Mental Health and Exercise?

You may wonder why I added the question mark when all the research clearly states that exercise is so good for our mental health.  I don’t deny it.  Exercise is a key component to our well-being and our recovery.  I question it sometimes because I feel so guilty when I don’t exercise.  I want to exercise…really I do.  I have all of the equipment for it.  I just don’t do it.  I find every excuse under the sun not to do it… “I’m too tired.”  “I’m too busy.”  “I have to do the dishes.”  That one makes me laugh… I hate to do the dishes more than I hate to exercise.  Oh dear!  Did I just admit that I hate to exercise?  I guess I did.

Hate may be too strong of a word.  It’s more like a very severe dislike of exercise…is there really a difference there?  Anyway, I’ve read the research and I KNOW how much it will benefit and how much it DOES benefit when I do exercise.  I do walk 3 days/week (give or a take a few) with my best friend.  I love it!  Well, I love the talking and spending time with her.  I’m ready for a nap when we’re done.  All those people that tell you how invigorating exercising is and how it wakes you up…well, they are liars!  At least in my case they are.  Exercise puts me to sleep.  Perhaps this is why I find it so difficult to exercise on my own.

Now what really works for the state of my mental health is glass art.  When I am creating something new in glass, oh there’s no other feeling like it on earth!  I put my creation in the kiln and in the morning it’s just magical!  It’s the same when I’m creating stained glass.  Once it’s all soldered in place, I raise it up to the light and see how the sun’s rays hit it.  Oh, it’s just stunning!  I live in a world of rainbows and band aids.  (**Band aids are for my fingers.  Accidents happen with the glass.)

So, if you’re able to exercise on a regular basis, kudos to you!  Could you let me know how you do it?  If you’re like me and can’t get the motivation to do it on your own, what do you do to improve the state of your mental health in the place of exercise?

To My Former Self…

To my former self,

I will never be the same again.  I will never be as carefree as I was once was nor as naive. I will never be the same free spirit that I once was.  I will never again look at the world in quite the same way…and for once, this okay with me.

I’m not the same person I was before my Bipolar Diagnosis, before my suicide attempts, before the hospitalizations, before my treatment…before any of that.  I’m a much stronger and wiser person now.  I may not be carefree and naive of the Bipolar, but more aware and careful.  I’m not that same free spirit, but a different one.  I look at the world with a new purpose now.

Bipolar Disorder did not change me for the worse or for the better, but it did change me.  The change was inevitable.  I’m still me…perhaps a little wiser.  I hope in the long run that my change is for the better, only time will tell.  Everyday I am little stronger.

So, to my former self, I learned from you and for that I thank you.  You went through many tumultuous times and still came out the other side.  You are to be commended.  You bare the battle wounds of a war that many know, yet no one can see.  I will continue to fight.

Remember Me?

I don’t know the last time I wrote a blog post.  I have been so very busy creating my glass art and following my favorite band on tour…U2.  In other words, I have been happy.  The happiness has not been constant.  After all, I have bipolar disorder so happiness comes and goes.  BUT, there has been for more happiness in my life than sadness.

What do I attribute that to?  1.) I did start a new medication.  The down side to that is I have to take another medication to combat the insomnia that comes as a consequence. However, if stability is the outcome, then it’s worth it.  2.)  I’m making more of an effort to work with my glass art that brings me great joy.  This year Zarit Glassworks (shameless plug) is having a great year.  It’s all because I decided not worry about the negativity of other people.  I am creating for myself.  It’s selling (well, most of the time).  I’m able to donate to local charities that need funds and I find that very fulfilling.  3.) I have found a way to tell the world to “piss off” if they aren’t ready for me or my illness.  I have a mental illness…I am NOT my mental illness.  For those that don’t/won’t understand that, I just don’t have the time or energy to waste on them.  This may sound harsh, but it is a sanity saver, an anxiety saver, and a life saver…my life saver.  My life is far too precious and means more that someone’s lack of understanding.

Those three combined have given me a whole new outlook on life.  They’ve given me permission to live my life…the life I want to live.  It’s so freeing.  I do still have down days, but they don’t last nearly as long as they used to.  When they do happen, I head straight into my studio and create something in glass.  It’s a form of therapy for me that even my own therapist had agree was better than talk therapy…for me.

What works for me may not work for everyone.  What are some things that you have done to get through the day?  What have you done to tell the world, “to heck with you, I’m fine the way I am!”?  I’d love to hear about it.

Like I said for me, it’s glass art and listening to music (especially U2 music).

Thank you for reading and remember you are amazing!

10 Positive Attributes of Mental Illness

We hear so much about the negative side of having a mental illness, all of the stuff that can go wrong, the medication changes, the medication side effects, the lack of understanding, etc. Sure, that’s all part of it, but there’s so much more to it. Just as we are NOT our illness, these negative parts are NOT the whole of the illness either. There is so much good that can be accomplished as a result of having a mental illness…here are just a few.

1. Life is NEVER boring! There is always something going on (be it bad or good). It makes for an interesting life.
2. It can open doors you never thought existed. For example, I have been given many opportunities to help shape national and local legislation that have greatly benefited mental health care and mental health education. This would not have been possible were not for my lived experience with mental illness.
3. There is an increased capacity/ability (even responsibility) to help others. Through sharing my story, starting support groups, and even writing this blog.  I am able to help others. That knowledge of not being alone in your mental illness is huge.
4. It can enhance your creativity. I never thought of myself as particularly creative, but it has been brought to my attention that I am. I create stained and fused glass pieces, do photography, and write, all of which take some degree of creativity. I am currently working on a stained glass depiction of Bipolar Disorder. When it’s done, I’ll post it to see what you think.
5. We have a very different outlook on the world. I know people may see different as a negative thing, but I don’t. It is our way of thinking and seeing things that can bring about change. Change can be good.
6. You find out who your true friends are. You may lose a few friends or many along this journey. Those that leave are not bad/weak people. They just knew they may not have been able to handle it and be the support that you needed. The ones that remain are the ones worth keeping. Their bond is stronger than steel.
7. Once you’ve become more familiar with your illness, you don’t have to be enslaved by it. You can build on your strengths…knowledge is power. For instance, I have been able to use my education background to work with at-risk youth (elementary – high school) in my local school districts. Since I can empathize with these students, I am able to help them achieve academic goals. I’m also able to help them cope with what they are going through. As many teachers will tell you, we’re not just teachers. We are counselors, friends, sudo-parents, the list goes on and on.
8. It can strengthen a family. It does not have to be a death sentence to the family unit. I know this is not always the case. For me, it was very touch and go in the beginning for my family before education and understanding kicked in. It was extremely difficult (to say the least) at times. In the end, what has come out of it is an incredible family bond. They may still not fully understand everything that I go through, but they don’t have to. They love and support me. That is all I need.
9. It doesn’t have to be a disability that prevents you from doing what you love or have to do. In my case, I am a credentialed teacher. I know that being in a classroom of 30-40 students is just too overwhelming for me. So, the classroom isn’t for me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work in education. I have been working with my local districts as a Home Hospital Tutor for those students that can’t go on campus due to illness or are not allowed on campus. It’s one on one teaching. It presents it’s own challenges, but I’m still in the field of teaching. Find your strengths and make them work for you.
10. What is your #10 good thing about having a mental illness? I would like to hear it from you.

How does stigma affect you? Updated

The recent election has caused some concern for me, but not just for the fact that government is now under one political party.  Now this post is not going to be a rant on the recent president-elect.  I feel everyone is entitled to their political beliefs.  My concern is for an initiative that passed in my state that will take away my right, as person living with a mental illness, to own a gun.  Now, I have no desire to own a gun, but it’s just one more right that is being taken from me.  My problem with this initiative is that had it been written without specifically mentioning “people with mental illness”, I could have voted for it.  The idea behind the initiative was to prevent people who are of harm to themselves or others from obtaining guns, but then they specifically mentioned people with mental illness.  This is not only discriminatory, but extremely stigmatizing.

People with mental illness account for about 1% of the gun violence nationwide (US).  This bill directly targets those of us living with mental illness.  This may be a bit of paranoia speaking, but I feel it is opening the door for further legislation to take away more of our rights.  First, it was HR 2646 that was trying to take away our HIPPA rights…now this.  What’s next?  In either of these two cases, had the language of the legislation mentioned people of a specific nationality, physical illness, or race, they would not have flown under the radar as they have.  I feel as though we are second class citizens in our own country.  I have a strong feeling this is not isolated to just our country.  I could be wrong.  I still have more research to do.

Now to my question:  How does or has stigma affected you?  I’ve tried to explain why the passage of this initiative made  me so upset to others, including my own family.  People just don’t understand.  They care, but they can’t understand unless they are a target of stigma.  So, how would you explain it so that someone could begin to understand it even a little bit?  I would love to hear from you.

UPDATE: I just watched an interview onTF1 with someone that escaped the Batclan 1 year ago. He looked into the eyes of one of the terrorists. That horrible person spoke to this witness and laughed. It made me think back to this initiative. How will this initiative preventive religious and political fanatics from acquiring guns? It won’t.  It targeted the mentally unstable, not the fanatical.  Think about that.

Don’t Ever Give Up

Hello my friends!

I know it has been quite some time since I have written in this space.  I have been busy starting my art business, Zarit Glassworks (shameless plug, I know.) and trying to get my migraines under control.  I have also been hard at work with mental health advocacy.  I have never stopped that.  It has and always will be a passion of mine.  I may take a break from time to time as needed, but I always come back.

Well, today, I and a few others met with two of  Senator Murray’s staff members for two hours.  We were able to share our stories, our experiences, our concerns about mental health care reform, our concerns about current/future policies.  It was wonderful!  It was an incredible opportunity.  It was something I never thought would be possible on my own without the backing of a large organization.  I’ve never made it a secret that I parted ways with AFSP.  However, I harbor no ill feelings toward them at all.  We may have a difference of opinions, but without them I would not have the voice I have now nor the advocacy skills I possess.   In fact, I even advocated for their Centers of Excellence today because that is one of their lobbying points that I happen to agree with.  I still direct people to them for support and I even help people with fundraising for them.

Anyway, I’m not sure what the outcome will be of today’s meeting.  One thing I do know for sure, it felt great to have the ear of the highest ranking member of the senate.  Even if nothing comes of today’s meeting, I can rest easy now.  I know in my heart that I have truly done my best.  I can now get off my soap box about HR 2646.  I believe our HIPPA rights will be fine.  I know CIT for first responders is going to be alright.  I know Congress has been educated by people living with mental illness.  I know I have been heard.  What more could I ask for?

I can’t control what Congress will or won’t pass.  All I can do is try to educate people and hope it makes a difference.  For those of you that sent me your vignettes in the past, they made it to Congress.  They were read.  They would like more.  Please feel free to send me more.  I am happy to pass them along.  My email is bravelybipolar@gmail.com.  Just keep it to one page in length.

I will try to write more often.

Thank you for your support and thank you for reading.

Advocacy in Action

I blogged numerous times about my advocacy efforts.  I have complained about how hard it has been to go out on my own since leaving a national nonprofit.  Well, today I am here to tell you that it can be done!  One person can do it.  It takes a lot of time, patience (which I really do not have) and determination (I do have that).

If you will recall, I made several posts asking for you to send me your experiences living with mental illness so I share them with Congress.  I had a grand plan of having a round table discussion with a few members.  Well, the round table discussion did not happen.  What did happen was this.  I began calling each of my State members one by one for meetings.  I was only able to get one meeting, not even with my one Rep.  To be fair, that one was my fault.  I had already met with him personally and they wanted me to meet with a staffer.  I felt offended.  I have no idea why.  I’ll chalk that one up to Bipolar.  Any way, the one I met with really listened.  This has turned out to be a great working relationship with his local staffer. She has kept me informed on legislation and helped me get a meeting with one of my Senators…well the legislative aide.  And here is the rest of that story:

I had a meeting with my Senator’s legislative aide and it was absolutely wonderful. I told her of my concerns about Rep. Murphy’s bill (HR 2646). You know that fact that it will violate HIPAA laws and that of the 5 committees it forms, only one has a person with a mental illness on it. Oh, and that committee has NO power to do anything! Also, he’s getting rid of SAMSAH (I know the H is the wrong spot). I also talked to her about the partner bill in the senate (S.2680). The main problem with that one: HIPAA violations. She really didn’t think Sen. Murray would let anything pass with HIPAA violations. She also agreed with me that HIPAA violations would not prevent another Sandy Hook as Rep. Murphy is hoping. I felt so reassured. She actually agreed w/ me the correct statistic that people w/mental illness account for 1% of the violence nation-wide. Finally, someone who understands!

Anyway, as we left it, I will be asked to speak to committees and both of our Senators’ about living with mental illness. Now, will any of this change Murphy’s bill? I don’t know, but it might help change that senate bill. At least my voice, and others because I brought those stories I asked for months ago, were finally heard.

All in all, a good day. I even talked about the plight of Bullseye because art is a form of therapy. I gave her my letter that went to Oregon rep. as well. Not bad for being with a nation nonprofit anymore. I’m finally able to speak freely about what it is really important….preventing suicide and helping people like me, people living day in and day out with an illness of the brain

The moral of my story is this: Keep trying.  You will be heard.  My State senator is the highest ranking member of the senate and now our letters are firmly in her hands.  Our voices have been heard.  What will come of this?  I don’t know.  All I know is this:  I didn’t give up even when I so desperately wanted to.  So to all of you, please don’t give up either.  Keep writing your members of Congress.  I will help you if you need help. I will give you guidelines for writing an advocate letter, timeline for sending and re-sending letters and help with phone/in-person meetings.  Just don’t give up.  The more of us that do this, the louder our collective voice will be.

CALL TO ACTION

This is a modified letter I’m sending to all of Oregon’s congressional leaders and State leaders.  I would urge you to do something similar if any of you are glass artists or have a glass producer in your home state.  It’s too late for WA, but not for the others.  I won’t give up.  I’m doing everything I can and so are others to save an industry.  I hope you’ll join me.

I am the owner of Mind and Soul Art.  I am not an official business.  I create art for the sole purpose of raising funds for nonprofits. You see, I live with Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety Disorder.  Glass art is a way for me to manage my ongoing symptoms of my illnesses.  Sometimes it is the only way as modern medicine has not always worked for me.  Suicide rates continue to rise across the nation and I refuse to become another one of those statistics.  I am down to three medicines left that might work for me.  The only thing that has consistently worked is my glass art.

This is why I travel over 4 hours from Port Angeles, WA to Portland, OR for the classes that Bullseye provides.  I soak up their knowledge like a sponge.  While in Portland, I stay in a local hotel for several nights.  I eat in local restaurants.  I purchase from local shops.  I spend money in your state as do other people who come from out of State for Bullseye’s educational art classes.  Bullseye is not an island unto itself.  It is a vital part of Oregon.  It is also a vital part of my life.  Without their glass, their classes, their very kind and understanding employees, I wouldn’t be able to create.  If I can’t create, I wouldn’t have an outlet for the constant battles of a Bipolar mind.

Spectrum Glass will be closing its doors after 40 years because they simply can’t bear the unknown costs of what’s to come with the new EPA regulations.  Kokomo Glass is in trouble, as well, but they have the support of their local government.  Bullseye wants to do the right thing. and has done so voluntarily. Yet, unlike the government of Indiana, the government of Oregon seems to be making it very difficult for Bullseye to comply with the DEQ, by ordering Cease & Desist orders not once but twice.  This is not an accusatory statement against Oregon; this is a factual statement.

All I ask is for your help.  Please help Bullseye have a fair chance to do their part to comply with the standards that have been set forth.  Allow them to have a fair amount of time to fix the problem areas that need to be fixed.  I urge you to step in and do something to correct this situation because it is not only good for Bullseye as a local, small business, but it’s good for the Oregon economy as well.

It is not only Bullseye that stands to lose their business, but the thousands of others that rely on their products for their own small businesses. I believe, not long ago, the auto industry and the banking industry needed the government’s help and it was given to them.  Please consider helping Bullseye by giving them a fair and equal chance.

Thank you for your time. I know I can count on your support.

 

What will your mark on the world be?

 

To be one, to be united is a wonderful thing. But, to respect the right to be different and the rights of your fellow-man is even better.  We are here for a fleeting moment.  What will you do with your time?  For what do you want to be remembered?  What mark will you leave on the world?

I have always wanted to take on the world and help others when I could.  This has not always met with kindness.  Yet, I don’t give up.  Some have questioned my motives, thinking I do this to as a means to gain attention…not so; others think I do this for personal gain, not so.  I choose to help others because I want to.  Also, because when I was at my lowest point, someone was there for me to lend a hand.  Someone cared enough (without knowing who I was) to show me kindness, to tell me I was worth something and that I was somebody.  I know how that kindness feels and how that kindness can change a person.  I want others to feel that as well.   I see it as a gift I am allowed to give another human being.  It brings me great joy. I don’t see it as penance, for I have done nothing wrong.  I have a mental illness and I have those low times where I need help.

I don’t how much time I have left on this earth.  What I do know is that I want to make every moment count.  So I focus my time on my family and friends.  I also try to help as many people as I can.  The way I do that is through my art (stained and fused glass art).  As many of you know, it is my art that helps me control my Bipolar and Anxiety symptoms (yes, I do still take medications).  As many of you also know, sometimes medication isn’t enough.  My glass art has saved me so many times.

Now, the main supplier of my glass, Bullseye Glass (and the glass industry at large) is under attack (for lack of a better word).  I go to Bullseye for classes to learn new techniques and I absolutely love the employees there.  They are kind, knowledgeable and they put up with my craziness!  I remember the first time I went there for a class.  Oh my goodness!  I’m sure they had never met someone quite like me.  I just asked a ton of questions.  I think I was there for three hours and this was the day before the class!  I was picking out glass, asking questions about how to make projects,  questions about the sale in July, my goodness the questions from me seemed never to stop.  They were very kind to me.  Every time I call in, they seem to remember me.  I don’t know if they really do, but they play it off  well.  I’ll take it!  🙂  Anyway, I think you get my point.  They really care.  So, I won’t go into detail about what the State of Oregon is doing to them because I don’t have all of the facts and I don’t want to spread more rumors.  The one real fact is this:  Their business is threatened.  This effects not only Bullseye and it’s employees, but thousands of glass artists world-wide.

So, back to my original question: What mark do I want to leave on the world?  I’ve already established that I like helping others.  I know it goes beyond “like”.  I feel compelled to help others.  It’s become a part of who I am. Since this all happened with Bullseye, I’ve gone into full advocate mode sending out congressional contacts to concerned glass artists, working on a form letter (which must be cleared with Bullseye), fundraising mode to help them…  The mark I would like to leave on the world is this:  Whether I am remembered or not is immaterial.  What is important is the work I do.  If I have made the lives of people better, happier, easier, then I’ve made my mark.  The world doesn’t need to remember me, I will just feel better knowing that I’ve made some kind of difference.

I will leave will you with your own question and yes, I would really like to hear from you.

What mark would you like to leave on the world?

Art, Anxiety, Contests, & More

I know; I know.  I have not posted on here in quite some time.  Well, my life has been very stressful and I have chosen to keep that private. So much has happened, I couldn’t even begin to explain. Well, I suppose that’s not completely honest.

Anyway, as the title suggests, this posts will focus on art. As you may remember, I create stained glass art.  Well, I have delved into fused glass as well. I also attempt to sell my artwork and donate the proceeds to charity, but I’m not a very good sales person.  If someone really wants something, I tend to just give it to them.  Hopefully I manage to at least get my cost out of it, but not always. I’m working on that.  For the most part, I just want people to be happy.  This doesn’t mesh with big business.  Haha!  Good thing I’m not a “Big Business”.

I  decided this year that I would enter a glass art contest, but it’s in another state.  They did have an online option.  I’m giving  that a try.  I was hesitant until I read that it would also be juried, not voted on by the “mysterious people of the internet”.  However, they have a “Best of Show” category and that is voted on by internet…UGH!!!  I can’t stand this part!

  1. I never win these type of contests.
  2. I have to post links constantly to direct people to the site so they find me.
  3. Just UGH!!!!

I did post one link on my FB page about it and I’ll post just one more once I enter my final piece, but that’s all!  These type of online voting contests really increase my anxiety levels.  The saving grace of this one is that you can only vote once.  So it does even the playing field.  I really do hope people vote based on quality of work and not popularity…and believe me the artists in this contest are amazing!  No, I’m not tooting my horn.  I’m talking about the other artists.  Wow!  They are phenomenal!

I guess I just worry that now I’m entering contests and trying to make a go of the this business (shameless plug alert!) www.mindandsoulart.com that the therapeutic aspect of it may diminish. I am still keeping the charity giving so that I can help others because that is extremely important to me.  I know I won’t become rich because that is not important to me. I need to make sure I find a balance.  Glass art is what maintains my anxiety and stress levels and I love it!  It gives me so much joy!

Thank you for reading.  I will try to write more often.  😉