Thursday, May 17, 2018

Guest Post #14 - Mental Health Awareness Month - Dr. Jason Holland of Lifespark




About the Author: Jason M. Holland, Ph.D., currently serves as the CEO and Editor of Lifespark, an online well-being magazine focused on finding meaning in life difficulties. He is a clinical psychologist and has worked as a researcher, instructor, and therapist in a number of academic and medical settings, including Stanford University. Dr. Holland is also presently the Associate Editor for Death Studies, an international peer-reviewed journal focusing on research, theory, and clinical issues related to death and dying.



1)   How old were you when you began to experience symptoms of mental illness?



I have had multiple periods of sadness and hopelessness in my life, which I primarily became aware of in my late teens and early twenties. During this time, I was very unsure about what I wanted to devote my life to and believed that I wasn’t measuring up. Unlike many of my college classmates who seemed to be having the time of their lives, I felt deeply troubled and alone.  



2)   Did you have support and seek treatment immediately? If not, why?



I initially sought counseling with a psychologist when I was 19. This first experience was not a very positive one. My therapist was a strict Freudian analyst who was very cold, rarely talked, and barely made any facial expressions. I once caught him dozing off in a session. In his defense, I probably was a raging bore, moaning on and on about the same tired concerns. But to my teenage ego, it hurt.



He returned the next session, large coffee in hand, and I confronted him about my concerns that he wasn’t listening to me and the sessions weren’t helping. Ultimately, we parted ways and I didn’t seek treatment again for several years.



In my free time I started walking the aisles of the self-help section at a used book store, and there I came across the writings of people like M. Scott Peck, Rollo May, Leo Buscaglia, Karen Horney, and Erich Fromm. The messages of hope contained in these books inspired me to keep pushing forward and working on myself.



From there, I went on to get a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and have spent much of my career working to improve the way mental health services are delivered and advocating for an approach that focuses on finding meaning in life difficulties. At various points in my personal journey, I sought counseling with three other therapists, all of whom helped me immensely. 



3)   What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about mental illness?



I would tell myself to keep at it. It’s easy to get discouraged when you put yourself out there, and it doesn’t work out the way you expected. But if you’re willing to keep your eyes open and your head up, there’s usually an important lesson buried in there somewhere.



For me, the lesson was that although the mental health system isn’t perfect, there are a lot of inspiring and useful ideas out there. And I can make a difference by learning more about self-improvement and sharing it with others.   



4)   What do you think are the biggest misconceptions those with mental illness have to face?



The biggest misconception about people with mental illness is that they are weak. Mental illness derives from an interaction between the environment and the person. In many ways it is culturally determined and reflects the conflicts and preoccupations of the larger society in which it’s situated. Some people seem to be more attuned to these conflicts than others. Although these individuals may be more distressed, they’re also uniquely positioned to empathize with others’ suffering and ultimately make the world a better place.      



5)   How do you feel about the stigma surrounding mental illness? Do you feel we’ve taken positive steps? In your opinion, what needs to be done in the future?



I believe there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to break down stigmas surrounding mental illness and improve the way care is delivered. I prefer models that view human suffering as a natural and inevitable part of living and that empower people to face difficult life challenges with dignity and purpose. 



6)   What do you do to get through the bad days?



I use several self-care strategies. Gratitude is important, and when I notice myself feeling sorry for myself, I reflect on my many blessings. I like getting out in nature too. There’s something about being outside that grounds me and makes my problems seem less overwhelming. I also tend to talk to myself, and when I find that I’m really lost, I’ll try to talk myself through the problem or seek advice from someone that I trust.       



7)   Do you have any projects that you’re working on that could benefit the mental health community?



Yes! In January of this year, I partnered with Wendy Lee to start Lifespark, a weekly online well-being magazine focused on finding meaning and purpose in life, even amid hard times. I believe that online services are the future of mental health and have the potential to break down many of the barriers people face when seeking treatment.



We hope to be part of this solution by offering online self-help exercises, quizzes, videos, advice, and articles in a relatable and engaging way. By focusing on finding meaning, we hope to unify groups of people who are struggling with diverse sets of problems. Both personally and professionally, I have found that issues of meaning and purpose in life underlie many different psychological problems. So, rather than further divide and classify people based on their mental disorders, we hope to normalize human struggles and inspire dialogue about mental health that moves beyond labels and stigma.  



8)   Please give us some of your social media screen names in case someone wants to get a hold of you.



If you’re interested in learning more about Lifespark, please like/follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, and/or Quora. You can also sign up to become a Lifespark Exclusive member for free and get full access to the site.   






Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Guest Post #13 - Mental Health Awareness Month - by Nicola Ann @NicolaAnne84



1) How old were you when you began to experience symptoms of mental illness?

I guess I was in my mid to late teens, though I didn’t realise I was experiencing mental health issues. There wasn’t a lot of information about mental health. I’d heard of depression but never understood much outside of the basics of that. 

2) Did you have support and seek treatment immediately? If not, why?

No, and even when I did seek medical help I was in denial. I refused to believe that I could be that pathetic and weak. Again, I didn’t understand what mental health is. I thought it was a sign of weakness. 

3) What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about mental illness?

Listen to the Doctors. Take the steps to help yourself. This won’t get better by itself. You aren’t weak at all, you’ve just been strong for too long and you deserve this help. You deserve to feel good. 

4) What do you think are the biggest misconceptions those with mental illness have to face?

That we’re weak, pathetic, damaged people who deserve pity and to be handled with care. Or we should be completely ignored and told to “get over it.”

5) How do you feel about the stigma surrounding mental illness? Do you feel we’ve taken positive steps? In your opinion, what needs to be done in the future?

I feel that with every step and development we’ve made through history the progression has been slow but we ultimately get there. With people speaking openly about their experiences with mental health and the realities of what it can mean others are becoming more educated. There are a lifetime of stereotypes and misconceptions to change. That change is happening. We see it all over social media. The days of the Asylum are over and mental health is not a thing to be locked away, to shun and fear that it is contagious. It is a modern day reality that we are all learning to be aware of in our own individual lives. Awareness through education is the best way to dissolve ignorance. 

6) What do you do to get through the bad days?

I remind myself, as best I can, that this is just one moment out of millions of  better moments. Depending on what I’m struggling with that day, in regards to my mental health, very much depends on how I try to deal with it. When you suffer with two different mental health disorders that feed each other, but require different treatments, it can be very difficult to implement the coping strategies needed to placate them. For example; Anxiety and Depression. These guys feed each other until you are in a cycle you can’t get out of. 

Things to help treat anxiety:
  • relax
  • Mindfulness/meditation 
  • Being kind to yourself
  • Sit and chill out

Things that can exacerbate anxiety:
  • being busy
  • Socialising
  • Getting out and about

Things to help treat depression:
  • getting out and about
  • Socialising
  • Being busy

Things that can exacerbate depression:
  • Chilling out
  • Relaxing
  • Sitting down and not doing much. 

It’s a fine balance. Everyday is a struggle. 

7) Do you have any projects that you’re working on that could benefit the mental health community?

I joined the Maternal Mental Health Change Agents. They support, educate and bring awareness around maternal mental health issues. Things like Perinatal mood disorders, Post-Natal Depression and Post-Natal Psychoisis. They work throughout Scotland.  They are a very positive, motivated group of women who will change the world. 

I have not been as active as I would like to be. With three young children and my own mental health struggles to deal with at the moment I am hoping to have a more active role in the future. 

8) Please give us some of your social media screen names in case someone wants to get a hold of you.

I am on Twitter @NicolaAnne84. I also write a Mummy blog about my life and my struggles being a Mum. The realities and hardships of being a Mum. It’s called ‘Onwards, Upwards and Slightly to the Left’ at ironmoondefendor.tumblr.com


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Guest Post #12 - Mental Health Awareness Month - Featuring Don Shetterly



1)   How old were you when you began to experience symptoms of mental illness?

Farther back than I can remember.  I’m not sure where it all began, but I’m guessing when I was born.  I still remember at age 26, when I went on my first medication.  When I started feeling things like “happiness,” I freaked out.  It took a lot of convincing by my Doctor to help me understand that was normal.  I am not sure I had ever experienced it up this point.

2)   Did you have support and seek treatment immediately? If not, why?

 I did not seek treatment until I had been paralyzed from Conversion Disorder.  Up until that point, I thought I was handling life.  My parents had always told me that if you allow doctors to give you medication, then they would brainwash you and I believed that lie.  Because of that, I was so scared to talk to anyone or believe I had anything that I needed help.  I remember being suicidal long before that and even calling an 800 help number but hanging up when they answered the phone.  I could not bring myself to talk to anyone or admit that I needed help.

3)   What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about mental illness?

It is okay to ask for help, and in fact, it is a sign of strength, not weakness to ask for help.  Don’t believe the adults in your life that threaten you and tell you bad things will happen if you ask for help.   There are far more resources available and places that can support you.

4)   What do you think are the biggest misconceptions those with mental illness have to face?

That there is something wrong with you or you are broken or malformed.  You’re a regular human being with issues that many struggles with and there’s nothing shameful or bad or degrading about it.  It is perfectly normal to seek help, and in doing so, you’re much stronger than those who avoid their mental health issues but act as if they have life under control.  I once acted like I had life under control while I was shattering into many pieces inside that I let no one see.

5)   How do you feel about the stigma surrounding mental illness? Do you feel we’ve taken positive steps? In your opinion, what needs to be done in the future?

I know many still struggle, but when I first started this journey, mental health was such a taboo subject that no one would talk about it.  You couldn’t share that you were on medication.  In those days, there were not the big pharmacy stores, but the small mom & pop stores where you went to get medications.  It felt almost like everyone knew you were on medication.  Seeing one therapist at one point in my life, I remember having to drive 50 miles and making up excuses why I had to leave a little early those days.  I wanted no one to know.  In one job, I had a boss who thought I needed to quit therapy and talk to him.  I was beyond livid at his suggestion because I worked hard to keep my regular life out of my work life.  When my boss did this, it was such a boundary violation.  In the early days, there was no online help or social media, and so you were pretty much on your own.  There was no support from anyone.  I’m glad to see that available more now.

6)   What do you do to get through the bad days?

I’ve got a support network built up now that are there for me if I reach out.  My husband has been through mental health issues, and so he understands.  We support each other.  I find ways to help me through the rough moments including writing, creating music, walking in the park or going to the ocean.  The more I go in life, the more tools I have in my toolbox.  Plus, I get regular intensive healing body work done which helps the bad days not be so bad as much anymore.

7)   Do you have any projects that you’re working on that could benefit the mental health community?

I continue to work on music that I think helps support and strengthen our connection to a world deeper than we know.  I’m also writing my second full-length book hopefully due out late summer/early fall called “overcoming challenges” about what I’ve done in dealing with what I’ve been through in my life.  My first book, Hope And Possibility Through Trauma was designed as a support and help for those through difficult moments of life.  Plus, I write my blog about healing and the mind body connection.

8)   Please give us some of your social media screen names in case someone wants to get a hold of you.

The main social media I use is Twitter @MindBodyThought


Guest Post #11 - Mental Health Awareness Month - Kerry with @KTMummy



1) How old were you when you began to experience symptoms of mental illness?

I would say I was depressed around the age of 14, my sister became very ill and I couldn’t handle it, she was away in another town, in hospital having treatment. I was preparing for my exams and I became very low.  I felt alone and I didn’t really have anyone to talk at the time. My pap then passed away when I was in my twenties the year before we started IVF. We were very close and I was very distraught and took it badly. When we were successful with the IVF, I was distraught he wouldn't be there to meet our child. 

It affected me a lot when we had to have IVF to conceive, I again became very depressed and withdrawn. I had a very rough pregnancy and started to suffer with anxiety. When I gave birth I unfortunately suffered a traumatic birth and negligence via the hospital I gave birth in. I was diagnosed shortly after with PTSD and PND. 


2) Did you have support and seek treatment immediately? If not, why? 

I didn’t at first no, I felt like a failure as a mother. I felt like it wasn’t meant to be after everything I had gone through to get pregnant and then the pregnancy and birth was a cherry on the cake if you like. It took my husband to sit me down and say to me that he thinks I would benefit from speaking to a therapist. It was roughly six months after she was born. That’s the first time I sort professional help. 

3) What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about mental illness? 

That its ok to have bad days. Its ok to speak up and seek help. It does not make you a failure. It makes you stronger for admitting you need help and deciding to put yourself first, for looking after yourself. It will take every bit of courage you have. But it is worth it in the end. 

4) What do you think are the biggest misconceptions those with mental illness have to face? 

That everybody with a mental illness is crazy. We have movies to thank for that. I suppose it is the same with giving birth, we think it's going to be like the movies when in reality it couldn’t be more different. 

5) How do you feel about the stigma surrounding mental illness? Do you feel we’ve taken positive steps? In your opinion, what needs to be done in the future? 
I think there certainly is a lot more information out there surrounding mental health, I think people are more aware and sympathetic. I see more positive than negative thigs via social media. But then all it takes is one bad comment and it brings you down. I believe that mental health should be a subject discussed in all school's worldwide. So, children understand from a young age that its ok to not feel ok. Its ok to speak up. That way it may shape our next generation to understand that mental illness is an illness and not something that should be seen in a negative light. 

6) What do you do to get through the bad days? 
Therapy has helped me a lot. I tend to write, I am currently writing a book and it is kind of therapeutic. You don’t have to be the next JK Rowling but even writing how you feel helps to get it off your chest. I listen to music or go for a walk. Even having a hot bath and closing my eyes to have some peace and quiet helps. If I am having a really bad day sometimes I don’t feel like doing anything so I watch box sets. I have days where I can't sit still and have to keep busy just to get through the day. I guess its finding what works for you as an individual. 

7) Do you have any projects that you’re working on that could benefit the mental health community? 
I am currently writing a book I don’t know if it will help the community but I hope in sharing my experiences and sharing what heled me get through will help at least one person struggling in the early days. 

8) Please give us some of your social media screen names in case someone wants to get a hold of you.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Guest Post #10 - Mental Health Awareness Month - Marie from Mxiety


 1)   How old were you when you began to experience symptoms of mental illness?

 I suspect it was as young as seven because I frequently would cry and ask my sister, whether she really loved me. I believe I was sixteen by the time I was sure I was not well and not just “sensitive.”

2)   Did you have support and seek treatment immediately? If not, why?

 In high school, I went to one of the teachers I trusted and explained that I was scared about how often I was throwing up my food. She walked me over to the school counselor. The problem was that there was only one counselor for the entire school, which had about two thousand students. So frequently, she could not make the appointments she set up. After a few months I gave up. I ended up not getting good professional help until college, where I was sure that I would not have to pay (because I couldn’t) and that my anonymity would be properly kept. My parents either pretended nothing was going on or would swing in the opposite direction, saying that I was crazy. So, the anonymous part was crucial.

3)   What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now about mental illness?

 Well, I have indeed written a letter to myself about it [link if ok]. The first thing I would do if offer her a hug. Then, I would let her know that she can’t give up because her future is bright and full of wonderful people who love and want to support her. I would let her know that help is coming and if she just keeps working as hard as she does, being resilient and determined, she have more access to help and resources the older she gets.

4)   What do you think are the biggest misconceptions those with mental illness have to face?

Having people with mental illness marked as violent, uncontrollable, threats is the most detrimental thing I continue to see. It’s natural for humans to draw quick conclusions before knowing all the facts, it’s helped us evolve safely. However, we live in a world now with an abundance of information readily available, so we should know better than to accept such negative assumptions about our fellow humans. Whether their illness is visible or not. 

5)   How do you feel about the stigma surrounding mental illness? Do you feel we’ve taken positive steps? In your opinion, what needs to be done in the future?

 I am arguably overly optimistic. Many people get to speak up now and continue to hold jobs and are not treated differently. Some companies offer mental health days. That being said, The WHO has labeled Mental Illness an epidemic and in most countries mentioning you are Depressed would be the end of your social standing. People are killed and women suffering mental illness symptoms are still labeled as having “hysterics” which is straight out of the 20th century. And that’s for more common mental illnesses. Something less common, such a personality disorder, would be shunned even worse. So yes, lots and lots of work to do.

6)   What do you do to get through the bad days?

 Just recently I started teaching myself to be less harsh on myself during my bad days. My usual habit used to be beating myself up for being weak and lazy. I would get upset, that I was wasting my time not working. I have learned that giving myself even just an hour to mope or rest, while doesn’t seem productive, goes a long way in having a productive day overall.

7)   Do you have any projects that you’re working on that could benefit the mental health community?

 Everything and anything on Mxiety.com is meant to help both those in the community and those outside of it.

8)   Please give us some of your social media screen names in case someone wants to get a hold of you.

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/mxiety Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/mxiety/

Twitch:  https://www.twitch.tv/mxiety

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Guest Post #9 - Mental Health Awareness Month - John - Bipolar Style


• How old were you when you began to experience symptoms of mental
illness?

• Did you have support and seek treatment immediately? If not, why?

• What would you tell your younger self knowing what you know now
about mental illness?

• What do you think are the biggest misconceptions those with mental
illness have to face?

• How do you feel about the stigma surrounding mental illness? Do you
feel we’ve taken positive steps? In your opinion, what needs to be
done in the future?

• What do you do to get through the bad days?

• Do you have any projects that you’re working on that could
benefit the mental health community?

• Please give us some of your social media screen names in case
someone wants to get a hold of you. 

_ _ _ _ 

In hindsight, I experienced feelings I now know to be Bipolar disorder
as early as 6-7 years old. I was starting grade school.

My dad was mostly away at work, and my mom just focused on my school
performance. So, when my emotions got the better of me, all the adults
chalked it up to me just being a “sensitive kid.” All of those
adults kicked me to the curb. By age 14 I was homeless. I went
undiagnosed through another 20 years of mayhem. My mom has a personality
disorder of the narcissistic nature. She was not hearing what any of the
doctors were saying. She still doesn’t fully acknowledge my condition.


The biggest misconception I experience is that many people equate mental
disease with intelligence. They think we’ve gone stupid all of a
sudden. Or maybe deaf. We have not. We hear and process everything
people say. We take mental notes and make lists of the shit-talkers.
Another misconception is that people who have never been to a
psychiatrist must be normal. There are millions of people sicker than I
am who have never seen a doctor. You could be one of them. How would you
know if you don’t see a doctor? 

Stigma is different for each person. Some people have support circles,
resources or government benefits that allow them to survive without fear
of living in a gutter. I don’t. I have lost jobs once people learned
of my Bipolar. It’s easy to say “Fuck Stigma” if you have support.
When you don’t, living with a mental illness could be similar to being
a homosexual in the 1950’s.

A quick search on Twitter shows how much stigma has actually grown for
some in the age of ignorant social media posts. Other groups, like
people with gender dysmorphia syndrome, are more accepted in today’s
society than people with manic syndrome. That’s great for shows like
Drag Race, and it also illustrates how slow society is to accept other
mental conditions. Where is Drag Race for Bipolar people? The stigma is
real. Deny it at your own peril. Unless you have a trust fund or
government benefits.

People with safety nets need to check their entitlement when it comes to
their position on stigma. If it doesn’t affect you that much, good for
you. It almost killed me. Twice. You can’t tell me to ignore it. You
can’t gaslight me into thinking it’s O.K. to be “out” in my
personal situation, in these particular times. If you want to pay all my
bills for life, you can lecture me on stigma.

Ugh. Bad days. If at all possible, I get dressed and go outdoors. The
direct sunlight and kinetic activity of the street people on the block
enliven my senses. On bad days, I try to avoid electronics. I would much
rather talk to one dirty stranger at a bus stop than a dozen sterile
pixels on my Twitter feed. Nature … animals. All those things that
don’t judge me - I try to surround myself in that. I also create;
graphic design, music, podcasts, etc. Sometimes when I think I need some
kind of input to make me feel better, it’s really an output that I
need. 

I always have projects - typical manic. I produce a monthly podcast
called Bipolar Style that’s geared toward the new people diagnosed
with Bipolar every day. The podcasts’ success led to our popular Slack
chat at BipolarParty.com where several of us met and formed a new
project called Psych.Media. That’s intended to be a central
promotional hub for producers with mental illnesses and their blogs,
podcasts, galleries, gaming, and videos. My newest podcast, Manic
Episodes, debuts in May 2018. 

I can be reached through my Twitter accounts @BipolarStyle and
@ManicEpisode or via chat at BipolarParty.com Of course, you could just
go to BipolarStyle.com 

Guest Post #14 - Mental Health Awareness Month - Dr. Jason Holland of Lifespark

About the Author: Jason M. Holland, Ph.D., currently serves as the CEO and Editor of Lifespark , an online well-being magazine focuse...