Enjoyed Being an Exhibitor at the 2014 Alternatives Conference in Orlando

November 9, 2014

I recently had the opportunity to be an exhibitor at the Alternatives Conference in Orlando, Florida.  The Alternatives Conference is held by the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse.  The theme of the 28th annual conference was Creating the Future: Change, Challenge, Opportunity.   The conference presenters and attendees are comprised of mental health consumers/survivors.

As an exhibitor, I represented Maternal Mental Health and gave out information on that topic.  I had the privilege of meeting many of the attendees and some of the presenters.  I got to learn from others who are working in the area of mental health as well as hear personal stories of some of the attendees.  It broke my heart to learn that in Ohio there are moms losing their babies just because they have a mental health diagnosis. This is not only discrimination and abuse of agency power but, in my opinion, it seems to be a civil rights violation. The fact that this is occurring shows just how ignorant and misinformed the state’s child welfare agency must be.  I am certain this is happening in more states that Ohio.

Why is the assumption being made that just because a mom has a mental health diagnosis, she is a negligent mother and cannot take care of her baby or child?  Why instead are there not services or resources provided to assist the mother in managing her illness, maintaining stability and overcoming obstacles she may face?  Why is this violation of rights occurring?  How can the brokenness of this system be repaired?  I have to remain hopeful that things can change.

Being an exhibitor at the conference allowed me to meet many wonderful individuals.  Everyone I met contributes or assists others in the area of mental health. They all have a voice that needs to be heard. Just because someone receives a mental health diagnosis, it does not make him or her less important or justify losing individual rights. Those I met have overcome adversity and are productive, resilient individuals despite the challenges that have been faced and that continue to be faced.

The Alternatives Conference was an experience that rejuvenated, encouraged and assured me that I should continue my efforts in advocating in the area of mental health related to childbearing. I hope those advocating in the area of mental health will continue to do so and that many others will join the efforts of speaking up and speaking out for the rights of individuals facing mental health challenges.

My Experience at the International Marce Society Conference in Wales

October 5, 2014

September was an exciting time for me as I took my first overseas trip.  The highlight of my trip was attending the International Marce Society Conference in Wales.  The conference theme was “Creating Change in Perinatal Mental Health.”  It was an honor to meet individuals from all over the world striving to make a difference in the area of perinatal mental health.  The conference objectives were:

  1. To promote and gain a greater understanding of behavioural and neuro sciences and the impact on perinatal mental health.
  2. Examine the diversity of international interventions and explore the efficacy of these and application to research and practice.
  3. Network with colleagues from across the globe to share research ideas, develop practice and enhance existing ideas.
  4. Create change in perinatal mental health to ensure every mother and her infant has access to the best possible care.

My experience was that the conference met all these objectives.  For me, I definitely came away with much more knowledge and understanding of perinatal mental health.  The plenary sessions included cutting edge research presented by experts in perinatal mental health.  A few of the symposiums I attended included “Screening and Mood Disorders”, “Bipolar Disorder and Childbirth – Perspectives from around the World” and “Recent developments in Bipolar Disorder and Postpartum Psychosis.”  It was amazing to learn how much is being done in other countries in the area of perinatal mental health.

A highlight of the conference for me was meeting several members of the team involved with the APP (Action Postpartum Psychosis) United Kingdom Network.  The resources, the peer support network and the research opportunities that APP offers are incredible.  My hope is that the organization can serve as a role model for other countries in addressing postpartum psychosis.

Of course, being able to present my poster on Perinatal Mental Health and Advocacy: From Crisis to Contribution was a privilege for me.  As you can see from the photo above, I was excited and proud to be able to participate in a poster session.

The conference encouraged me and motivated me to continue my advocacy efforts in the area of mental health related to childbearing, in particular in increasing awareness and understanding of postpartum psychosis.  The United States has a long way to go but strides have been made and continue to be made.  I am blessed to be able to partake in the efforts now and in the future.

So Excited to be Going to the International Marce Society Conference in Wales

September 7, 2014

I am honored to be able to attend The International Marce Society Conference in Wales this September.  The Marce Society for Perinatal Mental Health is dedicated to supporting research and assistance surrounding prenatal & postpartum mental health for mothers, fathers and their babies.  I am honored to be a member.

This will be my first time attending one of their biennial conferences.  It is an amazing opportunity and a privilege that I will be able to attend.  I am excited about seeing familiar faces.  I am excited about meeting many individuals, who dedicate their efforts to mental health related to childbearing.  I am also excited that the presentation proposal I submitted was accepted as a poster presentation.  I must admit is was a challenge converting an oral presentation into a poster presentation but with some assistance it has been accomplished.  My poster is scheduled to be on display on September 11th.

Although since 2001 September 11th is a solemn day, it always has been and still is a special day of celebration for me because it is my father’s birthday.  This year my World War II pilot dad would be 91 years old.  Although he passed away nearly 6 years ago, he was supportive of my advocacy efforts and would be pleased that they are continuing at an even greater level today.  So as I attend the conference this year, it will be a time of honor and celebration of where I am in my journey as well as a special time of remembrance of my dad.

I look forward to my experience and being able to write about amazing things upon my return.  Stay tuned…

We Must Prevent Tragedies Surrounding Postpartum Psychosis

August 9, 2014

Why do tragedies continue to happen when postpartum psychosis is a preventable and treatable illness that can strike any mother after the birth of a baby?  It has been over 18 years since the onset of postpartum psychosis occurred in my own life and we still have not properly addressed the illness.  This is one of the reasons why I wrote the recently published book, A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness.

When I was struck with postpartum psychosis at 8 weeks after my baby was born, my family and I had no idea that the illness existed let alone what the symptoms and risks were.  My son was 4 years old when I learned more about postpartum psychosis.  It was then that I became motivated to increase awareness, treatment and prevention of mental illness related to childbearing.

Back in 1996, the internet and technology were not what they are today.  The resources were not available as they are today.  In order to forgive and move on, I had to contribute the way I was treated by the medical and professional community to ignorance.  But that is not a legitimate reason today.

What are the reasons that tragedies surrounding postpartum psychosis continue?  Why are moms still dying by suicide when with the proper care and treatment they can get better?  Why does the media sensationalize the tragedies and rarely address the solution to preventing the tragedies?  I wish I had all the answers to these questions but I do not.  What I do have is my opinion on what can be done to prevent further tragedies.

  • Prenatal education and screening for prevention and early detection
  • Properly trained and experienced professionals in the area of perinatal mental health
  • Community-wide resource networks for prevention, early intervention and proper treatment
  • Medical evaluation, counseling, appropriate medication and support must all be addressed in treatment

This all seems easy enough to accomplish so why are we still so far behind? Is maternal mental health not a priority in the United States?  Maybe not but the good news is that there are many, many of us out there doing what we can to prevent these tragedies and work towards achieving what is recommended above.  If we all do our part, even if it is as simple as asking a mom how she is doing and not just focusing on how the baby is doing, more progress can be made. Support and education are critical in prevention.

Every mom holds a critical role in the family and the community.  Let’s take a stand for them and start addressing their mental health needs.

Resources and References:

Postpartum Support International

International Marce Society

The UK Action Postpartum Psychosis Networ

The Book, A Mother's Climb Out of Darkness, was Released in June at the PSI Conference

July 10, 2014

I am honored to say that my book, A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness published by Praeclarus Press, was released in June at the Annual Postpartum Support International Conference.  It is amazing that my dream has become a reality. The book title, the chapter names and content of the book all came together rather smoothly when I began the project back in 2003.  So when the journey in trying to get the book published began in late 2006, I never imagined it would have been so challenging or that it would have taken so long.

I received many rejections and gave up several times but something would cause it to resurface and I would pursue getting it published once again.  The final attempt led me to Maryann Karinch with The Rudy Agency.  Because Maryann took the time to assist and direct me, the path ultimately led to the book being published.  I am a believer that if something is meant to happen, it will but it may not happen as you expect or in the time frame you would like.  Perseverance is essential as well.

I am grateful that the book now is in the hands of others.  My goal in writing the book is to bring hope and inspiration to others facing challenges whether in the area of mental health or just life, in general.  The message is to not give up and to let others know that there is help, there is hope and you are not alone.

I provided links below for you to review.  I hope you consider reading the book, which is available in paperback and now also in Kindle/ebook format.  It is so important that maternal mental health as well as mental health, in general, be addressed.  I hope my book can be a contribution in increasing awareness, proper treatment and prevention.  May it bless all who read it.

A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness Facebook Page

Praeclarus Press Link

A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness Amazon Paperback Version

A Mother’s Climb Out Of Darkness: A Story about Overcoming Postpartum Psychosis [Kindle Edition]

Amazon United Kingdom Link

 

The Importance of Support During Postpartum Period

May 9, 2014

Not too long ago I had the pleasure of visiting a couple, who are dear friends of mine. It was a very special visit because I got to meet their 3 day old baby. I believe that every baby is a blessing but for this couple, it is an extra special blessing. Their journey in becoming parents has taken over 17 years. They had come to the place of acceptance that they would never have a baby so you can imagine the joy they felt when she found out she was pregnant.

It was awesome to see a baby in their arms and for me to be able to hold the precious new life. It brought back fond memories of the first 6 weeks of my postpartum period. I remember that once I recovered from the physical demands of labor and delivery, I was able to slip in to my new role of motherhood with a peace and joy that felt different than anything I had experienced before.

I believe the support that I received from my family and friends during that postpartum period prevented an earlier onset of postpartum psychosis. If I had not received the practical, and emotional support during that period, I believe the demands of motherhood would have taken a toll on me much earlier. Although the eventual onset of postpartum psychosis may not have been prevented, in my opinion, support played a role in the unusually late onset of postpartum psychosis.

Since I had no history of mental illness nor did I know postpartum psychosis existed, I often wonder whether postpartum psychosis could have been prevented in my case. My family and I were unaware of any early warning signs or symptoms. Now that I know more about postpartum psychosis, I can look back and recognize how the pattern of sleep deprivation and eventual isolation took its toll on me. Maybe if I knew then what I know now, when I began to have unfounded fears for my baby and I, I could have reached out for help before it became a crisis situation.

As I contemplate my postpartum period and how much the support helped me, I am more sensitive to the needs of others during the postpartum adjustment period. Something as simple as friends providing meals during the first week or two can make a difference. Checking in on the family regularly to see if they need anything is also helpful.

In my case, I was far away from most of my extended family, so the direct support I received eventually did taper off. In cases when family and friends are not or cannot be there to provide support, I encourage moms to consider hiring a postpartum doula or finding other resources such as Healthy Start, which is available in most areas of the United States.

I encourage all mothers to reach out during the postpartum adjustment period and be open to support from others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be willing to accept the type of support that can help you during this hectic time.

If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

If you are looking for local pregnancy or postpartum support and resources in your area, please call or email:

Postpartum Support International Warmline (English & Spanish): 1-800-944-4PPD (4773)
Email: support@postpartum.net
www.postpartum.net

Other Related Links:

The Benefits of Emotional Support

Practical Support During Difficult Times

Winning Memoir in Seasons of Our LIves - Autumn Edition from WomensMemoirs.com

May 4, 2014

I am pleased to have my short story “The Season that Changed Me Forever” included in the EBook: the Seasons of Our Lives – Autumn Edition from WomensMemoirs.com. 

I submitted a short memoir for a contest hosted by WomensMemoir.com.  My memoir was chosen as one of the winners for the Autumn edition.  There is an EBook available for each season.  So many amazing contributions were made to the EBooks, which were published back in the winter.  It is an honor to have my memoir included with the stories of so many amazing writers.  Please be sure to check the EBooks out.  Feel free to leave a review on Amazon and check out my Amazon Author Page as well.

Seasons of Our Lives: Autumn

Amazon Author Page

The Book is Going to Be Published

March 28, 2014

Greetings!

I hope you have been getting through the cold and trying winter over the past several months.  It has been a challenging one for me.

For those of you that read my last blog posted on January 19th, Three Things We Can Learn from Our Pets, you are aware that our family dog was not doing well at that time.

Sadly, she passed away in February.  I was so grateful to have been able to care for her and spend time with her the last few weeks of her life.  She was a special part of our family and it is hard saying goodbye.  She will be missed.

Despite this sad event that occurred for me this winter, there is another reason, a much happier one, that I have been absent with my posts since January 19th.  I signed a contract in January for my memoir: A Mother’s Climb Out of Darkness: A Story About Overcoming Postpartum Psychosis. It has been busy ever since as I had to focus on editing my manuscript in order to turn it in to the publisher by the beginning of March.

I still can not believe it is finally happening.  After years of striving to get my manuscript published, I had nearly given up.  Thankfully, I did not. I am reminded that things do not always happen in our timing.

To be at this point is amazing.  This dream is becoming a reality.  I am so thankful to the ones who helped me get to this point.  If you would like to follow the progress of the book, you can like my book Facebook page:
www.facebook.com/amothersclimboutofdarkness.
You can also stay tuned to the book website:
www.amothersclimboutofdarkness.com.

I truly appreciate you for following my posts and subscribing to my blog.  I hope you have found valuable information and encouragement along the way.  I promise to be back blogging regularly as soon as the manuscript is finalized with the publisher.  Will keep you posted on the progress as plans are for a June 2014 book release.

I hope 2014 will be a blessed year for all of us.

With Warm Regards and Blessings,

Jennifer

3 Things We Can Learn From Our Pets

January 19, 2014

Thankfully able to spend some quality time with her. Here she is enjoying a beautiful, sunny day. She loves the sun just like her mama. :-)

It has been a rough few days as our sweet dog of nearly 13 years, is experiencing kidney failure and her time with us is coming to an end.  Through the tears and realization of how much she will be missed, I began to think of how important she has been to our family.  Having her in our lives has taught us many things but there are three things that stand out the most to me.

  • Unconditional Love:  One thing our dog has always shown us is her unconditional love.  She does not get mad at us nor hold a grudge.  No matter what kind of day we have, she is always happy to see us. We do not have to do anything to win her approval to receive her love.  Her love for us is genuine.  She accepts us for who we are in spite of our faults.
  • Companionship:  She loves being with us. She gives freely of her time.  She enjoys spending time just being near us regardless of how much attention we are giving her.  When our lives are busy and our time with her is limited, she seems at peace with being alone.  Yet, at the same time, she has come to know we are reliable and can expect us to be there for her whenever she needs us.
  • Happiness:  Her joy and happiness are evident when she greets us and excitedly wags her tail.  No matter what her day has been like, she never gets angry with us.  She does not complain and, in fact, rarely does she bark at us attempting to cast any blame.  Despite her inability to talk, her happiness with us is always evident.

Having a dog in our lives has been a privilege.  It is sad knowing there will always be a void after she is gone.  The lessons I have learned as a pet owner are lasting.  The experience has helped me grow as an individual as well as help strengthen all of my relationships.

Whether a pet owner or not, my hope in sharing what I have learned is that all, who read this post, will be reminded of how important our perspective is in all of our relationships.  In my opinion, a dog’s perspective can be a role model for us all.

USA Book Release of Back from the Brink

January 2, 2014

Today is the official USA release date of the book, Back from the Brink by Graeme Cowan, published by New Harbinger.  If you have severe depression or bipolar disorder, it is important to remember that you are not alone.

The book features interviews with people from all walks of life, including myself.  Back from the Brink is filled with real stories of hope and healing, information about treatment options and medication, and tools for putting what you’ve learned into practice. If you are ready to put one foot in front of the other and finally set out on the path to recovery, the powerful stories in this book will inform and inspire you to make lasting change.

The author, Graeme Cowan, lived through a five-year episode of depression that his psychiatrist described as the worst he had ever treated. This fueled his desire to prevent others from going through the same thing. Through this horrific experience, and his own extensive research, he has guided, taught, and inspired countless people through his books, keynote presentations, and media appearances.

I am honored to be a part of the book.  I believe the book will be both helpful and inspirational to those who read it.

Check out the book trailer below:

BACK FROM THE BRINK – official book trailer on YouTube

My Life was Forever Blessed Eighteen Years Ago

November 24, 2013

It is hard to believe that it was eighteen years ago today that I was blessed with my wonderful baby boy.  Where does the time go?  At times it seems like it was only yesterday that my son was born.  Although the journey has been challenging, it is all worth it to have my son in my life.

I embraced my role as a mother so it was completely unexpected when postpartum psychosis came upon me like a tornado when my son was eight weeks old.  Although postpartum psychosis robbed me of precious time with my baby boy, I can cherish the joyful time I had with my baby during the first six weeks of his life.

Yes, I experienced postpartum psychosis and its aftermath but I am able to say that it no longer defines who I am.  It took years to get to the point that I am today.  As I look back, there were times it seemed impossible that I would overcome the challenges I faced.  But I did.  I can honestly say that I would go through it all again in order to have my son in my life.  Also, I can say that it is because of all that I went through that I now strive to share with others that it is possible to turn challenges into blessings.

The fall season is my favorite time of year.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I am grateful that I am able to celebrate my son’s birthday during a time that the focus is on giving thanks for the blessings in life.

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

November 3, 2013

October was a busy month.  The month went well.  I completed a training that will enable me to train others on consumer involvement in leadership, civic participation and organizational skills.  In fact, my blog post for this week was going to be about the training.  But sometimes life gets in the way.

My focus and attention changed this weekend when I learned that one of my sisters was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Thankfully, it seems to have been caught early.  Needless to say, as a result of the news, my mind has not been focused on writing my blog.  I thought of just not writing at all but instead I thought it would be better to be real and honest.

Even when life happens and things just do not make sense, it is important to not give up.  I know first hand the importance of support and encouragement.  The best thing I can do is be supportive and encouraging to my sister.  Having lost a sister to cancer a little over a year ago, I never expected to have another sister face cancer.  But one thing I have learned in my journey is that we do not know what the future holds.

However, we are able to make a choice in how we face the future, both the good and the bad.  As a reformed pessimist, I know how easy it is to see the negative but now as an optimist, I have a much better perspective when faced with all types of circumstances.  Even when it seems to not make sense, I will continue to be an optimist.  For me, hope is essential in my journey.  Without hope, how can anyone persevere in life or offer encouragement to others?

My Personal Perspective of the Tragic Death of Miriam Carey

October 10, 2013

On Thursday, October 3rd 2013, Miriam Carey, a 34 year old mother was shot dead after a car chase through Washington DC.  Ironically, on the morning of October 3rd, I had a telephone interview with a producer of a Canadian news program that is planning to do a show on postpartum psychosis. I had a busy day so I only read a brief news headline about the incident later that day.  It was not until the next morning that I learned of the reports that she had her one year old in the car and had been being treated for “postpartum depression.”

Immediately, I began to have a clearer understanding of what she may have been experiencing.  You see back in early 1996, I was struck with an illness that my family and I did not even know existed.  My son was 8 weeks old when I was forcibly hospitalized and initially told I had postpartum depression.  The initial diagnosis was wrong.  Two weeks later I had to be hospitalized again but this time my family made sure I got a second opinion.  It was then that I received the correct diagnosis of postpartum psychosis.

Sadly, Miriam Carey, will never get to tell her story.  Although the media and other sources have been reporting information (often inaccurate) on what they believe happened, as an overcomer of postpartum psychosis, I feel I have some understanding of what she was going through.  Every situation is unique but understanding comes from having walked in similar shoes.  I do not know Miriam’s medical history or direct experience but I imagine she was experiencing similar things that I did during my nearly 2 year recovery period.

Although I did get the correct diagnosis of postpartum psychosis 2 weeks after the first onset of serious symptoms, my condition gradually turned in to postpartum depression and anxiety. Having no history of mental illness, these experiences were all new to me.  I do not know the details of Miriam’s situation but I do know that even if the correct diagnosis is given and correct medication is prescribed that alone is not enough.  Even under the best circumstances, the recovery process can be long and difficult.

For me, and I imagine for Miriam as well, I had supportive family and friends but I never had the opportunity to talk to a mom that had experienced anything like I had.  Guilt, shame, anxiety, fear and isolation were often present for me long after the diagnosis was given.

Although the statistics of postpartum psychosis are often cited as 1 to 2 out of 1,000 births, I suspect the numbers are higher.  Regardless of whether or not the occurrence is higher, when you look at those statistics worldwide, they impact a large number of families.  Many families are affected that we will never know about but for Miriam and her family, tragedy has happened and is being projected for the whole world to see.  My heart breaks for them.  Why is it that it takes tragedy to happen for maternal mental health to get the needed attention it deserves?

I wish Miriam would have had the opportunity to connect with other mothers’ who could relate to what she was going through.  In my case, I ultimately did but it was not until after my recovery when my child was 3 years old.  Mothers should not feel guilt, shame or isolation but rather should be lifted up, encouraged and receive the proper care and treatment that is deserved.  As a result of my own experience, I now speak out for those mothers that are unable to speak out for themselves.  Tragically, Miriam is now one of those mothers.

Every mother has a voice yet not every voice can be heard so for those of us able to lift our voice, let us shout out to all mothers “You are not alone.”

Is Suicide Always Planned in Advance?

September 16, 2013

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

Spending Time with Family

August 31, 2013

The summer has been a busy one.  I have been spending time with family.  Due to distance and work obligations, my time with my family is limited.  As a result, I try to take what ever opportunity I can to be with them.  Of course, this makes it more challenging to write and post my blogs during the summer so I apologize for the delay.

It was great to be able to attend a family reunion this summer.  It had been six years since I made it to our annual family reunion.  Not by choice but rather because of distance, schedules and other obligations.  Being the youngest of eight children, it is often difficult to get us all together in one place.  This year was no different.

Unfortunately, only six out of eight of us could be there.  One of my brothers was unable to be there nor my sister, Joy, who passed away a year ago today.  The reunion was lovely but there was a void not having her there.  Her passing has reminded me that life is precious and we should cherish our time with loved ones.

If relationships are estranged, reach out to the other.  You can not control how others respond or act but you can do your part.  There is an old saying “Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”  So regardless of the situation, I would reach out having no expectations of the other person.  If your attempt to mend the relationship is not received by the other, you can still find peace and healing.  Letting go of bitterness and anger may be hard but it frees you to move on with your life.

Although my family has had its ups and downs, my sister’s illness and eventual passing brought our family closer together.  We miss her tremendously.  We were not all together for our reunion this year but, thankfully, all of my siblings and I were together in April 2012 for my niece’s wedding.  It was a beautiful event.  I will cherish the memories as it is the last time all eight of us were together.

My faith carries me through the difficult times.  My belief is that our life on earth is not the end and our spirit can live eternally.  So today, as I remember the one year anniversary of my sister’s death, I encourage you all to cherish your time with family, loved ones and friends.  Life is precious.

Thank you for subscribing to my blog at www.jennifermoyer.com.  You can also follow me on twitter @moyerjennifer and like my Facebook page, Mental Health Advocate Jennifer Moyer.

My Response to the Stigmatizing Remarks of Brian Williams of NBC

August 4, 2013

I recently learned of the remarks made by Brian Williams of NBC News.  He announced that Ariel Castro, the Cleveland kidnapper/rapist who held three women captive for a decade, was “arguably the face of mental illness.”  Even if Castro is a “monster”, Brian Williams statements clearly violate the AP Stylebook’s entry on mental illness and add to the stigma often associated with diagnosed mental illness.

In my opinion, it appears that Mr. Williams specifically violated the following Associated Press Stylebook statements related to mental health reporting:

Do not describe an individual as mentally ill unless it is clearly pertinent to a story and the diagnosis is properly sourced.” 

Do not use derogatory terms, such as insane, crazy/crazed, nuts or deranged, unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.” 

“Do not assume that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime, and verify statements to that effect. A past history of mental illness is not necessarily a reliable indicator. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, and experts say most people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness.”

It is difficult to make progress in overcoming the stigma of mental illness when prominent individuals (including Dr. Phil) and news media are inaccurately reporting on mental illness or are using terminology that stereotypes individuals.   Many others have spoken out about the situation as well, including NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), an organization striving to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

Although the AP Stylebook entry on mental illness was not added until March of this year, it is progress.  I am grateful that the Associated Press addressed the topic of mental illness in the media as the media is highly influential and can either contribute to the stigma of mental illness or can help in educating and eliminating the stigma of mental illness.

As a Mental Health Advocate and Writer, I am going to continue my efforts in increasing the awareness and education of mental health issues.  Despite the challenges, strides have been made and will continue in overcoming the stigma and ignorance associated with mental illness.

If you are not already familiar with Brian Williams’ remarks as well as Dr. Phil’s, here is a link to the blog that I came across. http://www.peteearley.com/2013/08/02/first-dr-phil-now-nbcs-brian-williams-stigmatizing-mental-illness/

Resources and Links:

First Dr. Phil, Now NBC’s Brian Williams: Stigmatizing Mental Illness

The Media Versus the Mentally Ill

Entry on mental illness is added to AP Stylebook

 

Pets and Mental Health

July 16, 2013

I recently had an emergency with my dog.  It was sudden and unexpected.  Sometimes you do not realize how much owning a pet benefits you until you are faced with the loss of a pet.  Pets truly become a part of the family.  I am thankful that my dog is doing better now but the crisis made me contemplate the benefits of having a pet in my life.

How can a pet in your life be beneficial?  A pet can make you healthier and happier.  Research has revealed the benefits of owning a pet.  According to Lea B. Jennings, author of the Potential Benefits of Pet Ownership in Health Promotion published in The Journal of Holistic Nursing, pet ownership provides an opportunity to improve health.

A pet can keep us more physically active, provide affection and comfort.  Pets can decrease loneliness and depression as well.  In fact, dogs are being trained to assist individuals with a range of disabilities, including seizure disorders, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and psychiatric disorders” (Sachs-Ericsson et al, 2002).  Service dogs are now being used to assist individuals living with mental disorders, including bipolar disorder.

Regardless if pets are trained for service or are just a companion, one thing is for sure, that they can make life happier and healthier.  I believe it is a privilege to have them in our lives.  I am blessed to be a pet owner.  How about you?  What are your thoughts on pets and mental health?

Sources and Links:

Potential Benefits of Pet Ownership in Health Promotion 

5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health  

Service Dogs for Bipolar Disorder

Mental Health Service Dogs

Service Dog Central

The Spiritual Side of Postpartum Psychosis

April 14, 2013

In most cases of postpartum psychosis, there are symptoms of a spiritual nature.  Why do symptoms that are not tangible or material present themselves when experiencing postpartum psychosis or psychosis, in general?

I wish I had a concrete, definite answer to this question.  Instead, I will share my personal experience and opinion relating to the spiritual side of postpartum psychosis.

I believe that each of us are created and designed with a mind, body and spirit.  I also believe that we are all on a spiritual journey.  Each of us is at a different point in that journey based on our own personal experiences and beliefs.  When I was suddenly struck with postpartum psychosis, I had a strong faith and belief in God.  I believe, in my case, that my strong faith and belief as well as the faith of my family and friends, was a big factor in enabling me and my baby to survive the illness.

When my son was eight weeks old and the sudden fear entered my life, I did not even know postpartum psychosis existed.  I was sure it was an evil being or force trying to kill me and take my baby.  I had never experienced such intense fear previously so I did not understand why I had such fear or where the fear was coming from. As a result I turned to my inner spiritual strength to fight the evil force that I was certain was going to kill me and take my baby.

In my opinion when someone experiences such intense fear, the “fight or flight” response occurs.  For me, I felt I could protect my son and I by shouting a bible verse over and over again.  I felt I had no other resources to draw on as I was terrified and exhausted from lack of sleep. I began to distrust everyone, even those closest to me.  Why?  I did not know so I felt I could not ask for help.

It was not until a second hospitalization and a second opinion from another doctor (the first doctor I saw when hospitalized at eight weeks told me I had postpartum depression) that I learned of postpartum psychosis.  Once I learned the symptoms of the illness, I could better understand the illness and what had happened to me.

Thankfully, receiving the diagnosis of postpartum psychosis, enabled me to come to the realization that what I experienced was an illness.  However, at that time, I never had the opportunity to discuss or come to an understanding of the spiritual symptoms of my illness.  It would take several more hospitalizations before I had the opportunity to address the spiritual side of my illness.  It was almost three years after I was struck with postpartum psychosis before I had a professional discuss with me some of the aspects of how my personal spiritual journey impacted my illness.  It is unfortunate that it took so long for it to be addressed.

It has been a long process and journey but I am finally in a place of peace and comfort with the illness and all I have been through.  It has been critical for me to get spiritual support from others, who share my beliefs, in order to understand my journey.  One of the resources that helped me better understand the spiritual journey of my illness was the book Further Along the Road Less Traveled by the well-known psychiatrist Scott Peck.  I highly recommend the book to anyone that wants to gain insight into the role of spirituality in mental health.

In my opinion, anyone experiencing mental health issues or health issues, in general, should receive treatment not only physically and mentally but also spiritually.  Once I began receiving treatment in all three areas, I was able to move further along in my journey of recovery and wellness.

Spirituality is personal and uniquely affects each of us.  I welcome the thoughts and opinion of others.  Better understanding comes through discussion and communication.

Here are a few links to resources related to this topic.

Living Beyond Postpartum Depression

The Book Further Along the Road Less Traveled

Spirituality and Mental Health

Mental Health and Malpractice

April 7, 2013

Mental health and malpractice is a tough topic to address.  My personal experience in pursuing a malpractice and negligence case was stifled in its tracks when the attorneys I consulted told me that malpractice in mental health is very difficult to prove.

As a result of the often insufficient treatment I received and the unjustified forcible hospitalization that occurred in 2003, I felt I had a strong case.  I even attempted to pursue charges against the sheriff officer that forcibly handcuffed me, refused to loosen the handcuffs, which as a result injured and cut my wrist leaving a permanent scar.  I was even sexually assaulted by an unidentified individual while in the facility that I was forcibly hospitalized.

But to no avail, the investigation was dropped because the person, who I believed was a mental health worker at the facility, could not be identified.  As for the sheriff officer, who injured my wrist, although I reported the incident, strangely enough, once I was able to pursue obtaining the records for the incident, there were no records reflecting the situation and what little information was available to me was insufficient.

I know I am not alone when it comes to negligence in the mental health process and system.  But those being treated for mental illness, especially those that are hospitalized, have rights.  In my experience, many of those individuals do not have either the capacity or the knowledge to know what their rights are.  It seems every state may vary on what those rights may be but there are definitely patient rights that apply in psychiatric hospitalizations.

When I was hospitalized and not over medicated, I was often able to share with other patients that they have rights and point out to them exactly what they are.  This was often easy because, the rights were usually posted on a wall or location in the patient area.  On one occasion (the unjustified forcible hospitalization), the facility did not have the rights posted and I demanded that they post them, which they ultimately did.

It often seems that patients, who are dealing with mental health issues, are not treated as a partner in their care.  I understand this may not always be possible but that is why it is especially important to have a patient advocate, in those cases.  Not only are the patients often not treated as a partner, they are usually not adequately educated about their treatment plan and or the illness that they are facing.  In may own case, I was often treated as a prisoner and incapable of understanding my situation.

It is not surprising to me that when I was doing the research for this blog, the information available was very limited.  But I am listing below, links to some of what I found.  I am interested in hearing what others’ experiences have been in the area of mental health and malpractice.  I would be especially interesting to know of anyone that has had success in pursuing a mental health malpractice case.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.  Here are the links of resources and additional information:

LIABILITY AND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES

Liability of mental health services for injuries incurred during community treatment

Medical Malpractice: Psychiatric Malpractice

Patient’s Bill of Rights: As a person receiving mental health services

Mental Illness and The Law

When Time (or lack of time) Gets in the Way

March 14, 2013

I know it has been a few weeks since I last posted but my life has been hectic.  It is a good hectic but sometimes when I get so busy, I can not even think about writing.  Do any of you fellow bloggers/writers have the same experience?  When life gets so busy and your “to do list” grows, it is hard to get everything done.  It is during the busy times, that I find setting priorities becomes ever so important.  Writing is one of those priorities for me but it moves down on the list when the opportunity to spend time with family and friends surfaces, especially when the ability to spend time with them is limited.

Once I get back in my normal routine, my regular writing will resume and move up on the “to do list.” In the meantime, I thank you for your patience.  My goal is to post a blog once a week.  I normally am consistent but the past few weeks, I have not been.  I apologize to my followers and readers.  My health is good but my time schedule has not been good.  By the end of March, I hope to be back on track with my writing and blogs.

After all, when you live in a beautiful place, like I do (see photo above), it is hard not to stay positive.  I am certain that as the spring season approaches, time will soon allow for my creative side to resurface.