Reflections of A to Z Challenge April 2018

Blog A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

A few days after I had started blogging again, a blogger I follow posted her theme reveal for the April 2018 A to Z Challenge. https://promptlings.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/a-to-z-challenge-2018-theme-reveal/.   As I read her post, I got excited because this Challenge sounded like a perfect way to develop the habit of writing every day. My life is less hectic now, and I felt there was really no excuse but to be consistent with my writing.  I knew the exercise would help me to be more disciplined.  I also enjoy and actually fare better, when I am working with a team or in a community. I thought this was perfect!

Without much thought to the process, I clicked the link and signed up.  I did not post on all twenty-six letters, but I was glad that I was able to get as much done as I did.  The A to Z Challenge April 2018 did serve its purpose for my personal goals.  I have made blogging part of my daily routine.  I didn’t get much feedback, but I did enjoy exploring other blogs.  Because of my limited experience with blogging, I learned a lot from the different styles of writing, and of course, I enjoyed the creativity.  It also encouraged me to take more pictures when I am out and about. 

There were some issues that made the A to Z Challenge more demanding than it needed to be.   The first was I was sick the first week of the challenge and the next week I was trying to catch up until I convinced myself that was not necessary.  I breathed a sigh of relief and moved on.  Second, my theme was broad and not clear – even to me.  I chalk it up to the fact that I really had no clue what I was doing when I signed up, and I had no overall plan.   Sometimes I felt like I was on Sesame Street trying to find a prompt from random words for the “letter of the day.”   Somedays it was amusing to me as I sang … “the letter of the day is here…” in my head of course.   I was able to come up with a post whether from my unfinished work or an idea that popped into my head while humming that tune all morning.

The only negative thing I can say is that for some reason I did not feel connected to the group.  Perhaps I misread the instructions, and as I indicated I earlier, I didn’t understand the process.  I tried to get back to the original page where I had signed up to review the instructions, but I could not find it.  I did not understand it was a page outside of WordPress.com.  I did not get the daily badges with a different letter each day.  I still don’t understand much about the spreadsheet or how to post to a community page.  I’m hoping this will get there. 

Overall, there is no question that I would do it again.   Thanks so much to the hosts for organizing it; looks like there was a lot more behind the scenes work than I realized. I’m hoping I can get things straight for next year.   Looking forward to 2019.   Lindi Roze

 

Mental Health stories of courage and resilience Part 3

Y is for the true You inside

Welcome to part 3 of the Mental Health stories that are part of the memories I carry with me. This mini-series resulted from the April 2018 A to Z writing Challenge. If you’d like, you can go back to part 1 and start at the beginning.   Again at the end of the post, I will add a couple of links to provide resources for additional information. 

At some point, my life path crossed with those of the individuals that I write about this week. These are not stories of magic wands and happy endings but of audacity and survival. I may not know all the details of their lives, but I cherish the snapshots they left behind. They remind me that, at the core, we all have our “you,” our essence that makes us who we are. In these posts I will tell you about two women; their stories are very similar, but each one of us is unique in the way we face our challenges or our demons. 

Della Mae and Margaret had a lot in common. I met both women when they were around middle-aged. They both were married once; both had children they did not raise. They had experienced multiple long-term hospitalizations in the wards of state mental hospitals in the 1960’s and 70s – before patient rights and deinstitutionalization. They both carried the dual diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse. Their Bipolar Disorder was with manic episodes, and their substance of choice was alcohol. Alcohol abuse is common among persons who try self-medicate and manage their symptoms without professional help; it’s socially acceptable, legal and at least initially slows the racing thoughts.

Della Mae was born and raised in the South. She met her husband shortly after high school while he was stationed at a military base near her hometown. They were married and moved North. Together they started a family and a business. She helped with the secretarial and administrative duties at the company for many years. Eventually, they were divorced; he had custody of the children – a boy and a child.

I met Della Mae as part of discharge planning from the state hospital. She was familiar with the system. She had been to various state-run hospitals since her first “break” decades ago. She didn’t talk about past; it was not necessary in order to make plans for the future. She was angry at herself and the world because she had gambled with life and lost it all – again. As she walked through the gray metal doors upon discharge, she squared her shoulders and held her head high carrying all her worldly possessions in one shopping bag.

Della Mae went to live in a small supported housing apartment with another woman, also making her way back to the community after a lengthy hospital stay. Staff was onsite but not in the unit. She started volunteering, eventually obtained a part-time job at a local non-profit and bought a used car. Because of her age, she was able to get on a waitlist for Affordable Housing for seniors. At first, she was reluctant. She did not want to be living with “old busybodies,” but soon realized age was an advantage because general subsidized housing vouchers had a ten-year waitlist. She had her own apartment in a little over a year.

Things were stable for Della Mae. She had not required a psychiatric hospitalization for several years. I was meeting with her less frequently. Her daughter Kara, now an adult, started coming over for visits. One day Della Mae called me to move up her appointment, she needed to talk. We went for coffee at a small quiet shop near her apartment because her daughter had stayed with her and was taking a nap.

As soon as we sat down, Della Mae told me she had started decreasing her medications. She had not told her doctor yet, but she had made up her mind. It was her right to refuse treatment. She explained that on her medication, she felt numb. Things were going on in her life and her daughter’s that merited some kind of reaction, but she could not feel a thing, not sadness, nor rage, not even joy at reuniting with her daughter.

Della Mae and I talked about the risks, but she knew all about it. This was not her first rodeo. We scheduled an appointment with her doctor and therapist to review her Safety and Crisis Plan to try to mitigate the risks. No, she didn’t want her daughter involved. We talked about that point of no return where nothing was going to stop the snowball effect in her life. Even though her history told a different story, she believed that if she remained sober, she could make it work. This was her life, and she was in charge.

As it turned out, her daughter had also been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Della Mae’s rage and sadness were from not being able to protect her daughter from that. Kara had left her father’s house to stay with Della Mae, but that jeopardized the subsidy at the elder housing complex. Della Mae could not ask her daughter to leave, and that’s where the snowball started for both of them. The stress and conflict around the housing situation proved to be what tipped the scale. Eventually, Kara was also referred for supportive community services, and they both began to restore what they had lost.

There are plenty of people who are able to rebuild their lives without community supports, but I am telling the stories from my experience. I found that in the absence of a robust natural support system these dedicated professionals have helped countless individuals fight stigma and get back to a life worth living.

Please check out the links below for additional information for family supports as well. Many times family and friends want to help but don’t know how. There is also information about Peer support groups and peer mentoring programs. No one has to do this alone.

SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) at https://www.samhsa.gov/
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness (a grassroots organization run by families and consumers) https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI

Mental Health Stories of courage and resilience Part 1

A to Z challenge and the letter Y

A few days ago I wrote a whimsical post about the fun side of living on the edge of reality. As I wrote that post, I made a promise to myself and to the ghosts of past clients, that I would tell their stories of courage, resilience, and survival. I knew just where to put it. I was working on the April 2018 A to Z Challenge and I worked on the story while waiting for the letter “Y” because Y is for The You Inside and I haven’t forgotten. Because these are the stories of real people, I wanted to take time and be true to them. I will post each story as a different part this week.  I also decided to hold the post a few days because, since 1949, May has been Mental Health Awareness Month. This year Mental Health Awareness Week is May 14-20, 2018.

Case Manager Vs. Life Coach

In a previous life, I was hired by the Department of Mental Health to join an army of professionals and para-professionals. We were tasked with providing community services for persons with recurring and persistent mental illness as the push for deinstitutionalization continued from the previous decade. New medications were addressing the symptoms of their illness and we were going to help them return to their communities to find a “life worth living”. I was a Case Manager. Actually, I considered myself more of a Life Coach; I was ahead of my time. I can fill my days simply writing the stories of the men and women I’ve met. Instead, I will tell you of the snapshots that jump from my memory when I see the news or hear the debate about affordable healthcare.

For some reason, she wanted to die.

Time and again, I remember the day one of “the new girls” ran to our apartment crying and looking for my mother. They needed help because their mother had just eaten some rat poison. For some reason, she wanted to die. Days later, I accompanied my mother to visit the neighbor in the psychiatric ward. I didn’t remember seeing her before that day; she looked like death warmed over. We caught a glimpse of others on the ward; they looked the same, pale gray figures, walking in circles. It was scary. I was a just beginning my teens, it was the late 1960s.

Anne

I met Anne when she was in her late thirties. She had been a clerk for IRS when she had her first major “break down”. She had become angry and the police took her away. She was a tall, woman with a large build. Her short blonde hair was starting to turn gray and she glared at me with powder blue eyes. She explained that she had been angry because no one believed her story that the Mayor had raped her when she was a child playing with his daughter. We worked together for several years after that meeting and I learned her perpetual glare was more a sign of fear than defiance. She lived in fear, never knowing when “the cops would show up and haul her away for no reason.”

It was the mid-1980s. She had a long history of psychiatric hospitalizations precipitated by psychotic thinking and consequent irrational, uncontrollable anger; this was common jargon in hospital records back then. Her mother couldn’t confirm her rape story. No one bothered to corroborate it because it was considered a symptom of her illness. She carried the diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia. She told me she had stopped her meds often because she didn’t like how they made her feel; she felt no need to elaborate. Anne had been discharged on an injectable medication to assure compliance. She agreed to move into a group home to increase her independent living skills. It was my job to get her an apartment in the community and provide support to get her out of the revolving door that kept her in and out of hospitals. Needless to say that it all sounded so much better on paper.

In our society, social drinking of alcohol is quite acceptable. Some people say it takes the edge off and they can relax. They feel more social. Unfortunately, we all know folks who are better off when they don’t drink at all. One particular year, things were going well for Anne. She had her own apartment in a nice part of town and had made friends with some neighbors who were not associated with her life as an ex-patient.  Sometimes, they would all go out to listen to a band and have a good time.

Y is for the true You inside

Anne and I would talk about how to stay safe in the city and about the risks associated with mixing alcohol and meds especially an injectable medication. Part of my job, of course, was to point out all she had achieved while on the prescribed medication. I don’t remember the exact conversation or the words I used but I do remember something I said caused her to stand up and stared down at me with her powder blue eyes, holding back her tears “you don’t understand do you? You never will. Those medications take away my YOU. THAT’s who I really am. Who I’ve been from the day I was born. It’s my dreams, who I want to be. It’s MY reality. The one on the medications, that’s not me. The one everyone says is doing soo well”, she added with a touch of sarcasm, “She is a product of the meds.”

Irrational thinking starting to sound rational

She went on to ask questions like who determines what’s irrational. Who determines what right and wrong, what is true or not? And then she started telling me that no one knows that Bill Clinton comes to visit her and loves her. She explained that they had to let Hillary stand next to Bill in her place in the news because she looks better for the TV cameras. A part of me could rationally understand what she was saying about her dreams and her meds.  I can’t begin to explain, however, what it feels like to watch someone lose their grasp on reality, know where it’s heading and feel powerless to stop it. It was her right to drink socially as it was her right to refuse medication and treatment. I’ll try to touch on the laws surrounding this in one of my other posts.
It was months before she ended up in the hospital again. Yes, the police were involved.

It was another few months before she was ready to go home again. Fortunately, we were able to save her apartment and she didn’t have to start at the beginning again, even so, it wasn’t easy to return to that place. Eventually, we found another apartment and she found another group of friends. I don’t know if she ever made peace with her You and her medications, but she certainly gave me an education that I could never repay.

Resources

You can find many more stories, resources to find services or general information for consumers and their families at the following sites:
SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration) at https://www.samhsa.gov/
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness (a grassroots organization run by families and consumers) https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI

Please look out for my other posts related to this topic.

Voting- A to Z challenge letter V

Blog challengea2z-h-small.

I was struggling with whether or not to use today’s letter “V” to broach the subject of Voting. Elections or anything remotely in the political arena puts me over the edge. It’s definitely an area that I tend to “self-censor” for the benefit of those around me. I noticed a couple of folks did use the word for the AtoZ challenge and so having participated in a rather animated meeting the other night; I decided to jump in and talk about Voting.

Full disclosure – sometimes I want to shake people who show such apathy towards the election process. I can’t wrap my head around it. It’s sad to me that people don’t realize what a privilege it is to live in a country where each citizen is entitled to one vote – to have a say in how the country is run and how funds are dispersed for services. Voting does matter!

Originally it was only white, male landowners who were able to vote on the laws of the land. Through centuries of strife and struggles women, Native Americans, former slaves and other foreign-born were granted the all rights of citizenship, including the right to vote. This privilege was not handed to us but earned with blood, sweat, and tears -literally. If we the people don’t use our power to have a voice, the elected officials can take it upon themselves to make decisions based on what they think is the best interest of their constituents. We have seen referendums and laws shot down or put away because there hasn’t been enough interest from the general public. We have seen others put in place before anyone could appreciate the detrimental impact on the nation.

Don’t get me wrong; I get it. I happen to like this stuff, and yet I too get tired of the rhetoric. I like the research, the arguments, and hearing the candidates’ plans to make things better. I like studying the ins and outs of new proposals. I don’t listen to just one side. To know my choices, I research both viewpoints as much as can. I have voted for a candidate based on past performance regardless of party affiliation. I have become quite active and passionate about some issues, but there are times when even I’ve had enough and want it over. I think in our era of social media and cable networks, all the input can be overwhelming.

What I hear most from people is that it doesn’t matter because “they” are all the same. “They” are just out for their self-interests, out for the money. Despite what we have seen recently, I can tell you “they” are not all the same. Some have sought office with genuine intention to serve rightfully but then lose their vision fighting the uphill battle caught up in the bureaucracy. I have also seen men and women in office fight for their constituents as if they were fighting for their own family members. I do believe we play a role in not letting our representatives get complacent or stagnant. They need our feedback, our letters, our phone calls and our attendance at town meetings to help them have the pulse on what is going on back home.

I can sit here and tell you that one party is better than another but I ask you instead to love your country enough to take a stand for democracy and vote. Be responsible. I can’t stress enough to look beyond the headlines and the talking points in political ads. Knowledge takes away the fear factor. Don’t just “share” trash on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Research what you are reposting – especially if it sounds absurd or preposterous –even if it is sympathetic to your beliefs. Let’s not have a repeat of false information spread throughout the web as we’ve had in recent years. There are plenty of sites where you can do a quick fact check. Here are a few to get you started: Fact Checker, Politifact, Snopes, The Sunlight Foundation.  There are others but these have been widely recognized to use neutral language to prevent even an appearance of bias.

In closing, I ask you to check your local voting lists. Make sure you are still on the list, and all your vital information is current. Maybe you were dropped for not voting. If you need to register, you can do it online at https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote.
Know your candidates and ballot issues. If you can’t make a meeting with candidates, go to their website to get the details of their platform. If they have been in public service before, you can research their voting record at such sites as https://votesmart.org/; https://www.headcount.org/issues-and-candidates/; https://www.usa.gov/voter-research.
There will be plenty of information online and in handouts all over your city as we get closer to November.

Don’t take for granted what our service men and women have fought for around the world. Don’t just wave your flag on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July – make it count in November. We are part of an already great nation but WE THE PEOPLE need to step-it-up. We can do this!

The Red, White and Blue

Upside Down – A to Z challenge letter U

 

What happens when your world is upside down, and you feel like you are holding on to the edge with your fingertips? How do you manage to get back on top or at least get a better grip?

The other day I received a message from a young man who I hadn’t spoken to in about 30 years. The last time I saw him, he was 16 or 17, and I was his Youth Leader in church. Some of you may be doing the math and maybe don’t consider this a young man, but time and memory are funny that way. Your memory keeps those snapshots of the way it was, and in this situation, we both found ourselves the way we were.

He was never your typical Choir Boy or Boy Scout. In truth, he was the proverbial black sheep of his family, but he had a good heart, and one could tell he just couldn’t get out of his own way. Although his mother was a leader in our church, her son was out of reach to her and his immediate family. The rest of us tried to bridge that gap during those turbulent years and so when he reached out, I was there for him- his youth leader again.

He got straight to the point. Since I had last seen him, he had continued with his self-reported “craziness” for several years but when he met someone with “good sense”; he fell in love, and his life began to turn around. They’ve been married for twenty plus years; have three lovely children-already finishing college. He went back to church for a while, bought the house with the picket fence, the furnishings, the cars and the dog. A few months ago, without warning, his wife announced that she needed space and wanted to separate for an indefinite period. He felt he couldn’t go on without her; everything he’d accomplished had been for her. I reminded him that this was what he had always wanted and he achieved it. Not just for her, but for himself.

I listened carefully with my third ear, trying to hear what was actually going on. I don’t make assumptions, I don’t know his wife, and although I believe our core stays the same, the chances are that so much time has passed, that I don’t truly know who this young man has become. In my experience, things never come out of the blue.

When he was done, I asked a few questions. Some he wasn’t ready to answer, but he listened.  He was briefly able to step back and recognize some of the things I was talking about. Naturally, when it was too painful, he deflected, and we moved on. Put in on the back burner, I told him, and I shared some of what has helped me in times of trouble or distress.  The trick to survival is using your tools.

• Take care of yourself. Stay healthy. Get out and move – exercise. Keep your mind clear and grounded with mediation or prayer or both. If you know substances like alcohol or drugs are a trigger, don’t reach for that as your life saver. The chances are that you’ll go under to the dark side quicker.
• Be open to self-reflection but don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes, just be honest with yourself. Are you doing the best you can? Is this your best self?
• Try to walk in the shoes of the other person but don’t judge. Don’t take it personally. Each one of us is dealing with our own issues, battle scars, and fears. Yes, even your life partner may have difficulties communicating some things. Don’t push. Be ready to accept and respect the other person’s decision.
• Remember each day is a clean slate. We can make it what we want. Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my favorites said “With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” from Brainyquote.com

It happens to all of us. How do you get back on top when your world is upside down?

Blog challengea2z-h-small.