In 1992, the World Federation of Mental Health established World Mental Health Day. In almost 30 years, knowledge about mental health a grown a great deal. The biggest goal for this day is awareness. Even today, there are many people who don’t understand the vast mental health issues people struggle with every day. Even the most recognizable disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) still lack awareness in the general public. Worst of all, people with no medical or behavioral health training claim to know about these disorders and spread false information.
I use this blog and others to share my own experiences. I share my first-hand account of struggling with PTSD and how I learned I had PTSD with two goals in mind. First, I want to bring awareness to people who know nothing about mental health issues. Second, I want others who experience the same things to realize they’re not alone. Many people suffer from poor mental health and don’t realize it. And many have no means to seek help. They may not have insurance. They may not have the means or ability to access medication. They may be afraid to take medication or think they don’t need any.
Help spread awareness about mental health by sharing your story. Only share what you’re comfortable sharing. I have found it helpful to talk about my experiences. It was one step I had to take among many to begin the path to healing. I’m still healing and still have a long way to go. Never give up. Never surrender.
James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction. Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com. He resides in Tucson, AZ.
Hey all, this is gonna be my last Vlogcast, I, I realized, you know, my, my story never belonged to me. I’m done telling it. I’m ready to continue speaking and writing and spending all of my energy, investing all of my energy into the new story, the new true honest, heartfelt, joyful, fun, excited, passionate, creative me– the universe created me to be. One of the things I always say *laughs* and remind my the clients that I work with, the friends that I have, the family member, is I always teach best what I need most and right here this is it.
This is it.
Intention matters. Intention behind everything you do. I’m telling you now, that, what I’m about to tell you this is universal wisdom: it’s not mine, it just flowed into me. I’m gonna share. So, intention is everything. Whatever intention you have behind every single action you take is something you will need to sustain in the future.
If your intention behind something is to boost the way you feel about yourself because you feel guilty, because you feel like you are obligated, because you are doing it from an expectation placed on you…so you’re afraid what people will think if you don’t do it.
Intention matters. It doesn’t matter where you were born. It doesn’t matter where you grew up. It doesn’t matter where you currently live. It doesn’t matter if it’s between family members, friends, colleagues, partners, acquaintances, strangers.
It doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter if it’s between an instrument and you. It doesn’t matter if it’s your career, doesn’t matter if it’s your, if it’s, if it’s a passion, if it’s a project, a book… it doesn’t matter. Your relationship with everything is dramatically impacted by the intention you place behind the relationship. Telling you now, this is a hard pill to swallow, for me anyway, to swallow because I’ve lived, I’ve lived behind the ruse of obligation, I’ve lived behind the ruse of filial expectation, I’ve lived behind the ruse of, well, this is just how life is supposed to be…
Intention is everything.
You’re going to spend your whole life trying to catch up, trying to pick up the pieces, you’re going to keep experiencing heart ache after heartache, heartbreak after heartbreak… intention matters.
Set the intention behind everything you do. Are you, are you doing things to avoid something? Are you doing things to elope something? Are you doing things because of expectations? Obligations? Are you doing it because of,
“What will people think of me if I don’t?”
These are the kinds of things, these are things that will make your life flow more. I’m not saying your life will be easier but it will be better and this is one of the, I’m telling you, we teach best, what we need most and this is what I need most. This lesson. Go.
To stop trying to be in control all the time.
It’s one of the main things that agitates anxiety, depression, thoughts of not wanting to be alive anymore, is all of these stories we have and I’m done telling mine. It’s not mine anymore. Moving on. Learning to let go. To stop caring what people think. To shed everything in life… shedding everything in life that is fueled by expectation, obligation, good intentions… to boost my ego, is the ego, the ego.
It’s not worth it.
And…a key piece that clicked between here [I am pointing to my head in the video] and here [I am pointing to my heart in the video]… it’s not even about life being short. *Laughs* It’s not about life being precious. It’s not about being a good person. We are all connected and it’s a choice. Everything is a choice. It may not feel like it, but it is.
Make that conscious choice, the intention — to seriously emotionally, spiritually, mentally, psychologically detach from things that are killing you. A lot of the stuff that kills us, it crushes the spirit, it, it, it stifles the intuition and it really tamps down the soul.
So what… here’s a question for you:
In what area of your life, do you desperately, desperately just want to ebb and flow and not feel bad all the time and to relieve yourself of pressure, relieve yourself of obligation, retire from anxiety, move forward from depression… to embrace that those feelings of not wanting to be alive anymore. I mean how often has rejecting those feelings actually turned out in your favor.
There’s a lesson to be learned: what are you avoiding?
To wherever you are in the world, be it morning, afternoon or night, I believe in you and I know you can do this.
If you have any questions, comments, concerns or you want to connect and learn more about how you can move forward from all of these I’m here. Chilledcow.bandcamp.com Album: Relief Artist: Pandrezz Songs (in this order): 1. SnowFlakes 2. WhenSheCries 3. When She Sleeps
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This will be my last Vlogcast and post on this blog. Afterwards, you can find Grounds For Clarity’s Thought Founder Kim Johnson here:
We teach you how to break your patterns, habits and behaviors in exchange for another chance at life.
We give you the self-confidence to say no and say yes in areas of your life you never imagined possible.
Sick and tired of being sick and tired?
Feel ready to move on?
We have a proven track record of success for holding people accountable to the emotional changes they wish to see in their life. Learn to build a life that respects you and you, it. Stop blaming your past experiences, your family, your health and start taking responsibility for what you say you want.
I once read that a good strategy in dealing with bipolar is to recognize what is an episode and what is just a run of the mill bad day. When I find myself feeling “moody” I make a list of things that are pissing me off. I look over it and try to determine if the things triggering my anger are truly things that I should be upset about or if I am overreacting. Whether or not it is an episode, it is a way to hold myself accountable.
I thought I would give you a glimpse into my list from this week. It truly is….something. If anything, it is hilariously ridiculous.
I walked into the copy room to use the copy machine and there was a coworker in there organizing the incoming faxes. I just started the job so I asked her if I needed to dial nine to fax, to which she responded no. As I start typing in the number in she turns to me and says, “you have to wait until I am done with the fax machine”.
People answering a question with any information outside of the answer to the question I asked.
I work with a woman named Carrie. That is how she spells her name. She is from New York. She corrects anyone who says her name without the New York accent.
Someone held the door for me and then proceeded to their car. When I went to back out (after taking time to plug my phone in and respond to a text) they were backing out behind me and I had to wait.
This list is small. This is because I am saving you from the 13 other ridiculously unimportant things that pissed me off. As you can see, I blew things out of proportion.
My whole life, my grandmother has hated when someone does not clear the microwave after using it. Lets say that you put food in to heat up for one minute and took the food out after 45 seconds. You better not leave that fifteen seconds on the microwave. My thoughts on this have always been if I see it as being easy enough for her to just not say anything and clear the microwave, then it is just as easy for me to do the same.
These things that happened did not hurt me or alter my life in anyway. It is far easier for me to make myself aware of this than it is to explain to someone that I have a mental illness full of mixed episodes and mood swings where I blow up over the preferred pronunciation of YOUR name.
I am a huge proponent of people learning about mental illness, ending stigma, and coexisting with those that have them. I am not a proponent for expecting everyone around me to deal with the fallout of my bad days.
In previous days I often discussed finding the light. The light that would lead me out of my darkness. I would hold on to the glimmer I could see but it took more than that slither to set me free. Weak arm muscle giving out each time I neared the sight. I am here to tell you that it is possible to reach that damn light.
My days of darkness aren’t as present as they once were. They ebb and flow at a different pace. At one time my depression and mania would race. On those days medication is my saving grace.
Fearing the fall remains at the forefront of my mind. When I fall, I am left behind. Time goes on without me. Slipping, I slide further into the tunnel. On occasion, I am able to halt this downward spiral. Tightrope walking the one mile.
Recovery has worked wonders for me. The mental recovery gives me a freedom I’ve not ever had, whereas the substance abuse recovery allows me to see clearly. Recovery isn’t limited to any one area of life. It is all-encompassing.
It takes work to remain alcohol-free. Its hold was mental and physical. Crippling me for 23 years, I shed no tears. It isn’t a loss as it is a gain. I am now able to maintain. An existence that may seem mundane but one that makes me proud.
My mental state is in sorts of remission. It hasn’t interrupted my days. At bay, it stays. Waiting for its turn in the spotlight, making me lose sleep at night. Tossing and turning we fight.
My time may seem consumed, a cloud looming of doom. I leave it where it lay, refusing it to play. Play with my mind and torment my soul, I won’t give it control.
So for now, today, I am ok. Creating and decorating a space I claim as mine. I take advantage of ole father time.
For those with lost hope, remember to hold onto the rope. Pull and climb, don’t get left behind. Recovery waits for you around the corner. Use all of your strength and you will be glad you did. Don’t say you hid.
Find your light and blind your darkness. Allow it to be your compass. Guiding you toward that light, say you put up a fight.
Being a part of a mental health movement makes me proud. If you know any of my stories you know I am not full of pride. What mental health movement? The one you experience reading The Bipolar Writer. We are a part of something bigger. We are here to stay and we are going to teach along the way.
There is also a bigger problem.
How can we teach and not preach?
How can we educate when not everyone wants to be taught?
How can we communicate?
We write most of our symptoms, what can sound like complaining when in reality we are expressing ourselves. We say what it is we do not want to hear but what about what we do want to hear? What are the “normals” allowed to say to us that we are ok hearing? You hear me?
Think about it
What is it that we want to be told?
Communication is s two-way street. It is easy to spout off what we don’t want but that’s when it sounds aggressive and talking about our diagnosis can be misconstrued as whining. There has to be an approach where we meet in the middle. This discussion must be had for a stop to the stigma. So I ask you,
What is it you want to hear when you are experiencing an “episode” or if you are feeling depressed, manic or paranoid? Let’s communicate whatis ok to say and encourage the conversation to merge confusion and understanding. I believe it would be a great leap towards eliminating the stigma. It would most definitely be a beneficial conversation.
I’ve posed this question on my personal site and the response was good but I believe this should be asked of a larger audience. It is an important question. If you are a normal reading this, what questions could we answer for you to understand? By no means am I trying to separate us because we are one in the same but the reality is we are separated.
Lets #speakup! and #stopthesilence. Here is your opportunity to be heard once and for all.
I read a post that James, the creator of this blog, wrote a few days ago. He listed out his top coping skills and how they’ve helped him navigate through various challenges. Today, I will be listing my top coping skills; but first, a background story.
Two weeks ago, I was excited for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. I was only supposed to work a half day that Friday before leaving for the three day weekend. Fifteen minutes before I was supposed to leave, the HR person called me into her office. She began by explaining that the agency was continuing to experience some financial issues and that a decision was made to eliminate my position as a result. I was laid off with two weeks severance pay.
My top coping skills
Giving myself time to process before reacting: As I listened to the HR person explain the lay off, I’m pretty sure my brain went into auto pilot. I was somehow able to communicate as if the sudden loss of income wasn’t an issue. I packed up my office and texted my wife the simple message, “I just got laid off.” I knew right away that I needed to allow myself to enjoy the long weekend as planned before beginning the job search. Living with an anxiety disorder, my tendency is to react rather than respond; however, this usually leads to me making impulsive decisions, becoming very anxious, and/or experiencing increased panic attacks. Allowing time for it to sink in was best.
Positive self-talk/ reframing: I also sent an email to my licensure supervisor (a person who oversees my clinical work until I get my full counseling license) notifying her of the lay off. When she asked, “what happened?” I was able to state the facts while also becoming aware of the positives of the situation. First, I hated my job and dreaded going to work every day. Recently, I’ve been having more panic attacks than usual and there is no doubt that my job was a primary trigger. I reframed this lay off as an opportunity to find something better. I reminded myself of my strengths and talents. This gave me the confidence that I would need to go out and find a better job. Also, two weeks of severance pay? What I heard was, “two weeks paid vacation!”
Music: Music has always been a coping skill for me even before I knew what a coping skill was. It’s a chance to listen to someone else’s story, to relate, and to turn your mind off for a while. My go-to album as I drove home from the office that day was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
Binge watching TV: Being that I was temporarily unemployed, I had a lot more time at my disposal. While I don’t recommend making binge watching a lifestyle, there are times when it’s therapeutic. Like music, diving into someone else’s story is a way to take your mind off of your situation, to laugh, and to pass some time. Ugly Betty is my go-to TV show for any occasion.
Exercise: I’ve written in the past about how exercise is a great mental health coping skill. In fact, as I write this, I’m on a stationary bike at the gym. Exercise makes me feel energized and confident.
Sleep: Sleep is something I have been trying to make a priority in recent months. I’ve noticed that my anxiety and mood are best managed when I’m operating on at least 8 hours of sleep.
Blogging: One of the things that I disliked about my job is that I was underutilized. I’m trained in mental health but would often be left with a lot of idle time. That is actually why I started my blog, Perfectly Imperfect. It was a way for me to interact with the mental health community. In the idle time at work, I was able to write several posts that not only gave me something to do, they made my idle time more meaningful. Being able to talk about things that I’m passionate about has been very therapeutic for me. In the past two weeks, I’ve used some time to interact with the WordPress community, to share ideas, and to get new ideas. It’s been great.
Obviously coping skills alone didn’t make my problem of new-found unemployment go away. After allowing myself the three day weekend to chill and to process the situation, I hit the ground running on Tuesday. I applied to a ton of mental health positions on Indeed. Fortunately for me, being a black male in the mental health profession is helpful trait in securing employment (There are very few mail POC clinicians and therapists where I live). Within 24 hours of starting my job search, I was on my way to an interview. I got several interviews last week and this week. When it was all said and done, I accepted a clinical director position that conveniently starts right as my two weeks of severance pay runs out. Oh yeah, and the job pays $10k more annually than my last job! I knew from the beginning that the lay off was an opportunity for me to find something better. I am grateful that I was able to find a job so quickly without any financial disruption, as I know this isn’t the norm.
As always, thanks for reading! This is the first time that I’ve shared about the lay off situation in writing and it was helpful to both process the past two weeks while sharing the coping skills that have been most helpful to me. Feel free to comment below.
Photo credit: Zyon, my dog. He’s enjoyed having me home during the day, as he’s usually alone while my wife and I are at work.
I want to begin by thanking those who participated in the poll that I posted last week. I got a lot of great insight on topics y’all would like to see in the coming weeks. 19.15% of y’all voted for “work-life balance,” which I will be discussing today.
What is work-life balance?
There’s no doubt that work-life balance has an influence on our mental health. For those who suffer from mental health disorders, having work-life balance is even more crucial. Work-life balance is defined as having the time to perform employment, family, social, and community tasks in a manner that results in some sort of equilibrium.
Whether your “work” is school, maintaining a household, or holding down a 9-5 job, you need time outside of your work to recharge, to engage with hobbies and passions, and to socialize with non-work people. Being able to have a personal life while fulfilling the work/school/etc. duties is the tricky part and will vary from person-to-person.
In this post, I won’t go into detail about what can happen when you aren’t mindful of work-life balance but you can read a post I wrote on the topic of burnout.
How can I improve my work-life balance?
You can begin by asking yourself: “What different roles do I have outside of work?” Are you a parent, friend, spouse, sibling, church member, volunteer, etc.? How are you tending to your various roles? Do you know how to delegate your time?
It is likely that we all found some areas for improvement as we pondered the above questions. With that being said, here are some ideas to help improve your work-life balance now:
Make changes: If possible, adjust work hours to be more conducive to your other life roles. Eat better, exercise more, sleep more, and develop your coping skills for when work is more demanding (unbalance from time-to-time is inevitable). These changes and self-care tasks will help you to be better prepared for juggling multiple responsibilities and roles in your life.
Unplug: The devices we surround ourselves with make it difficult to disconnect from work once we’ve punched out for the day. I suggest limiting or eliminating work-based email and work-related phone communications when you’re outside of work hours. Research supports that tending to things like work emails when you’re off the clock increases the chance of burnout. I personally choose not have work email on my phone. I also give coworkers and clients a google voice number that is different than my personal number. This allows me to unplug and follow up on calls and texts when I am in the office.
Take breaks: I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t take a lunch break on a regular basis. I even read that many people fail to use their allotted vacation time. These activities are crucial to preventing burnout. Breaks help you to recharge during the day before returning to work. It will likely make you more productive when you return if you allow yourself to step out of work mode. When taking a break, it is important to get out of your work setting if possible and do something to relax; ie, watch youtube, read a book, listen to music. Avoid spending the whole time on social media, as it tends to drain more than rejuvenate. Schedule vacations once or twice a year (or more!) and don’t bring work on those vacations. The world will not end if you can’t be reached and you will be better off after stepping away for a bit.
List your non-negotiables: What are the non-work things that you refuse to miss? List them out and make sure you schedule it around your work obligations. For me, my weekly non-negotiables are writing at least one mental health blog, going to the gym at least 5 days, getting at least 8 hours of sleep nightly, and having a designated date night with my wife.
Having a work-life balance is easier said than done. We live in a competitive world and often fear we won’t be able to keep up unless we sacrifice. It all comes down to where your priorities are and what you’re willing to do to make them happen. I hope that this has been helpful. Feel free to comment with your thoughts on work-life balance.