Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reflections of the Last Year and Preparing for the New Year

It's been one of those years. You know what I mean, where it seems like one thing after another occurs, and you just can't seem to catch your breath between incidents.

Let's recap 2015, physically and mentally. I started out the year with ECT treatments for medication resistant depression and then a psychiatric hospitalization.

Then, I had a series of low back pain injections, due to a continuing low back problem. I had a major fatigue illness that kept me from doing much of anything, including walking my dog for months. I even had a series of IV infusions that were supposed to help me regain my strength. That did help, after awhile.

I knew I couldn't keep up the rate of work I'd been doing before with running several businesses, giving writing workshops, participating on the Board of Directors for Florida Writers Association, blogging, editing and proofreading others work, and freelance writing. Along with taking classes to become certified to teach journal therapy, I was stretched mentally and physically. This could have led to the energy collapse.

So, I chose to concentrate on getting myself well. I resigned from the FWA board of directors, closed my businesses, and stopped freelance writing. I stopped taking journal therapy classes and the weight of it all felt great. I knew my priorities had changed and I now wanted to not only concentrate on getting myself well, but helping others in a more one on one capacity with their writing and with opening up about mental issues. I wanted and did become an advocate for Mental Health.

I even wrote a book titled, "Writing Heals" that gives others an opportunity to discover traumatic issues that had been holding them back, learning to accept them, cope with them, and using writing to overcome them and live a life of joy.

This gave me the strength I needed to schedule my yearly trip to see my kids and grandkids, without fear of flying or travel, or leaving my home. I'd become my own version of my book.

I did have a wonderful time visiting my kids and grandkids in Arizona. My husband even went, giving us some wonderful quality time with everyone.

Then, coming back, I got the news from my Optometrist that I needed immediate Cataract surgery, after a year's determination that my eyes had deteriorated to the point that corrective lenses were no longer available. Going through Cataract surgery for both eyes and then discovering that the healing process brought on Posterior Capsulotomy (a film grew over my new lenses, causing a cloudy view, blurring, halos, etc.) The eye surgeon, Dr. Newsom, said that it sometimes occurs in "younger" patients, when they heal too quickly. So, I then had to have 2 more procedures on my eyes,  to remove that issue.

In the mean time, I was having major GI issues, that ended up with me in the ER, then admitted into the hospital for a series of tests that resulted in a diagnosis of Colitis and Diverticulitis. The Colitis continues to flare up and is not under control yet. While I went through that, I had a black out while walking on the sidewalk behind my husband, that resulted in another trip to the ER to discover that there wasn't anything apparent to cause the blackout but resulted in various bumps, bruises, a chipped tooth, sprained wrist, and broken elbow.


And, the year wasn't over yet. I couldn't keep the incidents straight, they were happening so fast. The next thing I know, I'm in the ER again, with muscle spasms in my low back, so severe I couldn't walk, stand, sit, nothing. The pain was so severe, I called my neighbor to take me to the hospital, where after seven hours they sent me home with medication for muscle spasms and pain and an order for a week of bed rest. This meant I was in bed through the week before and during Christmas. I couldn't even decorate for Christmas, which actually ended up as a good thing, which I'll describe below.

Some of the good things that resulted were helping my husband fulfill his life long dream of getting a pilot's license. He'd been a remote control airplane and helicopter enthusiast his entire life. He'd longed to actually fly airplanes, eventually flying helicopters. So, I decided to help my husband by putting all our efforts toward this goal, including giving up a lot of of our free time with him.

One of the best things that happened was in June, when I opened up to my husband, myself, and my doctors about a 50 year old secret that I'd been keeping. I had an eating disorder. A binge eating disorder. I started seeing a new therapist who brought old insecurities and past traumas to light that helped me understand that by keeping the secret I was actually harming myself more. By, facing it, facing old life traumas, and understanding guilt ridden ideologies, I actually found myself letting go of past control issues and taking charge of my life choices, I finally understood that no one had control of my food issues. Only I could make the choices that resulted in a new pattern of lifestyle thoughts and choices that made me feel better about myself and let go of the guilt I had for so long.

I was able to apply my faith and love of God and His word to help me get through. I was able to let go of the obsessive control I had let others have and discover that I could leave the stigma of weight and food to others and not let them affect me.

I now have a more positive attitude toward food, myself, health and now have an even healthier relationship with nutrition and my body.

I now know that weight loss does not equal healthy eating or recovering from Binge Eating Disorder, and being thin does not equal happiness or health.

I am taking it one day at a time.

Best of all, I've learned better coping skills for Bipolar Disorder, Social Anxiety, General Anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. Skills that don't require psychotropic medications. My psychiatrist was in full support and helped me drop one medication after another.

Because of this, I've found that after eighteen years in the same house, where at one time I was so agoraphobic I couldn't leave my own home, I'm ready to move onto a new path in my life. A life that surrounds my husband's desire to fly and live in a community further away from the city and has its own airport. So, we are. We are moving to a community with its own airport and each house has its own hanger for an airplane.

I'm not even freaking out about it. I think the move will be a wonderful way to start 2016.

Although, when my husband and I thought about moving from our current home, we thought we'd be downsizing and thinning out our possessions. This new home is bigger than the one we have, it's on more land, and if you add the hanger space, three car garage space, and home space, it's more than three times of living space than we have now.

So, that's been my life this past year. Good and bad. Each event led me to a revelation about myself and my life's priorities.

And, my first commitment to myself is to give myself permission to change the direction of the memoir I'd struggled to write for the past year or so, and write with a passion for helping others. That makes me very happy.

I'm also going to make a commitment to increase my physical activity, as the community we are moving to gives Jack (my American Eskimo dog) and me more areas to walk, without getting near a major road.

I'll continue my therapy work on Binge Eating Disorder, reinforcing new techniques to help me be more mindful of my eating habits and choices.

And, I'll work with other writers, giving them of my time and knowledge, to help them become the best writer they can be and help them achieve their writing goals.

I have a wedding to look forward to, as my son is getting married to the love of his life and that could mean more grandchildren on the horizon. (yay!)

Finally, I'll continue my work learning as much as I can about the Bible and Christian History so that I can not only answer my questions, but give me a further perspective about my relationship with God.

The best thing is, with my progress with Bipolar Disorder and other mental issues, I am going to help as a Mental Health Advocate by reducing stigma and increasing knowledge for those who want to learn.

That's it. That's been my 2015 life, and my feelings about my future for 2016. Am I going to make a resolution? Doubtful. I don't think they are necessary and I'd rather work on improving myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and personally with positive affirmations, thoughts, and actions.

I hope that you had an enlightened 2015 and that you can look forward to 2016 without making unnecessary or unachievable resolutions.

Be kind to yourself and to others. Follow Jesus' commandments to love God and one another.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things. -- Philippians 4:8

Turn your thoughts to positive things, as urged by Paul. Make a conscious effort to think gentler, more noble thoughts. Replace all of your bad thoughts with kinder, love-filled thoughts, reducing stress and increasing your peace. Before long, you'll re-train your brain to naturally turn to truth, purity and excellence.

Happy New Year!


P.S. I hope you are enjoying my series on Mental Health. If you have any suggestions for a topic, please let me know.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mental Health Series - Top Five Healthy/Unhealthy Ways to Cope with Anxiety

The Five Unhealthy and Five Best Ways to Cope With Anxiety

Anxiety is something we’ve all probably experienced in our life. We’ve lived through a life-threatening moment where our heart races or we’ve felt anxious about a test or before a hospital procedure.  We may have had to cope with an emergency. This is normal anxiety and it goes away once the situation does.

However, for those who suffer from anxiety, symptoms can continue while the situation doesn’t. These symptoms can frighten a person into an ongoing cycle of worry and anxiety that perpetuates more symptoms.

Anxiety affects us in four distinct ways:

  • ·      How we feel
  • ·      How our body works
  • ·      How we think
  • ·      How we behave

How We Feel?
1      Are you anxious? Nervous? Worried? Frightened
  Do you feel like something horrible is going to happen?
  Are you tense, stressed? Uptight? On edge? Unsettled?
  Do you feel unreal? Strange? Woozy? Detached?
  Are you panicky?

How Our Body Works?
1     1.     Heart pounds, races, skips a beat?
2.     Chest feels tight or painful?
3.     Tingling or numbness in toes or fingers?
4.     Stomach churning or butterflies?
5.     Having to use toilet?
6.     Jumpy or restless?
7.     Tense muscles?
8.     Body aching?
9.     Sweating?
10. Breathing changes?
11. Dizzy, light-headed?

How We Think?
1    1.     Constant Worrying?
2.     Can’t Concentrate?
3.     Thoughts Racing?
4.     Mind jumping from one thing to another?
5.     Imagining the worse and constantly thinking about it?

How We Behave?
1    1.     Pace Up and Down
2.     Start jobs and not finish
3.     Can’t sit and relax
4.     On the go all the tie
5.     Talking quickly or more than usual
6.     Snappy and irritable behavior
7.     Drinking alcohol more
8.     Smoking more
9.     Eating more or less
10. Avoiding fearful situations

Anxiety is an illness that cannot be cured. But with careful management, it can be reduced and treated. You must learn to work on your anxiety by:

·      Understanding your anxiety better
·      Reducing the physical symptoms
·      Altering your thoughts related to anxiety
·      Changing your behaviors related to anxiety

If you do not do these things, the following can occur if you tend to treat your anxiety by following the advice of the worst ways to cope with your anxiety. If you see yourself in any of these situations, please contact a mental health professional or your primary care physician and seek medical attention immediately.

Top Five Unhealthy Ways to Cope with Anxiety

Unhealthy Thinking– Worry, Obsessive thinking, Rumination – all of these can trap your mind in an endless loop and spiral into more advanced mood disorders such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, and other psychological conditions.  Obsessive thinking exaggerates and extends upsetting feelings. Rumination focuses on future outcomes of events that haven’t occurred or gives the person something to worry about by having an uncontrollable preoccupation of the past.

Unhealthy Eating
Stress and anxiety increases your appetite along with triggering the release of a number of chemicals in the brain including adrenaline and cortisol. These make you feel alert to help you handle any threat and make you ready for action. However, whenever you’re overly stimulated with anxiety, your body begins to crave comfort foods for biological and psychological reasons. Your body craves foods associated with memories from childhood and comfort.

Unhealthy Drinking/Drugs/Illicit (Illegal) Activities
One way to avoid your anxiety is to self-medicate with alcohol, drugs or illegal drugs, or other types of illicit activity such as self-harm, like cutting. These activities do not reduce the anxiety, replace the anxiety, or remove the anxiety. They only delay or magnify the symptoms.

Unhealthy Sleeping
One way the body deals with an anxiety attack is to shut down all bodily functions, and sleep. You may think that if you sleep away your anxiety, you will awaken with the anxiety gone and you can then go on with your life. It doesn’t work that way. You’ll only have slept away most of your days and nights and not accomplished anything but worry your family and friends, and possibly lost your job or gotten behind on paying your bills. The anxiety will still be there.

Unhealthy Withdrawal from Social Functions/Friends/Family
When you withdraw from friends, you may begin watching too much television, or do too much of one activity alone. This is not healthy for you. You cannot avoid your issues my avoiding your friends and family. 

Top Five Best Ways to Cope with Anxiety

Physical/Relaxation Exercise
Try some physical exercise to get the heart beating at a regular beat that stretches your muscles, but also try some relaxation methods such  as aerobics, walking, yoga, or massage as well.  By keeping up with healthy exercise, you will automatically assume a healthy sleep cycle.

Social Activities
Keep up with activities in your age group or neighborhood. Go to a senior center if need be, or other group in your appropriate age group. Find out what activities are taking place and join. Talk to your family and friends and form a regular weekly game night. Do whatever makes you happy and joyful.

Maintain a Support System
Reach out and connect with others who you trust and can stay in contact with on a regular basis. Make sure that you include your mental health physician or therapist, your primary doctor, a neighbor, your life partner or closest friend, and anyone else you can trust. These are people who you will be able to go to if you ever need to when an anxiety episode strikes or if you feel the need to use emergency services someone there can call one of these people for you.

If it so moves you, join a local church of your affiliation. There are many functions among the church family. You can always ask for prayer or find someone to pray with you. Listening to self-guided hypnosis or meditation is another way to help you relax and cope with your anxiety.

Healthy Eating
Maintain a healthy balanced diet, as much as possible. Eat lean protein, green vegetables and drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated and avoid sugar and processed foods.

When you become aware of how you handle anxiety, you make healthier choices. Studies suggest that highlighting social ties can deliver certain health benefits.

Remember, you are only one defining decision from a totally different life.

image courtesy of incredible 

Friday, December 4, 2015


The following recommendations can make the experience with your psychiatrist more helpful and satisfying:

1.- Remember to verify with your insurance that your provider is in network or if you need a referral from your PCP, before you schedule your appointment.

2.- The day of your first appointment make sure you have directions and try to get there 15 to 20 minutes early to fill out new patient paperwork.

3.- Be always on time for your appointments. Your therapy time is very important, and every minute counts.

4.- Remember to take with your photo ID and health insurance card with you the day of your appointment.

5.- Write a list including all the prescriptions or over the counter medications, herbs, vitamins or  supplements that you are currently taking and any medication allergies.

6.- Make sure your records from previous providers are sent before your appointment, that way your Psychiatrist can review them beforehand and have a better idea of your history.

7.- If you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment call 24-48 hours in advance. Same as your time, your provider time is also important.

8.- Write down all your symptoms and for how long you have had them. And all the questions you want to ask your doctor as well.

9.- If you don’t understand something, ASK. Your provider will clarify the information for you.

10.- Remember to make your follow up appointments at the end of your visit and get an appointment card with the date and time, as well as the recommendations provided during the current visit all  written so you won’t forget.

11.- Don't worry. Your provider is there for you. Use your time wisely by asking important questions and paying attention. If you don't understand ask your provider to repeat or explain in a way that helps you understand. It might be helpful to bring along a notebook and pen to write down everything said so that you don't have to try and recall from memory.

Do you have tips that can help others? Please list them in the comments below. Thanks!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mental Health Series - International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

According to findings on Wikipedia, International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is celebrated every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving in the United States. It was designated by the United States Congress as a day when the friends and family of those who have died by suicide can join together for healing and support. 
In 1999, Senator Harry Reid , a survivor of his father's suicide, introduced a resolution to the United States Senate which led to the creation of National Survivors of Suicide Day. As citizens of other countries began observing the day in their local communities, it was renamed International Survivors of Suicide Day.
Every year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsors International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, a program that unites survivors of suicide loss across the world. At events in hundreds of cities spanning six continents, survivors of suicide loss gather together to remember their loved ones and offer each other support. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention produces a program shown at these events that features personal stories and advice from other survivors and psychiatric professionals. These events help survivors cope with the tragedy of losing someone to suicide.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. According to USA Today there is a suicide every 13 minutes in The United States of America. Stated in an article by USA Today, there are far less homicides than suicides. In fact, homicide rates have fallen by half since 1991.
According the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, it says this about International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day:
"International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day can change your life. It’s the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope.
Survivor Day 2015 takes place on Saturday, November 21. All gatherings will include a screening of the new Survivor Day documentary produced by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, titled Family Journeys: Healing and Hope after a Suicide
Additional programming is specific to each event. The programming may include presentations by loss survivors and mental health professionals, as well as small group discussions that bring together people who have experienced similar losses.
For many loss survivors, attending a Survivor Day event is the first time they realize they are not alone. Just hearing the stories—from people at all stages of healing—can be helpful. The gathering also provides participants with a chance to share their own stories with those who understand firsthand the challenges of living in the aftermath of a suicide loss."
If you'd like to find a Survivor event near you click here 
Currently, in 2010, in the United States alone, someone dies by suicide once every 13.7 minutes. Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 15 and 24. Did you know that depression is more common than AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined? Every year, in the U.S. nearly 400,000 people attempt suicide. However, although it’s a serious and common problems, -- suicide and depression – many people don’t know about these great risks – including who’s at risk, why, and when they’re most vulnerable.

What this means is, that during a crisis, people aren’t able to find the information they need. But, by using the information below about suicide and depression you may save the life of someone you know.


  • For many years, the suicide rate has been about four times higher among men than among women. In 2010, men had a suicide rate of 10.9, and women had a rate of 5.2. Of those who died by suicide in 2010, 78.9% were male and 21.1% were female.

  • The highest suicide rate was among people 45-64 (18.6) years old. The second highest was 85 years old. (17.6)

  • Young adult ages 15-24 had a suicide rate of 10.5.

  • At particularly high risk are white men over the age of 85 who have a suicide rate of 49.8 deaths per 100,000 in the general population.

  • Did you know that three times more women than men attempt suicide?

  • Four times more men than women actually kill themselves.

  • More than half the suicides in the U.S. are completed with guns. This violent and usually irreversible route is the choice of men.

  • The most common method of women is poisoning; typical an overdose of medication the result of which is lethal.

  • Suicide cuts across ethnic, economic, social and age boundaries.

  • Surviving family members are not only one to suffer the loss of a loved one to suicide, but are also themselves at a higher risk of suicide and emotional problems.

  • “Anyone can call the hotline 800-273-TALK and press "1" for advice, even if they are worried about someone else," adds Dr. Valenstein.


  • Suicide is preventable. Most suicidal people desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems.

  • Two of every three people who commit suicide are depressed at the time they take their life. However, alcoholism plays a role in one in three completed suicides.

  • The risk of suicide in people with major depression is about 20 times that of the general population.

  • People who have had multiple episodes of depression are at greater risk for suicide than those who had had one episode.

  • People who have had a dependence on alcohol or drugs in addition to being depressed are at greater risk for suicide.

  • People who are depressed and exhibit the following symptoms are at particular risk for suicide:
 Signs and symptoms of depression include:
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex.  You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behavior. You engage in escapist behavior such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

Major depression is the psychiatric diagnosis most commonly associated with suicide.

    Suicide rates were the highest in the West (13.6) followed by the South (12.6) the Midwest (12.0) and the Northeast (9.3)

    Did you know that writing style is linked to suicide risk?
    Creativity, depression and suicide have been linked for a long time. So it comes to no particular surprise that some of history’s most creative persons suffered from a mental illness. Depression affected some of the greatest minds such as Charles Dickens, John Keats, and Tennessee Williams. Several famous writers committed suicide, including Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, and David Foster Wallace. 

    Guest what? There’s something even more special about them. This group also has something else in common. They all wrote in the first person, which has been suggested to be a sign of a suicide risk.

    The Impact of Suicide on Those Left Behind

    Suicide is a fact. The numbers are above from reputable sources. But, what happens to those left behind? Of course, they grieve. Their grief for the loss of a loved one is evident, but what else happens to those family and friends who are left behind to pick up the pieces after a loved one's suicide?

    There is a stigma surrounding suicide. For the person who committed the act and the family and friends afterwards. There is a shame associated with suicide that makes even family and friends want to cover up their loved one's real reason for dying and use excuses or labels to reason their way through their loss. They use words such as "accident" or "illness" to cover up the suicide. The investigation or coroner's inquest that can occur afterwards embarrasses them. Why?

    A very good question and one that those left behind should ask a professional counselor or therapist. Possibly, they feel guilt or shame, maybe even feelings of rejection. All of these feelings can be worked through with professional counseling.

    Many of those left behind may even suffer from depression. Studies from John Hopkins University found not only that those left behind have an increased chance for depression, they also have an increased risk of committing suicide themselves.

    For these reasons alone, it's even more important for those family and friends who are feeling and grieving the loss of a loved one after suicide seek professional help as soon as possible.

    Anger, self-blame, grief, confusion are all feelings associated with the effects on family and friends after a loved one commits suicide. Unlike an illness or other type of death, suicide is sudden and unexpected, leaving those behind to have much stronger and even longer lasting feelings of grief.

    Because of the stigma surrounding suicide, it may be difficult for family and friends to talk about their feelings. This is normal. But, it must be impressed upon them how important it is to process those feelings with a therapist.

    For family and friends, processing those feelings can be done in a journal as well. Writing through your emotions and feelings can be cathartic and healing in their own way. Writing does heal. It's been proven time and again through scientific study that the process of writing your strongest emotions and feelings in journal format helps you heal fro your personal traumatic challenges.

    Don't be ashamed to talk or write about your feelings. Seek professional help. Grieve in a healthy way. Process your feelings and don't blame yourself for your loved one's death. Take care of yourself. It's your health that matters the most.