Saying Wedding Vows is Easier than Living Them

 30th Wedding Anniversary Flowers

30th Wedding Anniversary Flowers

As I write this my husband and I recently celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary...it is a miracle we made it past 17 years as we nearly divorced.  Saying wedding vows may come easy but marriage is hard.  Marriage is supposed to be a lifelong covenant you make to one another, in sickness and in health through all challenges including financial.  I am forever grateful that I have a husband that continues to honor those vows.

My medical challenges over the years have been difficult on me and my family.  For those of you that read my book, A Mother's Climb out of Darkness, you know that I would not be alive today without my faith as well as the dedication and support of my husband.  I am forever grateful.  The difficulties of my health challenges is what nearly ended our marriage in 2005 but thankfully, I found peer support, which was essential for me as it helped change the course of my recovery.  Renewing our wedding vows in 2008 at 20 years was important.  Life was going well at that time and did for quite some time after but more recent years have been difficult. 

I have learned it is essential to not give up on someone you love even when you may not like them at times.  Keeping communication open and honest is critical to any relationship but especially marriage.  As I am learning to navigate my recently entered perimenopausal/menopausal years, I must have patience with myself and my loved ones, who are doing the best they can to understand while dealing with their own life circumstances.

 My hubby and I back in July 1988   

My hubby and I back in July 1988

 

In my opinion, marriage requires a dedicated love that needs to remain present despite circumstances. Lots of prayer and good counsel help too.  We can not predict the future but we can be certain that life will not always be easy.  When you commit to keeping your promises to each other, you can navigate the difficult times together while cherishing the joyful and good times as well. 

 

Additional Reading:  How to Cope with an Ill Spouse

We cannot survive without men......

 Photo By Jennifer Hentz Moyer

Photo By Jennifer Hentz Moyer

As I write this blog, it is the day after father's day, a special day honoring dads but, in my opinion, really should honor all men even boys, many of whom will be fathers one day.  I have been blessed to have several important men in my life.  My own biological father, a former World War II pilot, who came home from war, met my mother and gave life to 9 babies, 8 of whom survived, me being the youngest.  He loved us all tremendously.  My loving, dedicated, hard-working, strong and protective husband, who has been the steady, supportive man that God knew I needed in the journey of my life.  I supported him before we married as he took on the tough training of a U.S. Marine Corp reservist.  He learned he loved airplanes and that he had the ability to repair them and take on any challenge that he would face in his life.

My husband and I had no idea the challenges we would face as a couple but we were dedicated to each other.  We originally said our vows almost 30 years ago.  We almost didn't make it past 17 years of marriage because of the long-term aftermath of an illness that struck us back in January 1996.  The illness would change the course of our lives forever, but before it struck, I was given a gift.  The gift of a beautiful baby boy, who is now another amazing man in my life.  Me and my husband's son, who was born just 8 weeks before the illness attacked, has brought such richness and joy into our world.

Despite the many unexpected challenges we have faced as a family, we have been able to keep moving on and help each other the best we could.  In my book, A Mother's Climb Out of Darkness, I have shared some of the account of my journey from pre-conception up until 2005.  The primary reason for sharing my story was to help encourage other families and mothers to know that they are not alone and there is hope in challenging times surrounding complications related to childbearing.  Although the book is written creatively to the benefit of the reader, it is my factual account based on journals, medical records and memories.  Maybe one day my son and his dad will have the opportunity to share their perspective, if they choose.

My amazing husband continues to support his family and serve his country as a corporate employee.  My son, recently graduated with his bachelor's degree and has decided to continue his studies.  The picture, I share with this blog is what I saw on what was once his bed the day after his graduation.  It warmed my heart to see the cap and gown with the stuffed animals because, it reminded me that the love he received growing up far outweighed the challenges he faced.  The ultimate love of parents, with the help of prayer, professional therapy, as well as support from family & friends, helped him become a caring, considerate and thoughtful man, who now wants to continue to dedicate his life and future career to helping others.  The job of a father (and a mother) change over the life of a child but, being a parent is, in my opinion, the most important job on the planet.

The parent's job ideally should never end early, which leads me to another amazing man in my life, my father-in-law (I prefer to call him my dad by marriage:).  You never can completely understand another person's journey because we are all unique and each journey is different.  I didn't know my dad by marriage when his oldest son died tragically in a car accident when he was just 17 years old.  Suffering a miscarriage was the closest thing I had experienced to the loss of a child.  But now that I have a son, who is past the age of 17, I can only imagine the pain of the loss.  I would not be who I am without the support and love from my husband's father and mother.  Not only did they give life to the man, who is my husband, the father of my son and the love of my life, they also supported me, my husband and son later in the journey, when no one else was available.  I am blessed that my dad by marriage is still in my life.  He is still a dedicated husband, father and grandfather to this day.  I only hope & pray that he is still alive on the day in the future that he earns the amazing title of "great grandfather." 

I recognize that many individuals have not had positive experiences with the men in their lives.  This can make challenges much harder to overcome.  I can only speak from my own journey and what I have learned is that overcoming challenges is a process.  The process for me has been difficult but not nearly as difficult as the process has been for others.  For me, the goal in the process has been to live a healthy, productive, peaceful life in which I can help others and give back to the community.  I am thankful that the men in my life have been and continue to be instrumental in helping me work towards my goal.  Wisdom, which has come from my life experience, formal and informal education as well as just getting older helps me better understand what is needed in staying focused on the goal AND, thankfully, I am blessed to have access to the care of knowledgeable and caring professionals, whom partner with me so I can stay the course in achieving the goal.  Of course, my mission of bringing hope and inspiration to others facing life challenges, is best achieved by being in a place of peace.  Although my journey and goal is ongoing, I am thankful to be in the place of peace.   

Happy Father's Day!  My hope is for many blessings and shalom (Hebrew for overall peace) not just to the men in the world but to each individual facing the challenges of life.

Sincerely & Warmly (as I am currently having a hot "flush"....LOL),

~Jennifer Hentz Moyer~

Vitamin D Fights Depression

 Photo by Jennifer Hentz Moyer

Photo by Jennifer Hentz Moyer

Over the years, we have been told to beware of the sun but not getting enough can cause many ailments including depression.  Although the best source of vitamin D is the sun, it is not likely that a person can get enough sun to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D.  The best way to determine if your vitamin D levels are healthy, is to have your blood level checked.  Supplementing with vitamin D is often necessary.  The article below from NaturalNews.com talks more about the research and how it can help with depression.

http://www.naturalnews.com/034729_vitamin_D_deficiency_depression_children.html

Research shows that Vitamin D fights depression not only in adults but also in children.  As a part-time substitute teacher, I am learning that only elementary students get daily recess.  Maybe we should bring back time outside for all grades.

Just 20 minutes a Day of Exercise for Brain Health

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I was always diligent about incorporating exercise in my wellness plan.  When I fractured my ankle back in November 2015, my exercise routine became very limited.  For years, my first choice for exercise has been my mini rebounder/trampoline but I could not use it with a cast so it got set aside.  The year 2016 was a challenging year due to an accident my husband had and then 2017 came with challenges that I mention in my January blog.  So now it is 2018 and thankfully the year has been going well so far.  Recently, I had some time to watch the "Protect you Brain" DVD, produced by CBN in 2017.  I learned only 20 minutes of vigorous exercise daily is all it takes to lower risk for Alzheimer's, stroke, depression and even heart disease.  

So I found myself motivated to resume a daily exercise routine using my favorite way, my mini rebounder/trampoline.  The benefits of jumping are numerous but improved immune system is one of them.  If on a tight budget, an inexpensive jump rope works well too.  Of course, you should always get clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise plan.  The benefits of exercise are documented with much research and I was excited to learn how little time it takes to reap them.  I have been back on my routine for over a week and I can definitely feel a difference in my mood, ability to focus and even lower readings on my blood pressure.

Also worthy to mention is that the University of Alabama at Birmingham did a study on the effects of exercise on depressive symptoms.  The study website link is no longer active but in the past, I wrote a blog on exercise and depression so I am aware that the conclusion of the study was that exercise reduces depressive symptoms in patients with a chronic illness.  The results of the study were that exercise does not just mildly reduce the symptoms but it SIGNIFICANTLY reduces depressive symptoms.  The study reported that exercise training produced the greatest antidepressant effects in patients with mild to moderate depressive symptoms.  Exercise is so important for mental health.  Now learning that the benefits for brain health only takes 20 minutes a day of exercise with the intensity that you break a sweat but are still able to hold a conversation, I believe it is much easier to achieve. 

I know first hand how over the years, exercise helps me in maintaining my health both physically and mentally.  Unfortunately the challenges I faced in recent years made it hard to stick to my routine.  Thankfully, I have a renewed motivation to resume my exercise routine.  I have been reaping the benefits of yoga since April of last year and now I am excited that I have been able to resume my first-love of jumping :)

Happy 2018! The Year is Starting Wonderfully

Crescent Beach.jpg

I am excited for what 2018 is going to bring.  It has already started well with a nice unexpected trip.  Thanks to my wonderful husband.  I have gotten to see beautiful Crescent Beach on Northern Coast of California and hug a Redwood Tree.  Spending time marveling over the wonder of nature is highly recommended.  In my situation it was much needed after such a difficult year in 2017. 

Moving forward in 2018, I will continue to promote my book, A Mother's Climb out of Darkness.  I was told by a college professor that every clinician, working in area of mental health should read my book.  That may be an unachievable goal but my hope is that many will have the opportunity.  Even though my book was originally released in June 2014, it is still an important book addressing an often misunderstood area of mental health.  Unfortunately, I lost the beginning half of 2017 dealing with perimenopause, the tragic death of a close friend, and an adverse reaction to medication change.  Although grief is a process that is different for everyone, I am now in a place of well-being that I have worked hard to achieve.

Redwood.jpg

Yes, I know not many will have opportunity to hug an enormous tree but wherever you are, I encourage you to take the time in 2018 to marvel over the beauty of nature.

Interview with Dyane Harwood, Author, Birth of a New Brain: Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder

 Post Hill Press @2017

Post Hill Press @2017

1.      Dyane, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I grew up in the beautiful town of Pacific Palisades, Southern California that bordered the Pacific Ocean, hence the name. My younger brother and I had two very loving parents and we had many blessings; however, I had a difficult childhood as our father had bipolar one disorder and his mental illness took an enormous toll upon our family. I attended college at the University of California, Santa Cruz, which was located almost four hundred miles north of my hometown. Santa Cruz was also right to the Pacific Ocean and I lived there for many years. I still live in Santa Cruz County, but I moved to the redwood forest up in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here we have a variety of wildlife: deer, bobcats, mountain lions and the infamous neon yellow banana slug!

2.      Why did you decide to write the book?

After I was diagnosed with postpartum bipolar disorder in 2007, I read books about other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, but I couldn’t find any book that focused on postpartum bipolar disorder. Before my diagnosis I had been a freelance writer for ten years.  I felt I had something important to contribute to the bipolar and perinatal mental health literature and that fueled my writing, especially during the many times I wanted to give up the project.

 3.      As the author of, A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness: A Story about Overcoming Postpartum Psychosis, I know first-hand the challenges of sharing your story in a book, what did you find most challenging in your book writing process?

Due to numerous bipolar depression relapses, it took me a long time to write the book proposal, the manuscript, and go through the publication process – ten years total. I know some people doubted I’d ever finish the book, including myself, so it was nothing short of a miracle to hold my book in my hands last month. In some ways it was like holding a baby, but the book lets me sleep at night!

 4.      I recall you were able to reach out for help fairly quickly in the postpartum period but during your pregnancies did anyone ever present to you the risks or general information on any of the perinatal mood & anxiety disorders?

Unfortunately, no medical professional explained the risks or gave me information about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. I was never asked to provide my own mental health history or a family mental health history to anyone.  Had there been even the most rudimentary mental health screening done during my pregnancy, it’s possible a lot of my agony and my family’s suffering could’ve been mitigated. Thankfully maternal mental health screening is far more prevalent now, and there’s a much greater awareness of PMADS and the need for screening. I think screening and awareness will improve much more over the next decade.

 5.      In your book, you mention starting a support group for moms with bipolar disorder.  Can you explain a little more about that process (i.e. easy process; how it benefited you, attendees)?  Do you continue to facilitate a support group today or are there any other support groups specifically for moms with bipolar disorder?

In my book’s appendix, I have a section that takes the reader through the steps to create, promote, and lead a support group. Participating in support groups helped me because I felt less alone with my mental illness. I even made two friends who helped me through some very tough times. The other attendees often said that being around other women who dealt with mood swings, medication, anxiety, PTSD and more helped them too. Some of them became friends with other members and socialized together. After facilitating support groups off and on over nine years, I decided to stop being the facilitator and focus on completing my book. I’d love to attend a support group as a member, not as a facilitator.

There are support groups for moms with bipolar disorder across the country through Meetup for in-person support groups and online (i.e. Facebook) and I’m sure there are specific groups for moms in some chapters of the DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). One would need to check in her immediate area by doing online Meetup searches, calling the local NAMI Chapter and/or DBSA Chapter, and search elsewhere online such as Craigslist for specific leads.

6.      Anything else you would like to share with others?

I want to remind everyone that no matter how horrible you feel, your mood can get better.  For years I couldn’t imagine that my awful bipolar depression would ever lift, but it finally did go away with the help of a caring psychiatrist. Find or ask a loved one to help you find a professional who is on your side. This is a momentous task, but there’s a sea change going on in the psychiatric field. More compassionate, progressive doctors are becoming psychiatrists. If you’re unable or unwilling to see a psychiatrist, talk to a trusted physician or psychologist or therapist. Don’t keep your suffering to yourself. Please ask for help because you deserve to have support and effective treatment in your life.

Thank you, Dyane, for sharing such a difficult journey.  Your book helps readers understand postpartum bipolar disorder, especially bipolar depression, in a way that has not been done before.

To reach Dyane, learn more about her or her book, see below

Twitter: @DyaneHarwood

Blog: www.proudlybipolar.wordpress.com

DyaneHeadshot.jpg

Website: www.dyaneharwood.com

Birth of a New Brian – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Birth-New-Brain-Postpartum-Disorder-ebook/dp/B075GXM6CV/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

Facebook Author page:  https://www.facebook.com/BirthofaNewBrain/

International Bipolar Foundation “Psych Byte” Webinar: Postpartum Bipolar Disorder: The Invisible Postpartum  Mood Disorder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9lW_F87DUI

Fall is Finally Here

November blessings.jpg

November has arrived.  I am thankful that the fall season has begun.  The year 2017 has been a difficult year for me due to hormone changes from perimenopause, the tragic death of a close friend, and several unexpected hospitalizations.  Some of the things that happened in 2017 will never make sense to me but I am coming to a place of peace.  The stigma relating to mental health challenges is still common.  I have always been an optimist and this past year has put my optimism to the test.  More than ever I have really had to learn to focus on the positive things in my life.

I am grateful to the those in my life that have been available and stood by me through this challenging year.  I continue to have faith and hope despite all that has happened. It can take years to actually reach menopause but I hear it is not so bad once it officially arrives. I will continue to encourage and advocate to the best of my ability as I transition into this new phase of my life. I hope the fall season is calm and a blessing to us all. 

Calm in the Storm

 

As the state of Florida braced themselves for Hurricane Irma, I had a calm and peace that even some of my closest friends did not understand. After all I have been through since January 1996, I have come to learn how to be calm in the storm. The serenity prayer has recently been reintroduced to me and it is a short and simple reminder to trust. 

  • God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference

I am blessed that my area of Florida only had some wind and a light drizzle from the storm. I wonder if we got some grace having lived through the devastating Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Dennis in 2005. My heart goes out to everyone impacted by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Natural disasters bring the community together. I hope our communities remain united even after recovery from the storms. Peace and Shalom to all!

How Yoga Helps Me

 "yoga"by sippakorn

"yoga"by sippakorn

I was introduced to the practice of yoga in April.  I discovered first-hand that yoga not only helps exercise the body but it helps clear the mind too. 

In recent months I have had unexpected stress and yoga helped me stay focused on the present.  I found the physical movement of yoga helps clear the mind.  When I do yoga, my mind is concentrating on the movement of my body so it enables me to not think about anything else. 

Although I am a novice when it comes to yoga, the benefits are already felt.  Thankfully I have the opportunity to participate in a yoga class twice a week.  I can do more often with a DVD that I have.  My goal is to practice yoga weekly so I can continue to maintain a lower stress level.  I highly recommend the practice of yoga for anyone who is in need of stress relief.

A good resource to help you pick a yoga mat:  https://www.reviews.com/best-yoga-mat/

Still Waiting on Google Tech Support

Unfortunately, I am still waiting for a human to contact me regarding my google paid webmail account security issues.  I have been working on since end of January.  Latest update is that on March 19th my support ticket has been noted that I need to speak directly to a support technician.  I am told California does not make any telephone calls so Canada/North America technician request is pending.  I have heard nothing since so still waiting.

Thankfully, this is occurring at a time that I am addressing some medical challenges so my online access is limited anyway.  I appreciate in advance your patience.   Not sure when Google will respond but I am patiently waiting.   As soon as able, most likely the end of April or beginning of May, I will have situation resolved.

Hope everyone has a blessed spring season.

 

 

 

How Do You Find a Human at Google?

 Business lady biting Laptop by Ambro

Business lady biting Laptop by Ambro

Lots has been happening in my world since my last blog the beginning of January.  Most of it not good.  The worst is grieving a dear friend of mine.  It has just been a little over a month since her passing.  We all need to take time to grieve and focus on the priorities of life during a mourning period.

Another unexpected and frustrating situation has been the hacking of my email and other internet issues.  We have become so dependent on technology that when life throws us a curve ball, we need to be prepared.  Thankfully, my college degree is in marketing BEFORE the internet was even more than a concept (not showing my age:) 

Apparently, even as a paid customer, finding help at Google is a challenge.  It took me more than 10 days to find a way to get to a human without having access to the internet.  THEN I was taken to support all over the globe even though the headquarters is in California.  I finally got a person to call me back after spending almost an entire day on the telephone.  BUT I am waiting for my patience to build back up before calling them back.

So please be patient with me and if any strange emails from me have come into your inbox, please let me know.  I will hopefully have the situation all resolved before the beginning of next month so can blog about something related to my mission.

Blessings!

Jennifer

Remembering the Challenge

It was a year ago that I was recovering from a fractured ankle.  I remember how challenging that period of time was in my life.  I had never had a physical challenge previously so it was a new experience for me.  The restrictions I had and the inability to drive (it was my right ankle) gave me a perspective that I had not had before.  I learned much from my experience with a physical challenge despite having an invisible challenge for years.

In January 2016, I was honored to write a post for The Mighty.  I recently reviewed the post and it reminded me of how differently an individual with a visible challenge is treated compared to an individual with an invisible challenge.  The insights I learned helps motivate me to continue to strive to decrease the stigma and discrimination that so often is directed towards those with an invisible challenge.  I share the link to the blog post below.  May it bring insight and awareness to others.  Many blessings to you in 2017.

What Hurting My Ankle Made Me Realize About Having an Invisible Illness

Enjoying the Simple Things

Dog 2016.jpg

Over the past month, my life has needed to become more simplified.  The reason it has had to is because of a sweet dog that needed a home.  It is almost 3 years since our family dog passed away.  Never thought of getting another dog until this past year.  I was open to it but my husband was not so I put the idea aside.  Unexpectedly, about eight weeks ago my husband learned of a dog needing a new home because his owners were moving and could not take him with them.  I was surprised and unprepared but excited to welcome a dog into our home.

Although he is a wonderful dog that is bringing fun and joy to our family,  it has been an adjustment having a dog again.  I had to adapt my schedule accordingly.  Life can get hectic and complicated so taking a step back to focus on simple things is a nice change.  It is a privilege to own a dog and being able to spend time with him is important.   As he has been getting comfortable in his new home, I have been able to take time to appreciate and enjoy a less hectic schedule.  Often life becomes overwhelming and we miss taking time to take a step back to remember what is important.  I am blessed to be able to have the opportunity.  I hope this holiday season, you can take time to enjoy the simple things as well.  . 

Honored to attend the 2nd Annual Warrior Mom Conference

I am honored to have been able to attend the recent Warrior Mom conference held by Postpartum Progress in Atlanta, Georgia.  The conference brought together moms, who have been touched by a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder.  The conference experience was one of warmth, love and acceptance.  The two day event provided information on support, advocacy and much needed self-care.  I highly recommend that moms consider attending a future conference.  By providing support, encouragement and love to each other, we can be healthier, while building stronger families and communities.  Thank you, Postpartum Progress, for all you do to support moms.

 

 

National Suicide Prevention Week Blog Post

Is Suicide Always Planned in Advance?

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.  As a result, I would like to share my personal perspective on whether or not suicide is always planned in advance.  It is often assumed that it is but my own experience reveals that it is not.  Although this is my personal experience and in my own words, I must alert the readers that if you or a loved one has had a direct experience with suicide, reading about the details of such a story may trigger difficult emotions and feelings.  Of course, it is an option for you to read no further.  If you do read further and you find this to be the case, I encourage you to turn to a trained professional that can help you process your feelings.

In reviewing my weekly planner during the spring of 1997, there was nothing in it that seemed unusual.  I had both personal and work-related activities and events scheduled.  I had even marked some holidays and special events in joyful participation.  Looking back at my journal, during that period of time, I wrote how much better I was feeling since the onset of postpartum psychosis in early 1996.  So what happened next was completely unexpected. 

One morning in April 1997, my son vomited.  I remember always feeling troubled when my son got sick. He did not seem to have any other signs of sickness and it did not seem serious so I took him to day care. Looking back, I have no memory of driving my son to the day care center.  But I did.  I have no memory of driving myself back home.  Yet, I did. 

What I do remember on that day was the feeling of dreadful worry.  My mind and heart were racing.  I was in a state of panic.  Why?  I did not know.  I couldn’t stop the tension I was feeling nor could I relax.  At that moment I was unable to remember how happy and positive my life was and had been before I was struck with postpartum psychosis.   

The fear was gripping me so strongly that I began to feel panic like I never had before. It was gripping and consuming.  There was nowhere to hide or escape.  I felt sheer terror!  I physically felt as if I was jumping out of my skin.  The fear invaded me completely consuming my body, mind and spirit. 

I had a passing thought that if I could get some sleep, things would be better.  I felt I had to escape from whatever “it” was that was consuming my mind with fear.  I no longer consciously thought or acted on my own.  I could no longer make rational decisions. I reached up on top of the refrigerator.  I grabbed one of the bottles of the medicine my doctor prescribed me.  I reached in the refrigerator for a wine cooler that had been in there since before I was pregnant.  I popped the pills in my mouth and drank the wine cooler.  Although I remember what I did, it was as if my physical actions were detached from the rest of me.  I was no longer able to process my thoughts. 

After a short time, the telephone rang.  I hear my husband’s voice on the other end.  He asks if everything is okay.  I told him very matter-of-factually what I had done.  That is the last memory I have of that day.  If it was not for my husband having a strong urge to contact me at that moment, I most likely would not have survived. I am thankful every day for my life being spared.

I do not have all the answers as to why I survived when so many others do not survive.  I only know that as a result of my experience, I am compelled to share hope with others.  In my case, what happened on that day in April 1997 was not planned in advance, there were no warning signs and there was no explanation or justification for my actions.  It came on suddenly and out of nowhere.  Although every experience and journey is unique, in my humble opinion, I believe many of those who attempt suicide or take their own life, experience the consuming panic and fear similar to what I did.

My hope is that by sharing a part of my own journey it provides better understanding, lessens feelings of guilt and shame, prevents the casting of blame and brings some measure of comfort wherever the journey has taken you or your loved ones.

Always remember there is hope even when it may seem hopeless.  Help is available when you or a loved one is in crisis.

Suicide Prevention Resource Center

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Resource Page

Suicide Awareness and Prevention Event Held in Okaloosa County, Florida

   Audience listing to Lia’s Story

Audience listing to Lia’s Story

Lia Wolfe, a 19 year old graduate student at Florida State University, hates what depression has caused in her life but because of her pain she now has hope and joy in the littlest things in life.  Lia was compelled to organize the Suicide Prevention Project Event that was held on Saturday, August 6th, 2016 in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  The event began with a workshop at the Fort Walton Beach Library, where Lia shared her powerful story.  The event ended with a silent memorial walk around Fort Walton Beach Landing.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is currently the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.  In fact, in the United States, a person dies by suicide approximately every 18 minutes and a suicide attempt is made once every minute. Suicide seems to attack our youth the hardest.  The Foundation states that suicide is the 5th leading cause of death among 5 to 14 year olds and the 3rd leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds.  Suicide also targets our military with 22 veterans dying by suicide every day.

Lia has a powerful story to share and wants to “shatter the silence and end the stigma against mental illness and suicide.”  She believes that “one way we can make a difference is to stop saying people committed suicide.  People commit crimes and murder, but no one has committed suicide since the early 1970’s when suicide was decriminalized.”  Suicide is a public health concern, not a law enforcement issue.  90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable mental illness at the time of their death.  With Florida being ranked last in the country in access to care, we need to do more than talk about mental illness and suicide.  We need to proactively address.  Lia believes we can be a part of the change by seeking help.  Some of the risk factors for suicide are psychiatric disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, previous suicide attempts, social isolation and suicidal thoughts.

Suicide greatly impacts family and friends as well.  Lia’s father, Jerry, says the “hardest time of my life was responding to the telephone call from the emergency department, where Lia was getting her stomach pumped.”  Lia’s friend, Sara, who supported Lia through it all, says “Lia inspires me and I am proud of who she has become and I am thankful to call her my friend.”  Imagine the pain of a mother, who almost lost her daughter to suicide.  Lia’s mother, Anita, says “It is a miracle she is alive.”

Warning signs of suicide include, talking about wanting to die or kill themselves, talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, sleeping too little or too much, and isolating oneself. If you see the warning signs of suicide, begin by talking about it and asking questions, such as do you ever feel so badly that you think about suicide?  Do you have a plan to commit suicide or take your life? 

 

The start of the Memorial Walk

 

Although Lia knows first-hand the darkness of suicide, it is not her identity.  She now encourages others to seek help.  “There is nothing weak about seeking help.  If you break your arm, you don’t hesitate to go to the doctor to get a cast, and have everyone sign it.  So why do we hesitate to seek help if our mind needs healing.”  If you are experiencing symptoms of suicide, do not keep a plan for suicide a secret; don’t feel shameful or afraid to seek help.  Help is available. With proper treatment, you can get your life back.  Keep in mind, Lia’s powerful words, “The only way we are going to beat a problem so many people are facing alone is by standing strong together, because when I is replaced with we even illness becomes wellness.”

If in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.  Learn more by visiting www.save.org or www.afsp.org.  For local information, contact Mental Health Association of Okaloosa/Walton Counties at 850-244-1040 or NAMI Pensacola at (850) 208-1609

 

Honored to Now Be a WRAP® Facilitator

 Me and the 2 wonderful instructors

Me and the 2 wonderful instructors

I first learned about WRAP® (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) at a peer conference back in 2012.  Several years prior to then my world was falling apart.  I was close to being homeless and my family was falling apart but during that time, I never gave up hope.  By holding on to hope, I knew things would get better and there was always something to be thankful for along the road back to wellness and recovery. 

When I reflect back on those dark and difficult days in my journey, I am grateful.  I know it is possible to make a difference and make changes that empower not only myself but others.  As I learned and changed, others around me changed as well.  I educated myself on wellness and recovery long before I knew what WRAP® was but once I learned about WRAP®, it helped to formalize the concept.  With WRAP®, I could now make it concrete and practical. 

Having a WRAP® does not prevent challenges from happening but it can help change the outcome.  I know first hand.  I had a crisis when traveling and thankfully, one of my supporters was able to contact one of my providers. who had a copy of the plan.  The provider was able to fax the plan to the hospital so it was on record.  The plan helped with the hospital experience as well as helped me come out of the crisis more quickly and successfully.  I have found when a crisis happens it is a time to learn and grow.  I adjust my WRAP® as needed. 

As a mother, I often have put my needs below others but through WRAP®, I have specifically identified wellness tools that help me to take care of myself so I am able to help others.  One thing I have learned is that I can't be on my journey alone.  Over the years, I have needed support from family, friends and others.  Sometimes the support has been helpful and sometimes it has been detrimental.  It is important to be able to put in writing what I need and don't need from my supporters.  The WRAP® has enabled me to do that as well as better equip me to manage my life challenges.  Where ever you are on your own journey, know that there is help, there is hope and you can achieve wellness and recovery.  To learn more about WRAP®, visit http://mentalhealthrecovery.com/

I am so honored to now be a group facilitator. If you would like to bring a WRAP® group to your area, please contact me.

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Event Held in Mary Esther, Florida

The Perinatal Mental Health Task Force of the Emerald Coast hosted a screening of the movie documentary, Dark Side of the Full Moon, at the UA Santa Rosa Theater in Mary Esther, Florida, on Tuesday, May 31st at 6:30 pm. 

 Audience watching the movie

Audience watching the movie

The feature-length documentary depicted the stories of several moms, who experienced maternal mental health complications.  Maternal mental illness is one of the most common complications of childbirth affecting more than 1.3 million mothers each year in the United States.  The film addressed the failures of the mental health system, the lack of maternal mental health training of providers as well the fact that screening of moms for depression and anxiety is not the norm.

A viewer of the film, Marcia Baris-Sanders, said “the film was eye-opening, informative and inspiring.” The film discusses the demands placed on mothers today and the lack of support available and David, another viewer of the film, said “It’s sad realizing that our society treats motherhood as a hobby.”  Jodi, a local mom, who personally experienced mental health complications after her second child, says “The film was excellent, a true must see if you are a mother, thinking of becoming a mother, or have had a mother.”

 Panel Members

Panel Members

After the movie, there was a thought-provoking Q&A discussion with a distinguished panel.  Panel members included Dr. Lynn Keefe, a pediatrician from Niceville, Susan Michaels, a Healthy Start Nurse from Santa Rosa County, Don Harrison, a licensed Mental Health Counselor and current President of NAMI Emerald Coast (the local chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness), Carolyn Ketchel, a social worker and Okaloosa County Commissioner, and Jennifer Moyer, a mental health advocate and author of the book, A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness: A Story About Overcoming Postpartum PsychosisThe issues discussed included the need for additional mental health services in the community as well as the importance of moms receiving empathetic and understanding help and support when faced with a mental health complication related to childbearing.

The event was also a fundraiser for the Emerald Coast chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  According to Don Harrison, President of NAMI Emerald Coast, “NAMI, as the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, is dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.  Bringing awareness about mental health issues such as Perinatal Mental Health helps reduce stigma, and promotes the development of services in areas that may be lacking in our community.  In addition to events like this, NAMI offers support groups and classes for persons affected by mental health issues including their families.  You can find out more by contacting NAMI.   Here is link to find your local NAMI: http://www.nami.org/Find-Your-Local-NAMI

 

Let's Not Forget About the Dads!

 "Bottle Feeding" by patrisyu

"Bottle Feeding" by patrisyu

Many people are familiar with postpartum depression in women but postpartum depression in men is hardly ever talked about.  A new baby is a wonderful blessing but the demands of parenthood are very stressful and can be overwhelming to both parents.  Mothers and fathers share many of the same stresses.

According to one of the few studies in the area of paternal depression, in general, 14% of American men develop depression either during their partner’s pregnancy or during the first year postpartum. About 8% of fathers in other countries develop paternal depression.  The problem seems to heighten when babies are 3 to 6 months old.  During this time, 25% of new fathers and 42% of mothers report depression.  If a mother experiences postpartum depression, the father is at much greater risk of experiencing depression as well.

Sleep deprivation is a strong contributor to depression.  Research shows that any healthy adult that goes without good sleep for a month, is at increased risk for experiencing depression.  In addition, the hormonal changes that occur after childbirth can cause depression in both women and men.  Women experience a sharp decline in progesterone and estrogen but men also experience a decline in testosterone.

Unfortunately, fathers experiencing depression are less likely to seek help then mothers.  Mainly because, in general, men avoid treatment for mental health.  Also men experiencing depression often have symptoms that are unique from women.  Some of the symptoms of depression in men may include:

  • Increased anger and conflict with others
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Violent behavior
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Being easily stressed
  • Impulsiveness and taking risks, like reckless driving and extramarital sex
  • Feeling discouraged
  • Increases in complaints about physical problems
  • Ongoing physical symptoms, like headaches, digestion problems or pain
  • Problems with concentration and motivation
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies and sex
  • Working constantly
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Misuse of prescription medication
  • Increased concerns about productivity and functioning at school or work
  • Fatigue
  • Experiencing conflict between how you think you should be as a man and how you actually are
  • Thoughts of suicide

Some men may only experience a few symptoms and others may experience many.  What ever the case, it is important to know that the symptoms are treatable and help is available.  For more information see the links below.

Sources and Additional Links:

Postpartum Depression Hits as Many Dads as Moms

Prenatal and Postpartum Depression in Fathers and Its Association With Maternal Depression

Helping Men Beat the Baby Blues and Overcome Depression

Postpartum Depression in Men | Video – ABC News

Postpartum Depression in Men: It’s Real

Postpartum Depression Strikes New Fathers, Too

Resources for Fathers

Postpartummen.com

Resources

Information on this web site is for educational purposes only.  It should not substitute for a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed mental health professional.

From Crisis to Contribution

It is hard to believe that it is over 20 years since my perinatal mental health crisis began.  My life forever changed back in early 1996 when I was struck with postpartum psychosis.  Not only did my life change but so did the lives of my family members.  My experience has brought an understanding of mental health related to childbearing that I would not have otherwise.  I am truly blessed to have been able to turn such a horrific experience into a way to give back and contribute to making changes in a positive way.

Back in November 2015, I had the opportunity to speak before house and senate committees in the state in which I reside.  My goal was to get the attention of lawmakers so they would recognize the importance of addressing perinatal mental health.  It was a new experience for me but I knew it was time to share a piece of my story with the legislators.  I believe it opened the door for the discussion and enabled some of my fellow perinatal mental health advocates to make strides as well.  A proclamation was submitted back in March to our Governor to make May Perinatal Mental Health Awareness month.  Although still waiting a decision, our state's perinatal mental health advocates are hopeful that it will be signed by the Governor. 

Regardless of the outcome, the perinatal mental health advocates in my state will continue efforts to increase awareness and change outcomes in the area of mental health related to childbearing.  I am honored to be a part of the movement.