritual crisis"? In my opinion, yes. We are no longer in the Middle Ages, when this was a common misconception. Are we back to literally "beating the Devil out" of people who have illnesses we don't understand? I expect more from those writing and speaking on physical and mental health today.

If my symptoms were due to a spiritual or emotional crisis, they would be constant. They aren't; I don't have these symptoms when I'm feeling well. My depression is my brain's reaction to triggers. I have an illness with very well-documented symptomsthat all people with the illness share. I can't let someone tell me that I just need to change myself inside in order to get well—I tried that for too many years with little success. The only thing that has worked for me is treating my depression the way I would if it were a physical illness—because that's exactly what it is. Then if I have the desire to explore the spiritual world, that's fine; I can do so with a clear mind.

I have a medical illness. It's called depression. I'm not in spiritual crisis.

When used as a healing tool, spirituality is a positive force. But I resent being told that my spirituality, or lack thereof, is the reason I'm depressed. I will continue to move forward in my own healing and remind myself that suicidal thoughts during a crisis, or paranoid thoughts when I'm in a new relationship, is about brain chemicals, not some kind of character flaw on my part.

We all have a path. It may be that you do agree that depression is a spiritual issue, and I completely respect your opinion. And authors have the right to state any views they want, any way they want. But I have to request, with all due respect, that anyone who writes and speaks publicly on this topic try to find more compassion for those of us undergoing medical treatment for depression. We could use the support!

Printed as "Fast Talk: Don't Judge Me For My Depression", Summer 2013

Page 2 of 2
Julie A. Fast is the bestselling author of Loving Someone with Bipolar, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder and Get it Done When You're Depressed. She is an award winning columnist for bp Magazine ("Fast Talk") and has one of the top bipolar disorder blogs on the internet. Julie is the bipolar disorder management specialist on the Oprah and Dr. Oz website She was the original consultant for Claire Danes on Homeland. Julie is not only a leading expert on helping those affected by bipolar disorder and depression, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1995 and successfully (as best she can!) manages the illness with medications and the strategies in her books. Julie knows firsthand about living with and loving someone with bipolar disorder within her own life and helps family members, partners and health care professionals understand and support those with the illness. Julie is a highly in demand family and partner coach, speaker and educator who is passionate about changing the way the world views and manages mood disorders.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Take a hike! for your brain's sake

"TAKE A HIKE! for your brain's sake"

I, for one, do not get out into nature enough to benefit from it. However, this article got my attention. Just the other day I spent the afternoon at the zoo. Those two hours of walking and experiencing those beautiful animals seemed to clear my head. So, I know there is something to the information presented here:

What Hiking Does To The Brain Is Pretty Amazing
April 11, '16. Michael W. Porrine
The great outdoors might just be greater than you think. There are plenty of us who love to spend as many hours of the day outdoors as we can, and hiking is obviously quite healthy for the body, but few of us ever give a lot of thought to how hiking could benefit our mental health as well. It turns out that hiking might just be your ticket to a brand-new brain, whether you're passionate about the outdoors, or just force yourself to take a stroll around your local park.
Recent studies about the effects of hiking and nature have been directed at understanding just how this recreational activity affects both the physiological and mental aspects of our brains. One of the main reasons for this glut of research is because we're spending so much less time outdoors, overall. The average American child now spends half as much time outside as compared to only 20 years ago. HALF. Only 6% of children will play outside on their own in a typical week. Conversely, kids are now spending almost 8 hours per day watching television, playing video games, or using a computer, tablet, or phone for recreational purposes. That number actually jumps up to 10 hours if you count doing two things at once! Overall, Americans now spend 93% of their time inside a building or vehicle.
So, what does this mean for human beings? Well, unless we get a little more proactive about embracing fresh air and dirt under our feet, the prognosis is pretty grim. The bright side is, as with all great medicine, when it comes to the outdoors, a little goes a long way.
Nature really does clear your head.
According to a study published last July in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a 90-minute walk through a natural environment had a huge positive impact on participants. In a survey taken afterwards, those people who took the natural walk showed far lower levels of brooding, or obsessive worry. The control group who spent that 90 minutes walking through a city reported no such difference. Not only that, but the scientists went a step further and did brain scans of the subjects. They found that there was decreased blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex. What in the world does that mean? Well, increased blood flow to this region of the brain is associated with bad moods. Everything from feeling sad about something, to worrying, to major depression seem to be tied to this brain region. Hiking deactivates it.
Unplugging makes you more creative.
Psychologists Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer found in their 2012 study that after a four-day-long hike in the wilderness, with no access to technology, participants scored a whopping 50% higher on a test known as RAT, or Remote Associates Test. It's a simple way of measuring the creative potential in people. A series of three words are given, for instance, "same, tennis, and head." The test-taker has to find a fourth word that connects the first three. In this case, the answer is "match." A 50% increase is a huge leap up in performance by research standards. Problem-solving skills like this are thought to originate in the same area of the brain that we also use for selective attention and threat detection, meaning our ability to think creatively is being overwhelmed by the constant stimulus of digital, indoor living.
Hiking boosts your focus.
We mentioned selective attention in the previous section but this is bigger than that. Anyone who has ADHD or has raised a child who has been diagnosed with the disorder can tell you, it's a daily struggle to maintain grades, work performance, even relationships with friends and family. Medication can help alleviate the symptoms, but often ADHD persists into adulthood and that daily habit of popping stimulants can take its toll on your health and your wallet. Well, what about a good hike? A 2004 study came to the pretty obvious conclusion that getting outdoors and doing something active can reduce the symptoms of ADHD. More than that, it can do so for anyone, regardless of age, health, or other characteristics that can change the effect of medication.
Charge your mind's batteries with a hike.
Hiking is a pretty solid aerobic exercise that burns around 400-700 calories per hour. This is great on its own, but aerobic exercise also has a really positive effect on your brain: it improves your memory. It's even being studied as a way to help seniors fight off dementia, because it doesn't just increase your ability to store information, it also reduces memory loss. Outdoor activity has also been shown to improve grades, so it's a pretty solid choice all around for juicing your grey matter.
Feel better about yourself, from your sweaty head down to your muddy boots.
According to a 2010 report in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, even getting out into nature for five minutes at a stretch is enough to give your self-esteem a substantial upgrade. Spending the entire day outdoors results in a second jump upwards! Walking near water seemed to have the biggest effect, so when planning your next hike, be sure to seek out a location with some great streams, rivers, or lakes.
Is hiking the solution to all of life's woes? Probably not. But what science is showing is that it's actually a pretty solid candidate for making everyone's lives a lot better, with very little input. If you already hike, good for you! If you'd like to start, find yourself a sturdy, comfortable pair of shoes or boots and head to a website like EveryTrail, which can help you find your way to the nearest nature.
Be sure to SHARE this story with your friends and family!
H/T: Collective Evolution

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Can We Count on You?


3 Steps to be StigmaFree for Mental Health Month

3 Steps to be stigmafree for   mental health month
Can we count on you?
Thank you for your support of this growing mental health movement. By taking the NAMI pledge to be #StigmaFree you've joined more than ten thousand Americans who are changing the world for the better.                                                                                                         
For May's #MentalHealthMonth, we encourage you to join us in helping to raise awareness with any of these easy actions:


Act on it
1 in 5 Americans experience a mental health condition each year and yet half do not get any mental health care! Now is the time to take action on mental health issues that affect nearly 60 million people in the U.S. TellCongress to VOTE YES for mental health care reform, S 2680 (Senate Bill 2680).


Share it
Spread the word to your social networks and share the mental health month messages and images, follow us on social media and track the #StigmaFree hashtag to engage in the community conversation.
Live it
Break down harmful stereotypes by educating yourself and others with the latest news and information. Consider giving a gift that will allow us to continue making a difference.
We appreciate your support in helping us build a movement and your participation helps make it possible. For even more ways to get involved this month, visit
see what else you can do for   mental health month

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