|Posted on August 18, 2019 at 1:00 AM||comments (0)|
Thanks to Mr. Oryx Cohen, Chief Operating Officer of the National Empowerment Center, on August 9th the NEC was the first formal publisher to accept my article on youth and adult bullying. An article which, earlier this year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) had considered for publication as well. While I cannot thank Mr. Cohen enough, it is not overselling to emphasize the impact bullying has on our society.
Unfortunately, now more than ever.
I am an unknown in the mental health community burdened by the experiences and knowledge of what th;s is like. Much like actor Robert Downey Jr.'s character, Tony Stark, I am also a futurist and with the Advocate personality (INFJ). For the last three years, I had to put employment pursuits on hold because of crippling career indecision. "All these years, I have never been able to choose an occupation without feeling I don't know what to do with my life." Who can relate to that? I have no retirement fund flush with ample preparation contributing funds towards my future. What future? Though, all things considered, not nearly as bad as some even I will admit.
Oh I'm still young being in my late thirties.
To be fair though, consider some of the feelings I have lived with for a decade and a half or more - and - without conventional treatment until last year.
Am I happy? Why am I here? Why am I still here? Do I belong in this life? Am I meant or ever going to find true love? Am I worth it? (I know much more about my diagnoses now, but still) what is wrong with me? Why am I so cursed that I cannot decide on a direction for gainful employment? Most other people have. They have their families, children, and social circles. One of the worst of all is feeling as if I am running out of time. I may potentially be diagnosed with Chronophobia, or the fear of time-related stressors such as New Year's Eve. Perhaps one of the most ironic fears to have as a human being who was born, lives, and eventually will die. It is inescapable.
Yet, here I am. Still. What grips my heart more than all of this intense sorrow is having lived in a world where children younger than age twelve, when my first mental health symptoms emerged, have already taken their own lives. Many of whom have been victims of abuse and bullying that never should have happened in the first place. Let alone as they've grown much older into adulthood. Consider all the facts and circumstances you want. Blame skin color, economic background, who foolishly voted for who. It is unacceptable to go out of your way to be mean to someone else unless it is swiftly followed by the most sincere and honest apology.
I know not where my life will take me in the dreaded next '10 years from now'. Yet, I recognize a problem I can do something about. Not for me. For everyone else but me. I feel a great sense of responsibility. So, I am taking the pieces of my life, of my heart and soul that are left, pressing my feet into the ground, and motioning with my right hand to bring it on. Standing alone on the battered hill near the end of the film, Avengers: Endgame, Captain America knew he stood no chance. Yet, as I quoted in my first NAMI Blog, "I can do this all day."
Whatever ;t takes.
My article on youth and adult bullying does not take a side. It takes a stand. Against youth and adult bullying that affect people every day even to suicide, it takes a stand now when your lives matter most. It matters how people are treated started here, but it will not end here because Mr. Oryx Cohen has been the first to give it a chance. Hopefully, the first of many.
To my credit of having watched so many cartoons as a kid, I created an inspiring Success Kid meme demonstrating my unabashed gratitude for Mr. Cohen's decision to republish my article. And, no less, under their Trauma section. Upon receiving this meme, he decided to share it on the NEC Facebook page as well. When tomorrow is as fearful as the day that never comes, opportunities like these are what make me possible.
Thank you, Oryx and the National Empowerment Center. Thank you very much.
Alas, I am a nobody no more.
|Posted on August 15, 2019 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
(edited; previously posted on TheMighty.com)
After I started accomplishing nationally published writing since October 11, 2018, one thought in particular has stood out more in my mind.
Why do ;t?
Why risk my professional reputation in this County when, for one, I have not settled on a career yet? Neither do I have a job (career anxiety/indecision is my biggest problem). If I out too much information, I might not be able to obtain gainful employment because employers could discover my work and frown upon the writing. If this were to happen, the resulting stigma could ruin my chances of getting a job. It may already have...
Why risk my personal reputation in this volunteer/community when any potential backlash or discrimination could also affect my employability? Most volunteer communities typically include any number of community leaders such as local government, non-profit organizations, and people working in the specific field they volunteer for. With any mistakes or social missteps I make, trivial opposition to my background such as political views or election voting, any one single community leader could easily disrupt my ability to be an advocate. And much worse...
Why risk my specific mental health when, in late 2016, I hadn't even reached out for conventional treatment options yet. Personally, I am late to having the bulk of my mental health issues diagnosed and formally treated. At the time, I had no one to turn to for guidance either. I could have easily put myself at great risk without the safety net of helpful modern mental health treatment.
Why risk alienating people that I need the most outside of formal treatment: friends and family? In my situation, the top two by far are my Mom and Dad with whom I still happen to live. Mental health is not widely accepted, or fully understood, by enough people yet. By pursuing diagnosis and treatment, or especially advocating about it publicly, I risk stigma from people I care about and need to be supportive of me. Imagine someone as close to you as a best friend, parent or guardian, who turns their back on you because of your mental health...
Why do ;t?
Why do any of th;s?
Well... The answers may seem as simple as th;s is worth it, or all of you who read this (and millions more) deserve and need a strong voice for awareness and advocacy. Believe me; the drive to help others can be powerful. I also happen to have the Advocate personality type (INFJ), which makes me more driven to help others. Additionally, I am an empath who perceives and processes emotions from others much more than an average person. I am driven to do more for helping people while I also feel much of their pain along with my own. There is no one simple answer.
Our lives, our struggles, and very much so our mental health issues, are a journey we must undertake with great care. Please, do not wait any longer than you have to for pursuing or discovering the right, affordable treatment options you feel you need.
There will always be someone in your lives somewhere to help guide you along your way. Always. If not, look up to me. I started without anyone to turn to. Now, I seek to fill that void by lighting the way for others.
Worth. Every. Single. Smile.
|Posted on August 15, 2019 at 4:05 PM||comments (0)|
(previously posted on TheMighty.com)
From time to time, you are likely to hear common phrases of positive encouragement, see or participate in mental health events that really connect with you on a personal level. Someone could say you are not alone in what you face with your specific issues. They would be correct, honest and certainly sincere. Taking each step of an AFSP-sponsored Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide awareness may provide just the right amount of hope you need at that precious moment. Being around so many people in such a positive atmosphere can help heal in a very effective way.
But what about those days, those moments where it is difficult for anyone to make you feel strong enough no matter what is said or done?
What about those complicated mental health issues? The ones that are difficult to address or talk about, if you happen to have anyone you can genuinely talk to?
Feeling driven to help others as a mental health advocate, but you only just started your mental health recovery or perhaps only recently actual treatment. You have no one to reach out to for guidance or help. When you do, you reach out to the members of the volunteer community only for some of those mental health professionals and volunteers to stigmatize or discriminate against you. Suicidal thoughts but not actually being suicidal. Or a close friend who has passed away because of addiction yet what they did was their fault.
How do you cope with issues like these?
There are experiences we deal with which are not always going to be easy to overcome. Neither will they seem to be resolved when we want or need them to. There are those of us who feel like we have to try twice as hard compared to others around us. To not see through positive comments as if they are not truthful or honest.
To be honest, 'you are not alone' has never really helped me. Why? Maybe it is because one of my dominant traits is to over-think most things. The 'I can get through this' mindset I took in years past now feels like a lie. Every time someone says everything will work out for me I find myself in disbelief. Why? I feel so much anxiety from diagnosable Chronophobia (fear of time-related stressors; New Year's Eve) yet my physical health is reasonably good. Wow. Wait... What? There is a fear of time? Who the heck has that?
What do you do if your feelings or mental health issues fall between the cracks of what is easier to cope with?
When I started my mental health advocacy website nearly three years ago, I came up with a quote to describe how to deal with such challenging situations. "Discovering tomorrow's future starts by discussing yesterday and today." (my words). In simple terms, the key to these issues is to discuss them. Talk about them with your family doctor, an agency that offers case management who can help get you financial assistance and guidance towards treatment, or your counselor.
Talk about these challenging topics amongst friends, family, and loved ones who are acceptant and understanding of your mental health needs. Doing so will help you better understand what to do, why you act or feel the way you do, what treatment options may help better than what you've been doing. I had been seeing my counselor for seven months when she figured out one of my basic problems with anxiety and depression. Not long after, she suggested I be assessed for Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I am about to be diagnosed for the first time with Autism. We wouldn't have reached this level of understanding about my challenging symptoms if we had not discussed every bit of what I experience. And believe me; even my Psychiatrist has said I don't fit the normal parameters for diagnosis and treatment. Nothing like a highly experienced mental health professional telling you that you are unique in ways you might kid about with your friends. I'm cool with that. Every day I seek to own that uniqueness about myself, too.
As a mental health advocate, thanks to NAMI Submissions since last October I am very lucky to have had my writing published nationally. For you because difficult mental health issues, such as what I live with or have seen others struggling from, are not just a bull whose horns I want to grab. You are not alone doesn't help everyone feel positive about themselves. Coming together in groups for treatment or volunteer work doesn't always make people feel stronger about themselves.
That is a problem I not only know too well, but feel I can focus on with a purpose and make a difference that matters. Who feels suicidal thoughts but aren't suicidal? I do, for one. These challenging topics to address are some of the most important issues with mental health. So, if I am lucky again, be sure to check back here in case TheMighty does choose to republish my writing. I have plenty more in store and a renewed passion to talk about stuff that is difficult for people to talk about. After all...
"Discovering tomorrow's future starts by discussing yesterday and today."
And there is no time like the present.
Pardon the pun...
|Posted on July 26, 2019 at 3:45 PM||comments (0)|
Being able to inspire someone to feel stronger about themselves, because I truly believe in them, is a gift I relish.
I am perhaps one of the more realistic and unique people you may ever find. The combination of being an optimist (thanks Mom), a pessimist (thanks Dad), tell-it-like-it-is honesty, yet so incredibly compassionate that I can and also choose to tailor my empathy for each person's situation all with a natural talent for expression. I swear I never say the same positive encouragement twice, neither do I like to.
I try to come up with new inspirational expressions to be as original and genuine as possible. Plus I like the challenge (and I have a natural talent for over-thinking, too). For example, I've heard how people often say about being a good listener. The same can be said for 'You are not alone'. Both are true and positive. I take them a step further.
I never tell someone only what they want to hear just to make them feel better (optimism). Or I would feel as if I was not being honest. Naturally, I can't be too negative or what I'd say would do more harm than good (pessimism). My balance is the realism in between. So, each time in my writing, I believe in what I say or I wouldn't be saying it at all (honesty).
I don't believe in someone just because it is the right or necessary thing to do. I know what th;s is like. It is often said everyone's experiences with mental health are different. What works for one person probably won't work for someone else. Too true. The same thing can be said about 'You are not alone', because that phrase has never helped me.
I have been a mental health advocate for nearly the last three years. There were no instructions or mentors. I was driven by simple desperation to resolve my own issues (late to treatment; October 2018), but also a deep longing to help people. A lot of people. Although not original, I noticed the word "impossible" and changed a negative into a positive with just a single keystroke (i'mpossible). Talk about power; empowerment you can wield too.
Sharing this kind of inspiration is what I live for.
I push extra hard to accomplish more. I'm a fighter. Quitting is not an option for me. I am also tired of either in myself or seeing others just 'getting by' each day. When I write, I seek to help you become as strong and inspired a person as I possibly can. It matters very much how you are treated.
Not all of you. Each and every one of you, instead. Why settle for only just getting by each day? I want to help people like you become more. I want you to become the equivalent of an Avenger; taking the negatives of your lives and uplifting the best in you so you can take on your life with the strength of a superhero.
Welcome to the Team.
|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 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 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!
|Posted on October 18, 2018 at 4:35 PM||comments (0)|
Back in late June of this year, I thought to myself and wondered what would happen to me by my 37th birthday? Let alone in the days and months beyond. My future seemed dark and still rather foreboding. I can scarcely remember a time when perception of my life was hardly any different. Such honesty which I have already been rudely criticized for, I might add. I had not yet reached decisive treatment. Though, thanks to a dear friend, I discovered resource case management and my case manager had begun successfully guiding me towards financial assistance and treatment options that I now have. However, I had not been able to achieve my dearest goal of a definitive way to share what I have learned and reach many more people.
NAMI PA Blair County's "In Our Own Voice" program had failed to get off the ground, despite my having completed the re-training as a co-presenter in early May. No one in the mental health community was able or willing to mentor me. I had only touched the lives of a few hundred people through this website and my ongoing community volunteer work. Though, to my joy, I was able to reach people across the world. It had been roughly a year and a half since I made the brave decision to confront my mental illness, while being driven by a stubborn refusal to give up. All of this despite heightened stress and equally stubborn depression that happened to begin peaking during this summer. This summer, of all times to be under such pressure, was also the 15th anniversary of my suicide attempt. Challenging? Yes, but not a struggle.
Yet, here I am still advocating for mental health awareness and acceptance - anyway.
By the end of June, I felt compelled to write a detailed account of what I had learned up until that time. In fact, speaking of acceptance, I owe being bullied on social media by a former high school classmate for the urge to do the writing. It was a good example of taking a negative and making it a positive. In all, I wrote a total of ten pages in the form of questions and answers. This was my "aDvOcate onto others" blog series I posted back in mid-July. That was also when my suicide attempt was 15 years ago to the week; another negative to a positive. On a whim, I decided to submit the content to NAMI to see if they would be interested to publish any of it.
In no small amount of luck (remember, ten whole pages), NAMI Submissions was interested. More recently, I had also submitted a formal article which they then combined with my 'aDvOcate' content. Their interest was to publish not one, but two NAMI Blogs. NAMI; arguably the most renowned national non-profit resource on mental health. Wow! For NAMI to consider so much content - and - the timing of when they did so could not have been any more fortunate for me.
From all my heart, I personally want to thank Ms. Luna for taking the time and extraordinary effort to consider all that content. As well, the decision to offer me both opportunities of publishing national NAMI Blogs is an important accomplishment I cannot begin to express enough gratitude for. This will strengthen my resolve of continuing to advocate for mental health at a time when, as you will see in the second Blog, is very much in doubt here.
I also want to take this opportunity to dearly thank each and every relative, friend, and community service co-volunteer who is reading this right now supporting my efforts "to do more". As I had expressed to Ms. Luna at NAMI Submissions, thank you for making me possible. However, this is not for me...
This is for you.
All of you. I don't care who. Everyone. Close my eyes and point my finger. Blindfold and spin me around, until I'm dizzy and fall to the ground. Yes, everyone. Despite the challenges I face, now more than ever mental health acceptance is simply necessary. I am going to keep doing whatever it takes to live above my mental illness while striving to help inspire in others the same courage I now hold dear.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to read, and hopefully share this first of two NAMI Blogs. I now present to you:
(click on title for web URL)
|Posted on July 31, 2018 at 1:05 AM||comments (0)|
Poem written by: Jim R. Irion
(click on title for web URL*)
I am not mentally ill.
I have a mental illness.
It does not define me,
or who I can be.
My mental health is important.
Both to me, my friends and family.
I chose to address my mental illness
properly and promptly.
I know in my heart,
what has hurt from the start.
Mental health is important to me,
as it is to help everyone I see.
All lives really do matter;
not one over the other.
I am a suicide attempt survivor.
I know we deserve this life of ours.
Because of you I know why I am here...
Life is worth so much more
than I ever knew all these years before.
|Posted on June 29, 2018 at 1:05 AM||comments (0)|
Right now, my mental health is being challenged to withstand the most stress I have experienced in the last 15 years. After my last blog post, on April 22nd, I knew I had to do something to alleviate the strain I have been going through. This was the biggest reason for why I've been so silent during these last two months. But I also already knew music could serve as an escape or for a way to manage my stress. After all, I have been thoroughly enjoying and experiencing music for most of my life. Earlier this year I shared my first self-music therapy playlist, "The Right Words", which contained more than a dozen lyrical songs. Each song's words really speaks to what having mental illness and facing difficult adversity has been like for me as well as to inspire inner strength.
So, self-music therapy really isn't anything knew here. However, back in May when my mental health symptoms began to worsen, the thought occurred to me that I could take what I had done with that first playlist and go one step further. I could essentially take the fight, or struggling, to my mental health. Would this work, though? Could these playlists help more than The Right Words playlist has? Can music really be personalized and used to combat mental illness in an effective and positive way? What I am about to share with you represents the second and third-ever attempts I have made to use music to my advantage for improving my mental health. I hope that each of you can take away this empowering potential of music in your lives to help you overcome any hardships that you may face.
I would like to share the first of these two new self-music therapy playlists: named Stormbreaker (or sToRmBrEaKeR; capitalized for effect).
The playlist itself turned out to be the largest and longest I have ever made. I delved back through up to 20 years' worth of my self-made compilation CDs, which took 2 whole weeks of every-day-effort to create and organize into this formidable playlist. A playlist whose name was thanks to the inspiration provided by a dear friend of mine, Deb Swanepoel, whom is a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as I am. She inspired the name after going to see Avengers: Infinity War in theaters for a second time earlier this summer. The playlist’s name, Stormbreaker, is the name given to the supremely powerful and supposed Thanos-killing Asgardian axe-hammer seen in both the film and featured in Marvel comics (wielded by Beta Ray Bill).
A King’s weapon, as it was proclaimed in the film, Avengers: Infinity War. The Stormbreaker axe-hammer was touted as the strongest weapon in Asgardian history. “It is so powerful that it was able to deflect a blast from the completed Infinity Gauntlet.” Stormbreaker.
Why name a self-music therapy playlist after Stormbreaker? Excellent question, indeed. The answer is because of the power of the fictional weapon itself and how it is used as a force for good (as well as for my unwavering admiration for the MCU). The supervillain, Thanos, is unbelievably powerful and nearly unbeatable in both the comics and the MCU. In the film, Avengers: Infinity War, Thor pursues forging Stormbreaker with one sole purpose in mind: to defeat evil.
My Stormbreaker playlist contains a total of 93 songs, 89 of which are lyrical and 4 are instrumental, with a total length of 5 hours and 50 minutes. Wow... More like holy.. Wow. Each and every song is not only a favorite that I used to listen to over the past twenty years, but they also have a catchy rhythmic beat and are very strong. Rock, Alternative Rock, Thrash Metal, Industrial Metal, Gothic Industrial Metal, Melodic Death Metal, Heavy Metal, Alternative Christian Rock, Hard Rock, Gothic Metal, Alternative Metal, Rap Metal, and Symphonic Metal. One could say that this playlist contains so much figurative heavy metal, that it is in fact indestructible for the music included within it.
I wouldn't be surprised if, while listening to this playlist, I suddenly feel like shouting "Bring me THANOS". It is that strong.
I would also like to dedicate my sToRmBrEaKeR playlist to a former high school upperclassman whom I have reconnected with in recent months. He has shown a particularly distinguished respect for my advocacy efforts. His chivalrous good nature is unchanged from when I used to know him during Senior High school. I looked up to him then as I look up to him now. Thank you for your honored support, Wayne Campbell. This is for you.
All of the powerful and hardcore music in this playlist is for one intentional and very important purpose: to serve as the first time I have ever gone on the offensive against my mental health symptoms. Symptoms which, as I had mentioned above, are at a critical level for me through the next six to twelve months (time capsule moment). Throughout more than the last twenty years, I have always been on the defensive and at the mercy of my mental health. Since I began my mental health advocacy and focusing community service volunteering directly on mental health awareness, I have been learning more about what I suffer from - and - how I have been able to withstand my mental health for all these grueling years.
One of those most effective methods was mindfulness; knowing thyself.
Yes. I intentionally created this very long hardcore playlist because I am now able to do more to control my symptoms rather than them controlling me. Empowered with the knowledge that I have learned in the last year and a half, I knew music was an effective coping method which I had unknowingly benefited from time and again in years past. So, back in May, the idea came to mind to take that initiative a step further. In fact, leaps and bounds further. Why not create a playlist containing some of the strongest music I have ever listened to? A playlist so powerful that it could potentially serve as a bona fide weapon against severe depression and crippling anxiety.
Hence, when my friend Deb inspired the name for this playlist, “Stormbreaker”, and with all things considered, it felt only natural to choose such a powerful and heroic weapon to name it after. To demonstrate how my style of crafting music playlists has developed so uniquely well over the years, I have decided to share the first two songs in this playlist:
1.) Papa Roach - Days Of War [Metamorphosis]
2.) Linkin Park - No More Sorrow [Minutes To Midnight]
Notice how Papa Roach's song, Days Of War, is instrumental instead of lyrical and how it has a relentless build-up of the beat towards the end. I chose this song specifically for its hard rock genre and to set the tone for sToRmBrEaKeR's signature hardcore strength. I chose Linkin Park's song, No More Sorrow, to be the first lyrical song for a couple important reasons. The first is that I have long since admired the band's standout music, because their first album came out in October the year I graduated high school. But when former lead, Chester Bennington, sadly took his life I also wanted this song here as a tribute to Bennington's one-of-a-kind contribution to both the music industry and the many lives that he touched through the emotional lyrics of his songs.
Although I had considered sharing a full breakdown of the sToRmBrEaKeR playlist here, because it includes music not appropriate for everyone who may read this and so I chose not to. Sharing the purposes behind it, though, was something I simply could not pass up.
Now, I would like to share the second of these two new self-music therapy playlists: named Till The Next Dawn.
While I delved back through up to 20 years' worth of my compilation CDs to find songs for the heavy metal self-music therapy playlist, sToRmBrEaKeR, I also rediscovered additional music that has a special tone to each and every song I decided to include. TiLL The Next Dawn contains music mostly from the gothic rock genre. As I’ve come to know, this genre consists of unique male and female vocals, emotional beats that set the music apart from most I’ve ever listened to, and has a decidedly softer tone than the former playlist above.
Why another self-music therapy playlist? When it comes to maintaining and boosting one’s own mental health, each and every positive influence in your life is an important part of being healthy. So, the more the merrier. While sToRmBrEaKeR will hopefully be a more powerful music influence, TiLL The Next Dawn contains songs that, particularly because of the male/female vocals, strike a unique cord in my mind and heart. They produce a different but still strong emotional effect. This can be helpful for different moods I could be experiencing at any given time that my mental health may be struggling. If sToRmBrEaKeR helps more with empowerment and intensity, TiLL The Next Dawn will help with other moods and for me to feel more at ease.
While I chose not to share the song lists from these two newest self-music therapy playlists, in every sense they still serve a positive purpose for empowering me and inspiring you with the knowledge you have gained. In the weeks and months ahead in my life (time capsule moment), I expect to face some of the toughest challenges with my mental health. I hope that by taking what I have learned in the last year and a half of volunteering in the community I can apply it to improve my mental health when I need it most. No matter whether mental health is a factor in any of your lives or in someone you know and love, you can help yourself and of those you care about by sharing what I am sharing with you here.
Turn the tables against whatever hardships you may face in your lives and find the inner strength to endure as I continue to do.