|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 (107)|
"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.
• National Empowerment Center ( 2019, August 9). https://power2u.org/it-matters-how-people-are-treated/.
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 graduate and 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 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 July 15, 2018 at 1:00 AM||comments (0)|
What if you do happen to face stigma while advocating in your own community?
Regardless of anyone who may be considering whether to advocate for mental health awareness, all it takes is having heart and the courage to do the right thing. The most important advice I can give is DO NOT give up. Countless people out there need someone who is strong, outspoken, and capable to be their voice. They fear the risk of social ridicule from their friends, family, coworkers, or worse such as losing their job and being labeled as a threat to society. There have also been numerous times since starting my website when I haven't had enough motivation to continue writing. The site itself did not catch on, page views kept going down, fellow community volunteers haven't seemed to pay as much attention, or that my mental health is at its most challenging for me right now. I may even be stigmatized within my community too, which hurts and makes advocating here all the more difficult to accomplish. Yet, I haven't given up either and I won't.
You will likely encounter at least one member of your community, or an influential community leader, who will not support your advocacy no matter how admirable you conduct yourself. What do you do? What if the stigma against you targets your sexual orientation, race, gender identity, mental health symptoms, or your political views even if you keep them fairly private? As long as you respect those around you, remain determined to share your story, continue learning to be identifiable with more people, and persist to volunteer in your community, we as advocates can still succeed. My strength is still enduring as I learn and grow to become a better advocate each day I do this. Why? Because helping to pave the way for others to find their strength, their voice, or the courage to seek out professional help that they need is what matters most. Living with mental illness is possible just as advocating for awareness is too.
As for me...
I firmly believe my mental illness, and the formative experiences of my youth, strengthened my compassionate trait to the point that I can care about and endure more than the average person, or even a suicide attempt survivor, is able to. By also being a very perceptive and expressive individual, I humbly feel I have an important responsibility and a unique opportunity to advocate for this cause. If I can perceive the nuances of my mental illness and express it effectively, more people can relate to or understand what this is like. They will then be more empowered to seek the professional help needed to improve the quality of their lives, or to encourage their loved ones and fellow members of their community to do the same. Sharing my insight creates a true power to make a lasting positive difference. This is what matters. This is how mental health acceptance can be achieved. Besides, where am I right now?
In fact, during mid-July 2003, fifteen years ago this exact week, I had attempted to overdose. So, right now, I know where I was. Fifteen years is a very long time... And yet, where am I now?
I am still fighting the good fight, the right way. Not by oppressing those who are different than me. Not by demeaning others who may be richer or poorer, older or younger than I am. Not by thinking ill of someone because I am afraid of or do not understand them. And not by going out of my way to throw stones in the paths of others who probably already have a difficult life as it is. I do onto others as I would want others to do onto me. By using respect and mindfulness, I seek to target the very core of societal discord. The likes of peer pressure and bullying have gone far beyond high school, on into every part of our society, and have made mental health acceptance difficult to achieve. In fact, it will not happen in my life time. Unfortunately... On the other hand, this leads to one final question I want to ask You.
How long do I expect to fight this 'good' fight?
I don't get live a normal life. I have been at the emotional and psychological doorstep of my own demise more times than even I am probably aware of. For a number of years I have simply felt ready to go; worn out by years of internal suffering. My back is against the wall, negativity often gnawing at my heels every day, people I know and thought I could trust or droves of absolute strangers literally hate and fear me. Or they go out of their way to make life difficult for me...
In the words of Marvel's Cinematic Universe Steve Rogers/Captain America - and - a fitting six-word psychiatric rehab memoir:
"I can do this all day."
I own this moment same as either of you can too. Bring it on. Bring on the likes of Thanos and bring on the bullies, because I can still do life all day and advocate to help people like me. Not for fame, money, or glory. Certainly not for me...
For all of you.
And for the person who reached out to me seeking guidance as well as to express her respect for my mental health advocacy efforts, this is for You. What you have done and learned so far in your experiences with mental illness have molded you into a remarkable person. Not to mention your creativity and experiences with music. I wish you the very best and brightest with your endeavors to advocate for mental health awareness.
Let us both, and with others like us, stand our ground against stigma to help change the world's perception and acceptance of mental health.
|Posted on July 14, 2018 at 1:05 AM||comments (0)|
Why do I take advocating for mental health awareness so seriously, such as treating people with respect and avoiding confrontational behavior?
When you are dealing with a person's emotional well-being or mental health, it is very important to do more good than harm. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is simply by being as considerate as possible of their feelings. You will only worsen someone's mental health with intentionally negative behavior. For example, I have been bullied ever since high school and as recently as this year. I was personally oppressed by a member of this community for my respectfully expressed political views. Her silence has caused anxiety and paranoia that she may turn others against me. A former classmate vindictively bullied me on Facebook for my views on LGBTQIA+ despite supposedly being a supporter himself. Both of them knew I had a past history of being bullied. The first one also knew that I have mental health diagnoses. Yet, they were intentionally hostile because of their hateful motivations.
So I ask myself, "Should I be treated like this especially if it hurts my mental health?" Absolutely not. Neither should anyone else with or without mental health issues. I take my advocacy very seriously, because I know what being oppressed and intentionally bullied feels like. Miserable, threatened, worthless, as if you shouldn't fit in socially or don't belong on this world at all. Bullying behavior has become a serious problem in our society and a lot more action needs to be done to stop it. If someone demeans you by saying nasty and hateful comments, or threatens to follow you off the city bus and assault you for the outfit you wear (which happened to someone I know), these actions hurt your emotional well-being. I do recognize a need to balance being too hard or soft on someone. Negative bullying behavior, however, serves no purpose but to inflict harm on a person who is probably already struggling.
As the age-old adage goes, "Why can't we all just get along?" Treat others the way you would want to be treated. You won't be perfect or respectful every time or with everyone. I know this just as well as anyone. I have my days where I don't think before I speak, but you sincerely apologize and try to do better next time. And I do mean a genuine, honest apology too. Last year, at the County's annual NAMI Recovery Conference, two representatives from our local Department of Veterans Affairs gave a presentation on mindfulness. This was the very first time I had attended any discussion at length about the topic. What I discovered afterwards was a profound moment in my life. I realized how and why I had been able to cope with my mental illness for all these years. By knowing yourself and regarding how you treat others, which is informal mindfulness, I could also focus on bullying with my mental health advocacy.
This was my reaction once I discovered I could legitimately target bullying along with mental health awareness. And it should be a priority too. I care how I treat people because I care very much about how I am treated. Particularly when it comes to those who have mental health conditions such as Anorexia, Autism, Transgender Identity, Social Anxiety, or Major Depressive Disorders. These diagnoses are either caused or are made much worse by negative behavior. Just a series of nasty remarks can easily have demoralizing effects lasting for months or years. While treating someone like a "snowflake" with "safe spaces" takes it to the opposite extreme, intentionally confronting a person to cause emotional harm only makes matters worse. The longer this trend continues the tougher it will be to achieve mental health acceptance. When advocating, it has also been very important to avoid being unintentionally confrontational too.
During my first time posting public blogs, between 2009 and 2010 as a student attending Penn State Altoona, I had noticed a trend with social media that I felt was troubling. People would post blogs declaring their opinions or unsubstantiated points of view as facts. Or they would make inflammatory comments on websites, such as Twitter, and accomplish nothing except to anger many people who read what was posted. So, back then when I started blogging I made sure to present the topics I discussed in a straight forward, objective manner and kept my personal opinions to myself. I quickly realized the benefit of this approach when I started my advocacy in late 2016. Instead of making assumptions about mental health I could be mindful or would cite professional sources. Rather than causing an uproar by boasting personal opinions I would avoid being confrontational. Mental health should be taken this seriously because bullying is a major problem affecting mental health.
Not everyone, however, has made the same choice.
Since I last attended college during 2010, bullying behavior has worsened dramatically especially after the 2016 US Presidential Election. Racism, homosexuality and gender identity, conservative versus liberal ideologies as well as political or pro-Trump views, stigma and fear that still surround mental illness as opposed to mental health, have all become much more volatile issues in the public mind. Many people have seemed to care less about their ignorance and more about oppressing others sometimes without remorse. The unfortunate casualty of this is us; those caught in the middle of the social unrest. The more confrontational we are, or when it comes to mental health, the worse off we will all be. I advocate with such a priority of treating others with respect, and to avoid expressing inflammatory opinions, because I would be making things worse if I didn't. No one's mental health would improve.
So, I need to set a good example as an advocate and as a person if I ever hope to help improve mental health awareness.
People who identify as a different sexual orientation or gender identity are very contentious issues. How have I dealt with this when I advocate for mental health awareness?
In order for mental health acceptance to be achieved, I feel I need to be respectful and considerate of others. That means everyone, including those who identify as LGBTQIA+. Having un-coerced interest towards the same sex, knowing you feel your identity is the opposite gender since childhood, and so on, should not subject a person to intentional harassment, violence, or discrimination from anyone. Why? Do onto others as you would want others to do onto you. As long as the individual, who identifies as LGBTQIA+, is respectful and considerate towards their peers then they deserve as much of a right to be treated with respect and kindness as I do. Same as with people of a different skin color, age, gender, religious or political beliefs, mental health diagnoses, and the list goes on. However, as I'd said above, this issue has become much more challenging to deal with particularly when advocating for mental health awareness.
By anger and from fear, or stigma.
At least in this country, it has become more socially acceptable to intentionally lash out with bullying behavior than to be considerate of others regardless of the differences involved. The end result has been more confrontations, more animosity, suicide rates have gone up, and gun violence particularly in public schools has increased, rather than actual peaceable acceptance and cooperation to work towards getting along with each other. You don't have to accept everyone different from you, but do not go out of your way to harass someone unless you want to be treated the same way. No one should be oppressed or bullied to accept people either. Yes, this includes the National LGBT movement as well. Fighting fire with fire does not put the fire out. It makes matters worse. People feel angry, hateful, hated, defensive, or defenseless. In the end, no one's emotional well-being gets any better.
This includes the people who do honestly identify as LGBTQIA+, because they have an equally difficult time with social acceptance and their own mental health.
So, what should you do? To be honest, and in keeping with my objectivity, you really don't have to do anything I advise here. I have shared numerous well-thought out and very mindful points of view on a lot of issues related to mental health and awareness advocating. What I feel has worked and should achieve positive mental health improvements has been to treat people with mutual respect. If someone is of a different racial background from me, whether they are different by age, economic status, have any various mental health diagnoses, or identify as LGBTQIA+, I do - and advocate - onto everyone as I would want everyone to do onto me. This is a truly golden rule which will go a long way towards making a difference that matters even if you face stigma in your community.
July 15th, 2018:
|Posted on July 13, 2018 at 1:05 AM||comments (0)|
What unique qualities do I have which help me to advocate for something as sensitive and complicated as mental health?
Besides being an ideal choice because I suffer from the same issues I advocate for, I humbly feel I possess two standout qualities that give me a particular advantage to be effective. The first is from how perceptive I am. For as long as I can remember I have been well tuned with the use of my senses to experience the world around me. The soft sound of birds chirping in the early morning hours, the variations of vibrantly colored leaves on trees seen during autumn, the smell of fresh air when you open a window (depending on where you live), traditionally made Italian Stromboli with the delicious taste of smoked ham and melted cheese, or the softness from the edge of a blanket upon my fingertips. With practice and patience, mindfulness can also enhance these sensory experiences as well as those in your mind. When it comes to matters of the mind, the level of detail is no less vivid or compelling.
For example, the affirmation of good values when I received praise for thoughtful thank you cards I'd written to my elder relatives in years past, the empowering sense of identity when someone shares your respectful beliefs or life experiences, or when a trusted friend or relative is genuinely there for you when you need it most. On the other hand, perception of positive experiences also includes perception of the equally negative too. A singular example I'll share is realizing that even if I were to consider ending my life it would not solve anything. There is no coming back from that; no second chances. Yet to feel so lost, hopeless, lonely, or without purpose, and to be thrust against the very choice I know will not help me at all. Literally feeling trapped between life and death itself, in a way that many people may never truly understand or accept. Being this perceptive does require a certain amount of strength.
The second unique quality, as you've just seen, is that I have a way with words. I can be very detail oriented to explain intimate experiences with rich and descriptive expression. Ever since the science fiction I watched while growing up had awe inspired my imagination, I've had an interest in some form of writing to express this creativity. I used to try writing short stories before and after I graduated high school as well. In my experience of this talent, words are like a single shade of color on a painter's palette; simply pick a word. The world is at your fingertips. With continued practice and the use of mindfulness, I feel I have been able to put into words some of the most basic and complex emotional experiences despite just being an un-trained amateur. If I can use these two skills to my advantage, to perceive and express my mental health, then many people can benefit from my efforts.
What have I learned about advocating for mental health awareness that would be helpful to share?
One of the most helpful things I have personally learned is that I am not an expert on advocating in general or for mental health. I constantly remind myself of who I am in the grand scheme of things by practicing mindfulness to be aware of myself and those around me. I try to have humility so I can be humble for how I advocate on anyone's behalf. I also strive to keep myself in check from being over-confident because I feel I always have more to learn regardless of the circumstances or the issues involved. Mental health is very complicated and ever-changing. What works for or was one person's experiences will not be the same as someone else. That being said, after almost two years I feel I have learned some important things about mental health and my own experiences which could be helpful to share with all of you.
In order to advocate, I have recognized the need to withstand at least some negativity in order to provide details that are productive for people to learn from. This includes those with mental illness, the general public, and service providers. If my most difficult experiences include suicide, for example, then I must be able to manage those harsh emotions before I can hope to advocate about them effectively. My attention to sensitive experiences is not something a person with mental health diagnoses should do without first making sure they are prepared to handle the additional emotional pressure. I have found that it takes strength to endure my mental illness and to advocate. Yet, this is strength that people can and do possess. I believe it. With attention to detail and being prepared to shoulder the extra burden, people such as me can go a long way with effective advocacy for mental health awareness.
If I can be strong enough to share helpful details about my perception of mental illness, I also need to be identifiable and to a wealth of different people. There may be a dozen ways for me to express what a certain symptom is like from my point of view. Though, not everyone's experiences or symptoms would be the same as my own. I could also personally identify with anyone that I hope to reach out to because I want to help them. Yet, not everyone will find it easy to identify with me whether they have a mental health condition or not. It is important that I strive to adapt what I share and how I advocate so I can be more identifiable. The more people whom can relate to me will generate more of the social bonds that can empower those same people for improving the quality of their lives and of those around them. It is also an important responsibility to advocate accordingly towards people of many different backgrounds.
You will find different age groups, nationalities, unique life experiences or various mental health symptoms, people who have been or are incarcerated, different faiths or religious beliefs, individuals battling addiction or who are co-occurring with their mental health symptoms, suicide attempt survivors versus victims of suicide loss, combat veterans with or without physical disability but may be more likely to internalize emotions, differing sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as friends, colleagues, and relatives of or those with mental health conditions themselves; virtually every walk of life imaginable each with their own unique experiences. These are also people that can benefit from a capable advocate who respects and understands their uniqueness. It is very important to be as appropriate as possible with how you advocate as well.
A good example is from the fact that I am a suicide attempt survivor. I may be able to share these sensitive experiences or feel driven to help others like me. On the other hand, I need to be mindful of who I am around or where, and of how I share my own personal experiences. Mental health topics, such as suicide, are not as easy for everyone to understand, accept, or to handle on their own. For example, some suicide attempt survivors and especially survivors of suicide loss have a difficult time with this issue simply because it can get very emotional. Different diagnoses such as Bipolar, Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa, Autism, Co-occurring with Addiction, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are challenging to deal with individually. These conditions may also be stigmatized in society at any given time as well. Intimidation and fear of reprisals still keep many people in silence.
Although there is a growing trend of acceptance towards mental health, it has been my priority to be as mindful as I can of how appropriate I am. While I tend to be more outspoken and realistic with my blogging, I have learned I need to be more professional when interacting with community leaders to avoid being stigmatized as a suicide risk. For the last half year, I have become more involved with our local Suicide Prevention Task Force and have learned to be careful what I say about suicide due to how sensitive an issue it is to others. While I continue to volunteer as a member of NAMI, I have learned to make sure I keep advocating for those who identify as LGBTQIA+. They are an important group of people facing a particularly challenging time of finding acceptance and wellness in their lives. Suicide attempt survivors are often feared by society when many of us are some of the most compassionate and caring people you will ever know.
By making sure I am as appropriate as possible with my writing, my attitude, and community service volunteering, I will help create a more positive environment for mental health acceptance as well as to set a lasting proper example for others to respect and follow.
July 14th, 2018: