Addiction, bullying, coaching, Health, Healthcare, Homeless, Love, Mental Health, Motivation, parenting, Wellness

Why is mental health so taboo?

My mother was schizophrenic. I have been dealing with mental health illnesses my entire life. I can remember people asking me why my mother wasn’t around when I was little and I always told them. “Oh, she’s schizophrenic, she couldn’t take care of us so our father did. But she did the best she could for as long as she could.”. I would get all kinds of responses. I would get the shock and awkward, “oh… I’m sorry… I didn’t know” or the “oh wow, that must have been so hard for you” or just the blank stare of not knowing how to respond.

I always found this to be strange. I mean, they knew that my mother wasn’t around. They knew there must have been a reason for this. It’s like they would have been ok if I had said, “oh she died of cancer” or “she was in a car accident” or something along that line. My mother was mentally ill. This wasn’t her fault. This wasn’t something that could have been controlled any more than had she had cancer, but for some reason people treat it like it’s something to be ashamed or afraid of.

My son’s father was an addict. He was clean when we got together and we had many good years together before his demons caught up with him and he relapsed. His problem was also that he was mentally ill. He was almost 30 when he was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Generalized Anxiety. He had some serious issues. He could never get out of his own head. No matter how much people tried to help he couldn’t overcome his horrific thoughts.

I have spent most of my life studying and learning about how the brain works and how to help create a better life in your own mind by strengthening certain neuropathways. He had many therapists who tried to encourage the same behaviors, the problem was that by the time he was diagnosed his neuropaths were pretty damaged. He had been self medicating for so long he didn’t have a healthy arrangement left.

I am a believer in medication when needed, but I also believe that it’s a band-aid to help take the edge off so that you can do the real work with thoughts and actions. We are our brains. Our emotions come from chemicals released in our brains.. our thoughts activate those chemicals being released. He had an overwhelming amount of “stress” (cortisol) hormones and low amounts of “happy” (dopamine) chemicals in his brain. He would try to fix that with drugs, and for the short term they would help, but he had no one to help him through the rest of the process when he was younger and still forming.

Three weeks ago he took a drug to help him feel better. He never woke up from that. I had to explain to our 6 year old that Da “took a drug to make him feel better, but it was the wrong thing to do” and now he’s gone. I have since had to tell others, family, friends, co-workers, teachers at school…. and I’m always honest. My son’s father overdosed. Most people are very supportive. Some are shocked. They had no idea that he was struggling with addiction. He didn’t “seem the type”.

That’s the problem with mental illness. It’s so taboo that people assume that it’s only the homeless people living on the streets, eating out of trash cans, and yelling at the sky who are mentally ill. No one can accept that it’s the mothers, the fathers, the teachers, the comedians… and whomever else.. the everyday people that fight the good fight everyday to appear “normal”. No one wants to be labeled “crazy”. No one wants to admit their short comings.

My father had diabetes… his body was unable to produce a specific chemical needed to keep him alive. He went to a doctor. He got help. He could talk to people about it and there were therapies and a whole industry of products to help. My son’s father’s body didn’t produce the correct chemicals needed to keep his brain in balance and it was a shameful “problem”. We need to stop treating mental and physical illnesses as different things. We need to stop shaming the “crazy” and the “junkies”. My father had insurance and went to the diabetic clinic constantly for treatment. My son’s father had insurance that no one would take for his “rehab treatments”. Believe me.. I looked.

Maybe if people looked at my son’s father as a person instead of his disease he could have received the help that he deserved. Instead my son sat quietly at the service as everyone around him talked about what a “great guy” his Da was and what a “shame” it was that he died… but still.. no one wants to help the addict. They just want to SHAME.

 

 

Addiction, coaching, Health, Healthcare, Love, Mental Health, Motivation, parenting, Prayer, religion

I have the bravest little boy ever

I have the bravest little boy ever. He has been through so much in his little life, and he keeps on smiling the best he can. People think that because he’s 6 he doesn’t understand death.. but he does. He understands all too well. It’s only been a few years since I had to tell him that Papa died in his sleep (complications from his diabetes) and then less than a year later our dog got out and was ran over by a car on a rainy dark night.. right before Christmas. This boy knows death.

When I first told him that “Da died” he cried for a moment; then looked up and asked how. That’s a hard conversation. That’s something I had to be very careful with. I had spoken to his therapist and we decided lying of any form would only be harmful. I had to explain to a 6 year old that his father ODed. A 6 year old that didn’t even understand what “drugs” were.

I hope no one ever has to have this conversation with their child, but if  you do I just want to let you know how I explained it.. the best way I could think. Over the years we had many conversations about “Da making bad choices” or “Da is sick and needs to get help with his moods”. When “Da” finally moved into a sober house my little boy couldn’t understand why he couldn’t visit Da at his house. I had to explain that Da was living with other people who had the same sickness as Da, that made some of the same bad choices as Da, and who had some of the same anger and sadness issues as Da and that they lived together in order to help each other, but that it wasn’t a place for kids.. and since Mama and Da wanted to keep him safe Da was just to come to us for visits. I don’t know how much he understood, but he stopped asking questions.

Another time, we were listening to “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman and he randomly asked what “drunk” was. Again, I was left a little taken-a-back, but tried to explain as best I could in childlike terms. I asked him, “you know when people drink grown up drinks sometimes they get a little silly… well, sometimes if they drink too much grown up drinks they can get sick”. He seemed to get it. He didn’t really know what “grownup” drinks did.. but he knew what sick was.

So there I was, my 6 year old with tears in his eyes trying to understand why his Da was gone from this world forever I said, “you know how Da sometimes took those “drugs” to feel better…. and you know how I said that grownup drinks can make you sick…. well, sometimes with those drugs, or drinks if you take too too much, instead of sick.. you can die”. Then I waited for more questions, but he didn’t have any. He just turned away and asked if he could watch TV.

I left him with his “FGTeeV” and his thoughts and went to tell a friend what happened. When I came back a few minutes later I asked him how he was feeling.

“I don’t know how to feel. I’m sad, but I’m mad at him… but then I was happy”

I told him that he was allowed to feel all of those things, and that his feelings were going to change depending on what he was thinking about, and that’s OK. It’s been 3 weeks to the day since we had that conversation and he still doesn’t know how he feels. Most of the time he doesn’t even want to talk or think about Da. Then other times he sneaks out a phrase or two of remembrance and the tears well. He won’t say it aloud though. The words, “Da is dead” can not leave his lips. He won’t even say his name. He just points to the sky whenever he talks about him.

He started his first week of 1st grade last week, and, to be honest, I don’t know where he gets the strength. He told me last night that he doesn’t like to sleep anymore because he has nightmares. I told him that I have them too and we could just hold onto each other for comfort. I hope that helped. I hope anything can help. My little boy is the bravest boy ever… but he shouldn’t have to be.

coaching, Law of Attraction, Motivation, parenting, Wellness, women

Creating your own life

I have spent the last decade plus reading, watching, and learning as much as I can about the nature of reality as explained by everyone from Priests, Physicists, Psychologists and Self Help Gurus. I find all of them have a certain amount of credence, and to be honest most of them sat pretty close to the same thing. Reality is what you make it.

I am Catholic. To me this means that I believe in the idea behind the Bible.. I understand that the Bible was written by humans and that humans have the uncanny ability to put their own spin on everything, but when I speak with the clergy of my church or read the Bible myself I find a pattern repeating throughout. God helps those who help them self, Jesus is said to be quoted, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”.

Physicists have discovered with Quantum Theory that nothing happens in the real world without first being observed by consciousness. That our own observations and thoughts change the way the Quantum world plays out.

Psychologists have long said that we are all to take responsibility for our own actions and that the best way to do that is to understand our own feeling and how our thoughts control those feelings. The “chemical imbalance” often blamed for the plethora of mental illness are actually sparked in part by the words we feed to our consciousness everyday. If we are constantly telling ourselves that we are useless, depressed, and our lives suck.. our brains will produce less and less serotonin and/or dopamine and that’s exactly how we will feel. If we tell ourselves we are strong, and think about all of the wonderful things in our lives that we are grateful for then we will create more and more of those “happy” chemicals and we can change the way we actually feel about life.

Self Help Gurus have said pretty much all of this under the category of living in the “Now”, the Law of Attraction, Mindfulness… or whatever catchy name we all choose to identify with.

The reason why I find this information so incredibly interesting and incredibly infuriating is that it’s true, and most people choose not to believe it. When people come to me for help they want there to be an outside influence that can change their life. They want their problems to be someone or something else’s fault. When I explain to them that their life is an accumulation of their life choices and that to change it they just have to change the way they look at life and start making better choices people actually get mad at me.

It amazes me that people would actually choose to be a victim because that way it’s not their fault than to choose to be the hero in their own story. I know that for me I will always choose to be the driver in my own life. I know that things “happen to me”. I know that my life has not been perfect and I’ve had situations arise that weren’t my fault… but I was 100% responsible for how I handled them. If I messed up.. then I am 100% capable of fixing it. I will take that over victim-hood any day.

 

bullying, coaching, Health, Motivation, Wellness, women

Nike wants to help everyone get healthy

For those who may have missed it. Nike is supporting getting people healthy. I know that seems like something that should be applauded. It also seems like the kind of thing that they’ve always done. “Just Do It” was not about binge watching your favorite show. But now they have expanded their advertising and work out wear to include plus sizes.. and apparently this is just going too far for some people.

I’m not going to discuss the negative comments surrounding this launch. There is enough negativity to go around. What I do want to talk about is the importance that people who are not healthy feel that it is also their right to get healthy. As someone who has jumped up and down the scale over my lifetime I know that it is not easy to get out there and “just exercise”. I know that when I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin it makes it very difficult to let others see it giggle at the gym.

I have seen other posts about people (usually women) who do their best to make a change to their bodies only to be mocked and insulted for actually trying. The world is extremely hypocritical in this respect. Everyone is supposed to be strong and healthy and beautiful, but they aren’t supposed to work for it. I spend a lot of time on social media and there is so much shame out there it’s amazing anyone leaves their houses anymore. I am very thankful to have a support system around me that doesn’t ridicule me at my attempts at gaining health, and also doesn’t ridicule me if I fail, but not everyone is so lucky.

What I find most interesting about the negative feedback from the new Nike wear is that it’s actually active wear. It’s actually designed for people who intend to work out. People who are fit prefer to wear such clothes because it’s more comfortable and therefore easier to keep up with an exercise routine if wearing, and yet, there are people out there who are talking about how obesity should be fought… but in the same breath say that obese people shouldn’t be encouraged to exercise. How exactly is the obesity battle supposed to be won? Diet pills?

If there are people out there who are looking to get healthy, but don’t know where to start, or feel like they’ll be shamed, I hope that they see the mannequins of people who look like them and realize that they are not alone. There’s an entire market of people just like you wanting the same thing.

All I have to add is good on you Nike! And if you’re a person who feels like you may be “too big” to exercise or “too fat” to get healthy.. Just Do It!