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Part of the journey... Conclusion

Posted on April 24, 2019 at 1:05 AM Comments 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.


Whatever.

;t.

Takes."

(adapted from the Avengers: Endgame film trailers).




#BeHereTomorrow and every day after that.” Kevin Hines.

Kevin & Margaret Hines Foundation





Let me be the inspiration that runs through your ve;ns.” J;m Ir;on.

Part of the journey... Part Two

Posted on April 23, 2019 at 1:05 AM Comments 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:

"Part of the journey...  Conclusion"

Part of the journey...

Posted on April 22, 2019 at 1:05 AM Comments 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, again"



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?


Retaliation.


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!

Woooooo!


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:

"Part of the Journey...  Part Two"

A New Year's update long overdue

Posted on March 5, 2019 at 1:00 AM Comments 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.

My second-ever NAMI Blog!

Posted on November 2, 2018 at 6:20 PM Comments 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:



"Facing Discrimination While Advocating".

(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!

My first-ever NAMI Blog!

Posted on October 18, 2018 at 4:35 PM Comments 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:



"Things I've Learned from Advocating For Mental Health".

(click on title for web URL)

Undeterred, I am

Posted on September 12, 2018 at 1:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Hello once again and welcome back to following my journey for mental health and acceptance. This is Jim Irion. It is a pleasure to have you with me. Thank you. I must apologize for my absence from blog writing since my July 12th-15th blog series, "aDvOcate onto others". In the weeks afterwards, of all places I encountered additional stigma from within the mental health community here...


I first discovered this troubling trend and had highlighted it in my blog on June 30th. Unfortunately, more clear efforts at stigmatizing me due to my mental health occurred that I did not expect. As a result of the last incident, I spent some time alone to gather my thoughts and regroup my efforts. I honestly had hoped I would not face such inappropriate conduct. Since those involved have considerable influence, I felt I had to remain silent while strategizing my next move. On the other hand, almost as if by a miracle I had a breakthrough with my writing virtually at the same time as this stigma threatened to exclude me from community involvement.


The initial fortune from this new development empowered me to stand up to the stigma here by taking my writing to a whole new level. While I do not wish to disclose what either of these two matters of writing involve just yet, rest assured I will be making an announcement about them in the coming weeks. I want to be as professional as possible with the timing due to the utmost respect I have for the party involved and the opportunity they have offered me. I will then reveal more about my extra efforts at writing in the last four weeks up to today.


So, although this is rather short today I hope you will stay tuned and join me within the next month when I am ready to make the humble announcement. Your patience will be well rewarded.


Remember that, although mental health may not be accepted within your own community right now, never give up hope or falter with your efforts to pursue that necessary acceptance because it is very possible. Thank you, kindly.

NotAlone.Nami.org poem submission

Posted on July 31, 2018 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Mentally Ill?

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.

aDvOcate onto others, Part 4/4

Posted on July 15, 2018 at 1:00 AM Comments 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?


Still here.


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...


So?


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.


Worth it.



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.

aDvOcate onto others, Part 3/4

Posted on July 14, 2018 at 1:05 AM Comments 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.


WOOHOO!!


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.


How?

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:

"aDvOcate onto others,  Part 4/4"


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