Is Mental Illness Popular?

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Is mental illness a hot topic? I am not sure, but you all have been doing an awesome job at reading and sharing my posts because according to blog industry experts, the more popular your blog becomes the more s-p-a-m it is likely to get. Thank God for Akismet!

Next month is Write into the Light’s 2-year blogiversary!

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…which has me reflecting on my current goals for this blog as well as for¬†Turtle Way’s blog (Turtle Way is a compilation of works submitted by artists and writers who have mental illness or have been affected by others with mental illness.)

Current Goals (in no particular order:)

  • I toyed with the idea of stopping Turtle Way’s publication until I reviewed the recent stats and saw that the issue released back in January is still receiving a great number of views. Yay! I love that people continue to (hopefully) gain strength and support from the artists and writers published there.
  • This brings me to Write into the Light’s original and primary purpose which is to offer understanding, strength and hope to all persons sufferring from mental illness.
  • In that light (no pun intended ūüôā ), I am going to place a lot of time and effort this year into finding a publisher for my daily meditation book. The daily reflections are written specifically for persons who have mental illness.
  • The newest and final goal I have to share with you, thus far, is to assemble a list of subscribers who would¬†like to be part of¬†a pilot audience for my book. This would involve receiving sneak-peeks of my daily reflections and providing feedback as necessary on how they affect you…if they help you cope with your illness or not…if they make sense to you or not…etc.

I have yet to finalize the logistics on this, but I am thinking of doing it either by email or password protected posts.

If you are interested in being a part of this pilot study and are willing to provide honest feedback (like serious critique) on how helpful or not-working-for-you-at-all these writings are, please email me at writeintothelight@live.com or leave a comment below.

The Princess, the Pea and the Holidays

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

The holidays bring with them extra family, travel, food (usually the not-so-healthy kind), money-spending, crowds, and stress. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time managing my stress on a “normal” day.

I require a low stimulating, non-demanding environment in order to remain relatively sane. I call it the “Princess and the Pea syndrome.” If you recall the children’s story written by Hans Christian Andersen, there was a princess sleeping on a dozen or so soft mattresses, and the only way to know if she was a true princess was to test her physical sensitivity by placing a pea under the bottom mattress to see if she felt it while trying to sleep.

If you are like me and the princess, then keep reading as I share the ways in which I limit stimuli to my hypersensitive system, thereby managing my holiday stress:

Family Events:

Show up late. Leave early. Tell them you have diarrhea. Who’s going to try guilting you into staying if you say you have diarrhea? Ha ha! Just kidding – don’t lie.

What I say is that I am not feeling well, which is true if my body and mind have reached their limits. Fatigue, tension in my neck and shoulders, headaches, and chills or sweating are all signs that I am beginning to experience anxiety and it is time for me to scadaddle.

Travel:

If in the car or airport for any length of time, make sure you have ways to block out extraneous sensory input, which to me is anything beyond someone honking their horn at you for weaving into their lane, or at the airport, the attendant calling for finally boarding on your flight.

Some ways I block out extra stimuli when traveling include listening to relaxing music through earphones. Sometimes I leave the ear buds in even when there is no music playing because strangers or even my kids are less likely to make small talk or bother me if they think I am listening to something.

Bring sunglasses! I don’t have a problem just shutting my eyes no matter where I am – in¬†the¬†airport, a restaurant, or on someone’s couch. Closing my eyes, even if just for a minute or two, really keeps me from becoming visually overstimulated.

Food:

Eat a carrot for every cookie you inhale. Do I do this? No. But it’s a good idea, right?

Shopping crowds:

Online, baby! Unless your lap is overpopulated.

I hope some of these suggestions help you manage your holiday stress this week. What do you do to decrease stress during the holidays?  Please share in the comment section below.

Thanks,
Wil

P.S. December 31, 2012 is the deadline for submissions to Turtle Way‘s next issue. Turtle Way is Write into the Light’s online mental health journal. See submission guidelines here.

How to Stay Happy When Others are Fighting

When the conflict of others does not directly involve me, am I able to stay out of it? At times, it is difficult to let the adults in my life fight their own battles. Also, it is harder to distance myself emotionally than physically.

Physically, I can go for a walk or a ride, sit outside, visit a neighbor, put on head phones and listen to relaxing music, or take a break from my surroundings in some way.

Emotionally, however, my thoughts obsess over the conflict, causing anxiety, depression and fear to overwhelm me.

If I am able to expel these thoughts from my mind in a constructive way, like talking about them with a trusted person who is a neutral party, the negative feelings leave me. Then I am able to detach with love from those waging amongst themselves.

I have the choice to try a different action; to walk a different path. Today, I can choose to know peace.

Codependent No More – Book Review

Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More, How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring For Yourself, defines a “codependent” as:

one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior

She details specific examples from her personal experiences and those of others to connect with her readers and offers practical solutions to those whose lives are affected by a loved one’s negative, often destructive behaviors.

The dominant theme across Beattie’s solutions is a therapeutic tool called detachment, which she describes as a separation of¬†ourselves¬†from a person or a problem in a loving way.¬† To disengage mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically from unhealthy people, from problems¬†we cannot solve or ones that are not¬†our responsibility to solve.¬† She goes on to say:

Detachment is based on the premises that each person is responsible for himself, that we can’t solve problems that aren’t ours to solve and that worrying doesn’t help.¬† We adopt a policy of keeping our hands off other people’s responsibilities and tend to our own instead.¬† If people have created some disasters for themselves, we allow them to face their own proverbial music.

Sounds like¬†a tall order¬†for a world¬†that¬†has¬†its nose in everyone else’s business or a country, whose attitude is often one of pass the buck, point the finger at the other guy, and cover up or, worse, buy a way out of facing the consequences of one’s own actions.

So, does this mean we are to stop caring, helping, and loving?  Is this a barbaric, every-man-for-himself type of detachment?  Beattie says not:

(Detaching) means we learn to love, care, and be involved without going crazy.¬† We stop creating all this chaos in our minds and environments.¬† When we are not anxiously and compulsively thrashing about, we become able to make good decisions about how to love people, and how to solve our problems.¬† We become free to care and to love in ways that help others and don’t hurt ourselves.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?¬†
I thought so and my next thought was, “Where do I sign up?”¬†
Or better yet, “Where do I get a prescription for¬†this detachment stuff?”
If only it was that easy…

Have you read this book?  If so, what did you think about it?

 

How to Meditate – Book Review

         How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery by Lawrence LeShan is a best-selling classic with more than one million copies in print.  Although, LeShan wrote this book over thirty-five years ago (in 1974), the benefits of meditation are needed now more than ever in our fast-paced, multi-multi-multi-tasking, high stress, latte-consuming society. 

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†There are many ways¬†you can meditate.¬† LeShan divides these¬†ways into four different ‚Äúpaths,‚ÄĚ as he calls them,¬†which can each help you to achieve the same goals ‚Äď less anxiety, better health, and a greater joy in living to name a few.¬† The paths are as follows:

1.  intellect
2.  emotions
3.  body
4.  action

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† How to Meditate is a ‚Äúpractical instruction for anyone seeking inner peace, relief from stress, and increased self-knowledge.‚ÄĚ I became interested in meditation several years ago when stress and anxiety started to negatively affect many areas of my life, including my sleep, my relationships, and my work.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

        Now, I meditate almost everyday for periods of five to thirty minutes. Even that little bit makes a huge difference in my anxiety levels and ability to calmly handle life’s normal stressors and even some of the big ones. 

        Do you use meditation as a way to cope with anxiety and/or depression?  How does it work or not work for you?

        Do we do things we don’t want to in order to please others? When we say “no” do we often feel guilty? Martyrdom is for saints. We are not saints. We are also not bad. We are sick and we are trying to get well.

        Unless we are doing for others for “fun and for free” we are harming ourselves as well as lying to ourselves and others about our motives for helping them.

        Today, I will give freely that which I can afford to give. I will not risk my physical, emotional, or mental health by saying yes when I want to say no or by feeling guilty for making my health my top priority.

‚ÄúStress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.‚ÄĚ  ~ Richard Carlson
 

          Often our symptoms are triggered by stress.  Although, the bigger stressors aren’t usually the ones that get us.  We may actually feel better in times of crisis.  It is the little stressors that seem to befuddle us; our day-to-day activities somehow become more overwhelming than a huge crisis might be.

          Crises are often short-lived.  Anyone can do almost anything for one day.  Daily responsibilities, on the other hand, are life-long.  And when we focus on the “life-long” part, we may feel like giving up.  Yet, there is another way – to stay in today.

          Today, I will fulfill my responsibilities to myself first and next, to those around me to the best of my ability.  I will focus on my tomorrows when they become my todays and I will know peace.