|Posted on June 29, 2019 at 2:10 AM||comments (0)|
I have not often announced new or inspired quotes I happen to add to my advocacy website's Words of Wisdom page. This one, though, I could not resist drawing your attention to.
When I went to see the Avengers Endgame re-release on June 28th, I was fortunate to get acquainted with a very thoughtful and spirited fellow Marvel fan. He had moved a long distance back to this area, after his mother passed away, for helping to take care of his father. Among many favorite film moments and actors we compared, I fondly appreciated his camaraderie while being there for the one-day-only re-release.
During a scene in the film when Tony bonds with his father Howard in the past, all of a sudden a thought came to mind. This fan, who was seated behind me, had accompanied his elderly father to the theater. Beforehand, he told me he had seen a number of the previous MCU films with him. When I saw the father-son scenes on screen, I thought of them and soon thought about my own father as well as my paternal grandfather. Back in 2007, he lived here with my parents and I taking care of him for a year before he passed away.
In the blink of an eye, my ever over-thinking mind unexpectedly came up with an adaptation to the Biblical reference about sins of the Father. There is a lot I will likely never share publicly about my father. That is simply how I was raised, what I will always believe and encourage. But quite often the negatives between him and I overshadow positive moments. All too often actually...
In my constant quest to take negatives in my life and make them into genuine positives, I thought of something to add to that Biblical reference. No offense intended, sins struck a negative one-sided point of view about fathers. I felt compelled to balance that idea with a positive as if to complete it. Here is the new quote I have added to my Words of Wisdom page:
"Sins of our father; wisdom of our father."
Speaking about parents, yes our fathers (and mothers) sin or wrong us as everyone errs in their lives. We are only human. This is not meant to be an excuse either. There are many times when I find myself only seeing the negative of my own father. During these last few years, I have strived to change that in myself and maintain a forgiving, objective point of view about him.
In doing so, I realized a more complete way to characterize the good and bad in our fathers using my adaptation reference. To be personally honest, there are times when my Dad and I seem as if we are bitter rivals even to this day. But I will never lose sight of the wisdom my Dad has instilled in me. Nor will I ever, ever forget the priceless value that wisdom has had for making me who I am - st;ll here - today.
That very same wisdom I have yearned to share more and more in my advocacy writings for all of you who follow my journey.
"Do not throw stones into someone else's path." my Dad.
"The most important thing is to have your own opinion." my Dad.
"Just keep plugging away." my Dad.
And many, many more...
|Posted on June 21, 2019 at 2:00 AM||comments (0)|
“Not Forgotten Or Remembered”
Poem written by: Jim R. Irion
I long to challenge this affliction of mine
for all of you, for the better.
I want to hang on to this life
as long as I possibly can.
To stay and live in the hopes
of creating positive change.
To actually advance mental health awareness
and improve suicide prevention.
Selfishly; by helping others.
Selflessly, though I'm struggling.
I am not all that
remarkable of a person.
But I may have become
something more than expected.
I can fight these battles
that many never could.
I am not an Avenger,
but I am an advocate.
I cannot live with myself
if someone is being abusive.
How can anyone live with
someone dying young from misery?
Enough was enough all those years ago
when a classmate took his life.
Enough was enough all those days ago
when a classmate drowned from addiction.
We cry from all this unbearable pain.
We wipe away a thousand tears.
How could I possibly settle for
giving sincere condolences?
Their lives are worth far more than mine.
No one can prove otherwise.
I want their sacrifices to be meaningful,
truly honoring every moment of silence.
I don't want to be forgotten.
I don't want to be remembered.
I want to change the course of history,
or trade my life for theirs.
|Posted on June 20, 2019 at 2:30 AM||comments (0)|
"It Matters How People Are Treated" ©
With or without a mental health condition, bullying can or has likely already had a negative impact on your life. I know by personal experience, but not only from high school. This entirely avoidable behavior has been tolerated for so long it has even evolved with the emergence of social media. How can such an accepted social norm be challenged? The solutions are as simple as making the right choices. Join me as one voice to advocate for anti-bullying by sharing my insight. Together, we can finally change this toxic trend into a positive.
Bullying can be defined as one or more intentional attempts to cause unnecessary emotional distress and/or physical harm. Therefore, the common perception that it only occurs amongst younger age groups, in public and private schools, is incorrect. Age does not exclude you from being bullied. In fact, while advocating for mental health, I was targeted as recently as 2018 by someone older than me. Cyber-bullying has also emerged through social media well after I graduated high school. Why is going out of your way to be mean to others still tolerated or even socially acceptable? To address this issue, the best approach is to focus on its origins.
As early as fourth grade at age ten, I quickly realized how bullying made me feel: anxious, depressed, paranoid, or that I did not belong. What I could not know then was this distress actually triggered some of my mental health symptoms. Two of which are easy to identify from the words I chose. Harassment and teasing continued through adolescent age in High School. Without an effective deterrent to stop this trend, negative peer pressure allowed it to happen more often. “Kids will be kids” was also a common parent response clearly ignoring the mistreatment. Harsh social isolation I endured still affects me to this day.
Why are bullying and peer pressure so disruptive at a young age? Pre-teens and teens have not learned effective coping skills yet to deal with such aggressively upsetting behavior. They are also concentrated in school settings pursuing a necessary education for up to twelve key formative years. As a result, anxiety and depression develop and can quickly spiral out of control leading to suicide. Not only could such long-term psychological effects be avoided, the benefits will swiftly spread throughout society itself in a matter of years.
With a sustained and effective effort to eliminate bullying in schools, there will be a less confrontational environment for school shootings, peer pressure, and suicides plus fewer opportunities for depression and anxiety symptoms to occur. Education will improve and without excessive funding needed. The most important benefit of all will be greater intolerance of unnecessary hostility, but not just towards any single group of people. With uncompromising fairness, any form of social stigma fueled by ignorance and hatred should not be acceptable. Now, more than ever, we need this solution to be taken seriously.
Cyber-bullying continues to target an untold number of youths with no signs of stopping. Social media is used to viciously attack people and with no regard for innocence or permanent damage to their reputation. In the US, racism is used so often as a tool for political and economic oppression that actual racism is overlooked. In fact, stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and stigma proven harmful during the Civil Rights Era are still widely used. Toxic political intolerance regularly pits friends, family, and complete strangers against one another. These intentionally divisive trends have even been enough to cripple effective government.
Incredibly, all of this comes from choosing to be deliberately hurtful to others. It is disturbing to believe so much negativity is encouraged. Or for as many a year as many of you may remember. Let alone from as high up as political elitists who, as adults themselves, should be setting far better examples. However, challenging such an accepted social norm is not impossible. The change can easily start within each of us right now. All we need to do is make the right choices. Choose not to tolerate, participate in, or encourage any form of nasty behavior.
We all have our days. Not enough sleep, feeling over-stressed, strained finances, raising kids, physical and mental health issues, for a start. Several years after graduation, I bumped into a guy who pushed me around during Junior High. He explained there had been problems at home and expressed remorse for his behavior. I apologized for how I acted and genuinely forgave him. This made me realize there may not only be tragedies behind at least some bullying, but to not condemn anyone who could be struggling and just lashing out. In the end, we are all vulnerable to the same degrading effects of misguided hate, abuse, and ignorance.
Although peer pressure can involve bullying behavior, it is not as intense outside of younger age groups. Attempting to poison a classmate with a known substance they are seriously allergic to, irrationally comparing a person to Adolf Hitler because you refuse to tolerate their contrasting political views, making fun of people simply for looking or dressing, being different or less fortunate than you. Choosing to engage in actions like these can easily cause lasting emotional harm regardless of mental health status. Please, make the right choice. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
With or without a mental health condition, bullying can or has likely already had a negative impact on your life. If this toxic behavior is eliminated from schools, and tolerated a lot less in our society, a whole host of real world benefits will emerge within a matter of years. A decrease in suicide rates, fewer school shootings, improved education, fewer opportunities for anxiety and depression symptoms to develop, and more. The sooner we take for granted that it matters how people are treated, the sooner mental health can improve for millions of people in just a single lifetime.
© 2019 Jim R. Irion.
My article is protected under Fair Use copyright law.
Formal publishers must contact me first.
This body of writing also serves as professional presentation material (approx. 8 minutes). Interested parties should contact me right away to make arrangements at no cost or charge.
About The Author:
I am a two-time Pennsylvania State University Altoona graduate, former Alumni Society Board member and a mental health advocate with over ten years of dedicated community service volunteering. My primary focuses are suicide prevention, anti-bullying and empowerment. Currently, I am a NAMI member trained as an In Our Own Voice presenter. I also have QPR Gatekeeper layperson suicide prevention training.
Be sure to check out my NAMI Blogs today.
|Posted on June 18, 2019 at 9:00 PM||comments (0)|
Amidst all of life's daily issues, thousands of people still struggle in dreadful silence for a shamed, unspoken reason. Some are willing and able to talk about it. But only a few are actually strong enough to do something about it, in others, even while braving their own menacing storm.
Poem written by: Jim R. Irion
Many of you may never know
what was going through their mind.
Most still don't or will not
When the signs are, or were...
How the pain can linger
and lead to relapses.
Point a finger. Whose fault it was.
Blame is not that important.
Or why do it at all??
The nerve. The selfishness...
Yeah. Good one.
Especially when we are so
by people who think they know you,
and assume to know your feelings.
As if humanity has always been
so dearly sweet and welcoming.
Why can't we all just get along?
That is the bloody problem.
Getting along should not be cliché;
scapegoating negative attitudes.
No. It does not matter
that I am almost thirty eight.
Wow. Who is this guy?
He must have it great!
Dressed well. Still living at home.
Oh so young still, many joke...
What's the matter with him?
Why no career yet?
What are you waiting for?
Is it starting to
sink in any, yet?
I'm an enemy of society,
and for not choosing sides.
Is this really
such a surprise?
Gay pride or politics.
Employed or unemployed.
African American or Caucasian.
Christian or Muslim.
Homeless in shelters
or high-rise owners.
Reformed addict, currently addicted, or prison time.
Mental health recovery, still struggling, or institutionalized.
Oh, but you missed us;
scattered all around.
The ones who just want to live
yet feel so ready to die.
; know why...
It is time our society SToPS
with divisiveness, hatred, and hypocrisy.
This kind of pain actually kills people.
Every. Single. Day.
Bright, caring, funny,
as compassionate as can be.
The most wonderful people
you will ever hope to meet.
I consider myself fortunate
to have lived amongst them.
Unfortunately it is true.
I live on borrowed time, too.
All these years I have not been able
to choose a single career
without feeling I just don't know
what to do with my life here.
Suddenly, my age nearly doubles.
Sometimes it feels crippled.
Or worse without having found
a partner, no kids, or a purpose.
Even less of a reason to live.
I hope I don't overdo it.
I am a survivor of suicide loss,
and a suicide attempt survivor.
Honestly, my pain has yet to heal.
I'm sorry if the truth is difficult.
The sooner people accept this,
the sooner you can save us.
Just please don't hold out
too much hope for me...
Helping each of you
is my reason to be.
Not all of us make it.
But some of us do.
Th;s is for
all of you.
|Posted on June 9, 2019 at 1:00 AM||comments (0)|
Before I begin, I would like to dedicate this post to Nicole Ross. You, Ma'am, have met your match in someone who will not forget your courage to speak out about the truth of addiction. This post is for you, the many people suffering from or affected every day by addiction, the loved ones no longer with us because of it, and so many more tragedies.
For those who are new to my writing, hello and welcome to my advocacy website blog. Thank you for taking the time to read this particular entry despite its longer length.
I am a grassroots mental health advocate in recovery with a focus on anti-bullying and empowerment. To date, I have two nationally published NAMI Blogs (Oct. 11th, Nov. 1st) plus a third coming out in September. Be sure to check them out, as well as inspirational quotes listed under Words Of Wisdom. My determination to accomplish more as an advocate, this journey, is as passionate as you will find my way with words. Join me as I discuss what I recently learned about grieving for the loss of someone whose death was no one's fault but their own.
Certain details that will follow may be emotional for some who are sensitive to discussions about tragedy, addiction, and/or true suicide. Please. I encourage everyone to take as much care and time as you need in order to absorb what I have to share.
Remember Nicole, this is for you.
You own this moment.
My name is Jim Irion. I was named after my maternal 'namesake' Uncle, Jim Allis. Or as I like to remember him, "Born on the 4th of July (1952); died on April Fool's Day (1973)." Tragically, he was only three months shy of his 21st birthday with all manner of life ahead of him. My Uncle died in a car accident a total of three thousand one hundred and fifteen days before I was born (1981). A full eight and a half years, plus ten days. So, I never knew nor met him. More importantly, the accident that took his life was not someone else's fault.
The fault was Jim Allis' and his alone.
Just over a week ago, a former high school classmate of mine, named Jeremy, met an untimely end through unfortunate mistakes and poor decisions related to addiction. I had not seen him since graduation a lifetime of nineteen years ago. When I did know him, Jeremy was a unique kind of special. Easy going, laid back, charming as can be. When I heard what happened within hours of his confirmed death, I was shocked. From what little I know his passing, his mistakes as of late, were his own fault and no one else's.
Using what I'd learned through mental health advocacy, I wrote a very thoughtful and sincere condolence for his loss. Soon after, a close friend of mine urged me to make the Facebook post public. Once I did, someone close to Jeremy's family reached out to me. Bless her heart. You know who you are. I owe you one. Why? Well... Despite my years with mental health symptoms, while being very perceptive to tragedies around me, I discovered something unexpected about Jeremy's death. A lesson I'd unknowingly learned during my youth.
My namesake Uncle Jim, and former high school classmate Jeremy, both have something very important in common with each other. How are their deaths, a whole forty six years and however many miles apart, related to each other and in a way I could learn anything positive from them? It was their fault. How could someone, anyone, even a close relative or best friend, be able to grieve for a lost loved one who made bad choices that ended their lives?
Here is where my journey of compassion and forgiveness has now come full circle.
During the years after my parents told me who I was named after, I took personal responsibility for my Uncle Jim's tragedy. I didn't just mourn his death because I was young and didn't know better. I felt as if I was a twin-less twin experiencing survivor's guilt. I even developed a fear of car accidents, called dystychiphobia, as I got older through into high school. The tragic deaths of two classmates, Lynnette and Jason, made the phobia a permanent part of my life. But why?
I simply wanted to know my late Uncle Jim, even though all he and I will ever share are the same first name. No handshake. No hug. No pat on the back or words of encouragement. Nothing but a five-letter name...
In his letters home from college and anecdotes from living relatives, my Uncle Jim was a wonderful person to know. He had dreams of a career in mathematics (which I am horrible at, by the way), aspirations for a wondrous future, a "love of life", as well as a classmate with a crush on him whose heart was shattered when Jim died. I wanted to know where, when, how, and why he died by his mistake, because I felt I had to make sense of it. I was searching within myself for a proper way to grieve and cope with his loss. At the same time, I was also yearning for a way to genuinely forgive him.
But it was my Uncle's impatience to rush back to Brockport State University on that fateful April Fool's Day. It was his foul mistake to try passing that semi-truck trailer on a blind corner no-passing zone. At the time, my Uncle's Chevy Nova only had lap belts for restraint. I have no doubt my maternal Grandparents had raised him well, which included teaching him how to drive. No doubt at all. By all accounts, Jim was a capable and competent person. Yet, his one bad decision cost him his life. I moved on from this as best I could while I was growing up.
Fast forward to late May 2019. I, along with many others who cared about my former classmate, Jeremy, have had to face his unfortunate passing. What happened? What really happened? Why did he die? The first and most important thing I did was not to jump to conclusions. Besides, I scarcely knew anything about what happened or that led to his death. No assumptions. No hateful or ignorant comments made on social media. No stigma. I waited until confirmed information came out. Even now, there are a number of details still unknown. Some that may never be known.
When it was clear Jeremy had fallen into the trap of drug addiction that is a difficult truth to cope with. Like every single one of us, drug addicts do have a choice to not do drugs as we have the choice to not be ignorant towards others. Who cares? He would have probably died at some point. Should have known better. Didn't his parents teach him not to use drugs? Should have sent him to jail. That would teach him (which sounds more like a punishment attitude). Why wasn't he working a full-time job, or getting help for his addiction? He was seeking help, right? If he wasn't then it is his own fault.
Well for one, treatment, recovery, and the path to wellness all take time for everyone whether it is for drug addiction, alcoholism, mental health, and so on. One slip up on any given day could mean tragedy, another run-in with the law, jail time, a near-death experience, homelessness, and more. How many days are there in just a single year to stay clean? Three hundred sixty five opportunities, with twenty four hours each, to make a mistake. Or to not be getting the help they really need to clean up and recover.
In the meantime, staying true to giving up a mind-altering addictive substance gnaws at an addict's mind every chance it gets. Repeated uses of Narcan to reverse opioid effects does not solve the problem either. Even if someone is able to recover drug free, there are issues afterwards that can and still do make life difficult. A past record of addiction related charges can keep them from getting work, and for their closest loved ones to potentially be fired from a job. The fact of the matter is Jeremy had fallen into a tough situation to come back from. At his level, some have made it. Unfortunately, he did not...
On one hand, all things considered Jeremy still had some responsibility with what lead to his death. To just whitewash lawlessness or violence does not do justice or fairness to anyone who may have been affected or hurt. So, I found myself weighing the good and the bad of Jeremy's plight. This was while I continued to get to know the acquaintance of his family who reached out to me. I shared with her about how my namesake Uncle had died, before I was born, in the car accident that was his fault.
In fact... Exactly as I explained to her, I have intentionally reconstructed the same thought processes for all of you here so everyone has an opportunity to experience my discovery firsthand just as I did.
Suddenly, the next day, a light bulb went off in my head.
I was rereading the messages I'd sent the night before when I realized something that honestly I was shocked I hadn't thought of sooner. Want to know why? I am not just a survivor of suicide loss (1997), but also a suicide attempt survivor (2003) as well. A bad choice of its own, which gets far too much stigma just as addiction does. Not only that, and enduring untreated severe depression for more than five years, I have been constantly learning about mental health for the last two years as an advocate. How did I not realize this sooner? I inadvertently learned a very important truth about compassion, forgiveness, mindfulness, and wellness.
How do you cope with and/or grieve for a loved one who tried or has died from their own fault?
The truth is you actually can, and should, properly grieve when a person's death is their own fault (addiction overdose, true suicide such as from PTSD following military service, etc.). There is far more involved in a person's life than any one bad choice or timing. Rushing to judgment, ignorance or hatred, not only skips the opportunity to process these situations and people in a positive way. The chance to genuinely forgive what someone in your life may someday do wrong or hurt others is wasted. Allow me to borrow the words of a phenomenal actor who has had his own past struggles with addiction.
“I shouldn't be alive... unless it was for a reason. I'm not crazy, Pepper. I just finally know what I have to do. And I know in my heart that it's right.” -Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark (Iron Man).
Bad decisions, bad timing, do not define someone such as Robert Downey Jr., nor should they define my namesake Uncle Jim, me, or Jeremy. A reasonable moment of pause for reflection on facts should be given so the likes of hatred and stigma do not destroy the good worth of anyone's life. As well, if your eyes just went as wide as mine, you picked up on something I actually realized as I was writing these exact words. In. This. Moment.
When you stop and think about all this... exactly how many people are we talking about here that can be affected and/or benefited from a more mindful approach?
Millions of people.
Millions. No joke.
To think that only just a few days ago Jeremy's death was a negative. Now, with tried and tested legitimate wisdom, he has already produced positives in our lives. For a start, that is.
Taking a negative and making it a positive is a cornerstone for positive mindfulness and wellness, as well as compassion and forgiveness. There are so very many negatives out there in this world today (pardon me if I clench my eyes at that particular thought). The least of which are addiction, true suicide, hatred and stigma.
Starting with Jeremy...
Continuing with me...
A better future is possible. How do I know?
Because you are reading this.
You are smiling, crying, teeth-clenched, or fist-pumping.
If when you began reading my blog entry you had assumptions, doubts, questions without answers, or emotions without resolutions, you are now empowered with a very simple truth.
Aug. 4, 1981 - May 29, 2019
Rest in peace, my dear friend.
Rest in peace.
The negatives in your life, and that of millions of others out there, will not be worthless or meaningless anymore. You will not be forgotten, but you won't just be remembered either. Nope. Not enough. Trust me. I know. I've seen people come and go... Names fading from memory... These mistakes, these deaths, being taken for granted as if nothing else can be done to prevent them.
The status quo is not enough.
"People keep telling survivors to move on. Some do, but not me.
Even if there's a small chance, I owe this to every moment of silence to try."
(adapted from the Avengers: Endgame film trailers).
We can and will transform your one negative into thousands upon thousands of positives.
Starting with me.
Continuing with You.
|Posted on April 24, 2019 at 1:05 AM||comments (0)|
Before I begin, I would like to dedicate this blog to Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania 2019: Danielle DeAngelis. Hearing your story for the first time, at this year's local NAMI Conference, and being able to connect with you one-on-one there as well were exceptionally inspiring. Your grace and courage touched my heart. I hope I shared with you the best of mine. Remember; whenever you take off your crown you will always have your halo.
Bless. Your. Heart.
"God, it seems like a thousand years ago that I fought my way back from suicide twice, became an advocate, realized I still believed in love. I know I probably don't deserve any miracles, but I was really hoping to find you while I'm still here."
(adapted from Robert Downey Jr., Avengers: Endgame trailer #2)
[With the following background movie trailer music: Really Slow Motion & Giant Apes - Imminence]
Since I ended the last blog entry with a lot of honesty about what my mental health is like right now, I wanted to begin this conclusion in poetic fashion to set the tone. Optimism and pessimism aside, at the end of the day mental health is what it is to deal with. We are all human and deserve a chance to find genuine happiness in our lives. There was one detail about my progress with treatment I intentionally withheld until now. It is something that can happen and may be challenging, but unexpected to deal with.
Setbacks can occur at any time during the progress of treatment. Between late February into early March (psychiatry) and just recently in mid-April (case management), I encountered setbacks of my own. Certain medications might not work for you. Not everyone may start or be on the same page. Sometimes people on your treatment team move on before you feel ready to continue forward. Do not despair. Even though when my case manager moved on a couple weeks ago I took it pretty hard, to be honest. We were so like-minded it was unreal (she was awesome).
Do not give up.
Life will throw you a curve ball when you least expect it. You will make mistakes when you may be least prepared not to. I often experience intrusive (anxiety) thoughts that something bad will happen to my parents before I move out. Or to my relatives, friends, and others I care about. People have shamed me for speaking my mind (this gets old quickly) even though I always work towards a positive point of view. Your life could turn upside down and tie itself in a knot, or it might already feel that way for you right now. One thing will never change. You still own this moment. You still have a chance and the choice to take control of your life at any time.
“So, I remind myself, I can do this. I can choose life. I should choose it. I am meant to be here. I own this moment, same as any of you can, too. I can live my life and advocate for people like me.” Jim Irion, Things I've Learned from Advocating For Mental Health (10-11-2018).
“Living with mental illness is possible just as advocating for awareness is too.” Jim Irion, Facing Discrimination While Advocating (11-1-2018).
You can even stare feeling-ready-to-die in the face for over five to six years, as I have... and still have what it takes to live your life. You can do this. You are possible.
“The world has changed. None of us can go back. All we can do is our best. And sometimes the best that we can do is to start over.” -Hayley Atwell, Peggy Carter (Avengers: Endgame trailer #2).
I will do everything I can to take my voice to higher levels. As each week, month, and year passes by, I find out about people of all ages and backgrounds who unfortunately lose all hope and give up their fight to survive. Just how many people whether in your own community, province, state, or of notoriety? Too many. Way too many for it not to hurt me with every single one...
"I have seen all these people die.
We lost, all of us. We lost friends. We lost family. We lost part of ourselves. For some of us this is the fight of our lives."
(adapted from the Avengers: Endgame film trailers).
Enough. Is. Enough. Stigma has to stop. Bullying needs to end. Hate needs to be erased. All hate. Not just along racial or political lines. Suicides need to be prevented. Not for my sake. Not for my future. For their sakes. Forgive them all. Those who have gone before us deserve better. If we love them, then for their sake take a look in the mirror. Or go outside. Take a good look at the ground and the sky. Promise them you will not let their suffering and sacrifice be for nothing.
Stigma against suicide attempt survivors needs to stop. We are not a danger to anyone. True suicide victims and attempt survivors just want genuine happiness in their lives like most everyone else. Research has proven we can be some of the most unbelievably selfless and deeply caring people you may ever meet or know. We carry the burden of knowledge that l;fe matters. Why haven't I moved on?
"People keep telling survivors to move on. Some do, but not me.
Even if there’s a small chance, I owe this to every moment of silence to try."
(adapted from the Avengers: Endgame film trailers).
“Whatever it takes.” -Robert Downey Jr. (my hero!), Tony Stark (Avengers: Endgame trailer #2).
No matter who you are. No matter what your situation was, is, or will be. No matter where you live. No matter when you read this message. Why? "It matters how you are treated. Part of the journey is the beginning. You own this moment. It is never too late. You can do this." Jim Irion, Mental Health Advocate, surv;ving warr;or, NAMI member & trained "In Our Own Voice" Presenter.
And for all of the suicide attempt survivors out there trying their hardest - every - single - day - and giving their lives all they've got... This is for You.
"Our very courage invites challenge. Challenge incites fear. Fear breeds stigma. We are not hopeless because we've tried to give up.
Any day can be an endgame for us.
Yet here we are.
With nothing but our hearts, our courage, and still al;ve.
So stay and l;ve.
The world is chang;ng.
They need surv;vors.
Before my time comes, you have one promise to keep. If we can't prevent suic;de, be damned sure you'll f;nish what I've started.
(adapted from the Avengers: Endgame film trailers).
“#BeHereTomorrow and every day after that.” Kevin Hines.
“Let me be the inspiration that runs through your ve;ns.” J;m Ir;on.
|Posted on April 23, 2019 at 1:05 AM||comments (0)|
Before I begin, I would like to dedicate this blog to the Pennsylvania-based anti-stigma drama group, the Go M.A.D. (Make a Difference) Players. For the last ten years, you have had an incredibly unique and positive impact in communities throughout the state. Seeing you perform at this year's local NAMI Conference was truly an experience I will never forget. Take your creativity and courage to the national stage, because so many people could learn a lot from the unbelievable kinds of special you all are. Go make a difference!
"Part of the journey is the journey." My words.
One of the more important things to share about my ongoing treatment is that it takes time for treatment to have a positive effect. If someone is also fighting co-occurring symptoms with addiction, that takes twice the effort to live with it. Mental health recovery does not happen overnight. Treatment takes time.
Treatment needs to be affordable. A resource case manager needs to be someone willing and able to help you. A Certified Peer Specialist needs to care for you properly and compassionately, while making sure not to misguide your treatment by offering inappropriate advice. The right comfort-fit with a capable and dedicated counselor needs to be found - and - maintained. A psychologist or psychiatrist first need to know who they are dealing with. Plus any mental health professionals such as these must be well trained with documented credentials to do their jobs properly.
A single counseling session, even if with the right counselor, is not a cure-all. A psychologist or psychiatrist appointment is not (and should not be) a rush to judgment. Psychotropic medications do not take one week to work at full-effect. Any potential side effects also need to be known and carefully prepared for. The person undergoing mental health treatment must be committed to finding what works for them and seeing it through. All progress must be monitored and assessed by the mental health professionals involved.
Treatment takes time.
Take Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for example. Or for someone serving in the military deployed overseas. The trauma can become so severe the person experiences nightmares that interfere with getting recuperative sleep. Relationships, marriages, and family lives can be affected. Difficulty differentiating right from wrong and emotion from logic. Even with an effective support system of therapy and medication, treating a condition such as PTSD requires determination, diligence attending to each part of the treatment such as taking regular dosages of prescribed medication, a mental commitment to yourself, hopeful support from friends and relatives around you.
Treatment takes time.
Time is what I would like to focus on, because my how time has flown since I posted the 9 Marvel-themed blog entries one year ago! My life has changed a fair amount since then. In some ways good. In some ways bad... the worst of which I discussed more in the previous post. How, or why, does the Avengers: Endgame film figure into my life (now) versus how Infinity War did last year? I welcome you to join me as I share another unique look into my life ~ Marvel-style.
First, I want to take a quick look back at how I described what I was feeling, and fearing, by quoting an excerpt from my blog "For a reason... Conclusion" from March 19th, 2018.
"A future that, for at least eighteen dreadful years to be fair since high school, I have gradually felt less and less that I belong here. Heck, I was ready to give up in 2003. What do I have hope for? What am I living for? What do I believe in anymore? Why am I still here? Think about it. Nearly two decades of only being able to believe in one week ahead of my life... And I've had fairly good physical health for all those years."
My goodness... Was that me? Were those thoughts... mine? I was pumped about experiencing the Avengers: Infinity War film, yes. I was also quite afraid of what my future would hold. When I posted those blog entries during March 2018, I hadn't yet begun any treatment compared to now. I didn't even encounter the brunt of stigma or discrimination at that time. Yet, my expression of or at least my situation was that stressful? Heh. Imagine what life has been like after last summer. It hasn't been boring. I'll say that much.
The easy plus is going from no treatment for the majority of my mental health symptoms to case management (financial aid, health insurance), counseling and psychiatry (one medication so far). While I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking proper treatment as soon as possible, I finally made the decision to seek treatment and turn my life around. Each step I take now is one in the right direction instead of aimlessly down the wrong path. As my treatment team continues to strengthen, I am confident I will have a much greater chance than without it.
An easy minus was weathering the bullying and stigma for being a suicide attempt survivor, plus discrimination by local mental health professionals all in the volunteer community. I still have no way of knowing just how much my reputation has been devastated as a result of what happened... Besides this, what I expressed about my life last year still has not changed very much. But why? I'm in treatment now. What is wrong with me? I am too negative to be around other people. I need to ignore my past and move on with my life. Positive. Positive. Positive. Shame on me for being, what was it, so negative. Correction...
Treatment. Takes. Time.
One of those statements was actually told to me by someone. Rather than use their experience to guide me towards positive treatment, they chose to stigmatize me. Twice. Uh uh. You don't save lives that way. Furthermore, I am a realist by nature. Being a realist also includes a generous helping of honesty, too. I am learning to tailor my realism so I don't send the wrong message as a mental health consumer in recovery, as a community volunteer, and outspoken advocate. Whose responsibility is it that I constantly learn and grow, while still being held accountable for my actions?
Mine, and mine alone.
Furthermore, I would not be able to survive if I was negative all of the time. I balance both forces in my life to work towards inner strength. I haven't lasted so long because this is easy to live with. Trust me when I say if I could always be uber positive, oh I would be.
On the other hand, I am terribly late to seek conventional treatment too. The longer behavioral symptoms go untreated or unchanged, the deeper they influence personality traits making them more difficult to reverse. According to my treatment team, I am suspected of having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder evidenced by how I frequently over-think things. I can remember all, yes, all the way back to - get this - fourth grade when my class was given a particular assignment. We were tasked to explain how to do something and give the presentation in front of the class. Guess what topic mine was?
How to tie your shoes.
Reread that just to make sure it sinks in, because when I tell you how I did on the assignment you will be surprised.
Ready? I over-thought how to explain tying your shoes so much the entire class was confused by my presentation. No offense to myself, they should have been. Cringe worthy... That was then. Probably the early to mid-1990s. Imagine me now. This is why it is important to seek effective treatment for behavioral symptoms. Autism. Bipolar. PTSD. You name it. The sooner treatment is sought the better the outcome may be. What's worse is having lived with prolonged severe depression without treatment...
Aside from experiencing suicide loss during ninth grade in 1997, and my overdose attempt in 2003, just how long am I talking about for these deep feelings of distress? To be as reasonable and fair as I can, and I have already discussed this with my counselor, I expressed feeling 'ready to go' as early as 2013. This was when I drafted an unofficial Last Will & Testament. Normally, doing so is a completely appropriate thing to do. I learned the lesson from having the last of my grandparents pass away several years before then. My parents had to manage their respective family's affairs.
However, between 2013 and by 2014, my depression was getting worse until the latter year I contemplated the suicide plan that I never acted on. Ever since, the last five to six years, I have simply felt so worn out by my prolonged depression experiences that when they surface I often feel ready to go. Keep in mind I did not begin counseling until October 2018 and psychiatry until January this year. Yeah... You should've seen the look on my counselor's face when, in vivid and effective detail, I described what prolonged severe depression has been like for me while taking into account my past suicide experiences...
What I could share would be nothing short of eyebrow-raising.
That is why being so perceptive and especially so expressive is really important for me to take seriously with my life now. Some people have three times as many suicide attempts as I have, and have great difficulty even talking about those feelings. If they can at all. I can. I should. And with great power comes great responsibility. I am not just a genuinely compassionate person at heart. I am not just trying to fill a void in my life by helping others. In my humble opinion, despite my critics I feel I have a responsibility to do everything I can to change the course of mental health awareness and acceptance for the better.
Deep down, do I think my treatment will solve the one most difficult issue facing me this intimidating year (career indecision)? To be completely honest, no. Do I still feel ready to go if my grasp on this life was slipping away? Unfortunately, yes. Right here, right now? Yes. I'm sorry if I let anyone down by being so honest. This is what it is like for what I, personally, have to live with. I have to accept it. I have to live with it.
I also choose not to give up. I give the tomorrows a chance. I keep waking up and trying to put forth effort into my treatment to resolve the problems I have. Whether anyone understands what I'm going through or not. This is my life and my mental health takes real world effort every day to live with. The very nature of my chronophobia (fear of time) creates a mindset which keeps me from believing by October, my 38th birthday, that I will be able to last that long. Next New Year's terrifies me in a way maybe one percent of people closest to me even know let alone fully understand. I couldn't say this sentiment any better myself.
"This is going to work, Jim."
"I know it is. Because I don't know what I'm going to do if it doesn't..."
(first line is adapted, both are from Avengers: Endgame trailer #1)
April 24th, 2019:
|Posted on April 22, 2019 at 1:05 AM||comments (1)|
For all of the Marvel and MCU fans out there (you are awesome, by the way), here is a helpful link to last year's Avengers: Infinity War-themed blog series 'Marvel-ous Moments':
March 11th, 2018:
Before I begin, I want to pay my humble respects to my first resource case manager/coordinator. They were also the first person who facilitated my path into treatment at a troubled time when I needed all the help I could get. I had formed a very close bond before her unexpected decision to move on (two weeks ago). If you are reading this, you will always have a special place in my heart. Yes, I am here. But I wouldn't be where I am without your distinguished guidance when others had failed me. No matter what happens in my life from here, you have been someone I can and will always look up to with gratitude and pride. Thank you for believing in and being here for me when I needed it most. Bless your dear heart.
“Part of the journey is the end.” -Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark (Avengers: Endgame trailer #1).
[With the following background movie trailer music: Audiomachine - So Say We All]
Part of the journey is the end, but I have not reached mine. At least not yet anyway. Kind of ironic when I think about it to be honest. Very ironic... During April of last year my symptoms were beginning to spike. I felt as though the end of my journey was near. Three and four months later, it almost happened too. I considered the unthinkable while struggling to withstand stigma in my own community from people I thought I could turn to for help.
I survived, yes. Yet, here I am... still suffering the silent treatment from those who were responsible. People who may still believe they did nothing wrong. Well, I can understand that. No, really. I can understand. I am being serious not disrespectful. Think about it. Would you realize you did something wrong until you realized you did something wrong? Honestly, no. So, my heart and my 'door' will remain open to reconcile - and forgive - these individuals at any time.
However, I doubt the silent stigma will be resolved besides the fact it hasn't happened yet. One of the people responsible recently expressed their concern that we need to end this kind of silence (being stigmatized/feared because of your mental health). I couldn't tell if they were being honest, or just doing a stale job acting the part. We need to reach people, they said. You know, and I mean these words with 110% respect for this individual... I. Could. Not. Agree. More.
We do need to reach people. More people. Everyone. End of story. No barriers. No holding back. Stop encouraging stigma. Put an end to bullying. Enough is enough with only one suicide loss. Save lives, plain and simple. Amen.
I could not agree more.
The unfortunate thing is, though... When this person made their statement, I would have loved to speak up hoping to end the silence I have been enduring. To try working towards a mutual and positive resolution with them. How long has it been since everything happened? It's going on 8 to 9 months now respectively. Did I dare speak up in the presence of the rather highly revered mental health professional? Would I have been able to end the silence if I acted first? Nope. But why?
Who am I? I am not a respected community leader or with the 'right' connections. How could two people be so far apart in the same room when 'we' need to reach people? They knew what had taken place yet still had the nerve to claim ending the silence of stigma was a high priority. It is. It should be. For Pete's sake, it should be for everyone. Not just for a privileged inner circle group of best friends or those identifying any which way they may be different from others around them. Take my word for it.
It. Matters. How. People. Are. Treated.
At least I finally realized the theme of my advocacy as a result of the discrimination and stigma I faced. Taking a negative and making it a positive.
Two years ago, this person must have also confidently believed they had psychologist experience and knew better. Even though, with their work background, they had no right to insist I did not have social anxiety disorder. Funny... My counselor would disagree, because she knows what she is doing and is strictly qualified to assess my mental health. What needs to end first are less discussed barriers to mental health acceptance such as hypocrisy and selfishness.
Can you imagine how much worse stigma like this is to endure while also being a suicide attempt survivor? If I hadn't had the inner strength, friends, and family members to support me last summer, I would have reached the nearest cliff to jump from instead. We need to reach people... Sorry for letting my contempt and emotions show so much. Sharing personal experiences with suicide should not be a crutch or used as an excuse. In my humble opinion, at least.
I do not want expressing the worst of what I experience to make anyone feel sorry for me. The best people in my life are capable and willing to hear me out when I need someone. Bless their hearts; you know who you are. So, when I am shunned by those dedicated to ending stigma and achieving mental health acceptance (you know who you are too), it is hard to look in the mirror. It is hard to recognize where I am right now compared to this time last year...
With true suicide rates as they are, you'd think people would actually take mental health acceptance much more seriously. Enough was enough when I lost a fellow ninth grade classmate to suicide. When was this? 22 years ago. That was 6 years before my own attempt, so 16 years since then. When is enough going to be enough? Stop the stigma. End the silence. If your goal is to reach people then reach them. Do not make life difficult for anyone whose life is already difficult enough. Please?
It matters how people are treated.
Not tomorrow. Not the next day. Not when you feel like it.
If someone was in my place and endured what I did, since last summer, but were not as strong, had less peer support, no treatment plan or team in place until they felt there was nothing left for them in this life but to end theirs... Would it really be important what car they drove, where their parents or guardians lived, what their political views or religious beliefs were? Would it really matter any way they may have been different from anyone else? When all they needed was someone to show them a path towards a positive recovery and beneficial treatment.
Why do I take mental health acceptance so seriously? Simple. Lives are at stake. Least of all, my own. I am a suicide attempt survivor. Am I proud? Do I express vibrant, colorful pride for any of my mental health experiences? Am I proud I have had to live with the decision of wanting to kill myself? The stigma lurking over my head whenever I speak of it... No. Experiences like these really put life into perspective. Trust me.
To take this negative and make yet another positive from it, I happen to have a special surprise update to reveal here. During the National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month of September, NAMI has decided to publish my suicide prevention article submission.
My third NAMI Blog!
The timing couldn't be more perfect, neither the honor nor necessity more profound. Suicide prevention initiatives are as imperative as ever. Not only will my article cover a broad range of as many as 7 sub-topics on suicide, my Blog will be searchable for key words at any time on NAMI's website once it is published, and my own polished writing from personal experiences with suicide will be published during the most ideal awareness month when NAMI's extensive audience will be most receptive to it. I know where I will be when it comes time to prepare the final draft during this summer. Still here.
"I am here.
Each of You are here.
We are here, together.
Together, mental health acceptance is possible." My words.
Due in part to the ongoing silent stigma I am enduring, unfortunately I have not reached a positive (end) of my mental health recovery journey yet. Allow me to take this another step further and share with you an engaging discussion about mental health treatment.
April 23rd, 2019:
|Posted on March 5, 2019 at 1:00 AM||comments (0)|
Welcome everyone. Welcome again. Please forgive my prolonged absence from posting updates here. While the right words were a test to write, the timing is what has been more difficult. Without further ado, it is time to get caught up. There are two reasons why I haven't been posting new blog entries since last fall.
Yes. On October 11th, 2018, two years to the day since I began my journey with you on this website, I had my first-ever national blog published. To have a renowned non-profit such as NAMI publish my writing was an amazing accomplishment I had not expected to happen. As a show of respect for the gracious opportunity, I tip my hat again to the submission editor, Ms. Luna, as well for the most fortunate timing. Dare I say twice?
Yes. Twice. On November 1st, 2018, I had my second-ever NAMI Blog published. I did expose stigma and discrimination from the local mental health community in what I revealed. However, I also sacrificed my ability to be an advocate here in my own hometown. I am still shunned by several community leaders, since no efforts have been made to address what has happened. Regardless, my determination to continue being an advocate remains strong in large part thanks to NAMI.
Before I talk about what happens next I feel I need to talk about what happened since. When I began this website, I wanted to use the opportunity of facing adversity to blog about such experiences while they happen. Unfortunately, I have not been able to particularly since November, and for this I have regrets... Even though I am as much a human being at the will of my faults as anyone else. This past holiday season was much more difficult for me than in recent memory.
The night before Christmas, I had already been very uptight from anxiety about gift opening because of still living with my parents (for those who used to tell me they wished they lived at home). Early Christmas morning, I posted Merry Christmas comments on a number of my friends' Facebook pages. With no regret, to be honest. However, doing this triggered a surge of depression from the family pictures I ended up seeing. I was unprepared and the experience was... difficult. New Year's was almost as overwhelming, but with anxiety about the months ahead. Fear that will follow me through this entire year.
When I say that 2019 is a crucial time in my life, it honestly is. Certain things given more time thanks to my Resource Case Management have to happen this year. This is neither happy, apocalyptic, nor sad. Simply a matter of fact. So, just after the New Year I considered my situation. I was scheduled for my first psychiatric evaluation at the end of January. Although still unemployed, my treatment progress was moving along. NAMI had been willing to publish two Blogs already. I still had two un-published submissions that needed to be shortened from 1,500-1,600 words to 1,000 for NAMI's new submission guidelines.
Despite being only a few days after the stressful and depressing holiday season, I quickly refined both drafts and submitted them on January 8th and 12th. Between mid-January and mid-February, I wrote two more article drafts and submitted them to NAMI on February 1st and 17th. I kept thinking back to last summer, when I felt all hope was lost because of the discrimination, and how NAMI had given me a chance to publish nationally for the first time. The second reason I haven't posted many new blog entries, for the last six months, is to capitalize on NAMI's opportunity. I have been diligently writing to take my advocacy to the next level, in part to rise above what happened last year.
I am very, very hopeful NAMI will be interested to publish these four new submissions sometime this year. Believe me when I say the last two article drafts are absolutely stunning. On the other hand, I haven't explained what the first reason was for my lack of posting. I have already shared why, but I wanted to address this issue here and more in the future. It is not wrong to want to wrap yourself in a warm blanket of positive feelings. If I could every day, oh believe me I would. However, many people with mental health conditions have a difficult time talking about their negative daily experiences and feelings.
Mental health professionals involved in treatment are not the only necessary source of support. Emotional support from friends and family is important for someone with a mental health condition. Not having a genuinely helpful person to turn to on a personal level can be very difficult.
Sure I have already shared negativity about how my holiday season went. Most or all of you are probably still reading this. However, surrounding many people like me is an unspoken expectation to hear 'good' news. Sometimes only good news. Not how poorly you may be doing on any given day, how depressed or anxious you are feeling. Not again... Still? Why? Have I sought help? What did the counselor tell me to do? Not that anyone who reads this doesn't care; of course not. But for someone like me, who has been stigmatized for a long time, I depend greatly on my friends as a support system because I've had bad experiences in treatment environments.
Quite often I have to put forth a lot of emotional energy every day to deal with my situation mostly alone. This is from the impression that sharing my negative reality is not what people want to know about. Thankfully, I do have a best friend who I converse with almost on a daily basis. She has been one of the best people I have been able to connect with, because we are both honest, realistic, and are able to discuss our mental health issues and feelings. Optimism that everything will be alright does not work for everyone. Especially with me. Many people have a tough time feeling confident or being able to talk to someone about how they are doing if it involves negativity.
Guilt usually keeps me from saying anything at all. On any given day, I don't want to say my life is not in a happy-go-lucky place. No offense intended to anyone this may apply to. A considerate check, in private, if you are curious or concerned how a person is doing can go a long way. Even more so if the friend, family member, or even considerate co-worker has mental health diagnoses as I do. I wholeheartedly and sincerely thank those who have checked on me in recent memory, and extend to them the kindest appreciation. It sure beats being told I drive a certain kind of car or live in a certain part of the community...
If you can really get me to laugh, good humor is one of the best medicines I've found.
As I wait and dearly hope NAMI will be interested to publish my four new submissions, I am probably not going to post a new blog entry for a couple months at minimum. The days and months ahead are becoming increasingly challenging to deal with. I owe and thank my slowly developing mental health treatment team for their weekly efforts to get me on track. Especially the best Resource Case Manager I could have ever hoped to be assigned to. In the near future, I may also have the luck of connecting with a renowned advocate from the West Coast as well. That in and of itself would make my year beyond even my best expectations.
Thanks again to all who read this. More updates as they become available.
|Posted on November 2, 2018 at 6:20 PM||comments (1)|
Before I begin, I want to take this unique opportunity to share with you that, for the fourth year in a row, I am participating in No-Shave November. It was originally organized to generate awareness of cancer through the abstinence of shaving. Movember dually promotes men's health/cancer awareness during this month as well. As I'd done last year, I will continue the no shaving all through December to create additional awareness.
While in the previous blog entry I explained what brought about my urge to write (ultimately for NAMI), I also stressed a unique importance with the timing of their offer to publish as well. And for good reason...
Unfortunately, my rekindled determination to advocate for mental health acceptance was not first inspired by positive influence. Instead, there was a very negative factor involved that came to light at almost the same time as when I submitted my writing to NAMI. The trend of questionable treatment began roughly as far back as August of last year. However, during this summer two incidents made it clear I was intentionally singled out and stigmatized because of my mental health.
For years, I have repeatedly reminded myself of what other people have to live through, which is often much less fortunate than my own situation. Everyone who truly knows me, or has had the opportunity to read my blog writing, knows I put myself last when it comes to the wellbeing or prosperity at stake. Regardless, there was no reason for what has happened. Not to someone who is advocating for the necessity of mental health awareness at a time when acceptance is sorely needed for everyone.
As you read my second NAMI Blog, keep in mind the idea of making a negative into a positive. This will help put into perspective what I have gained from this challenging experience, and demonstrate the potential for so much more. I also humbly encourage you to keep those who do bully or discriminate against others close at heart, and offer the opportunity for forgiveness. Either one of us knows just as well as the next person how difficult life can be. Let us work together, instead of belittling ourselves, so that in a single lifetime we can have a chance to help end the stigma plaguing all of society.
Thank you so much for taking the time, making the effort to read and hopefully to share this second of two NAMI Blogs. Bless your hearts, each and every one of you. Now, I present to you:
(click on title for web URL)
As a result of having my first NAMI Blog published on the 11th, I had the privilege of being contacted by an enterprising health practitioner seeking to improve mental health through better grieving. Ms. Haley Harris-Bloom praised my awareness of triggers and bringing attention to the details of early warning signs in my writing. She reached out to me in hopes of sharing the Kickstarter for her GriefGuide app, developed from a year's worth of devoted research.
In her words from the original correspondence, Ms. Harris-Bloom states that "Grief, like other mental health topics, is often swept under the rug and treated as something to ?get over?. GriefGuide is made to let the user know they are not alone, they are not atypical, and to provide grief education and encouragement." I agree as I came to a similar conclusion, with regards to rushed grieving when it comes to victims of suicide loss, in one of my unpublished article drafts just last month.
I humbly encourage everyone to check out Ms. Harris-Bloom's GriefGuide Kickstarter page, at bit.ly/griefguide1. It is my pleasure to share this with all of you so that she has the opportunity to make a positive impact with mental health as I have thanks to NAMI.
Best of luck!